Name: Emily Adelsberger
School: University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Major(s): Communication and Architectural Design Studies
Class year: 2019
When and how did you get involved with YSI?
When I moved into my dorm freshman year, my peer mentor, Sarah Ayton, sent out an email to my entire floor to tell us a little bit about herself. I read that Sarah had gone on a service trip to Haiti and became curious about it. She told me all about YSI, and I went with her to the winter session recruitment meeting. I saw Kevin Lombardi speak about his inspiration, the YSI mission, and what our goals were going to be for January 2016. I applied, got interviewed, and was fortunate enough to be selected to go on the expedition. I worked with the community development team, interviewing three people in the Morel/Léogâne area, creating case profiles, and writing up reports on our findings. I absolutely fell in love with the people, the sunrises, the energy, and so much more.
Which expeditions have you gone on?
January 2016 and I fully intend to return for the last two sessions this upcoming January
What is your current position? Can you describe your main responsibilities?
I am both a communication associate for the organization as a whole, as well as the vice president for the UMass chapter. As a communication associate, I work with Josh Garties, our communication director, to create and publish content for the blog we created this past spring. I post content twice a week and am either the author or co-author of about eighty percent of the articles. Additionally, I post to our Facebook and Instagram pages a few times a week. I am always trying to expand our reach to a larger audience on social media for the sake of fundraising, recruiting, and awareness about both our goals and Haitian news.
What is your favorite memory from your trip(s) to Haiti?
I have two. Music was a huge part of my experience in Haiti. It helped me to bond with fellow advocates and community members. One of my favorite experiences was one of the first few nights of my session, my friend Rachel was sitting outside playing her ukulele and singing. There was a small circle of people around her singing along quietly. I came outside and joined in. Rachel and I began to harmonize and get creative with the music. It was incredible because I didn’t know any of my fellow advocates before the trip, but music was able to instantly bring us together. We (Rachel, Allie, and myself) continued to play and sing together throughout the entire trip-- in hammocks late at night, in the front yard with the translators, and at our YSI karaoke night.
My other favorite memory is very simple but extremely meaningful to me. Every morning, Caroline and I would wake up at the break of dawn before everybody else and go outside and sit in chairs in the front lawn and read or sit on the wall surrounding the compound and watch the sunrise over the vast sugarcane fields. I barely knew Caroline before Haiti, and we emerged from that trip as best friends, and for that I am so so grateful. Haiti provides us with the ideal environment to just slow down and enjoy the simple things and to break down barriers and really get to know people for who they are-- no makeup or cell phones, just a lot of love.
Why did you choose to become more involved with YSI?
While I was in Haiti I was able to really see the positive impact that we were having on the community around us. I loved it, and I wanted to remain there for much longer than eight days. Caroline and I spent hours scheming about how to stay longer. However, as I had to leave, I decided I would just have to come back. The combination of knowing that I wanted to come back, my admiration for this organization, and my history with community service leadership was more than enough to convince me to reach out to Kevin. Kevin connected me to Josh, and together we started the blog that I now run. Additionally, I applied for and received an officer position for the UMass chapter.
What is your biggest take away from the experiences that you have had with YSI?
Traveling with YSI is so much more than a resume boost. It is truly meaningful to not only the community we serve, but also to our advocates. We come in as strangers and leave as a family. We all share a bond in the experiences that we have had together. It opens your eyes to how possible it is to have so much happiness without very many possessions or much money. It causes us to slow down and reconsider our own lifestyles, and, if you let it, it will be a constant reminder that it is possible to “be the change that you wish to see in the world,” even if it just means taking shorter showers.
Overall, my largest takeaway is just to be more open minded. I thought that traveling to Haiti might be kind of sad and scary because of all the devastation and poverty, especially because I had never even left the U.S.! However, the people I met there were happy and welcoming, and I admired that so deeply. I am so glad that I gave Haiti a chance. I would get on that plane for the first time again in a heartbeat, and I’ll be back for sure!