Service & Justice Trips Reflections Archive

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Genuine Love: Axtell, NE

How do10404271_10205142928685486_547036233861753367_n you know someone loves you? Have a few ideas in mind? Now ask yourself: How do you love your enemy? I bet you weren’t expecting that, huh. When you love someone, no matter who they are or how close they are to you, there is mutual attention given. Love is attention. Another part of this love deals with the importance of human dignity.

Over spring break this semester, I went on a Service and Justice Trip to Axtell, Nebraska. Axtell is about a three-hour drive from Omaha toward south-central Nebraska.  Just outside of Axtell’s eight blocks that provide life for about 730 people, there is a small piece of heaven. This piece of heaven is more commonly known as Mosaic at Bethphage Village. Mosaic is an organization that’s mission is to “partner with people with intellectual disabilities to create a meaningful life in a caring community, giving a voice to their needs.”

Mosaic was formed on July 1, 2003 by the joint-force of two Nebraska-born Lutheran ministries dedicated to the needs of people with disabilities.  Bethphage Village began in 1913 when Rev. William Dahl witnessed the neglect that children and adults with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities received in large institutions. How does this organization apply to peace? The answer is by promoting human dignity.  Pastor Dave deFreese, VP of Church Relations at Mosaic, met with my service trip group before we left for Axtell and then again at the end of our trip.  I have been fortunate enough to remain in touch with him over the past month and he has continued to be a true source of inspiration, especially about the topic of peace through human dignity.

When we do not treat others, disabled or not, with honor and dignity for who they are, we fail to allow them to become all they were created to be. When we condescend or think we need to direct their thinking/choices/lives, we do violence to their ability to live full lives of possibilities. When we fail to enable people with disabilities to have a seat in leadership and partnership decisions, we cheat the whole community out of the profound gifts and perspectives that they can offer for the good of all. We are not whole until they are a part of us. This is similar to the idea that Dorothy Day had of changing society from the bottom-up. Catholic Workers have discovered that it’s the little things that mean the most. Day reinforced this claim by using the “Sermon on the Mount” for the Catholic Worker manifesto. Workers try to be peacemakers through community by answering the “call to be a saint”. The Catholic Worker and Mosaic do their best to care for the whole person. Here at Creighton, we refer to this concept as the Ignatian value, Cura Personalis.

Life is precious. As humans, is it not our job to treat an outcast as our brother or sister, or our enemy as our friend?  Each person on this Earth is entitled to respect and the knowledge that they matter. If we were all to work in community to restore the dignity that each person deserves, would there still be violence? Dorothy Day once declared, “We have all known the long loneliness and we have found that the answer is community.” The residents in Axtell have formed such a community – a community formed by love.

The residents and staff in Axtell collectively taught me that genuine love and acceptance for who someone is as a person, is one of the most important things in life.  Each person is an individual of value. In regards to the residents and others all over the world … never let a disability stand in the way of someone’s dreams. A disability does not define who someone is as a person. Each resident at Bethphage Village gets the opportunity to decorate their own room with their own personal touch. The rooms vary in color (from lime green to hot pink to navy blue) and are filled with items that are unique to what each person is interested in. Church on campus is another specially coordinated activity for residents. Church services are non-denominational in order to provide faith options for all residents. Church on campus is designed so that the guests can be free to do what they want. Instruments are handed out at the beginning of service and guests are encouraged to make as much noise as they would like. Residents are also given laminated cards before service and during the offering they put the cards in the offering plate.  Simple acts like these show them like they are contributing not only to Bethphage Village, but also to society.

Attention. Love. Contribution. Human dignity. The problem is not the person’s disability … the problem is society’s view of the person’s abilities.

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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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