Serve Well Blog

Entries tagged 'Community'

2.28.17

Tough times call for community support

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press, Children and Youth, Community, Sustaining Service

 

Wendy Martinez Hurtado

 

Helping support hundreds of young people across Washington state whose futures are suddenly uncertain can be draining, especially when your own family's prospects are unclear, too. Wendy Martinez Hurtado's days are intense; after her service year wrapped up in 2016 she became the Program manager at 21 Progress for the Washington State DACA Program-Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program started by the Obama administration in June 2012 that allows eligible undocumented youth and young adults who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.

As young people in her caseload renew their DACA status or apply for a loan to cover the $495 application and biometrics fee, Wendy's days are filled with one-on-one meetings, conferences, presentations, calls, newsletters, and advocacy. "I have to be fully engaged, accurate, support people in the process of renewing, and take care of myself as someone who is undocumented and lives in a mixed-status household," she says. "I am on the job 24/7 whether I like it or not."

Wendy started her job on the heels of a difficult service year. Nearing burnout, she found inspiration and energy from the colleagues and speakers gathered at the May 2015 Service Leadership Conference and was able to tap into the resilience she needed to finish her last few months. Nearly a year later, the February 2016 debriefing provided a space for her to share her service year journey and process the full truth of her experience.

"The Krista Foundation offered a space where I could be my full self, completely transparent about my experience without being judged," she says. "In conversation, people validated that what I experienced wasn't okay. I felt supported in ways that I hadn't been supported by my own service community."

Knowing that she isn't alone-that a supportive community has her back-matters right now. Recently Wendy has been focusing on helping undocumented K-12 students and students from mixed status households feel safe on campus. "I just met with four students at UW Bothell who are trying to create a sustainable way of training colleagues on campus to be allies to undocumented students," she says.

"I know I can't maintain myself without self-care very long," she says. "The job we are doing is tough and emotionally draining. I continue to be super passionate about doing the work I do, but it's really hard."

Besides support and solidarity, difficult work requires a community that is willing to put their bodies on the line for each other. That's why it was a joy for Wendy to encounter two other Colleagues at a recent rally at the Tacoma Detention Center. "The debriefing last year, the detention center this year-it's great to know that if I want to reach out, I can find support in the Krista community!"

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." 

11.24.15

It's Impossible to Do It Alone!

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press, Community, Environment, Transitions Home & Beyond, Transitions Home & Beyond

Emily Bays' favorite scriptures are the Acts of the Apostles, "because they model how we can live in community and support each other."

Passionate about fostering thriving communities, Emily spent two years building bridges between the generation most directly affected by the Hanford nuclear production site and a young generation largely ignorant of the situation. "It was exciting to bring a voice of concern both for workers and environment to Hanford decision making," she says.

Less exciting was her volunteer living situation. "I knew that living communally wasn't going to be a cakewalk," she says, but the inherent messiness of shared living, few opportunities to process challenging in-service experiences, and finally a small house fire created "a different incarnation of community than we expected."

Luckily, Emily found vital support in the Krista Foundation. Last year’s Winter Debriefing and Discernment Retreat became critical in helping Emily process “a year so difficult that I was ready to get out.” The weekend “gave me tools to move forward with the experience, and use it in a productive way instead of having it be a big weight.”

Drawing on a Christian faith that is “completely integral to my view of the world,” Emily is planning her next move with the support of the Krista Foundation. “We (Krista Colleagues) are in all different places on our faith journey. By welcoming and nurturing us no matter where we are, we can live out our values of service and social justice.”

9.15.15

Zoka Global Citizen Coffee Circle

Valerie Norwood | Colleague Press, Developing Nations, Community, Integrating Service As A Way Of Life, Sustaining Service

Global Citizen Coffee Circle

 Better coffee for you,
Better wages for farmers,
Better leaders for tomorrow

Join the Global Citizen Coffee Circle and you'll nurture a worldwide community of small coffee farmers and young leaders intent on changing the world.

With every delicious cup, you'll help Zoka Coffee's independent growers create sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families-and help the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship equip young volunteers with leadership skills equal to the challenges of our times.

As global as Zoka coffees, these young leaders serve from Tacoma and Chicago to Ulan Bator and Tegucigalpa, pursuing long-term, sustainable, game-changing goals.

Learn more about this amazing new partnership opportunity with Zoka Coffee!

7.29.15

Relationships that Matter

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press, Urban America, Preparing To Serve, Community

On his way to becoming an architect, University of Tennessee graduate Richard Murray is learning more about the people he hopes to serve. As Community Engagement Coordinator for Friends of the Children – Seattle through the Quaker service program QuEST, he arranges training and workshops that equip mentors to be a caring, consistent, long-term adult presence for vulnerable children.

Witnessing the impact of these sustained relationships has increased Richard’s regard for mentors and the Krista Foundation program’s multi-year peer mentoring program. “I am excited that there is another organization wanting to make a long-term commitment to help young adults. I really appreciate how faith is integrated into the [Krista Colleague] program itself. I’m in that process now, trying to understand how faith plays a role in my life.”  As he journeys with the Krista Foundation, Richard will be discerning how his architecture practice can serve low-income communities, perhaps by building spaces using a collaborative, community-based approach.

2.4.15

Ruined for life by relationships
by Tamara Caruso ‘11

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press, Urban America, Children and Youth, Community, Education, Community, Education

Tamara Caruso ’11 first tasted the struggle being present and being productive during her two years of service in Grays Harbor, WA and Honduras. Now in her second year of teaching, she continually draws on what she learned about community and service during two years of service.

 

 

"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time, but if your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us work together."

 

This quote by Australian Aboriginal elder Lila Watson has become the driving force of my approach to service and working for change.  It echoes as I look back over my service years as a Jesuit Volunteer in Grays Harbor, WA and as a teacher in Honduras.

 

Did I go to help? My original motivation for these years of service was to, as the JVC motto goes, “be ruined for life” and to find answers to my questions about how to work for positive change in our world.  But in both experiences, I was at first hindered by my desire to be productive and make an impact.   

 

My placement in Grays Harbor, one of the poorest counties in Washington, had a very vague job description, and besides coordinating an after school tutoring program, I found myself often bored and frustrated as I searched for meaningful work.  I understood but had trouble accepting the value in commuting by public transit through the rain and snow for an hour and a half just to spend a half hour lunch with my middle school mentee.  I went to numerous meetings at nonprofits and community organizations where I was never sure of my place but wished I had a purpose.  

 

Feed the Hungry, a free lunch program my placement offered, taught me to embrace the work of just being present—of the Krista service ethic of “staying for tea.”  There, I was able to cross the barrier between the volunteers in the kitchen and guests in the dining room.  Instead of staying at my assigned volunteer post, I sat and ate lunch with guests, listening to their stories and building relationships. There, I learned how my liberation was bound up in theirs, and how we could serve each other.  It came down to acknowledging the dignity in each other and to exposing my own poverty and isolation.   The privilege of driving my own car from point A to point B and making or buying my own food and eating it wherever I choose keeps me confined in my own world.  But in Grays Harbor, I was part of the community. I experienced and participated in the relationships among bus riders and drivers and I witnessed the family that was created through this communal free lunch.   I also gained a deeper understanding of the history and complexity of this struggling town’s economic issues. All from just being present. 

 

Although I learned a lot as a Jesuit Volunteer, I was left with even more questions about the injustices I experienced and felt overwhelmed about how one person could work for change within such a complex system.  To continue exploring these questions, I served another year as a teacher at a Catholic bilingual school in Honduras.  I thought I was bringing fewer expectations to my service, but this question of what I was doing met me square in the face when I finished grading the final exams for my first quarter.  That night, I sat on the floor crying, feeling like I had failed my students because many did not pass my exams.  Thankfully, an experienced friend helped me realize that the reason for not passing was less about my teaching and more about the broken education system and the challenges many students and families faced.  My students were operating in their second language and lacked a solid educational foundation due to the instability of relying on mostly young, inexperienced volunteers as their teachers.   At home they dealt with challenges ranging from family substance abuse to living with distant relatives because their parents were working in the states to help make ends meet.

 

Again, I found that by focusing on building and learning from relationships rather than productivity, I could grow in my understanding of the complex issues in Honduras, and be liberated by the people of Honduras from some of my own personal weaknesses and ways that my culture and upbringing held me back.

 

So now what?

 

I know that I have been ruined for life by encountering a multitude of complex issues and connecting with beautiful people who suffer as a result of these flawed systems.  I often feel very overwhelmed when I reflect on these issues and cry out for mercy for these people whom I have grown to love, but don’t know exactly what I can do.  

 

For the last year, I have been completely consumed by my first year of teaching. When I am in the classroom with my students, I am 100% present to them.  While some teachers give assignments and let the kids work while they grade papers or answer emails, I am usually so wrapped up in my students and the learning that is happening that I totally lose track of time and end up rushing to wrap up class and get them out the door.  

 

I have a wonderful opportunity to affect change by being present to my middle school students’ development and working to broaden their worldview.  I hope to help them grow to become more compassionate, understanding, and able to bridge cultural and socioeconomic differences between people in our world. Not only do my volunteer experiences enter into my class discussions and interactions with students and staff, but they motivate me to evaluate my school's service program and figure out how to make it much more intentional. I would like to grow this program so we are not just raising money and goods, but are building relationships, learning about issues, and growing as individuals so our liberation may be bound up with those we are serving. I also want to incorporate reflection, discussions, and maybe research into these issues and communities we are donating to. I must make these service experiences matter, as an educator, by applying what I learned and sharing my understanding, in order to help lead my students to the same growth in awareness so that we are not just helping others, but walking alongside them.  

 

1.30.15

Nominate a Krista Colleague

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press, Developing Nations, Environmental Projects, Urban America, Law, Microenterprise, Poverty: Urban US & International, Preparing To Serve, Arts & Culture, Business, Community, Economic Justice, Education, Environment, Faith/Theological Exploration, Global Citizenship, Healthcare, Homelessness, Intercultural Development, Peace & Reconciliation, Poverty: Urban US & International, Preparing To Serve

The Krista Colleague Cohort Program is the heart of the Krista Foundation. Nominated by community leaders, 17 young adult Krista Colleagues are selected each year. Colleagues are committed to a sustained period of voluntary or vocational service of at least nine months and motivated to serve by their Christian faith. The Foundation community journeys alongside Colleagues before, during and after service, empowering them to transform service experience into lives of service leadership.

Acceptance as a Colleague includes a $1,000 Service & Leadership Grant to be used at the intersection of vocational interests and commitment to serve. The Foundation pays for four years of the Krista Foundation annual Service Leadership conference and debriefing retreat. Additionally, each Colleague commits to serving as a peer mentor with future Krista Colleagues, developing global citizenship through leadership in retreats and conferences. 

Nominations are due by March 20th, so nominate today!

Click here for nomination criteria or to complete the online nomination forms!

Questions? Please contact Program Director, Stacy Kitahata

Please LIKE, POST, and SHARE this link with any potential nominators.

-The Krista Foundation

1.28.15

What Guatemala Taught Me About South Seattle
by Krista Colleague Jerrell Davis '14

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press, Developing Nations, Urban America, Community, Intercultural Development, Post-Service Term Reflections, Transitions Home & Beyond

 "Sometimes you make choices...sometimes the choices make you" is a saying that resonates with Krista Colleague Jerrell Davis, who was recently featured in the South Seattle Emerald. After a lifetime of making choices "that were rarely the most popular and usually not the easiest",  the Seattle Pacific University student chose to study abroad in Guatemala and return this winter to serve at a hospital for people with special needs. His service has changed the way he sees his community and himself.

Read how in the South Seattle Emerald.


 

7.14.14

Between Opportunity and Risk (It’s still all Good)
by 2014 Krista Colleague Janjay Innis

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press, Urban America, Social Work, Community, Education, Peace & Reconciliation

Today's ServeWell post is by 2014 Krista Colleague, Janjay Innis. As a child in Liberia, West Africa, Janjay lived in a community that even in its imperfections, she says, "mirrored the kingdom of God as I envision it." In this post she reflects on the June 22nd "Service in Perspective" event which explored the recent conference theme "Going Public: Complex Faith within a Complex World." Her insights are richly informed by years of bridging cultures, working in conflict transformation, a MA in Divinity from Boston University and most recently as a Social Justice Advocate at her volunteer service placement with Tacoma Community House. Thank you for sharing Janjay!

Between Opportunity and Risk (It's still all Good)

Values ground us. They orient us into the world in ways that are uniquely ours and when they are rooted equally in the love of self and neighbor, they help us embody and become love. At this intersection, where our love of self ( the realization that we are exceptionally and wonderfully made in the image of God) begins to inform our love of neighbor ( the realization that everyone else is also exceptionally and wonderfully made in the image of God) is where the Krista Colleague Program has intentionally positioned itself as a resource to assist young adults as they maneuver through the tensions that arise on their journey to authentically accepting and living the truth that we all have a common humanity and that irrespective of the things that stratify us, all people want to be loved, respected and have their personhood affirmed. I am grateful that the Krista Foundation not only states its intention to help its Colleagues process the happenings along this journey, but creates spaces for that processing to take place.

Based on the Krista Foundation value of "mentoring community," defined as "investing in future leaders by recognizing and leveraging peer and intergenerational wisdom and experience," colleagues gathered on June 22nd to discuss what about the 2014 Krista Conference theme, " Going Public: A Complex Faith in a Complex World," excited us and what about the theme challenged us. As Colleagues old and new and Krista Foundation staff shared their thoughts, the resounding conclusion I gathered from this conversation was that we all desired two things: to be our authentic selves when talking about our faith whether we were unwavering, questioning or uncertain about our faith and to actively make room for and be in conversation with those who think and believe differently than we do.

In my own reflection, I expressed to the group that I saw the theme as an opportunity to reclaim and redefine my faith tradition (Christianity) which for valid reasons has been pushed to the sidelines as it has been interpreted in a plurality of ways that have done more damage than good. I believe the dominant voices who have spoken on behalf of Christianity have distorted its true value and I want to be part of a new cohort of leaders who will reintroduce Christianity as a tradition rooted in love. This age-old tradition, which has its foundation in Judaism, is the story of a people who attributed all of their triumphs to an invisible, but omnipresent God and made a bold declaration that this God was also with them, accompanied them and held them in their most trying times. For me, what makes the story of Jesus (a particular interpretation of the Hebrew people's story) so compelling is that Christians believe Jesus was God incarnate (in the flesh) and walked on the earth just to be in solidarity with us in joy and in pain. That is love and it will give my life the utmost meaning to be part of telling this story in the face of injustice and oppression that God is present and because of this divine presence, we can join in loving the world into a new reality where we aren't merely tolerating difference, but building and crossing bridges amidst difference.

My challenge is to live into and audaciously act on this value, especially in spaces where my opinion may not be popular and might even be scrutinized as overly sensational. I believe my opinions about the relevancy of faith in our world to be as much intellectual as they are emotional, but I admit that there have been many times that I have been silent, unable to find the words or speak in the midst of my peers. Perhaps I've made a premature assumption that my peers don't want to hear about faith (especially as it's expressed in mainline traditions) because of the judgment, exclusion and stifling ways its attempted and sometimes succeeded in policing people's lives, but I'll never know if they are truly disengaged until I engage. I'm at the juncture of opportunity and risk and I am certain that it is the right place to be. For this reason, I vow to bring faith into the conversation whenever I see fit -- faith that offers models of hope, peace, reconciliation and community. I'm sure there will be times I'll fall flat on my face, but I even more certain that there will be times that my opinions will be a refreshing approach that will illuminate conversations and real life situations. In all of it, I trust that God will give me lots of grace to stay in the conversation.




4.15.14

What Holding Hands Can Teach You
by Krista Colleague Neshia Alaovae '12

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press, Urban America, Community, Healthcare, Intercultural Development, Post-Service Term Reflections

In many ways, my year of service began two weeks after it was scheduled to start. Though Joseph's House placed great importance on being mindful and fully present in the moment, I spent my first week there distracted by how unfamiliar this new world was. On my third day at Joseph's House, one of the residents died and the sudden initiation into the immensity of my work for the year was overwhelming. I was being asked to form genuine relationships from the moment someone entered the home to the moment I would escort that same person into a hearse. I felt so different from the people I was being asked to become one with. I was young, educated, and healthy. They were older, destitute, and dying. How am I going to do this, I wondered. How am I going to fit here?

A week later, I was at the bedside of a resident named Brad. It was my first time holding vigil by myself for someone who was near death. I was acutely aware of how Brad's labored breathing was causing my anxiety level to rise. His inability to speak left me speechless. I was nervous being so close to death, and even more mystified about what exactly I was supposed to be doing.

Not knowing what else to do, I reached for his hand. He squeezed my fingers with a strength that surprised me. I pulled my chair closer and shut my eyes. Quieting myself, I focused all of my attention on his breathing. Slowly, I inhaled and exhaled until our breaths were synchronized. Little by little, I realized how intense this moment must be for him. My breaths came easily, supported by lungs that were full of vigor. His breaths were short and rapid, maintained by a body reluctantly shutting down after its long struggle with cancer.

I looked down at our hands and for a few seconds I could not distinguish mine from his. I stared at our intertwined fingers trying to figure out why it was so difficult to see what belonged to me and what belonged to him. Then it came to me: our skin was the exact same shade of brown. We were a perfect color match. In my 22 years of life, that had never happened before. No one was ever my exact brown. Not anyone I encountered studying abroad in Zambia, not any of the models on my makeup bottles, not even anyone in my multi-racial family. No one but this stranger dying beside me. In that moment, something clicked for me.

The Krista Foundation places great emphasis on equipping Colleagues to be practitioners of intercultural competence with tools before a year of service as well as support during and after that service. There is a realization that everyone brings to an experience his or her own rich, complex cultural history. The challenge is to find a way, in the midst of what seems foreign and uncomfortable, from your own sense of normal to a place of understanding and empathy. We can spend so much time fixating on the things that divide us, that we forget to slow down, listen to each other's shared breaths, and see that our hands are meant to be held.

Brad passed away soon after that quiet afternoon. I thought of him often as I held the hands of many others who came through the Joseph's House door. No one was my exact shade of brown, but that didn't really matter. What I learned about Brad after his death was inspiring. Before his cancer, he had been a well-known advocate in Washington, D.C. for those who were homeless or suffering in the margins. He was eloquent, bold, and deeply spiritual. He began his own non-profit, dreamed about making a pilgrimage to India, and was in the process of dictating his life and philosophy to a friend so that his legacy of courage would not be forgotten. My stereotype of everyone at Joseph's House being poor, helpless people who needed my privileged service was shattered by Brad. He did not need me. He was not impressed by me. He was not inferior to me in any way.

On the contrary, I needed him to teach me how to see past the differences I had been taught to fear, and find a new way to grow in curiosity and compassion. The magnitude of how he lived and the grace with which he died still motivates me to be fearless. But the biggest lesson he taught me, the gift I will never be able to repay, was holding my hand on his deathbed. He had enough strength to refuse my presence, and yet he didn't. Brad took my hand, held it with the last of his energy, and taught me how to truly accompany.

In my experience serving in hospice, when someone is dying that person no longer cares about all of the ways that made him or her stand out in life. What matters most in those final moments is knowing that even if that person did not receive it in life, in this moment he or she is seen, heard, and adored. By holding my hand Brad taught me to make the effort to suspend my cultural lens enough to truly see, deeply hear, and come to adore those who seem different. I spent the rest of my year trying to do that, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to as well. I have learned that when all else fails, when I cannot seem to find a way to bridge the dissimilarities between myself and another, to hold out my hand. Even if the back of our hands look different, I know that the skin of our palms will be the same. That is enough.

crystal clutch