The Impact of Building a Community - Amanda Luongo '16

I remember when I first heard about the MRH experience, although very interested and intrigued I was worried, nervous and apprehensive about applying, but I am so glad that I did! I feel so honoured to have had such an empowering opportunity surrounded by a group of incredible people. Being part of this community is something I will truly always be thankful for.

While in Europe I found myself wondering how I would connect and what I would resonate with. I found as the days went on I was pushed to think differently and to reflect on the ‘duality’ as David our tour guide explained that you experience in Poland. In a place you can easily fall in love with, I found myself trying to balance emotions of anger, frustration, sadness and times where as strange as it may sound, I was overjoyed. Through all these feelings it was when I was having authentic and difficult conversations with my peers, leaders and Elly I found the most learning and growth happening; a type of experience that could not be replicated elsewhere. I came to understand that it is ok to feel a sense of peace because of the people I was with, the work we were doing and our efforts to be ok with the uncomfortable.

Traveling with Elly, is a rare and very special experience that I will cherish forever. He is at the centre of my happiest moments. Hearing the strength, courage and resiliency that came from him pushed me to ask bigger questions and to want to return home and continue working on creating inclusive communities on our campuses. Hearing first count stories and feeling the emotion coming from him has impacted me in ways I had never imagined.

The group I traveled with was made up of some the best humans out there, constantly bringing to light that there is good in our world we just need to work a little harder some times to highlight it. Being able to explore with some of the brightest people I have met and seeing how quickly we became a family was inspiring. This journey is built in such a way that as participants you create such a strong community- one that I know will last a lifetime.

Now having returned home, I find that the more I reflect on it, I recognize that the MRH experience has both shaped and changed me. This isn’t a trip, or a vacation in Europe, it is so much more than that. You come back and realize that you want to do something about it. You want to speak up and do your part to help enact the phrase “never again”. While you are on MRH, you take time to think about what brought you there and understand why you are there, but when you are back home and unpack the many emotions you have experienced during those 9 days, you realize you cant just go on MRH and leave it in Europe, it comes with you. For some of us I know it took time to understand what that meant. That is the beauty of this opportunity, everyone is physically experiencing the same journey but we all deal with it differently and unpack in ways that make most sense to us.  The lessons learned during this time are with you in your interactions with others, it is with you in your work and it shapes the way you see the world.

Amanda is an MRH 2016 alum, and is currently the Community Development Coordinator for the Department of Student Housing and Residence Life at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus.