Serve Well Blog

April 2011 Entries


Kirk Harris pursues Political Science Ph.D.

Destiny Williams | Colleague Press, Developing Nations, Faith/Theological Exploration, Global Citizenship, Integrating Service As A Way Of Life, Peace & Reconciliation, Transitions Home & Beyond


In a small office on the campus of Indiana University, Kirk Harris stares out a small window. This is where he spends most of his time these days. He finds his life, starting a Ph.D. in Political Science, feels quiet--a "night and day" difference from the sounds and smells of the past five years. In 2006 Kirk sat at a table surrounded by the passionate voices of tribal and community leaders who shared stories of hardship and betrayal amidst a violent ethnic and religious conflict. Despite deep differences, they were gathered on common ground, to nurture peace and rebuild their countries. Kirk, a Krista Colleague who served in Kenya as a Young Adult Volunteer with the Presbyterian Church, served with an organization that facilitated Muslim-Christian dialogue between these competing ethnic and religious groups. He remembers and cherishes the friendship and solidarity of "being welcomed by people who are very different from me, of being drawn outside of myself in pursuit of a common calling."

At that time, he wrote to the KF: "By participating in these discussions I am now able to analyze violence and peace more comprehensively, taking into account country-specific obstacles to the resolution of conflicts as well as cultural and theological nuances that affect how they unfold." But the depth of complexity left him longing for an even deeper understanding.

To hone his thinking, Kirk wrote an article on reconciliation in The Global Citizen journal. He seized an opportunity at the Mennonite Central Committee United Nations Liaison Office in New York, focusing on Congo and Sudan. After two years, Kirk moved to Khartoum to work for the Sudan Council of Churches in on behalf of MCC. In each position, Kirk was humbled by the issues the communities were facing. In his search of a better framework, Kirk applied to a Ph.D. program.

Graduate school has brought new opportunities and challenges for Kirk, whose goal is to reinvest his degree in service of the people he served in Africa. "I am continually reminded of what I was doing a year ago-working with Sudanese churches who are trying to heal their country in the wake of conflict and stave off new violence." As he seeks to integrate his experiences, cultivate community, and steward his education, Kirk has come to see that "balancing the tension of the mind and heart will take time, and that God's grace, which has sustained me through service, will also sustain me in learning." He reminds himself: "Only 5 and ¼ years to go."

Know someone who has wrestled with the culture shock of transitioning from service to grad school? Share comments or encouragements below.


Colleague Finds Joy & Vitality in the Fields

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press, Environmental Projects, Community, Environment

Cure Organic Farm Produce- Ingrid"It's like every carrot is an educational tool, every tomato is a shared excitement. Everyone gets hopeful in the spring for the peas to come up... I love sharing that feeling with people." Says Krista Colleague Ingrid Hannan ('09), who is on a mission is to "revive and cultivate a sense of intimately knowing what we're eating." She credits Krista Foundation ideas with influencing her approach to her work: "Staying for Tea" has become ingrained in how I see service, how I approach a conversation with a community member, how I think about the goals and mission of growing vegetables. The way I see it, there are major problems with food production and distribution in the world. And I am more empowered thinking about fixing it—as Aaron says in the article—'at eye level.' Instead of coming into the scene with all these grandiose solutions and changes, I feel like a member of the community working for and with everyone." Whether growing vegetables, selling at farmers' markets, or building relationships with community members Ingrid brings valuable insights to her daily work.

Last season, Ingrid spent long and busy days working for Cure Organic Farm, a business-minded production farm that sells to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, farmers' markets, and restaurants. This season, Ingrid works for Lykins Gulch Community Garden, whose primary function is not production, but rather creating a beautiful space with very well-tended and healthy vegetables. She has found excitement adapting to working close to nature: "The exciting thing about having a job to grow vegetables is that every day is different. There are so many factors out of your control, so most of the job is about working with and alongside nature. It's incredibly surprising how important things like rainy days and temperature become."

Providing vegetables to people and talking with them about them is a joy for Ingrid, yet an even deeper joy is in reconnecting the local community with where their food comes from. "I am becoming increasingly passionate about steering our food choices away from impersonal, unhealthy, corporate-minded food and towards the community-minded, natural and healthy beautiful food." Her conviction is evident as she says, "Support farmer's markets! Eat local! Eat seasonally! And best of all, grow your own."

Meanwhile, living on the farm and close to the land has taught her valuable life lessons. "I've learned so much about balancing work and rest; about how to integrate myself into a role of serving the community; about what good growing practices are, and..." she laughs, "about how to cook kale when there is a mountain of it growing!"

She appreciates her connection to the Krista Foundation: "Every KF event is a really cool moment in which I feel beyond supported, it's where I know other Colleagues feel the excitement and importance of social food equality...and promoting good health for all."

Even without a clear sense of the future, Ingrid is committed to integrate her service to the earth "as a way of life." "Guaranteed-everywhere I go I will poke my nose into the local agricultural community; now that I am tapped into one, I feel it's vitality and joy. And I never really want to leave that again."

Ingrid's gardening blog is a must read:

See a few photos on Ingrid's KF page.


Earth Month Opportunities

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press, Environmental Projects, Environment, Integrating Service As A Way Of Life

Spring Into Bed | Seattle | May 14 produce from Ingrid's farm

Allie May, 08 Colleague and former EarthCorps volunteer and supervisor, recently wrote to the KF: "Since January I've had the pleasure of working with the Just Garden Project to design some graphics in preparation for their upcoming event, Spring Into Bed. The Just Garden Project (JGP) is a grassroots organization dedicated 'to building a just food system and a culture of gardening for all people.' On May 14 you can join in the building and celebrating of 30 gardens alongside low income families and communities across Seattle! The woman who started JGP is an AmeriCorps Alum, and extremely passionate about social and food will surely be touched by the excitement, gratitude and love behind every garden built!" -Allie email her to join this project.

Yank Ivy! | Seattle | April 23

Lydia Imhoff first volunteered with EarthCorps throughout 2009, and became a supervisor in 2010. Now, in her spare time, she continues to support their restoration projects. She writes "Come on out to Golden Gardens for Earth Day to beautify the park and connect with your neighbors. We will be pulling invasive English Ivy, learning about local habitats and working alongside about 100 volunteers from all over Seattle. You'll be glad you did!" EarthCorps involves local and international service volunteers in environmental restoration. "Contact and tell them Lydia sent you!"

Music and Booths! | Spokane |April 23

Audra Krislock and her mother Evita are involved with the Faith and Environment Network in Spokane. Audra writes, "On Saturday April 23rd we have an Earth Day Event in downtown Spokane. Lots of great organizations come—there is live music and tons of great information. In the past I have volunteered with the Faith and Environment Network booth and plan to help out again this year." Check it out at:

Compost Fair! | Spokane | April 30

Audra also mentions, "Right now I am taking the class to become a Master Composter. At the end of the month we are hosting compost fair. It is April 30th from 10-3pm at Finch Arboretum. I will be there helping run the event. "Let me know if you need more information or have other questions." email Audra

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Future Physician Learns Healthcare Challenges

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press, Urban America, Healthcare, Poverty: Urban US & International, Sustaining Service

Mike advocates for AmeriCorps"When most people discharge from a hospital stay, a family member takes them to a warm home where they can rest and be fed," Says new Colleague Mike Alston, who serves with JVC - Northwest in Portland, Oregon. "Homeless patients head out the front door with only a bus ticket." Though deemed "medically stable" Mike has noticed people leave tired, sore, and stressed. Through the innovative Recuperation Care Program, Mike helps homeless clients transition from the hospital to housing and recovery, beginning by driving them to a building with food and a warm bed.

Though Mike majored in International Economic Development, he's become discouraged about economic disparity closer to home. "There simply aren't enough slots for those who genuinely want help. The whole city is strapped. It makes it hard when someone wants to move forward and make good choices, but the best they can do is be on a waiting list." Still, he tries to hold on to the success stories: "It is great when clients defy your negative expectations. One woman came to us cycling through the emergency room, in a wheelchair, and her life was falling apart. Still, she discharged into permanent housing, and has been walking and sober for months-and keeping regular appointments! It's hard not to become jaded, but sometimes clients defy your expectations in a positive way."

Set to begin Medical School at the University of Washington this fall, Mike is gaining valuable insight into a medically vulnerable population and the medical care system through his service at the hospital. He plans to use his Krista Foundation Grant funds to attend the Northwest Regional Primary Care Association's Spring Conference "to better prepare for... a career (as a physician) and to better understand the various issues surrounding healthcare delivery to poor and vulnerable populations." Mike also plans to bring lessons from the conference back to Old Town Clinic in Portland.

As a volunteer in the presidential motorcade, Mike was recently able to meet President Obama. Mike took the opportunity to remind the President that AmeriCorps funding was critical to his work, but that the House had passed a budget with significant cuts to the program. The President affirmed his concern, and thanked him for his service.