Daughters of Charity Archive

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Waiting for Superman

By Katie Larson, ’14

I am going to Mobile, Alabama to serve with the Daughters of Charity this spring break, and, I admit, I was very nervous at the first meeting for the trip.

After several bonding sessions with our service group, however, the nerves have given way to laughter and ease as I have gotten to know the four others I am going to be traveling and serving with in Mobile.

We have had a few meetings together, and the excitement becomes more and more tangible with each passing week.

In order to prepare for our trip, the group sat down and watched “Waiting for Superman,” a documentary discussing the education system. If you haven’t seen this documentary I highly recommend it.

Growing up in suburban America where I went to both private and public schools, I thought I was pretty cultured in how school systems worked. I was wrong. After watching this documentary I am more than ready to bypass the next two weeks and begin my journey to learn more about the injustices in the education system and what I can do to make a difference.

As midterms and the service sendoff approach, I find myself more and more distracted with thoughts of this service trip. After being at Creighton and hearing about service trips for almost two years, I am excited to finally be able to be a part of this great program. I am looking forward to opening up to learning more about myself through serving others and cannot wait to see all the lessons waiting for me in Mobile.

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Serving 4 Miles from 8 Mile

By Anna Ferguson ’15

From the moment my service group met at the first general Spring Break Service Trip meeting, we joked about visiting 8 Mile.

8 Mile is a stretch of Michigan highway made famous by Detroit native Eminem, a rapper whose CD, named “8 Mile” for the area he grew up by, sold over 4,750,000 copies as of September 2010.

Coincidentally, the homeless shelter I will be serving at in Detroit is only 4 miles from 8 Mile.

My group began our second general service trip meeting by sharing our favorite hobbies, movies, and bands. One of my leaders, an enthusiastic Eminem fan, again emphasized his love for 8 Mile.

While he encouraged us to bring a CD of our favorite songs for the ride to Detroit, he warned that listening to “8 Mile” was a must. Our group social meeting this weekend centers on food and watching the “8 Mile” documentary about Eminem. And driving by 8 Mile at some point during the trip is not up for debate.

This was a joke, to some extent.

When people ask me how I like my service group, I tell them that what I like most is how quickly we became comfortable with each other, how we so easily joke and encourage each other. At our second general meeting, there was even more laughter and sharing than before.

Our service may be serious and our interactions with the homeless may challenge us, but there is a sense of community and positivity stemming from our humor that will encourage and energize our group.

I saw this in between serious conversations we had at our second general meeting, which emphasized two main ideas:

  • 1)      That we should liken ourselves to a guest as we stay and work at our service sites, and
  • 2)      That we should get comfortable with reflection and quiet time

Who is the ideal house guest? Someone who picks up after himself, is polite, is respectful to the host and his culture, and interacts with the host. The people we serve or work with are our hosts. We must be the ideal guests.

This idea struck a nerve as I reflected on it with my group.

Interacting with the poor and homeless makes me nervous. How do I relate to them? How do I become the love of Christ to them? How do I serve them?

Our service trip leaders emphasized a distinct difference between helping and serving. To help a person implies that they are broken, needy, or hurting and you are not; you are superior and they are inferior. To “help” is to remain the person who is strong and sure and able, protected and safe above their pain.

To serve is to join someone in someone’s struggles. It requires you to make yourself vulnerable, to feel what they feel and experience their life first-hand, forgetting your strength and assurance in your ability. It is solidarity, understanding, and empathy. You become equal because you have taken up their cross.

Nothing scares me and excites me more than challenging myself to live the struggles of the homeless and reflecting on how I can bring God’s love to them through service.

This fear and nervousness is not the traditional kind. It is the knowledge that I am going to be uncomfortable – and encouraged to sit with this discomfort and reflect on it.

It is a good kind of fear, though; it will challenge my typical, Creighton-bubble perspective.

As my group talked about the work we will be doing, the way reflection will go, and how we can be present and in solidarity with those we serve, jokes about Eminem, jogging to 8 Mile, and visiting Canada broke up the seriousness.

Looking around at my group members at this second meeting, I saw six distinctly different people. Each of us brings a different perspective, personality, and sense of humor, but each of us is joined by a common desire to serve others.

It struck me how close we had grown in such a short period of time and how much fun we were having at a simple logistics meeting. More than anything, my group members’ passion for service and friendliness assured me that I would not be challenged alone.

We will not only be in solidarity with the homeless people we serve, but also with each other, through both our jokes and our serious reflections about what it means to serve the homeless.

I am excited to be challenged and have fun with my group, serving 4 miles from 8 Mile.

Read Anna’s first post of the series: Spring Break in…Detroit

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Matt Deboer

We are staying with 3 sisters (Daughters of Charity) and they all have different roles within their community. These are three of the most amazing women I have ever met, their English is amazing, and they all have hilarious senses of humor. Many of the children here are orphans, and often times they live alone or with older or younger siblings. The compound we are staying on remains open for them from 6am to 6pm, and many of them don’t leave between those hours because this is the only home they have. Many of them live in the streets and get their only food at school. The sisters are doing all they can, but they can only do so much. Many of them are born HIV + or have AIDS and only live to be young adults, if that. I think the hardest visual thing to take in has been the victims of polio. I have seen several children with polio trying to get around, using their arms as legs, with sandals as shoes for their hands, and their legs dragging behind them. It brought me to tears hearing a local woman talk about how severe a problem it is. I met a young boy, Johannes (John), who wants to be a lawyer and help people in Bahir Dar. This is not a rare dream. The children here have very tangible and logical dreams — lawyer, doctor, teacher, officer, etc. We finished up classes on Thursday, 12 July, and that day was definitely the most difficult day of the trip. At morning assembly we were presented with gifts from our students, and althoguh they were simple (a scarf and animal carving), they were beautiful and truly from the heart. At the end of the day, I decided that there was nothing “new” that I could teach them, so I decided to use a little of my improvisational abilities (which I used most of the time anyway) and let them be the teachers for a while. We wrote a bunch of English words on the chalkboard and I let them write them out in Amharic figures and English letters for me, so I could leave learning a bit of their language. They LOVED this activity, and we all benefitted from it. I gave them all hugs/handshakes/awards on their way out (English certificates), and they thanked me with smiles, hugs, kisses on the cheek, and a few notes/drawings.

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Al Robey

Al Robey Hat PartyI 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. I taught in a very, VERY small classroom in a brand new school located in Tulema Tulema is a “leprosy village” in Jimma. 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.
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.
After class, we had a coffee ceremony held by a few of Krissy’s 5th graders. They pooled their money to purchase the bunna (coffee), dabo (bread), and a small amount of candy, popcorn, and animal cracker-like cookies. 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.

Al Robey hugging AwelAt 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 “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 him a 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.
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. 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.

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