Weekly Service Blog Archive

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Tuesdays at Completely Kids

lauren brownThere are many joys that come from working in the CCSJ: the community and relationships with co-workers, helping to plan Service and Justice trips, and my personal favorite, weekly service sites. This year I have had the privilege of leading a group of students at Completely Kids, a non-profit organization providing after school services to kids of Jackson and Liberty Elementary Schools.

Not a week goes by that I don’t learn about a new child at Completely Kids that impacts my life. By going to Completely Kids every Tuesday, I get to see the joy and excitement in the eyes of the kids as well as the Creighton students that get to be kids again for a couple hours. We relinquish our responsibilities and busy schedules, and we get to be ourselves and just be with the kids. This site has fostered a love for children I didn’t previously have, an opportunity to learn about the educational system within Omaha, and an opportunity to take a step back and broaden my horizons.

Lauren Brown
Class of 2014
College of Arts and Sciences
Student 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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The Student is Really the Teacher

Jessica Rangel
“I know for a fact that they will teach me more than what I will be teaching them….”

I started my first day of service at Pixam Ixam with this thought in mind. After being at Creighton for almost 4 years and hearing marvelous things about this service site, I finally had the opportunity to meet the Pixam Ixim Community. I was so excited to start my new service site and continue creating more memories.

As we arrived for our first day of orientation, I did not know what to expect or what I was going to do. Nevertheless, I was so energized to start this new immersion. We had about eight volunteers, and everyone at the end of the night was so amazed with their experience, whether it was working with adults in ESL classes or in the day care center with the children.

I had the opportunity to teach a level 1 ESL class with two other volunteers and I was clueless about how to even initiate the class because I had no clue what their previous teacher taught them. I couldn’t reveal this confusion to the students, so I  improvised at the moment and started to teach the basics. Every student in that classroom was definitely tired from a long day at work, but that did not stop them from learning. I was so inspired by them, because you could tell they were eager to learn regardless of how tired they felt. And it is experiences like these that empower me to continue to serve my community and to value my education even more. I can’t wait to learn more from them and to continue to be empowered by their stories.

Please join us every Wednesday at 6:15 in Deglman Circle, come to serve and be inspired by this lovely and welcoming community!

Jessica Rangel
CCSJ Student Coordinator
Class of 2013

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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Humility Found Through Service

One of the best parts of working here in the CCSJ Office is getting to lead a weekly service site. The site that I co-lead every week is to Siena/Francis House.

Every Thursday, I run out of class and meet my group down in Deglman Circle, and we embark on our 4 block ride to the Siena/Francis House, the largest homeless shelter in the area.

For the first half of our time there, we sit down and eat with the other people getting meals there. This is something that is often a little unexpected for first-time participants, because they usually expect to be serving the meal, and not being served. This, however, is one of the most special parts of the day for me because we get to sit in communion and commonality with the guests there, who are really members of our community.

After we have all finished our meals, we head over to an adjoining building where we are greeted by Tim Sully, a director at Siena/Francis House, and someone who is currently enrolled in their drug and alcohol recovery program. We all head back to one of the overflow rooms they have for women and children and sit in a circle.

As we sit there, we listen to the story of the person who is in the recovery program. This can be one of the most difficult aspects of the site because we hear stories of drug use, incarceration, and abuse. Although these stories can be shocking or challenging, I find that they are incredibly humbling to listen to.

It is very common for addicts to have the mentality that they are in control of their addiction, or that they need to be able to control their situation–let’s face it, we all feel that way sometimes. For them to come to Siena/Francis and give up full control and completely trust in the program and God (or whatever higher power), is a true expression of humility. This never ceases to amaze me and make God’s presence feel real to me.

Ryan Freeman

Class of 2013

 

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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Presence

By: Haley Warren

I am one of two coordinators who leads the service site to the Siena/Francis house homeless shelter every week. My first experience with the Siena/Francis house was during one of the first weeks of my freshman year. The first day I went, I absolutely hated it. I felt uncomfortable, and was unable to find the value in the awkward silence at my table. I almost didn’t go back.

But something pulled me back there, and that same thing has been pulling me back ever since. I can’t quite put into words exactly what this thing was, but through reflection I have come to conclude that it had something to do with how uncomfortable the Siena/Francis House made me feel. When I first went to volunteer there, I was expecting the classic passing out food to homeless people type service. When I got there and the coordinators told me that I was going to be eating, and talking with homeless people, I was caught off guard. When I was reflecting with my roommate later that night, we said things such as I feel like we aren’t even doing anything. I thought we were actually going to be helping by serving food. At that time I hadn’t realized that building relationships is the most profound and important aspect of service to me. I can’t put into words how thankful I am that I went back that second week, because I honestly can’t imagine who I would be, or where I would be, had I not continued to attend this weekly service site.

Even though I knew in the past that I enjoyed going to the Siena/Francis House, I hadn’t really figured out exactly why I love it so much until these past two weeks. The first time I went back this semester, I found it easier to talk, to be present, and to be interested in the people I was sitting with. Unlike last year, I no longer had to force myself to be my usual, outgoing Haley-self. I felt comfortable around people who society tells us we should feel very uncomfortable around.

The second time we went this semester, I started leading reflection by sharing a short story written by Thich Nhat Hahn. In his writings, Hahn describes the method by which he ate cookies as a child. As a kid he took up to 45 minutes to eat one cookie. While he ate, he went outside and was present to everything around him: “the sky, the earth, the dog, the flowers.” He suggests that, “it is possible to eat our meals as slowly and joyfully as I [he] ate the cookie of my [his] childhood.” And he finishes saying, “the present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” After I shared this with the group, each of my peers contributed something about what presence means to them. My sharing was rooted in my experience studying abroad in Bolivia this past summer.

My freshman year of high school I did not get involved in extra-curricular activities. Therefore, when I came to college, I was committed to get as involved as possible. One of the things I decided to do last year was apply to study abroad in the summer. For some reason, applying for this program, even as a freshman, felt like the right thing to do. Once again, something was pulling me to push myself way outside of my comfort zone.

While I was in South America, there were many times I was very bored. As many people know, I tend to book myself to the brink. I often overcommit, and stretch myself thin because I am so passionate about so many different things. Therefore, the more laid-back lifestyle of Latin America was a big adjustment for me, that I am not sure I ever quite grasped while I was there. Bolivia was the first time in my life in which there were times that I had to be bored, and there was nothing I could do about it.

At the time, it annoyed me, but looking back on it, I know that being bored is just what I needed in order to realize how important relationships and presence are to me. When I came home from school at the end of the day and had no internet, no smartphone, no technology to distract me, I was pushed to interact and be fully present with my host family. The talks I had with them and the time we shared together was authentic and beautiful.

Coming back to the states, living the busy lifestyle that I once couldn’t live without has been really hard for me. Taking 19 credits and being as involved with work and other extra-curriculars as I am was something I thought I could handle. But that was before presence and relationships were something that I realized I really wanted to focus on as I transitioned back after being abroad. Also, it has been hard for me to text people, and even to talk to people on the phone, because these ways of communication seem so impersonal to me; and over the past couple months being home, I have really struggled with that. Our society is so technologically based, and being busy is seen as a good thing. In fact, when people aren’t busy, sometimes they are seen as lazy, or are seen as not living up to their full potential. Due to the nature of our society, there are so many ways to get distracted, and therefore it is much harder to push oneself to be present at every moment of every day.

During these busy, busy first few weeks back at school, the Siena/Francis house has kept me sane. When I go to this amazing place, I am able to break bread with beautiful people who I would never otherwise meet. I get the chance to hear someone’s story in the addiction recovery program. I get a chance to put aside all of my stress, all of my homework, all of the tasks I am expected to complete for an hour and a half, and just be with my brothers and sisters.

The Siena/Francis house is a place where people are present to me, and I am present to them. The gift of presence is one I receive every time I go there, and I am so thankful to be able to say that it is also a gift I am able to give.

“La cosa mas importante que yo lo aprendí durante las semanas ha ido la importancia de la presencia y de mis relaciones” –Excerpt from a song I wrote in Bolivia a few days before returning home.

 

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 Face Found in Service

By: Don Masse

This was the first time I had been back to the Siena/Francis House since my freshman year. It was a long time ago, and a lot has happened since then. It has given me a new outlook on the shelter’s work and the people that are in its programs.

Direct service has given to me a face, a person that I can talk to. It is a person with a reality, with a past as colorful, and many times more colorful than my own. These are individuals, people with histories, and it takes time to learn their names, where they are from, why they are in Omaha, and why they are at Sienna-Francis. I never feel like I am very useful in that kind of situation; I have a difficult time relating to their hardships. I have 12 meals consistently provided for me every week; these people are lining up 4 blocks away, to get a warm meal and a place to stay. It is hard to relate to marginalization: Homeless people, poor people, drug addicts, and ex-cons can easily become non-humans. Whatever their past, they have had problems bouncing back; opportunity is not open to so many people like it is to me. The economy doesn’t become an abstraction when you talk to people who lost their jobs and homes. Making tough decisions for classes seems somewhat trivial compared to deciding where you are going to get your next meal. Brandeis has some perks.

Although my presence at Sienna Francis House may not be particularly useful to their service of the marginalized, what people who offer their presence give back is extraordinary. I might not have firsthand experience of the residents’ struggles and battles, but I can become an advocate for them, I can become concerned, I can remember that our decisions make a difference for others. I can see what the consequences of my actions are, and that is something I can remember and act on now and in the future. It gives us a chance for reflection on our decisions, personal and collective, how we can impact a situation, and how we as a greater community can make a lasting and positive impact on another person, and a community as a whole. We are not a disjointed collection of people living in a bubble on campus.

We are a community. Even if we forget how similar we are to the people lining up just 4 blocks away, service will show us their face. They are no different from us.

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Reflecting on Citizenship

Written by: Maureen Boyce (freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences)

Volunteering at the Juan Diego Center this semester has changed my views on the immigration process. It gave me the unique opportunity to see this process from the perspective of an immigrant going through the arduous journey of gaining citizenship. It’s inspiring to see the people work so hard to overcome their language barriers, which is often the hardest part of the whole process. Because they must answer questions in English, it forces them to learn a specific vocabulary not used in everyday language. But they still come to the center even when they are tired after a long day at work. Many have the additional burden of having to overcome health issues in order to practice for their test. They persevere because they believe that it is important.

In some ways the test provides an interesting peek into what the government believes is important for immigrants to learn before they become citizens. Sometimes the questions are a bit strange but most are about the unique rights and privileges that one has as an American citizen. One of the participants, a man from Cuba, told a volunteer that the difference between his country and America is that in Cuba things (such as healthcare) are free, yet they, the people, are not free. But in America, though things are not free, we are free. His statement reminds me how fortunate we are to live in America, where our rights are protected by our Constitution.

It’s easy to forget the enormity of an immigrants’ decision to become an American citizen. Looking at the application and the questions they are asked reminds me about the sacrifice they are making to become a citizen. It’s a moving experience to ask an immigrant if they are willing to give up loyalty to all other countries in favor of America. But they are ready to take the oath of allegiance to the United States because they truly believe that their lives will be better as American citizens. Volunteering at the Juan Diego Center is a great experience and I recommend it to anyone looking to serve the community. 

 

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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