Volunteer Highlight: Alison’s Story

Alison Gusick, Cornell University Class of 2014

“My Bridges to Community trips have made me a more socially and globally conscious person. Through my interactions with the people of Nicaragua, my experiences have fueled my interests in studying people and our underlying similarities.”

Stepping off the plane in Managua in 2008, Alison Gusick did not know what to expect. She had little experience with service and had never been to a developing country before. She remembers looking out the window of the bus that took her and the rest of the Temple Sharaay Tefila group to the community of Guanacastillo and being shocked. Trash was being burned on the sides of the roads and entire families were commuting on one bicycle. When she arrived in the community and met the family who would be receiving the house she was awestruck. They had been living in a makeshift combination of garbage bags and sticks. The conditions were so terrible children had to live across the community with their grandmother. Suddenly, the problems of poverty in Nicaragua seemed too big for anyone to take on.

However, over the course of the week, Alison learned many lessons. One of the ones that stood out the most was the importance of taking small steps towards working to change the lives of individuals. During the dedication ceremony, Alison listened as a woman whom she just built a home for thanked her group. She talked about how now she has a home where she can raise her children under one roof. Alison realized that even though she couldn’t possibly solve the problems of entire country, she could truly make the difference in lives of individuals.

It wasn’t until Alison returned to the States did she realize that the experience made a life changing impact on her as well. She found herself talking about the trip constantly and spreading the message of Bridges to Community to anyone that would listen. Alison has participated on five trips with both Temple Sharaay Tefila and Cornell University. She still continues to learn and grow from each experience. After her first few trips, Alison also began to take an interest in social psychology to study about how experiences and interactions shape people.

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