When we arrived last week I knew we had forgotten something. PB&J. The mother left immediately when we got there and ran to the market. I was curious about where she had gone and why she left, but then she returned with a bag of bread and peanut butter. I looked at Katherine and we both felt bad that we didn’t bring it ourselves. We didn’t let it get to us because we know it makes them happy to be able to give us stuff. We sat back and made sandwiches for everyone. As we ate our sandwiches we worked on some English with the mother and sister. A little while later the father and two of his friends showed up. Some friends we already knew. The father brought the friends with him because we were doing lessons and they wanted to learn too. It’s very reassuring when others come over to learn. Not long after they had arrived the father told his sister it was time to eat (even though Katherine made sandwiches for him and his friends). We were confused so we asked what was going on and they told us it’s lunch time now, that was just breakfast. Like usual they brought our a lot of food and we were given plates to eat with them. Although we both weren’t hungry I always enjoy sharing meals with them because it feels like we are their friends and not just volunteers.
One thing I’ve really appreciated about this service-learning experience is that it was focused both on large-scale issues and on individual issues. It was such a meaningful experience to follow one individual family for almost four months through some of their obstacles and their successes. We could’ve spent these four months learning only about legislation and reading books, but it is such a different experience to witness some of the issues of refugee resettlement and to see how the statistics and generalizations that are available in the academic setting actually look in real life. It’s so much more inspiring and motivating to see the human element.
I’ve also appreciated the opportunities to hear different stories and to learn of experiences that may not be similar to the one that I see with my family, both through sharing in class and by meeting other children that live in my family’s building. A few weeks ago, a boy came to visit and he admired our family’s DVD player. I started realizing that my family is definitely more established than a lot of other families. Although the father has to work in Iowa which is certainly not fortunate, when “the culture of poverty” is mentioned in class I think of the ways that this doesn’t easily apply to my family.
I’ve also recently met another girl that lives in my family’s apartment building. She came over and I helped her with her math homework. She was a year ahead of the youngest girl in my family but her math was well behind. It was very difficult to help her as it took many trials of explaining and she didn’t have the basic multiplication skills to build of off, so I started to wonder if the work was too advanced. After a while, however, I could tell that she was grasping the overall process. This made me realize how important one-on-one support is in learning, and this can definitely be applied to other life-tasks other than math homework. I also realized that my family is not only at a relatively decent level financially, the kids are also on par and promising academically, especially aside from issues related to the language difficulties.
I can’t believe we’re approaching the end of the semester already. I’m glad that in our last class we got to see how we’ve budgeted our money so far. Seeing the data all spread out makes it easier to recall all of the things that we’ve done in the last few months. I’m looking forward to seeing the posters from the groups.
Mainly, I had no idea that our fundraising had been so successful. I know we have some events coming up that will probably drain off whatever funds remain, but I was really intrigued by the start-up money we voted to give today. With upcoming incarnations of this class, and with LRO, there are probably a lot of issues that require funding more immediately, things like emergency healthcare and the CTA cards. But maybe a microfinance program could be a side project – and a way for more people to get involved, who don’t actually have time or aren’t near Loyola but could give a few dollars to entrepreneurs.