Humans of L’Arche, Friends with Disabilities, Spring Break 2016

Humans of L’Arche

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This is a picture of me and David. David is a man of few words, but when he does choose to contribute to conversation it is always hilarious. I knew David and I would get along from the moment I made a pretty terrible joke and he was the only one who laughed. I felt a connection with him through our shared sense of humor. My experience at L’Arche was made positive through the beautiful and unique people who shared life with me.

-Abby

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This is Johnny, as you can tell from his big smile, he is a ray of sunshine. Throughout this week, I have gotten the pleasure to get to know him while listening to Johnny Cash music and eating cake, his favorite dessert. He is truly the nicest and most genuine individual I have ever met. I strive to be more like him. I will never forget the moments we shared this week at L’Arche. I hope one day I can go back to Clinton, Iowa and make more memories with Johnny because they are bound to be the absolute best.

-Molly

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Darin and Kenny are two people in the apartment program at L’Arche. Darin is the one giving me bunny ears and Kenny is one hugging me. One of my favorite days of the service trip was the day we spent in the apartments. I really connected with Darin and Kenny, both of them are so fun-loving, genuine and kind. Darin is a beautiful singer and Kenny has one of the kindest souls I have ever encountered. The time I spent with them warmed my heart and filled me with joy.

-Kaisa

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On the right is Dan. He loves racecars and has a massive collection. I saw that he is a sweet and caring person. He offered us cookies when we were in his home, and they tasted delicious. I enjoyed getting to know him and visiting his apartment. I hope to be able to go back to Clinton, Iowa one day and get to hang out with him some more because he made my day happy and put a smile on my face.

-Amalia

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L’Arche is a unique and wonderful place. Each individual, whether a core member, assistant, or Director of Hospitality, has a vital role to the L’Arche community. When you enter into the community, you are welcomed and celebrated with hugs, warm meals, and laughter. I was both nervous and excited to return to the community. However, my nerves were gone the moment I received a warm welcome from Sarah, the Director of Hospitality, and Bob, a core member. Throughout the week, I was constantly amazed by the love and relationships formed in the homes. Assistants shared life with core members even when they “were not on the clock” and expressed love that expected nothing in return. I once again was shown what radical hospitality is and I cannot wait to share it with the campus. I cannot wait to return to L’Arche once again, hopefully sooner rather than later.

-Shannon

Children’s Medical Arkansas-Final Thoughts

We’re on our way back from Arkansas and in between loud dance parties, I attempt to write this blog. One word that could describe this trip for all of us would be unexpected. 

We climbed into two minivans at the beginning of the week not knowing each other or what would be in store for us. After 12.5 hours in a car filled with many naps and more podcasts than any of us ever imagined we made it to Arkansas. 

Sunday a group of us went out and decided that we were fit enough to climb a small, but very steep mountain in a state park nearby. If there’s any way to explain this experience it’s that, we made it to the top incredibly sweaty for the 50 degree and foggy weather with just one bleeding and swollen leg. 

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Needless to say, it was an accomplishment that I think all of us questioned as we were half way up the Rocky Mountain side, wondering how we were going to get down. (TRIPS pro climbing tip: sliding down the rocks and resisting the full fall with the power your arms is the way to go) 

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After this adventure, it was only right to cheer on the packers in a restaurant full of Cowboy fans. Thankfully, and slightly unexpectedly we walked out of there with our dignity still attached. 

Now, none of this is to say that we didn’t have expectations for our trip. Sunday night we sat on our sleeping bags on the floor of the church and began to discuss our week ahead of us. We talked about things we were excited for and nervous for. As we sat there, Maria, a senior on our trip asked us all what strength we were hoping to grow or use during the week. Answers ranged from adaptability to humility to communication.

Monday morning came and we were met with many unexpected tasks at the hospital. Even though the strength I mentioned at the beginning of the week was adaptability, it was hard to change my expectations for the trip. Disappointment easily penetrated our group as we had hardly any time with inpatients and a lot more time with paperwork than we expected. 

Yet, we showed up day after day to try to make whatever difference we could at the Arkansas children’s hospital. We learned many things about all the work that goes into the hospital. We made friends with the Cynthia in legal and Pat in the gift shop. We brightened the days of children waiting in the outpatient clinics decorating more plush dolls than I think any of us really expected. We brought Vickie in social services joy and laughter as our excitement of folding baby socks was contagious.  

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We spent two nights at the Ronald McDonald House hosting a game night and bringing joy to families through perfectly browned pancakes and an overly exciting game of red light green light. 

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What also came as unexpected for us was all that we got out of the trip. While during the week it sometimes seemed like the work we were doing was pointless, as we looked back on Friday we realized the many joys that we experienced during the week. We met a gracious lady from the church we were staying at who taught us a lesson in southern hospitality. She hand cooked a full pasta meal, garlic bread, salad and coconut cake (we’re talking so good that you could marry it). We found joy in people like Eric from the simulation department and Blake from the research department who were so excited to share their love of their job with us. 

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As Cynthia showed her appreciation of our presence by buying us Javalanches, and Pat from the gift shop gave us Wisconsin caramels (and didn’t get mad at us even though our coordination in taking things off shelves wasn’t always the best) the people in Arkansas started to have an impact on us. The children at the art cart who taught us words in sign language or the parents who thanked us for making their kids day/week all made differences in our days as we hoped to make differences in theirs. The people at the Ronald McDonald house who welcomed us into their family with open arms and shared stories and demonstrated the meaning of humility and grace to us as we toured their incredible facilities and played with Mac the dog. 

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Going into this trip, all I really wanted from the other participants was someone to talk on the twelve-hour car ride. After a week of some tears, laughs that make our abs hurt, sarcastic comments, intense games of Uno attack, adventures at the gas station, interpretive dance shows, forgotten purses, lots of ice cream and a few Peachy O’s, I can safely say I’ve emerged from this trip with a new, and unexpected group of friends. 

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As I think someone in our group put it perfectly, even if it was in small ways we brought joy to a place that really really needed it, and in return that place gave us people that bring us joy. 

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Blog written by: Elissa Marble

Immigration and Refugee Issues

This Wednesday our group had the opportunity to attend a court hearing for an 18-year-old. He is currently detained in a detention center for being an undocumented immigrant. At the age of 18, with little known English and knowledge of the United States, he was expected to represent himself in court. His choice was to either pay a $5,000 bond or remain in the detention center. If he or someone else is able to pay this bond he would then have to show up to another court date to continue his legal process.  This is being expected from someone who just became an adult a few months ago and is unimaginable to many of us, yet it’s the reality of these undocumented individuals’ lives.

If immigrants are able to travel to the United States when they are much younger, they have a significant advantage. On Thursday, we met with “Dreamers”, or undocumented individuals who were brought to the US when they were extremely young. These Dreamers are able to attend school to get an education here in the US, some of them not knowing they were undocumented citizens until they were in their sophomore or junior year of high school. For the students who are DACAmented (meaning they are registered with the government as being undocumented and are able to get a social security number, driver’s license and financial aid for college), there is the fear that DACA will be taken away under Trump, as it was an executive order under Obama. For students who remain completely undocumented, one worry is how to pay for continuing their education.

The students that we met are active advocates for immigration reform and understanding within the community. Almost all of them are applying to colleges and one is even the valedictorian of their graduating class! They’re normal American kids who have some really tough situations. Especially considering that once they reach the age of 18, these dreamers can be suddenly put in the same situation that the 18-year-old at the detention center is. Imagine turning 18 and instead of celebrating the fact you’re an adult, you’re making a plan for what to do if the immigration officers come for you.

Homelessness and Poverty

16105499_10208220489497794_7380644550602862428_n-1This week we have been exploring a wide variety of ways to serve the homeless community as well as discover hope in various ways of helping individuals overcome this struggle. We began our week of service by joining forces with a local church to hand out sandwiches to homeless individuals nearby. This service helps the individuals have a meal as well as provides a great opportunity to talk with them. Those on the streets are not ignored and some wanted a conversation – but many did just want the sandwich.

The next day, we served breakfast and lunch at the Father McKenna Center and interacted with some of the men being served. These two types of service were very different from each other and we experienced a whole other type the following day at Food and Friends. Food and Friends is a ‘mega’ food pantry, where they have nutritionists design meals to meet the needs of individuals in need in a two-hour radius of D.C. This is a very big operation, where we prepared groceries in an assembly line manner and it truly felt like we made a difference.

These operations show different levels of community organization and involvement throughout the city. While those who have been serving for a long time are very nice to us, they are also very real. Some individuals want as little as a conversation, some do not. And that’s okay. We’ve been learning to roll with the punches and meet them where they are at – and not being overbearing. We can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves – a mantra at The McKenna Center, where the men are guided to retake their lives.

We are constantly encountering circumstances foreign to us – especially the metro, though we’re getting a lot better – with the most positive attitudes we can muster. Showering less often and not getting a cup of coffee whenever we want hasn’t been easy – but the biggest burden of all is learning about the struggles the homeless community faces individually and as a whole. We visited the Legal Clinic, where we were hit with hard facts about growing rates of homelessness in DC, as well as the chaotic ways the local government has been trying to treat the problem, while, in reality, their efforts have been actively fueling it. We also heard powerful testimonies of individuals who overcame the shackles of homelessness at the National Homeless Coalition – which gives us hope for everyone we meet, and for all of those who face this struggle that they too can have a life of peace.

The Legend of Gretchen Moore: Immigration and Refugee Issues

Starting our day with Gretchen, we had no idea what to expect. We circled the block a full time, and then finally saw her crookedly parked PT cruiser. That was our first interaction of the day with her, and from that moment on, it was clear she played by a different set of rules. We followed her into the church, where we were introduced to the staff and a hodgepodge of colorful birds. From there, we were squashed out the door. Nate had the pleasure of riding in the PT cruiser with Gretchen, squishing his way into the car which was already full of donations Gretchen had picked up along the way for her favorite men. The rest of us piled into our TRIPS minivan, and we met up at the Home Depot that was home to a congregation of day laborers. The men recognized Gretchen’s car as she pulled up, and all ran over to the curb, smiling, waving, and bombarding us with good mornings before we stepped out of the car. One of the men began joking about Margaret’s Green Bay Packer hat right away (we are in Bears country). Gretchen pulled laundry soap out of her magic PT cruiser and she announced, “I got this for a dollar at the Dollar Tree where everything is a dollar! So you can go here and get this for yourself now,” which was a totally motherly thing to say. We passed out sweaters and blankets, as well as a few rain ponchos to the men. Gretchen asked the men, “How long have you been here and where are you from?” We broke off into smaller groups and had the opportunity to talk to them about their lives. Nate’s Spanish came in handy, and he ended up being Gretchen’s designated translator. A few of us talked to a gentleman who had lived in Chicago nearly his entire life. He was extremely open about his story and his experiences as an undocumented American. Gretchen was in her element; she took a gentleman with kitchen experience aside and wrote down his skill set to help him find a job and she helped another man get in contact with lawyers to help him with traffic violations.

In our reflection, we compared this experience to one of Dana’s earlier TRIPS. The connection between immigration and poverty was drawn; we hadn’t previously recognized the connection between immigration and poverty until this TRIP. There were distinct differences between the men in both Philadelphia and Chicago; some men really wanted to share their experiences and hear about our lives, where others didn’t really want to talk about themselves or hear from us. When we first pulled up at the Home Depot, we were greeted warmly and we felt welcome and like our presence was wanted there. This was similar to Dana’s experience at the end of her Philadelphia TRIP. I know we were nervous going in, nervous about being the privileged outsiders to such a different situation, but with Gretchen and the men, we were welcomed as one of their own. Both Gretchen and Our Brother’s Place had all of the resources the men needed to try and improve themselves. After this experience, Gretchen set us up to visit with an immigration lawyer, a non-profit organization called Pope Francis, and we helped Gretchen send letters to Chicago businesses requesting employment opportunities for the day laborers we had recently met. Gretchen’s work is so amazing because what she does by herself is usually done by an entire non-profit organization with many moving pieces. She is a caring, hard-working individual who inspired us all.

Children’s Medical-Arkansas: Day One of Service

Today was not only the first day of service for our Children’s Medical group but also Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We noticed parallels between the work of MLK and the work of those in the Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

The mission of the Hospital is to make kids better today and healthier tomorrow. While the Hospital’s Volunteer Service coordinator taught and trained our in this mission, we were struck by the hospital’s recognition of how the lives of patients and their families are threatened and how they use their gifts to uphold the life and dignity of each person. Our tour of the hospital exemplified this as well as our tour of the Simulation Education Center and the Research Center.

The Simulation Education Center consists of a staff that trains community members and medical staff to better the quality of care that they offer to patients. This includes teaching community members that live in rural areas CPR, first aid, and safety precautions as well as creating mock emergency situations for doctors and nurses to practice rare situations, build muscle memory, and better the health of patients.

During our tour of the Research Center, we were impressed by the autism advancements, intricate building design and upkeep, technology, and compassion of the staff.

Regardless of each staff member’s background, education, or personal experiences, they exemplified an investment to only better children today, but also make children healthier tomorrow. Whether that be staging medical emergencies, conducting research, or coordinating volunteers, each staff member that we interacted with today demonstrated a desire to use their gifts to provide preferential option of medical care and services for those who are facing vulnerable situations. Today exemplified ways that we can each use our gifts and talents to champion for the life and dignity of the human person.

Early January Trips, Winter Break 2017

Four TRIPS Program trips leave this weekend.  See the descriptions below.

 

 

Urban Youth (January 7-13, 2017)
Chicago, Illinois
Trip Leaders: Maggie Knecht and Fiona Holahan
The urban youth trip to Chicago is one of the longest running TRIPS Program experiences. Groups from SNC have been traveling to St. Benedict the African School for almost 30 years. Participants will work within the school one-on-one with young students and help in the after school program. While in Chicago, students stay at the Amate House and interact with individuals who have committed to a year of post-graduation service.

Children’s Medical Tennessee (Winter-January) (January 7-14, 2017)
Memphis, Tennessee
Trip Leaders: Davey Holzer and Kelly Theel
Students will volunteer at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital to host special events for the hospitalized kids; spend time with children to give their parents a break; and help brighten the lives of the patients and their families through other tasks. The participants may also assist at sites that provide lodging to families whose children are in treatment at the hospital.  Another group traveled to LeBonheur Children’s Hospital in December.

HIV/AIDS (January 7-14, 2017)
Chicago, Illinois
Trip Leaders: Shannon Salter and Lenka Craigova

This education-focused trip will allow participants to learn more about the impact of HIV/AIDS while visiting organizations addressing the needs of people affected. Students will also show care for those who are affected by this ongoing epidemic and assist in the preparation for fundraisers and other events.

International Medical (January 8-21, 2017)
Nicaragua
Trip Leaders: Connor Gullstrand and Haley Nett
Students will travel with Panorama Service Expeditions for a medical brigade. They will work closely with local doctors and medical students in medical consultations and assist in a pharmacy under the direction of licensed pharmacists. Students will serve both urban and rural populations.

Pre-Trip Thoughts- HIV/AIDS Chicago

As we prepare to leave for our trip tomorrow morning, our group is both excited and nervous for what we may experience over the next week. Each member of our group brings a new and different perspective to our team, which will allow us to grow and expand our outlook on service, HIV/aids, and community. Through these different viewpoints, we can grow through the wonderful individuals and community partners we will meet throughout this next week. We are excited to experience Chicago in a new way, while learning and challenging what we think we know about our social justice issue.

We are not sure what to expect at each of our sites, but we seem to have quite a variety of opportunities ahead of us. Chicago is a new city to a lot of us and certainly more urban that what we’re used to in De Pere. We are a little nervous and excited about taking public transportation — this will be a new experience for some of us. We haven’t planned our leisure day yet so we are looking forward to what the group decides to do for our cultural exploration. Our current idea for post-trip action is to do some kind of educational programming or information sharing on our college campus; We are curious to see if this plan will change after our week of service. Maybe we will be inspired to do something entirely different! It’s hard to know right now.

Lenka is most looking forward to the training we will be getting on how to take action, specifically from the Legal Council for Social Justice and Equality Illinois. Shannon is most excited to be in community and conversation with the different community partners we will meet over the next week.