Serve Well Blog

Entries tagged 'Advocacy'

2.28.17

Bridging divides, responding to fear

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press, Advocacy, Law

 


 

The impact of skills gained through service and honed in the Krista Foundation's service leadership program extends far beyond the service year.

Watching co-workers and citizens place their lives at risk to help advance the reform of Honduras's police force, often closely connected to gangs and drug trafficking organizations, helped Aaron Korthuis '13 understand why someone would flee a country and seek residency elsewhere. What he witnessed through his work with the Association for a More Just Society stoked his commitment to seeking justice for the oppressed-and sensitive to the demeaning ways in which refugees and asylum seekers can be treated when they try to enter the U.S.

So it's not surprising that in the hours following President Trump's January Executive Order to ban refugees from entering the country, Aaron, now attending Yale Law School, played a key role in the federal lawsuit challenging the order. To help file the motion on behalf of two Iraqi men with valid visas who were detained after arriving at JFK Airport shortly after the EO was signed, Aaron and half a dozen fellow students sat in a New Haven basement drafting court filings requesting a federal court to stop the removal of those affected by the order in anticipation of an emergency hearing.

"When we heard that the stay was granted and that it was nationwide, there was euphoria in the room," Aaron said. "No other way to put it."

Aaron knows that not everyone agrees with his action. Tools from the Krista Foundation, including the January 2015 Krista Foundation debriefing and transition retreat, have helped equip him to engage people who feel differently.

"In 2015, I really needed time to reflect on what I had learned from serving in Honduras," he says. "I had just gotten married and started law school, and I wanted to think about how I was going to continue incorporating the lessons of my time abroad as I moved forward. One of the most meaningful things about the debriefing that I have tried to make part of my life is listening to the stories of others, especially those who are different from me, and letting that inform my work."

Faith is where Aaron starts when he reaches across the political divide. "I always try to make clear that my faith is the reason why I spend my time working on behalf of immigrants and refugees," he says. "Especially with other people of faith, there is a common ground, a common language I can use to explain why I disagree with them and why I think our faith compels a different understanding of many issues dividing our country."

Faith is also the reason he continues on his path. "The center of the career part of my life is seeking to work on behalf of people who are victims of violence or who are subject to oppression and trying to flee their homeland or make it better, by assisting them or ensuring that they can seek safety."

8.12.16

Our Shared Experience: Spencer Uemura '16

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press, Urban America, Advocacy, Homeless Advocacy, Community

2016 Colleague Spencer UemuraMoving to Omak, Washington to serve as case manager at a shelter for people experiencing homelessness and mental illness, Jesuit volunteer Spencer Uemura '16 got an earful of "us/them" thinking. Well-intended friends warned him to be careful of this unpredictable, sometimes scary population.

Listening to backstories of trauma, abuse, and neglect at Shove House was humbling. When an 88-year-old priest told Spencer that under similar circumstances, he too might turn to alcohol and drugs, new viewpoints and a new story began simmering. 

Previously, Spencer thought of himself as serving on the margins. "But that notion comes from the perspective of someone who thinks they understand where the center of society is," he says. Now he recognizes that while everyone has difficulties, "there is so much joy in our shared experience." As he moves toward a career in social work, he continues learning "to have an open mind and to first approach people with a mindset of love and understanding, rather than having my judgments at the forefront." 

1.27.16

Knowledge is the Only Sustainable Gift

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press, Advocacy, Global Citizenship, Education, Integrating Service As A Way Of Life

Jaleesa Trapp '14 receives MLK Jr. Legacy Dream AwardJaleesa Trapp ’14 is the Coordinator of the Computer Clubhouse, teacher of computer science at Tacoma’s Science and Math Institute, and works with the Tacoma Action Collective (TAC), which focuses on police and media accountability. In December, Jaleesa was involved in TAC’s “Die-In” at the Tacoma Art Museum in December. The protest highlighted the near-total absence of artists of color in the exhibit “Art AIDS America”—even though 44% of new HIV cases and the majority of AIDS deaths take place in the black community. Thanks to meetings with the exhibit curator and museum staff, the Museum will include more black artists when the show travels to Georgia and New York this year, and invest in staff-wide diversity training. Last fall, she spent three months in Ghana as part of a graduate class at the University of Washington.

I knew that going to Ghana was going to be life changing, but I didn't expect it to be reaffirming. I went with the University of Washington's School of Informatics to conduct research on information and communication technologies (ICTs). My specific project was to see how teachers use games to teach math (with or without ICTs).

The reaffirming moments were spread throughout my research project. Seeing the disparities in education reminded me all too well of the education system in the U.S. Although I'm blessed to work at an awesome school, there are children all over the country who are deprived of an excellent education, because of where they live. In my research, I looked at how rural and urban schools teach mathematics, specifically if they use games and technology as methods. Many rural schools don't have enough books for students, let alone computers to teach math. I also learned that for most people, teaching is a last resort, extremely underpaid, and is not a respected profession. It was evident which teachers were there because they wanted to be, and which were there because they had no other choice. We met a teacher who took pride in his job and the success of his students. All of the students were smiling, and eager to share what they knew on the chalkboard in front of the class.

One teacher told me that students don't go home and practice their reading or math, and that is why they are all behind. But, as I walked through their village I saw fresh chalk on the side of homes with spelling words and math problems written on them. Students did care about their education, but had a teacher who did not believe in them.

Growing up, I could always tell the difference between those two types of teachers at school, and what type of effect they'd have on my education. This is why I agreed to become a teacher; to make a difference. I wanted to be the teacher that wants to be there and has a positive influence on students learning experience.

There was a school I went to in hopes of meeting with the headmaster to collect data, and the first thing he said to me was "What did you bring me?" Initially I was shocked. Why would he think I brought something? Historically, many Americans and Europeans have come to Ghana to "help" schools by donating, and leaving. The people are left to figure out how to maintain their new inheritances, or how to make the school supplies last the whole school year. A student at the university told me it's not fair if I conduct research and just take it home. This reminded me of my work at the Computer Clubhouse. Knowledge is the only gift I can give that is sustainable. Our motto at the Computer Clubhouse is "Each one, teach one; lifting as we climb."  This is important because funding and equipment comes and goes, but the knowledge I'm able to share is forever.