Read Creighton Alum, Jackie Greene’s (’13) blog as she goes through her post-grad volunteering in Peru. Jackie is volunteering with Incarnate World Ministries.
Check her out at: embraceyourdisquietheart.wordpress.com/
I set out to write this to let you know about my recent advocacy adventures. (I thought you would be pleased!)
One of my guests here at Casa Vides in El Paso, TX has recently won political asylum, but immigration didn’t give her an I-94 (a type of visa that is used as an ID for legal immigrants). It’s caused a ton of problems for her getting public benefits, but also just trying to function without a legal ID. She’s not the first asylee we have seen come through without this paperwork. So, I set up an appointment with Congressman Reyes’ office.
Because of my work on advocacy team and my experiences at Creighton, I felt very comfortable doing this, wasn’t nervous at all for the appointment, and was able to prep the guest on what to expect. I gathered resources, wrote up a summary letter to leave with the aid, and went to the meeting.
The meeting was this afternoon. I think it went really well, and I hope the aid/congressman can help this specific guest attain an I-94, but also address the bigger systemic issue. It was refreshing for me to meet with a democratic representative, as she was sympathetic rather than antagonistic.
Being part of advocacy team prepared me for this experience, and I wanted to thank you!
The CCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Creighton Center for Service and Justice (CCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the CCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.
Having graduated from Creighton in 2003 and after spending my spring breaks with the CCSJ on service trips, I kept putting off opportunities to spend extended time working with underserved populations until I had more training.
Finally, after med school, residency, and a year as chief resident at Georgetown, I ended up finding an organization serving the rural communities in the Sacred Valley, Peru interested in starting a mobile clinic. These communities for the most part lack running water, electricity, or bathroom facilities and have an extreme poverty rate of well over 25% and a malnutrition rate of nearly 25%, in addition to several other indicators of poor health.
So, I packed up and came down here (Ollantaytambo, Cusco, Peru) in August and have been here since.
Since that time we’ve started a mobile clinic that has served almost 1,000 patients, all of whom have received free care thanks to private donations. There was so much local interest that the local government late last year dedicated its own funds to continue this work, and as of last month started its own mobile clinic which travels to similar villages we have been serving. We’ve re-evaluated our strategy with this development and aim to support their mobile clinic – which is really more like an urgent care clinic – by dedicating resources to screening tests and preventative medicine, a concept that is quite foreign here.
We have also realized that a program targeting education and community empowerment is the best manner by which we can prevent common illnesses and recognize serious ones in these communities. We’re in the process of launching a program to train community health workers in an effort to reduce maternal and infant mortality and communicable diseases and to get sick folks to medical attention sooner.
It’s bittersweet that I will be leaving Peru to pursue a cardiology fellowship this May, but Sacred Valley Health will continue to train community health workers and bring preventative care to these communities in partnership with the municipal government’s mobile clinic. I will oversee the medical direction of this program and support its fundraising and public health programming and am very excited for the potential impact we can continue to have.
Check out our website at www.sacredvalleyhealth.org, or find us on Facebook. We are not currently set up to receive short-term volunteers, although we hope eventually to set up a program with the government clinics for an interchange between interested volunteers and rural medicine. However, undergraduates or graduate students with a background in public health education or global health or who have general medicine training who are interested in long term work, please feel free to contact us.
Again, all my thanks to the work the CCSJ does for the formative programming they do to educate and provide opportunities to open minds to the injustices that exist in the world.
Mark Willcox, M.D.
Creighton Class of ’03
Board Certified Internal Medicine
Sacred Valley Health Medical Director
By Mary Henneberry, Winter 2011 Graduate
So…as of this moment, I’ll be living in Chicago, and working at a non-profit here in Chicago that works with mentally and physically handicapped people (from mild/high functioning individuals to profound/nonverbal, very very limited movement) in order to offer them a community of care that maximizes their potential. The job is pretty hands-on, though I’ll be working with more high-functioning adults in their daily/nightly tasks…especially with younger adults who are newer and therefore are learning what it’s like to be an independent adult. While they may have a developmental disability, the staff really tries to let them be as-independent-as-they-can-be adults (especially for these high-functioning individuals) so my job will be helping when necessary, but really facilitating the residents in learning that they can (and should) be an adult and do it on their own. Sounds simple, right?! I already know it will be a beautiful struggle :)
I officially “started” the job yesterday, but the position actually requires 4 weeks of certification and training, so that’s what I’ll be doing for the rest of the month. But so far, so good! So far I’ve learned that 1) the bakery is going to be dangerous for the bridesmaid dress I have to wear in July and 2) I have a lot to learn!! Please pray that I can make it through all 4 weeks/pass all the certification tests!
If you are interested in learning about what Mary is doing, feel free to email her, MaryHenneberry@creighton.edu
Recent Graduates Dedicate a Year to Serving as Jesuit Volunteers
Portland, Ore. — A Creighton alumna has recently embarked on a year of full-time volunteer service with Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) Northwest:
Virginia (Ginny) Michel, New Avenues For Youth, Portland, OR
A total of 141 Jesuit Volunteers (JVs) – 28 returning for a second year – are serving in 20 locales throughout the five states of the Northwest, living in 23 JV communities. Going where the need is greatest is guiding JVC Northwest to expand into two communities this year to serve at Pretty Eagle School in St. Xavier, Montana, on the Crow Reservation and with various partner agencies in Wenatchee, Washington.
“Our JVs will be making a big impact for the people and habitats they will be serving this year; they will participate in transforming the communities where they serve and they will forever be transformed,” says Jeanne Haster, executive director for JVC Northwest.
There are two Jesuit Volunteer organizations in the United States, JVC Northwest and JVC. Jesuit Volunteers can be found in a variety of urban and rural locations and are challenged to live simply and work for social and ecological justice in a spiritually supportive environment.
Established in 1956, JVC Northwest is an independent, non-profit organization that recruits, places and supports volunteers living in communities across the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. Jesuit Volunteers serving elsewhere are part of Jesuit Volunteer Corps, which consists of five JVC regions that merged in 2009.
As a national direct grantee of the Corporation for National and Community Service, most of our volunteers receive the AmeriCorps Living Allowance and Education Award. Volunteers live in urban and rural locations in communities of four to eight volunteers. This year, the JVs work with over 100 partner agencies across the region in many areas, involved in critical service advocating for refugees, nursing in community clinics, teaching in schools on Native American Reservations, assisting in shelters, and organizing community garden projects, and many more important works. Throughout their year of service, JVs focus on four core values–social and ecological justice, simple living, spirituality and community.
I spent five weeks with five other incredible volunteers, four amazing Daughters of Charity, one compassionate Vincentian priest, hundreds of wonderfully enthusiastic and loving students, and a beautiful, hospitable city. We did our best to teach English (the language of instruction in secondary education in Ethiopia). I taught in a very, VERY small classroom in a brand new school located in Tulema. Tulema is a “leprosy village” in Jimma. It is a place that the Daughters of Charity secured for the hundreds of people whose families have been affected by leprosy. The Daughters have helped them build homes, gain livelihoods, and participate in a top quality Montesorri kindergarten program at a school in Tulema (education is a top priority for all of the families — parents and siblings will do everything in their power to help their children get a good education). Prior to the establishment of Tulema, people who had leprosy and their families were living in the Catholic cemetery, as they were designated “the living dead.” Though there are only four or five active cases of leprosy in Tulema, and the disease is completely contained, the children and grandchildren of those who have and had leprosy are still ostracized. Everyone who is able in Tulema, including children, do all that they can to earn money to make a living. I would regularly see my students selling tissues and chewing gum or shining shoes on the streets outside of class time. Despite their concerted efforts, many, if not all, of the families are struggling to meet their basic needs. On top of all this, HIV/AIDS is devestating this community, as it is in so many communities in Africa and around the world.
Though every day in Tulema is a battle, a spirit of determination, joy, and love is palpable the moment you step foot on the mud path that leads to it (and I mean muddy… cars cannot drive down it, and we saw a number of horses and mules get stuck… we, thus, invested in some beautiful knee-high boots. Thankfully, our students met us at the beginning of the road each morning and helped us traverse it with as much ease as possible (for “farenges,” that is). I had sixty first and second grade students. And while I sincerely love all of you, they are my new favorite people, and I miss them SO MUCH. I don’t even know how to begin to express how much I love these kids and this community (so much for that English degree). If this is any indication, I got physically ill the moment I left Jimma, and I am still experiencing the remants of that illness a week later.
Anyway, if you’re still reading this very long email, here is a little story from my journal…Pardon the writing — it is a bit raw.
“Today was our last day of classes in Tulema. We decided to do a short review of what we had learned and to take our pictures together. After class, we had a coffee ceremony held by a few of Krissy’s 5th graders. Apparently they wanted to give us something, so Sr. Tsige suggested a coffee ceremony. They pooled their money to purchase the bunna (coffee), dabo (bread), and a small amount of candy, popcorn, and animal cracker-like cookies. Two of the girls wore their feast day dresses. We all gathered around as they finished the preparations and began to serve (with their ever-present, unbounded, famous Ethiopian hospitality).
After a few minutes, Awel (one of my second grade students) who was leaning on me throughout the ceremony, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Alicia, what is this?” I looked over at him to see that he was holding a small heart-shaped cookie. A big smile spread across my face.
At the end of every class, I would call up each student to the door, give him/her a sticker and a hug and a kiss, and ask her/him a question from that day’s class. The last few days of class we worked on the question and answer, “What is this?” “This is a ________.” I also had a large number of heart stickers, so we learned the word for “heart” and that people drew them to say “I love you” (in Amharic it is Wah – de – shar – lo
Awel paricularly enjoyed our one-on-one time at the door, and he LOVED the hearts. Each time I gave him one, he pulled down the collar of his shirt to reveal a large heart shape scar on the upper part of his chest, indicating for me to place the heart sticker in the middle of his scar. As I did so, I would ask, “What is this?” In his sweet voice, he’d reply, “This is a heart.” Then, I would say “I love you” and give hima big hug and kiss on the cheek, sending him out the door.
So, when Awel asked me “What is this?” as he held out his cookie to me, I thought of all those moments over the last five weeks. Fighting back tears, I said, “This is a heart.” Then, Awel very quietly said, “I love you,” and he placed his cookie, the only cookie he had received, in my mouth and rested his hand on my shoulder.
Feeding someone is a customary gesture of care, compassion, and love. For these past five weeks our souls have been well-fed by this community teeming with love.
As I think about this brief, special moment with Awel today, I am reminded of the anxiety I felt before I left the states for Jimma. Tears streamed down my face as I literally flew over my home in Stewartville, watching it slowly disappear from view, and wondering why I was traveling half way across the world to teach English. I was doubting my abilities, my strength, and I was fearful that I would fall in love with a community that I would have to leave in five weeks.
Though I did not master English language instruction (or even come close), and I did continue to question the effects of my presence there, I gradually overcame my fear of falling in love with this community that I would to leave. This is because I knew I would never leave them, and they could never leave me. Just as Awel and I literally and figuratively exchanged hearts, I know a part of me will stay in Jimma and a part of Jimma will stay with me.
People say this all the time… and I’ve said it before, as well, about different communities I’ve visited and loved over the years, but I have never felt such an immense love and such a deep sense of connection to a community as I do to this one. I have a feeling this love is going to contiue to lead me back to Jimma and down the muddy path to Tulema over and over again.”
This is just a small sampling of stories and people who made this time in Jimma truly life-altering… Perhaps I’ll send another when my eyes dry (if that ever happens).