Service & Justice Trips Reflections Archive

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Lighting the Darkness

GetFileAttachment-1Leaving for my service trip, I ached knowing I was also leaving my addictions: my phone, computer, social media, video games, and the regularity of our environment. I left the “black and white” for the “gray”. However I was about to realize, that leaving those things opened my eyes to the humanity around me. The thin and sleek nature of our technology masks an impenetrable cloak of our own minds that we rarely notice. We don’t know what we don’t see, but I am infinitely grateful I removed the self-obsessed blindfold for the week I went on my service trip. I would have never seen what I saw, in the way I did.

Going to see the justice issues on a service trip was quite a unique experience. The closest thing I can equate it to is seeing the back of your head for the first time. You know it’s there for whatever reason, but you can never really see it until you go out of your way to do so. The real problem though, is that I was blindly accepting it until I saw the proof myself. A question sprints through my mind, “how could I have gone my entire life not seeing this when it was there the entire time?”

Once I saw these issues affecting people negatively, a unique juxtaposition of emotion emulated. My heart aches for people who struggle in ways that I could never imagine going through. But there are these moments where people make something from nothing, a beauty of the human condition. It is this essence that I held onto, and now I see the world differently from this experience. The little things matter. We just want to be happy, and search for the solution. In the end, people are just trying to make it through this place we call Earth, dazed and confused, while looking for the match to light their darkness.

After the week of my Calhoun City, Mississippi service trip, I feel a new spark within me.

Jake Jagannathan
Class of 2016
FBSJT 2014 Trip Participant

 

 

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.

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Experiences at St. Mary of the Woods

GetFileAttachmentIt was a warm, windy morning. The van was loaded, and all the passengers were accounted for as we set off on I-80E. After a grueling eight hour van ride, we arrived to a dark “college looking” campus. We left the van and met Robin, our go-to person for questions and job reports over the week. The next morning we woke up in beautiful cabins that had an impeccable view of the lake. Thorough the next couple of days, we would perform a variety of farm-like and “Alpaca-related” tasks.

St. Mary of the Woods is a Community Supported Agriculture and Alpaca Farm.  However, the Alpaca’s were not as friendly as one would think. Sometimes even spitting and kicking at you, but after feeding and getting to know them over the week, I was finally able to pet an Alpaca. Which was one of my main goals on the trip.

My favorite experience over the week was in the garden area with one of my coordinators, Andrew.  We had been laying mulch in the garden, when the grounds manager walked by and told us how amazing the garden looked. This was beyond rewarding because it felt like all of our hard work was paying off.

Overall, I had a wonderful week and made a lot of new friendships. I learned about the farmers side of Community Supported Agriculture, which made me appreciate the amount of work that goes into Organic Farming.  Truly, I made life long friends and I think that it was a fantastic way to spend my Fall Break.

Jeff Altman
Class of 2016
FBSJT 2014 Trip Participant

 

 

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.

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The NOLA Experience

Cole blogThere is nothing that can adequately explain the bonds that were formed in the amazing city of New Orleans. These connections were established anywhere from cooking dinner as a group, reflecting about the day’s service late at night, or even jam sessions in a long van ride. It’s a bond that isn’t initially expected to form, or at least as strong and fast as it did between my group. More importantly the connections between my group were not the only one we brought back to Omaha. One of the specific bonds that we brought back was with sisters Shelly, Maureen and Anne. Who we so fortunately were able to share a home with for the week. Another tie remains with Athene, who was kind enough to bring a whole new first hand perspective about Hurricane Katrina.  Then Ernest, who we came across in the 9th ward. His story told of losing everything in the storm nine years ago, but how he has yet to fully recover. More powerful attachments were formed throughout the week with Brita and Jake, who led us in rebuilding the homes in our service. Lastly, who could forget dinner with Laura Jablonski, who enlightened us about her time at Creighton and the new experience she just started in New Orleans as a JVC. These are just a few of the bonds that we bring back as memories that bring us joy while humbling us at the same time here in Omaha.

Cole Frisbie
Class of 2015
FBSJT 2014 Trip Participant

 

 

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.

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Exhilarated

GetFileAttachmentMahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” That is exactly what happened on my service trip.  I served a community in Cleveland, Ohio and felt so humbled afterward. I found a passion for serving others so great, I’ve realized I want to spend my life doing it. We went on a service trip for one week, but that one week changed more inside of me than I ever imagined it would. I thought I would make new friends, help a group of people, and feel good about myself. Instead I made best friends, served a group of people, and I feel invigorated.

One of my specific favorite days was spent at a church in the area called St. Malachi. We assisted in giving food to the homeless, played with children in an after-school program, and cleaned A LOT of dust (they were remodeling their kitchen). Working in the kitchen was probably one of my most memorable days. There we met a man named Guy who not only made us delicious paninis, but also gave advice that resonated with me. He said, “You can work in the corporate world and go home happy on Fridays, or you can work to serve others and be happy everyday.” It was at this moment that I recognized how I want to spend my life in service to people in one way or another.

As we played and spent time with the children, I was reminded of my love for little kids and my dream job of being a teacher.  This experience during my service trip made me appreciate that happiness does not depend on money, but instead on living in solidarity, serving others, and doing what you love. Before, my life was focused on how to a achieve a stable, money-making job to be happy. Now I know that money really cannot buy my happiness.

One of the greatest things my trip gave to me was challenge. It made me question society, our culture, and our treatment of our underprivileged brothers and sisters. Most of all, it made me examine myself. In doing so, I understood more about who I am and who I want to become. In serving, you receive so much more than you could ever give.

Simply put, my service trip was life changing. I fell in love with Cleveland, my group, and the people we served. I am thankful for all the times I laughed, the conversations that made me reflect, the Catholic Workers who showed me how to be a friend to all, and especially, for the opportunity to have such a wonderful experience.

Chelsea Driscoll
Class of 2017
FBSJT 2014 Trip Participant

 

 

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.

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Immigration: The Realities, Reflection, and Justice

vinnyblogThe discrepancy between hearing and experiencing an issue first-hand is so vast that each perspective seems like a completely different issue. Witnessing the issue of immigration reform in El Paso, Texas at the Columban Border Mission was one of the truest experiences I have ever had in my entire life.

On one of our first days at the border, we cooked a meal for thirty undocumented immigrants and had the chance to eat dinner with them. During the meal, I began talking to one of the migrants in Spanish about his stay in El Paso and why he was here. He told me that four months ago, he was deported from Miami back to Guatemala with no money or identification. Being that his wife and kids were still in Miami, he had no choice but to find a way to get reunited with them.

Four months later, there he was talking to me with the aspirations to save up money on a sub-minimum wage salary in order to get back together with his family. He showed me a photo of his daughter that had just been born three days prior to this encounter, whose birth he missed due to his deportation. This was one of the many touching stories I heard while on my journey at the border. It’s clear that this issue is not one to be taken lightly as it deals with the safety and separation of thousands of migrant families.

My El Paso group and I spent many nights and car rides discussing this issue’s complexity, wondering how exactly our country should deal with it. My group was so motivated to learn about immigration that our reflections truly developed our understanding of the issue while helping us to see the big picture. Many times, we would have “post reflection” where we would stay up until two or three in the morning, just talking about life, as well as immigration. One could say those reflections were our strongest pillar during this service trip.

Overall, we got to visit and help out at many of the community service organizations that help the migrants and poor in El Paso. It was inspiring to see so many people who have devoted countless years to try to better the lives of others who have crossed the border in search of a safer living. Through these visits we noted that there really is a lot of good in El Paso. However, there still is a vast amount of work to be done in regards to immigration reform as a whole. I have recently taken the opportunity to teach an English class to the Hispanic population in Omaha as a response to this enormously impactful service trip. By spreading the word about immigration to others and helping migrants in our local communities, my group and I hope to counter the injustices that we experienced first hand at the border in El Paso.

Vincent Nicchi
Class of 2016
College of Arts & Sciences
FBSJT 2014 Trip Coordinator

 

 

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.

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Taking on the Rockies

1912378_10152208827572870_834156329_nI pushed open the doors, stepped foot inside the St. Francis Center in Denver, Colorado, and took a gasping breath. I turned my head up and was greeted by the sight of around 700 people staring at me. I could only think of one word to describe how I felt: intimidated. Feeling that many eyes on me, I decided to turn right and walk up to the desk that was labeled “Intake.” As I reached the desk, I was greeted with a smile and a few words, “Is this your first time here?” It hit me, then, that you never realize who you are until you are mistaken for someone else. It didn’t matter where I was from, what ethnicity I was, how old I was, ANYONE could be homeless, because it could happen to ANYONE. Make no mistake about it, I was not offended. I gained insight. I knew then how much I was about to discover.

The St. Francis Center is a homeless day shelter that provides mail services, a clothing room, access to a phone, storage, and other basic necessities like showers and laundry. All of the Denver group got split into pairs for the first two days and were assigned a location. My partner, Eric Stanek, and I were a bit disoriented as we walked into the staff break room, awaiting a coordinator to tell us further directions. After about twenty minutes we were equipped with name tags, and given our first job, the clothing room.

This was a more one-on-one interaction with the guests. Our job was to stand behind one of the counters and get t-shirts, underwear, and pants from the shelves according to what size the customers wanted. Of course being a girl, when a man is saying size 36 x 32 you are absolutely distraught over what this means. I tried to make small talk with them, smile and tell a joke. Relating to the guests was a way I could give back, let them know I wanted to be their friend, not just give them things. Like a mutually beneficial relationship, I slowly let myself gain knowledge from these people who were, in many ways, probably wiser than me. You don’t expect them to offer you anything, you are there to serve, but you acquire understanding from real events, from real people and their experience.

Our next work site for the day was at mail services. It was chaotic but worthwhile. One of my most distinct recollections was of a man named Thomas. Like every other person that came up to the window, Thomas told me his full name and asked politely if I could check his mail. I examined his I.D. to verify his name and went to search. Three minutes went by before I returned with his mail. I handed him his envelopes and wished him a nice day with a smile. He took the letters from me and said with sincerity, “Thank you Gwen. Heaven must really be missing their angel.”

He walked away while I was still in bit of a state of disbelief. I have reflected on that moment dozens of times since then, each time realizing something new. He wasn’t trying to be cliché; he was stating his gratitude for my aid. I learned that something as small as having an address to have your items mailed to, something that we might take for granted, could mean so much for someone. I found that the power of a smile might be enough to shine a light on how one person cares for you. Most importantly, I grasped how going on my service trip might not change the world, but I could make an impact, even a small one, even on just a single person.

Reflecting on your trip is a great method to experience it through the past of what happened, the present of what you learned, and the future of how you want to take that and let it change you. Being intimidated is a scary thing. No one ever really wants to be put in a situation where they don’t have full control. Sometimes you just need to let go and experience. St. Francis Center did intimidate me when I first entered, but the wisdom it has given me will continue to assist me in my future endeavors, especially service.


Gwen McElhattan
Class of 2017
College of Arts & Sciences
SBSJT 2014 Trip Participant

 

 

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.

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