Serve Well Blog

October 2013 Entries

10.21.13

How You Make Them Feel

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press

Cassandra Tongilava '13 is used to making her own way in life, and has worked hard to track down scholarship programs, academic opportunities, and role models. "I promised myself that if I ever had the chance to impact a young life like myself growing up, I would be that mentor," she remembers. 

As an Americorps volunteer, Cassandra kept her promise, serving as an academic coach to middle school students at Peace Community Center in Tacoma. Every day, she challenged herself to find new ways to engage and motivate her students. Every day, she spent time reflecting on what she had learned. Listening to Krista colleagues at the Annual Service Leadership Conference share challenges, struggles and rewards of their service year helped deepen her reflections. "I learned so much about my identity as a Pacific Islander Samoan and Tongan, American, and woman in the context of my community this year," she said. "The conference helped me see areas of my life that still need  growth."

Because she has learned that when it comes to mentors, there is no "perfect fit," she appreciates the Krista Foundation's cohort mentoring model. "Exchanging knowledge, getting to know other people, listening to their life's journey, their struggle, what worked and didn't, taking what's good and processing what's bad, is perfect learning," she says. "Everything inspires and teaches me, and can help me find ways to navigate my world."

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10.21.13

Coffee: A Lesson in Staying Human

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press

 As a partner in a coffee farm in Cerro Redondo, Honduras, Glen Guenther '11 has many opportunities to practice The Krista Foundation service ethic of checking your filter. He and Wilson Chavez got to know each other when Glen spent a month with the Chavez family during a Whitworth University study tour.

After another visit, conversations and discernment, Glen and Wilson purchased a small piece of land together for a small-scale coffee farm through which the Chavez family-previously subsistence farmers who rented-could gain a more stable livelihood. Glen checks his lens often around the issue of money because "compared to Wilson, I come from a place of relative wealth." While honoring Wilson's high expectations for the farm and responding to long-distance requests for funds for fertilizer and labor, "I have to ‘stay human' and see Wilson as a person and not just a function of an exciting project that I am involved in. Wilson doesn't have the benefit of being able to sustain a failing business venture. If the farm can't sustain itself from harvest profits, we should abandon it in favor of something else."

Glen is completing an M.A. in at the Joseph Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and recently began working as business analyst with access.mobile, a startup that helps rural clinics in Africa and Latin America turn paper-based health records into electronic systems that can be accessed by text or tablet.

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10.18.13

Little Piece in the Greater Picture

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press

"We are here this week to be in solidarity with the marginalized," said a visiting college student during an immersion experience that Katie Dorner '13 organizes for the Dolores Mission in low-income, largely Latino East Los Angeles. An immersion veteran who had heard that phrase a lot during her Jesuit schooling, Katie now sees solidarity as a longer than what can be avhieved during an immersion visit.

Facilitating the Mission's youth group, high school scholar program, and confirmation means getting to know others in the Boyle Heights neighborhood. From Rosa, she learned how organizing efforts in the 1980s transformed the neighborhood. "I am just staying for a year, while others have stayed for decades and really made a difference."

Katie's mantra is the Mary Oliver poem posted over her desk: Let me/keep my mind on what matters/which is my work/which is mostly standing still and learning to be/astonished. "These lines resonate with me because I want to continually remind myself to stop and recognize that I am a little piece in this greater picture. There are people whose efforts are going on all around me, and I am not as significant as I think I am."

Katie gently helps her college guests understand that a visit "is just a glimpse into what life is like here, and in a few days we can't be in complete solidarity with those who struggle so."  

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