A Core Unwritten Philosophy in Phi Delta Theta: Perseverance

headshotBy Brad Markis, York University

My time at Phi Delta Theta has been a rewarding and unparalleled experience. Through my three years as a Refounding Father of a chapter, I’ve traveled all across North America with my brothers, from Toronto to California, and I’ve seen my chapter quadruple in size. I’ve also helped create an indestructible brotherhood on my campus, a campus that is institutionally hostile towards any Greek organization. It is through the battle of this hostility that I found and honed a trait so imbedded in the core of Phi Delta Theta and its members that it is often forgotten from mention, but vital to this brotherhood. That trait is perseverance.

I first learned of the concept of perseverance while I was in high school at a church youth-group. While I don’t remember much, or agree with much of the preaching the youth pastor did, I do remember the concept of perseverance, a concept that time and time again has helped me through life. Perseverance is the steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

All chapters and all individuals in Phi Delta Theta will have to persevere at one point or another. Phi Delta Theta has been around for over 160 years, and has persevered through wars, fallacious stereotypes, and other various tragedies. Individual chapters have faced a variety of problems through time, but through perseverance beat the odds. I believe that perseverance, while being a trait imbedded in Phi Delta Theta, needs to be a trait that is brought to light and pursued with vigor.

Whether in fraternity matters, or personal life, perseverance is one of the most beneficial traits a man can hold, and through perseverance we help exemplify the three cardinal principles of this Fraternity. Friendship, sound learning, and moral rectitude all require perseverance in their pursuit and attainment. Perseverance through the boom and bust cycles of chapters, as well as the boom and bust of life itself, plays a vital role in differentiating our organization and our individuals from others. If I have one wish for the aggregate of this Fraternity, it is that they realize that they hold a trait as a man of Phi Delta Theta that makes them indestructible if they truly cherish it.

I graduate this summer, and eagerly look forward to my future as an alumnus of Phi Delta Theta. I know as I leave the cocoon of undergraduate life with my Economics degree, I will face inevitable obstacles and difficult circumstances. That being said, I also know that as a man of Phi Delta Theta, I am capable of persevering through life’s challenges until death itself, as my brothers have done before me. The strength of my brotherhood and the influence of The Bond, paired with the perseverance that flows through every man of Phi Delta Theta shall keep me on the righteous path of glory.

Brad Markis is a graduating Economics & Psychology student at York University in Toronto. He is one of the Refounding Fathers and former Vice-President of his chapter, Ontario Delta.

Finding My Way To Phi Delta Theta

Stephen_MendozaBy Stephen Mendoza

Going into my senior year of high school, I knew that I wanted to go out and explore a different part of Texas to get my college degree; I just did not know where. My girlfriend and I visited Baylor and walked around many other booths at our high school college fair. With so many different things going through my head, I did not know where to begin.

Neither my brother nor my sister went to college and my parents dropped out of high school. I knew a long road was ahead of me. Having said that, I was determined to overcome the challenges and be proud of something that I worked for myself. I applied to a couple of different colleges and accepted the offer to a small private university called Schreiner in the Texas Hill Country. Little did I know that the person who gave me my first campus tour was a brother of Phi Delta Theta. He was also my Peer Advisor, a person who is assigned to you in a group as a freshman. I went to Van for many questions on topics such as registering for classes and financial aid. He also became a friend as I was away from my real brother for the first time.

Difficulties arose in the middle of the semester when I found it hard to adjust and adapt to the college life of combining studying, working and free time. I found myself attending the free tutoring sessions for math to hopefully improve my grades, which would also help me accomplish my goal of graduating college and getting a diploma. Once again, I was clueless that my math tutor was also a Phi Delt, Matthew.  The few times that I did get out and attend campus events, Phi Delta Theta was known and made a presence. I could not read Greek letters at the time, so the name was my only way to associate with the organization.

I did not known what a fraternity was. I attended an informational session where all of the pieces came together – Van and Matthew were members of this group. Not only did this catch my attention but so did the philanthropic organization that they served. It touched me personally. Back in 2001, my grandmother passed away from ALS. Before this, I had not been involved much with fundraising or walking with ALS. I thought it was an ultimate win-win situation for me, trying something new which I love to do, hanging around a great group of guys that helped me without me even knowing what they were apart of and trying to find a cure for ALS.

I joined Phi Delta Theta in the Spring of 2009. Taking on the Community Service Chairman position for my pledge class was an honor. Unfortunately, I got the chapter in some trouble with the school for trying to get donations from an unapproved source. The great thing is the active brothers at the time saw my drive and I did a presentation which helped me learn from my mistakes. After that, I went above and beyond to show the chapter what I am capable of. I even got in touch with a Famous Phi John Tyson to interview him.

Shortly after, I was a Brother of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. There was a misunderstanding between my family and me about Greek life. I could not ask my parents’ or siblings’ opinions about joining such a group, because they did not have any experience with college activities. For example, when my brother was asking about school, he called the Fraternity a tribe.

The next semester, I was elected Community Service Chairman for the chapter. This was a highlight for me. After seven years of being an active Greek organization on campus, I led the chapter to our first Walk to Defeat ALS in San Antonio, Texas. It did not stop there. I organized multiple fundraising events on and off campus to help spread the word about ALS and get Texas Sigma on the map. In the end, our chapter won the inaugural Gehrig Gang Challenge which was between all the Phi Delta Theta chapters in Texas.

Going into my college career, I thought that I was in this by myself. College was something new for me, and it was a true experience that may not have happened without joining Phi Delta Theta. Looking back now, my brothers carried me through this tough time. The leadership experience that I gained from the chapter is amazing. It is great to know that I was a part of a milestone within our chapter. You may be surprised about what can be accomplished when only a handful of brothers come together. “Become the greatest version of yourself” was exactly what I did.

What makes me smile is that I did not do this as a “resume building activity”; I did this because I enjoyed it. Since the Spring of 2009, I am still shocked about the achievements in my life.  Many have happened primarily because of Phi Delta Theta, and I haven’t even graduated yet which was my first goal. Proud to be a Phi!

Stephen Mendoza was born and raised in Houston, Texas.  He started his college career at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas where he pledged Phi Delta Theta. After two years, Stephen decided to transfer to The University of Texas at Austin to continue his education. He is currently working on his Bachelor’s degree in Advertising with a Business Foundations Certificate. Stephen works for H-E-B, where he is a Management Intern. 

 

Seeking Initiatives

Benny_KuoBy Benny Kuo

Prior to college, I had been a student leader for the Bellevue Youth Council – an organization that empowers the youth of Bellevue, WA and its surrounding areas to vocalize community concerns and act. This organization has offered me the opportunities to inspire changes and create a legacy in my local community. As I left this organization for college, I did not fully realize its impact on my life and how I would crave for an organization that I could similarly “inspire changes and create a legacy.” That is where the Fraternity comes into the lens.

As a first generation college student, it is hard to find your niche. Heck, it is hard to find your niche as any occupation. But coming to Willamette and joining the brotherhood of Phi Delta Theta’s Oregon Gamma Chapter was the best choice I could have made. As a second generation Asian-American and first-generation college student, it is easy to become lost in the sea of higher education because my parents cannot offer support in the confusion of the infrastructure of college. The transition was not as tough as some suggest: Instead of being swept by uncertainty, the morals of Phi Delta Theta became a pillar and foundation for me.

When trying out many of the different clubs and organizations throughout the first semester, I realized that these organizations did not have the same organizational structure that I sought, except for fraternities.  Because my chapter was smaller in size, I saw how each member contributed through their respective leadership positions to propel the fraternity forward. Everyone mattered. It was a group mentality. That was what I really enjoyed about the Phi Delts, so I signed the board to pledge that very weekend during rush week.

At the beginning of my sophomore year, I was interested in becoming involved with the college admission process. During a dinner with staff and faculty at a freshmen orientation camp that I was a leader of, I posed the question to an admission officer in attendance and was presented with a music internship opportunity a week later via email. I was asked to build and rework the music internship in progress as it fit my needs and the current needs of the Music Department. During this process, I learned that I enjoyed creating – a trait that I exploited. While stemming from my entrepreneurial parents, I owned this trait of creation through marketing. Even as a young boy, I recall shamelessly selling candy to my mom’s clients.

In addition, I learned a lot about myself and my interests through this process. At the time, I had my doubts about studying music, specifically which career path I wanted to take. Moreover, I was not ready to commit myself to such a focused major. I wanted to utilize my extracurricular activities as my classroom. Therefore, it was beneficial to have taken some higher level courses early on in addition to finding some field work. A couple years later, I realized that the things about this internship are the things I would want out of a career – organizing students, helping students find their passion, answering questions about a topic I have extensive knowledge in, providing new ideas for marketing and outreach, and traveling. Of course, this is only one option of many to pursue but thus far it seems to provide the most “bang for my buck.”

The supportive atmosphere here at Willamette by the faculty and staff encouraged me to explore and stay involved. I work two jobs, sing in three vocal ensembles (Chamber Choir, Willamette Singers, and Tandem) and am the President of the Phi Delt chapter. I am taking these opportunities to lead and learn through real-world experience and applications. That is where I truly thrive academically.

I’ve learned fast that initiative matters. As they say, “The early bird gets the worm.” It is how it works in the real world as well. Within the fraternity, people want to see folks that rise above the norm. People that do not wait on the sideline until all becomes chaotic before acting. People want a leader; someone to take initiative. Professors want students to visit during office hours. Bosses want workers to create a workflow that boosts productivity. Organizations want leaders to provide direction. Owning your enthusiasm is key in many facets of life especially in leadership roles.

In conclusion, as a first generation student, I realize that college offers many different resources for you: academics, a social life, networking opportunities, independence, etc. What I have found in Phi Delta Theta in regards to this, though, is that I am able to share these experiences with other brothers, specifically first generation brothers. We strive to live and exemplify the three cardinal principles with grace. I hope my personal experiences in college provide an interesting roadmap and help others to see how fraternities (specifically Phi Delta Theta) help us “become the greatest versions of ourselves.”

Benny Kuo is a junior at Willamette University studying Music with an emphasis in Vocal Performance and Music Administration. He currently serves as the Chapter President; previously as Treasurer, Alumni Secretary, Chorister, and Webmaster. He works as a student technician at Willamette Integrated Technology Services (WITS), the University’s IT department. In addition, he works for the Admission Office handling music student inquiries and creating advertising materials for the Music Department. In his spare time (if any), he plays video games, watches movies and television shows with friends, and refurbishes computers to sell on Craigslist. He hopes to share the benefits of music performance by utilizing your passions in an untapped manner.

Phi Delta Theta: A Brotherhood For Life

Jarrod_PrugarBy Jarrod Prugar, Robert Morris University

Over the last few years, I have grown and developed into the man I am today. This is in large part due to my experiences and the people with Phi Delta Theta.

I pledged myself to Phi Delta Theta in the Fall of 2009 with nine guys who I did not know until the process started. These guys are some of my closest and most genuine friends today. Coming to Robert Morris in 2009, I knew one person, so it was imperative that I meet new people and get involved on campus. Playing baseball proved to be the answer that I was looking for in both respects. I was introduced to the Phi Delts via people on the baseball team telling me about an event that they were putting on that weekend and saying that I should come visit. The rest is history. I went to the event and have not been able to leave yet.

As a first generation college student, I had no idea what college life would be about or what I would do when I was at school. I was away from home and the comfort of my parents for the first time in my life, and I had absolute no clue what would come next.

My parents did the best they could for me, and I would not be who I am if it were not for them. When I first told them that I would be looking into joining a fraternity, they had no idea what it or the people they would soon meet was about. After explaining to them that it was not a FRAT, rather a fraternity, and it was more than what they saw in movies, they knew it was something that could be a great thing for me to experience while in college.

We were initiated in 2009 on my birthday, December 5th. Being initiated on my birthday is one of the coolest experiences that I have ever had, and it keeps me from not forgetting such an important date.

Over the last few years my parents have grown to embrace me being a part of such an amazing organization. They actively come to our events and formals, sharing embarrassing stories of me growing up and enjoying the people that I call my friends.

This past year was a roller coaster of a year. I experienced happiness, sadness, numbness and every feeling on the spectrum. One of my role models and a close friend of mine in the chapter, Mike Haines, was tragically shot and killed in an armored truck heist. Experiencing that would eventually prepare me for what was to come. We, as brothers, banded together to remain strong and kept on going as we honored a guy whom we all knew and loved.

Over the summer, after returning from Convention, my parents and I learned that my dad had the C word – Cancer. In no way, shape, or form is cancer a good thing, especially when it is a close family member, let alone your dad. Seeing my dad go through the pain and anguish that he did while battling cancer and the procedures that were done will always stick with me. As the only child, I put it on my shoulders to be the strong one in the family and be there for both of my parents as we went along on this new journey.

Being the family’s rock is no small task for a 21 year old college student with no clue about what his future holds. If I’ve learned anything as a Phi Delt, it’s the little things that add up and somebody’s gotta do it. Also, in my corner were 120 people who had my back and were there for me whenever I needed something. I was actually with an alumnus working on promoting a tribute concert for Mike Haines when I got the word my dad had stage 4 cancer.

In September, my father lost his battle with cancer at the young age of 51. Obviously, dealing with a parent’s death is no easy thing, especially at 21 years old. Having to tell family members, friends, and other people my father died is arguably the hardest thing I have ever done. As the days went by and arrangements were being made, there was not a day that went by where I did not get a phone call or text from a brother asking if he could help with anything or if I needed anything. For my dad’s remembrance ceremony, five of them made the two-hour drive from Pittsburgh to be there for me as we remembered my dad.

People say that with joining a fraternity that you are only buying your friends. You get a lot from joining a fraternity and yes, money is involved. But there is no price you can put on the bond and the closeness that you develop with your brothers. When I was initiated, all I heard was how this is “a brotherhood for life.” It took me three years to realize what the saying “a brotherhood for life” actually meant. It means more than what you get when you pay your dues; it means having somebody you trust and care about being there for you whenever you need it no matter what; It means that there will be somebody going along for the ride with you all along the way.

And most of all, it means having your closest friends and brothers being there when you need them the most, for the rest of your life.

Proud to be a Phi!

Jarrod Prugar is a senior sports management major and education minor at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, PA. Over the last three and a half years, he has served as Recruitment Chairman and Phikeia Educator. In 2010,  Jarrod was elected as the delegate for Phi Delta Theta’s General Convention in Orlando, and he is in the process of completing his Iron Phi requirements after running the 5K at this year’s Convention. Jarrod is currently the head squash coach and head middle school baseball coach at Sewickley Academy as well as team captain and president of the Robert Morris Club Baseball team.

Reflecting on the Cardinal Principles – Honduras Service Immersion

By Gabriel Fernandez, UTEP

When I was very young, my uncle Eduardo Fernandez, a Catholic priest and Berkeley professor of Theology, used to prop me up on his lap and share with me countless stories of his many journeys around the world. He told me stories of children who were my age and sadly did not have the privileged life that I so guiltily took for granted everyday. He told me stories about families who pursued survival everyday and not newer things for the home or ideas for an exciting summer vacation. He even told me stories of places where people could die for merely choosing one God over another. All of these stories I took in, so young and so naïve. But now, I finally know what he was trying to do. His stories took me through the mountains of Central America, the historically rich cities of Europe, the indigenous communities of Africa and through many unseen cultures in Asia, all for the purpose of fostering within me a love for mankind and a growing urge to take action. For this, I will forever be thankful to him.

From May 19th through May 26th, I joined my brothers of Phi Delta Theta in an international immersion trip to Honduras. To say that this trip was life changing is a mere understatement. Never in my life have I ever been so humbled and inspired. The experiences that I had in Honduras will forever remind me that anything is truly possible in life, for the world’s problems are far greater than those that we fight at home everyday.  In Honduras, I had the privilege of sharing my daily experiences with the rest of the brothers that attended the trip. Our talks and trading of experiences every night helped me to grow deeper in the very things that make me a Phi Delta Theta. I will forever remember these brothers and I hope that they had as great of an experience as I did.

Our day with the children of San Isidro

Friendship

“One man is no man.”

On the third day of our trip, I had the experience of joining a group of children for an afternoon on a soccer field that was in the village right outside of where we stayed. Many of these children had holes in their shoes, old clothes, scratches all over their body and occasional health issues, but each of these children wore the most enormous smiles I’ve ever seen. In my community at home, it is becoming less common to see children putting down video game controllers and taking their play outside. In this fast moving world that we live in, technology has become the standard for fun and entertainment and unfortunately, many children will grow up not valuing the person to person contact that is shared outside on the playground. In Honduras, however, technology was not an option. With no toys, no playground, no balls and no pavement, these children reminded me that all that is needed to enjoy life is the mere society of others. We learned the games that these children played and we spent three hours running around, getting dirty, falling on our faces and enjoying life by the help and society of these children. I will never forget the love and compassion that they all shared with each other and the amount of love that they shared with us despite the fact that we were odd strangers.

Friendship is an element of life that exists when one chooses it. It doesn’t happen by chance or by coincidence. Friendship is the foundation for any relationship no matter what kind, and I will now forever value all of the great people that I have ever welcomed into my life far more than I have before. Friendship is what makes someone commit an act of bravery; it is what makes one decide to do something about the problems within his community. It is what shapes the minds of fraternity men who go on to shape the world. Friendship, though often taken for granted, exists not between computers or between phones, but between people. Friendship is God’s gift to humanity and without it we are nothing.

Brother Joel Vega (left), Leo (middle) and myself (right)

Sound Learning

Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.” – John F. Kennedy

Throughout our trip, we were treated with incredible hospitality by some of the most compassionate people that I have ever met. We stayed in a missionary camp that was founded in order to host travelers who went to Honduras with the plans of helping to better the surrounding communities. One of the people who I grew closest with was Leo. Leo is a native of Nicaragua and traveled to Honduras to follow his brother who is a pastor. Leo has been serving with the missionary for five years and told me that if he didn’t have necessities in life, he would do his work for the mission for free. Though born in a less fortunate family, Leo went to Honduras with a plan to better himself in order to enable himself to help others. Throughout his five years in Honduras, Leo has managed to learn English, attend a university, start a business, become a leader in many communities in Honduras, start a family and become one of the most faithful employees of Heart for Honduras. In my eyes, Leo greatly exemplified our cardinal principle of sound learning through his diligent work in bettering himself as a person through persistently seeking knowledge. In college, we are often taught what to think and seldom how to think. It is only a small percentage of the college population that chooses to pursue the ability to think efficiently rather than accepting what they are told to think. In a way, Leo fought the same battles that we do but on a different level. Everywhere around Leo, there are people struggling, hurting and often giving in to the challenges of life. Leo, however, chose a different path for himself and although he struggled far more than the average person, he never lost sight of his path and he finally created a life for both himself and for others.

In life, we need to accept where we are and learn to move forward. Oftentimes, we let the biggest opportunities pass us by and we allow the most insignificant things to get in our way. Those who never lose sight of their path are the ones who arrive at their destination. Sound Learning is about everything that happens outside of classroom. It is about what we do to seek out a high standard of mental culture no matter what area of study we come. We need to always remember to be mindful of what we accept into our minds as individuals and to always remember to pay our blessings forward. Like Leo, we should love what we do so much that if we could, we would do it for free.

Abigail

Moral Rectitude

“Justice is a certain rectitude of mind whereby a man does what he ought to do in the circumstances confronting him.” – Thomas Aquinas

On the sixth day of our trip, we had the pleasure of visiting an orphanage in San Pedro Sula, one of the world’s most dangerous cities. This orphanage housed children of all ages, most of whom needed medical attention. Children who lived in the orphanage were children who were left behind by their parents for one reason or another. In my eyes, it is a calamity that I child can go unloved by their parents.

Upon entering this orphanage, within a few seconds, children were jumping all over us asking us to pick them up and to hold them. They called us, ‘Tio,” which literally translates to, “Uncle,” but in the Honduran culture is used as a term of endearment. These children had so much energy that many of us were tired before they were. We played soccer, showed them things of ours, took pictures, offered a hand in the nursery and had conversations with the more timid children. One child I will never forget was Abigail. Abigail is 10 years old and is dying of leukemia. When she was 8 years old, Abigail’s right leg was amputated and she is now forever confined to crutches when she walks. At merely 10 years old, Abigail was already the sweetest and most loving young lady I had ever met. She complimented me on my smile, asked questions about my American education, told me something about each of the children in the nursery and even teased me about my Spanish being terrible. Abigail went on to tell me that her medical condition can only hold her back if she lets it and that she would never let that happen. Abigail’s smile will forever be a memory that I recall when my life seems to come to a halt.

One of the most surprising discoveries I made at the orphanage was the amount of pay for the nurses that run it. Nurses who work at the orphanage, though nationally certified and fully educated, are paid no more than a few thousand dollars a year. I wondered to myself, if a degree in nursing is extremely difficult to attain in a country like Honduras, why would one choose to pursue a career in nursing knowing that the pay is not logical? To my humble surprise, these women told us that if they did not care for these children, who would? If they had not done what ought to be done, then no one would have.

That evening, we visited to a local children’s program that was headed by a Honduran pastor who has dedicated his life to helping children escape the shackles of poverty through providing education and opportunity. Pastor Francisco Huete was one of the most compassionate men I’d met throughout the whole trip and his dedication to both his faith and the children of Honduras was incredibly inspiring. “Pastor Freddy,” as he told us to call him, gave us a tour of his facility and acquainted us with the program. He explained that international donors from all over the world fund the program and all money received goes towards funding educational programs, leadership development opportunities, sports, books and basic living needs for over 30 children. 15 children, Pastor Freddy informed us, currently still need sponsors and cannot be included in the program until they are found sponsors. “You, my son, will change the lives of one of these children when you get home,” he told me as he put his arm around me and looked me straight in the eye. I am currently in the process of applying to become a sponsor.

Before the trip, I thought I knew how meaningful Robert Morrison’s philosophy was. “To do what ought to be done but would not have been done unless I did it,” is a philosophy that we as members of Phi Delta Theta constantly hear in our minds throughout our everyday lives. Until I had seen it in action in a place like Honduras, I never realized how important it really was. In a place that is home to the world’s most dangerous cities, there still exist brave men and women who strive to do what ought to be done everyday. Though it is difficult and though it called for major sacrifices, the men and women I met on my trip lived this philosophy without question. Everyday, whether it be with a group project, a chapter meeting, a community service group or our own families, we always wait for someone else to step up to the plate and make something happen. We always assume that there is someone else to fill a position that needs to be filled or that there is someone else who will be willing to take up a responsibility. However, I am very sure that those who have made the biggest impact in history were the ones who did what ought to be done. The reality of life is that sometimes that person is not there and sometimes that person does not show up. We, as men of Phi Delta Theta, need to be that person who people can count on. When people assume that someone will fill a position, because they will, we need to be that man. When people are lost and need a leader to show them the light, we need to be that man. When there is calamity all around us with no one brave enough to do something about it, we will be those men who do something about it.

In all ways, in all things that you do and in every moment of your life, live with every single ounce of you because when the time comes to do what ought to be done, the world will look to a leader to get the job done. We are those leaders.

Our day with the children of the orphanage in San Pedro Sula

First World Problems

By Adam Davis, Butler University

Traveling to Honduras with twelve Phi Delts from around the United States and Canada to serve the people of Honduras was definitely the experience of a lifetime.  I knew from the minute my plane landed in Miami and my brothers whom I’ve never met before greeted me that this was going to be a trip unlike any I had ever experienced before.  Being a part of the same great organization that is Phi Delta Theta helped us to form strong bonds of friendships within the short time we spent together.

My favorite part of the trip was being able to share in our nightly ritual and see that although we are all from different parts of the country and different walks of life we are all able to live the ritual in our daily lives.  Each night, we would spend hours reflecting on our days and the different observations we each made.  We would share stories and our realizations of our “first world problems” and we would take the time to evaluate our own values.

I will never forget the friendships that I made that week abroad, and the impact that we had on the native people of Honduras.  I challenge every Phi Delt to experience some sort of service immersion trip sometime in his life.

My Trip to Honduras

By Ernie Chan

I’m on the plane home, and it’s time for me to look back at my week and reflect on what has been a whirlwind of a trip. Now that everything has slowed down, I’ve been able to look over our itinerary again and think of all that we did and accomplished. In a way, this week has gone by in the blink of an eye, but in another, it really felt like a long seven days.

There are many cultural differences living everyday in a country like Honduras as compared to Canada. One of the biggest things about this trip for me was the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone. Whether it was trying to communicate in a Spanish-speaking country, navigating myself through an incredibly crowded football stadium, or doing physical labor in the heat of the Honduran mountains, it was important for me to embrace these new experiences and experience life outside my normal boundaries.

From the time that we touched down on the ground, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the country of Honduras. The vast landscapes and rolling mountains provided for an incredible backdrop, and some of the scenic vistas were almost surreal. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was not on a week-long vacation. I had never been to an area of the world like this before, only having seen programs on television and read about communities living in poverty. Being immersed in this environment really floored me, and I saw many things that my eyes were not used to seeing. I realize how lucky and privileged that I have been throughout my lifetime, and I must remind myself to always be thankful and appreciative for everything that I have. That being said, although some individuals in Honduras may not have the same monetary wealth or social opportunities as we do in North America, I realized they are able to live lives just as happy and fulfilling as ours due to the value they place on their relationships, their work, and their faith.

This trip has really made me look at everything around me in a different light, and has made me aware of how important perspective is in the grand scheme of life. Many things that we face are actually quite simple and straightforward, it’s the perspectives that are taken on them that make everybody’s experience different. There are many situations and instances where we don’t completely understand what others are thinking or feeling until we are thrown into their shoes. When we are able to evaluate our own perspectives carefully and critically while comparing them to the perspectives of others, we gain a greater appreciation for what the world can offer us and how we can work together to achieve the best outcomes for everyone involved.

In order to understand our purpose as members of society, we have to look at the fundamental tenets upon which communities are built. Going on this trip and immersing myself in the local culture really helped me break down the many components that keep this machine rolling, and think of ways that we can bring forward positive social change. We are all built as citizens of the earth, and it is important for us to collaborate in working towards common goals and purposes. As individuals, we must have a properly developed sense of self and carry out our actions in a way that is congruent with our ideals. Making the world a better place starts with the simple idea of making a commitment to ourselves, and our communities. The opportunity to serve has been provided to us on this trip, but I think the more valuable part of this equation that I am leaving with is the understanding of the reasons why we served.

I’ve got a lot of people to thank for making this past week the incredible experience that it was. I’m going to start with everyone who supported me with donations and words of encouragement in the days and months leading up to the trip. I simply couldn’t have gone on this trip without your support, and I can’t thank you enough for providing me with the opportunity to be a part of this experience. I want to thank the ministry staff that we worked with while on the ground in Honduras: German, Leo, Eric and Alberto all played a large role in helping us through the week, and did a great job of making us feel at home while in Canchias. I want to thank Mark Koepsell and Luke Benfield, who did an amazing job of facilitating our trip, and the 10 brothers from across America that joined me on the trip: Gabe, Joel, Adam, Dennis, Wabha, Leggett, Fabian, Chris, Andrew and Henkel – you are all such awesome dudes and I’m glad to have served with you guys. We had some great conversations, shared more than a few laughs, and put in some pretty hard work this week. I’m going to miss you guys, but I’m sure we will cross paths again at one point or another. Last but not least, I want to thank the people and the land of Honduras for opening my eyes to a side of the world I had never seen. I will never forget the memories I made or the lessons I have learned.

I’m very proud to have served as a pioneer on this first Phi Delt Service immersion trip, and I hope that we have paved the way for more brothers to serve in the future. When I joined the fraternity, I had very little idea of the opportunities that Phi Delta Theta would provide me, and this trip really proved to me that I am a member of the greatest organization in the world. I say this phrase with great regularity, but in no way does the frequency make the statement less meaningful: I’m Proud to be a Phi.

All in all, I am coming out of this week with a much different mindset from which I entered. My reasons for coming on this trip were of good intentions, but the trip itself uncovered my true purpose and showed me what service immersion is all about. I came into the trip looking to help those in need, and ended up receiving back just as much as I was able to provide. I did much more than put up a roof or dig a trench – through immersing ourselves in the local culture and having in-depth discussion with my fraternity brothers, I learned a lot about myself, the people, and the world around me. Most importantly, I placed myself in a constant state of exploration, discovering how my fraternal values can be applied to make the world around me a better place.

Ernie is currently a member of the Nova Scotia Alpha chapter of Phi Delta Theta and will be going into his senior year at Dalhousie University.

(Phi Delt service immersion attendees at Pulhapanzak Waterfalls in Honduras)