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In March, a volunteer group of students from the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech spent one week serving with Little Lights by tutoring students and cleaning our program sites. Volunteer Coordinator Alizah Wilson interviewed student trip leaders Carmen Mew and Mason Jeon about their volunteer experience and what they learned through serving.

How long have you been volunteering at Little Lights?

Carmen: I first volunteered at Little Lights during my spring break week in 2019. 

Mason: I first volunteered at Summer Lights in 2017 with my church. I have done the DIP program during the 2017-2019 years whenever I was available on Saturdays. I also came back in 2019 during Summer Lights.

How did you first get involved with Little Lights?

Carmen: I first heard about Little Lights from a student in my campus ministry. My college ministry has been sending a short-term missions team to Little Lights to serve as volunteers since the early 2000’s and my campus ministry pastor also has a personal relationship with Steve.

Mason: I first heard about Little Lights through my home church Christ Central Presbyterian Church and have had the privilege to continue to be a part of it in my college campus ministry. 

How did you become the group leaders for UVA and VT?

Carmen: The previous UVA leaders (Class of 2020) who led in 2019 asked me and another student (Class of 2021) to lead the team starting from 2021. 

Mason: Similar to Carmen, I was also asked by the Virginia Tech leads (Class of 2020) to lead the following years. 

As group leaders, how have you seen the group grow or bond through this process?

Carmen: Within the span of a few days we were together, I believe that the team made close, maybe even life-long friendships. We were not only able to share our biggest hopes and convictions through this experience but also be honest in our discouragements. Little Lights has made this week truly unforgettable for us in helping us envision and practice a life of constant pursuit of Christ and biblical justice and righteousness individually, but more importantly, in community. 

Mason: My goal for leading this team was to really challenge the present life and cast a vision for the future for the members coming. Through the spring break Little Lights process, the group bonded very well. I think the team itself came in ready to encourage and do life with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and just the topics we discussed and wrestled with together really allowed for intentional conversations that built lasting friendships but also partnerships in the gospel. 

Can you share an impactful story or moment you experienced this week during your time with us?

Carmen: I tutored a student named Racquel at Hilltop for her math homework on multiplication. As I was guiding her and drawing out the concept of multiplying single-digit numbers, it became more clear to me that she wasn’t quite understanding what I was saying. But despite not really understanding, her patience and attentiveness were constant. She was so willing to answer my questions and follow my directions. Racquel is truly one of the most hardworking people I know and it brought me back to my experience at Hilltop in 2019, where I saw how hardworking and passionate these students are. It was so encouraging and inspiring to see that consistency in Little Lights. I am reminded again and again that there is something truly special about these children. 

Mason: Every time I come to Little Lights I am always blessed to be able to be a part of what Little Lights is trying to do. Build up the next generation with big dreams. The students I meet are bright and driven with visions of the future of wanting to help people with so much joy. What continues to break my heart and what hit me this past week was as soon as I left the 1430 site, I walked alongside the neighboring townhomes to see comfort and privilege. It was a beautiful day outside and families of both communities were enjoying it, yet I could not shake the stark difference between the two. Only 20 feet away from 1430, these families got to come home without worry and with resources beyond understanding for the students I was just with. How do I know? Because I also had so many resources growing up that I took for granted. Though, as I continued to walk by having these critical thoughts, I just had a lot of gratitude, for joy that passes and overcomes light and momentary affliction, joy that can only be found in Christ. Little Lights always seems to highlight that and I see it through the students and the staff, that though there are obvious afflictions and struggles that only they know/experience, joy never ceases and the wonder of Christ never fades.