Friday, March 25, 2016

Day 5: Wrap up

This was a good wrap up day which involved a lot of the reflecting on what we did for the past week. To day we visited United African Organization where we learned a lot more about the African communities that exist in Chicago. African communities, of which I'm apart of, in the Twin Cities is one of the main reasons why I have had a interest in immigration. The organization focused on many different services for African immigrants  such as legal counseling and services for citizenship. One of  the coordinates from Ghana showed videos of  how much the community has grown in the last few decades. We also learned personal stories of many immigrants in the community that has received their services. I liked seeing the multiple perspectives of why they come. It seemed very similar to why my parents come form Nigeria over 30 years ago. We simply created activities for a youth event they were hosting tomorrow. We came up with activities like "The Human Knot" and "Pulse".

Today was relaxing. It was real different compared to yesterday when looked at Latino communities in Chicago. It was kind of weird switching from English and Spanish conversations and reading the texts when we were at the museum of Latino art. It's nice getting a chance to speak in the language I've been learning for years. Today I was just reflecting on myself and what I should do with the information I have learned, this time only in one language. I did not expect to have some many ideas of what to do for the rest of my time in college and for my career. I really enjoyed the things I did on this trip I was able to experience the things I hoped to experience and more. It was nice to end the day with affirmations it made me think about the people I have touched on this trip.  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Day of Four of Painting

Today was a pretty productive day. We started off with visiting the National Museum of Mexican Art. There were a lot of great art pieces in the museum, and there was even a special exhibit that incorporated multiple bronze pieces to resemble how "brown matters" which was very impactful. Another really cool section of the museum contained multiple pieces that resembled characters of Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. My favorite painting was called "Savages and Glitter" by John Valadez, which depicted what it is like for Mexican immigrants crossing the U.S. border, and how often they are unable to be with their families. As a Mexican woman, this was a really powerful museum to visit.

Before our service, we went to a Mexican restaurant in the Pilsen neighborhood. It was definitely great to support a small business in the neighborhood. For our service, we went to Mujeres Latinas en Accion, which is a non-profit that strives to help Latina immigrants get out of situations where they are victims of domestic violence, offers jobs, and even children's programs. Most of us helped paint one of their hallways (painting seems to be a theme on our trip), and two other breakers were helping with some administrative work. It seemed like everyone really enjoyed working together and we learned a lot about how many immigrants Mujeres Latinas en Accion helped.

When we got back to the hostel we started cooking dinner ( walking tacos), which were great. We had a very productive reflection and team builder as well. Everyone is really exited for our last service organization we will be working with tomorrow- United African Organization. I wonder if we will painting again tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Today can be described as a triggering day for many people. We went to an organization called Kan-Win that focused on immigrant refugees who have faced domestic violence and/or sexual abuse. We learned about domestic violence and sexual abuse by participating in various activities that included listening to power points emphasizing the statistics of DV and sexual abuse as well how to listen to someone who is or was going through this kind of relationship, "In Her Shoes" and painting our interpretations of DV and sexual abuse.

The most impactful activity we did was "In Her Shoes." For this activity we were put into groups of two and given a card that shared life stories of DV and sexual abused victims. We then had to choose who would be the victim and who would the shadow, meaning the person who reads the card. Where each card took us we were given a scenario in our persons life and I had to decided what our next step would be. We ended up going back and fourth between court and the police but finally ended up with a happy ending. This activity showed us how hard it was to break out of this violent cycle and can take years to get the help these survivors need in order to escape their abuser. We also learned that in some cases victims can never break the violent cycle and it can cost them their life.

The other impactful activity was when we got into groups and painted our interpretations of DV and sexual abuse. Everyone in our catalyst group expressed that they really enjoyed the activity. We all agreed that it was a great exercise and we liked how it was therapeutic because after a triggering day like today, we needed something to help release all the emotions we were feeling. Everyone did a unique and great job expressing their thoughts and feelings in the paintings. Kan-win is showcasing our paintings in their next event which is really cool because it's like what we learned today and our understanding of DV and sexual abuse will be passed on to other people and maybe even inspire the must needed change.

Overall today was a tough day but eye opening. We were able to follow life stories of DV and sexual abuse victims and survivors and better understand how to help people who are in these situations. There is still work that needs to be done in order to help prevent domestic violence and sexual abuse victims and survivors, but with the help of organizations like Kan-win the change is possible.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Today we spent several hours with an organization in uptown Chicago called Apna Ghar, which means Our Home.  Apna Ghar is a resource center that provides shelter and legal services for immigrant women who have been victims of domestic violence, and was created to serve the South Asian population in the community.

We split into different groups for our volunteer time.  Some of us were making phone calls to potential participants in an upcoming fundraiser the organization is planning.  Others were organizing certificates for people who had recently completed domestic violence response training.  A few of us got to sit in on a domestic violence committee meeting at the 17th district police station, and then follow a member of Apna Ghar's staff while she did some community outreach, dropping off packets of information at public schools.

All these different volunteer activities helped give us an idea of how much the members of the organization have to do (fundraising, volunteer training, community outreach) in order to keep providing their services and remain effective in the community.

This afternoon we were also able to visit the Chicago Cultural Center which was really beautiful.

Monday, March 21, 2016

March 21st, 2016: Heartland Alliance

Good evening Upper East Siders, Gossip Girl here...

This morning we visited Heartland Alliance, a nonprofit organization that provides services for underserved communities in Chicago, such as the homeless, refugees, and immigrants. Namely, Heartland Alliance provides services like dental care, physical assessments, mental health services, educational classes, dietary guidance, and relocation for the displaced members of the Chicago community. When we arrived, we were asked to paint three rooms, which had fallen into a state of disrepair. For many of us, this was our first experience painting, or maybe even doing physical labor. Afterward, the organization expressed their appreciation of our work, and gave us a tour of the building, which helped us better understand their purpose.

The most meaningful part for us was when the workers walked by us painting and just thanked us profusely, mentioning continuously that these rooms really needed to be painted and just how much they appreciated this. Having them tell us exactly what they needed, really made us feel like we were making an actual impact rather than a hypothetical one. Since we made that genuine impact, it highlighted how busy these service workers are, and how desperately needed these services are. It made us really grateful that we were able to do something like painting for them, so that they could continue with their work rather than take the time to either pay someone to do it, or to do it themselves.  Our reflection activity after dinner really solidified a lot of our over arching themes for the trip; we spent about an hour and a half discussing various images that showed either prejudices or hopeful possibilities in America. From this activity, we really broke down a lot of prejudices we have faced, and can take this with us as we're trying to understand whom we are helping.

Thanks for reading!

Erin and Gil.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Day 2 - Immigrant and Refugee Populations

Day 2 - Today was fantastic! Our day started off with a leisure wake up and some breakfast. We then walked over to the bus stop to head over to Navy Pier! For a Sunday, public transport in Chicago is crazy busy but the city life is exciting! We got to Navy Pier for the Philippines Festival and it was unbelievably colorful and energetic and we got to see some amazing performers! Some of us also went to the tables and got to see what all of the volunteers were doing at the event! We had an amazing time! The rest of the day was spent wandering around Navy Pier and sight seeing Chicago. Tomorrow we will be going to Heartland Alliance to do some volunteering! Here is a snapshot of our day today!

After doing some time at the Navy Pier, a group headed over to Millenial Park and the Bean. It was exciting for some f us, as it was our first time seeing the Bean! We took lots of pictures and geeked out a little too! As we finished up out trip to the park and the Bean, we headed back to the hostel to relax and start dinner. It was mine and another participants turn to prepared dinner. We prepped the ingredients to assemble veggie burgers and also baked some fries. The food was delicious. After we finished up dinner, the entire group got together to have reflections and a team builder. Let's just say that we definitely bounded with the team builder activity! That was the end of our planned day. Tomorrow we are headed to Heartland Alliance! We are excited!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Welcome Post/ First Day

Hey everyone!

First of all, sorry we didn't post our welcome post sooner! We had some technical issues. We are Evelyn and Law, and are leading the trip on immigration and refugee communities in Chicago. We will be working with various organizations that benefit immigrant and refugee communities including Heartland Alliance, Apna Ghar, Kan-Win, Mujeres Latinas en Accion, and United African Organization. We will also be attending various educational experiences such as the Phillippines Celebration and the Chicago Cultural Center. We are especially excited to lead this trip because we have immigrant parents, so we are looking forward to learning how we can bring back some of the great work non-profits in Chicago are doing into Chicago.

Today was a pretty long day since we took the Amtrak to Chicago for 8 hours, but we were able to get to know each other better. We did some great reflections about privilege and are very ready to go into the community to contribute as much as we can.

Chicago is pretty cold at the moment, but overall, everyone is having fun and getting along. We have a long day tomorrow at Navy Pier.