An Immersive Fall Break

My last fall break as an undergraduate student was lavished with lessons deep.

Unlike all the others, I was not stuck in a time warp, endlessly arguing with my brain that I did deserve the luxury of spending my two days off being non-functional (after all I had worked oh-so hard) and binge watching every drama and anime under the sun. On the contrary, I was entangled in the hustle and bustle of being a member of this society and realising harsh truths.

Let me rewind.

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This semester, I have the opportunity of working at the Community Engaged Learning Office and being a Student Learning Ambassador. Part of my responsibilities included organising a fall immersion project that would take place over the fall break – October 16 and 17. The plan was to attend the Iowa Hunger Summit and help at Bidwell Riverside on Monday and be out in the farm at Lutheran Services of Iowa – Global Greens on Tuesday. We had three people for the first day and six for the next.

Now, let the raw, blunt, brilliant story of my fall immersion project unravel!

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MONDAY, 16TH OCTOBER

 

“The Iowa Hunger Summit gathers leaders from across Iowa representing community organizations, business and industry, state and local government, social agencies, churches and religious communities, schools and universities, civic and social clubs, and other individuals and groups that lead or participate in projects to confront hunger.

The World Food Prize was hosting the Iowa Hunger Summit on Monday and it was a great opportunity to learn about hunger – which was the issue that we decided on exploring! The event ticked standard checkboxes of events: welcomes, thank you’s to the sponsors, introductions, and so forth. In the process, somewhere after the five Secretaries of Agriculture were introduced and their panel discussion were to begin, we blundered head-on to a group of amateur protestors. The only thing I gathered from their cries and sign was the word ‘GMO’. Frankly, there were only about 9 and they didn’t make a huge fuss and quietly left when escorted. I guess, my senses must have temporarily shut down with misplaced excitement (though I am glad no one was inappropriate or forgot civility).

Once they were cleared from the room, it was time to move to the next item in the agenda: The panel. As with any instance where politicians are involved, there were points I agreed with and points that made me wish all officials in power had an obligatory ‘spend a life in the day of’ imposed on them, to be grounded and connect proposals to reality.

Anyway, the most remarkable aspect of the summit was its lunch.

It was a horribly brilliant lunch.

Trust me – I need the oxymoron. Now, the tradition at any summit – and the favourite part in many person’s day – is a delicious lunch. However, I was attending the hungersummit and I went in expecting -despite being informed- for a five-star lunch (there’s another lesson here: how many of us make poor choices despite being informed?) Our lunch was donated by the Outreach Program – a program much like the Meals from Heartland where the struggle to end hunger and provide meals to those in need is endless.

When our meals were served my moral imprimatur crumbled into pieces.

I’ve volunteered twice at Meals from Heartland and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that whatever is being packaged is an ocean away from being appealing to the taste buds. Nutritious? Maybe? A meal that you and I can have on a regular basis? *cricket sounds* I have been lucky to be raised on delicious, nutritious meals and that is maybe what prompted my reaction… but I was not the only one in the room. In hindsight, after each hunger related volunteer session, there was a moment of gloved hands saying ‘cheese’ and eternalising the moment when I’ve done a oh-so great deed! I have never been the sort to shy away from being grateful but when the going gets a bit rough, it is easy to forget to appreciate and easy to complain. I was instantly grounded.

We were served the same lunch that we would have otherwise been packaging. I am going to be blunt about it: I could not stomach the meal and for the first time in forever, I left half the plate untouched (Suddenly, I could no longer hear my parents’ voices constantly ringing in my head saying: never excuse yourself from the table unless the plate is clear). Many people in the room didn’t take more than a couple of bites. Some people even had a snack bar in their bags. I heard from several past attendees of the summit that the organisers were generous this year. There was a time when all you got was corn juice or only a third of your plate was filled.

We did luck out when it came to portions. We had a decent serving to settle any hunger… that is if you could numb your taste buds and swallow. You know what’s funny? The meal was not as atrocious as I might have made it sound but I was so used to a certain kind that I simply could not think of eating what was in front of me. Whoever came up with this idea for the hunger summit deserves a medal for creativity and is the master of ‘driving a point home’. There are a couple of important lessons here, but I am going to save them for later.

The rest of the summit was a conglomerate of break-out sessions and were equally informative. Afterwards, we headed off to Bidwell Riverside Center. I had managed to string along another friend to help at the site! Yay me for being social!

“As long as the need exists, Bidwell Riverside will continue to provide food, clothing, child care, and hope to all”

Bidwell is located on Hartford Avenue. It has a long history starting in 1983 and by 2012, the center was helping 867 families in need with three different services – food and clothing, children’s day-care, and bedding. The center welcomes all and makes it accessible to everyone who needs help.

That evening we were in charge of stocking up the empty shelves with the donations they had received from DMARC and others. I was worried that 3 pairs of hands would not be able to do much but, once we got to work, after about 30 minutes of learning about Bidwell, time disappeared to the extent that the next time I blinked, it was already the end of our shift. Amongst the three of us, we restocked three shelves. Chicken broth, beef stew, cans of peach, there was so much… and it was positively brilliant!

Missy, our point of contact at Bidwell, was very helpful in showing us what the impact of our help meant to many families. She talked about how unfortunate it is that there should be the need for such centres in the world, but the fact of the matter remains that this is the way the world functions.

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Tuesday, 17th October

On Tuesday, we set out bright and early – around 9AM to the Lutheran Services in Iowa Global Greens Farm in West Des Moines. We started off a bit chilled from the wind but as we were shown our task, we deemed the weather perfect. In front of us were 2 huge gates that needed repainting, and to be able to do that we needed to scratch off the old paint and rust, sand, wash, and more before proceeding to paint. After a small introduction by a person in charge, Jess, we divided into two groups and cracked some muscles.

In between metallic scrapes, Jess told us that LSI’s refugee population comes mostly from Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, and Rwanda. A lot of them were farmers in their homeland and they are overjoyed to be able to create a piece of home and familiarity in America through the Global Greens Farm. Being able to farm goes beyond sentimental value. For some families, it is their income. Knowing the importance of financial stability they toil in an attempt to create a living – harvesting crops and selling at the farmer’s market downtown or on University Avenue. All the while juggling adapting to a new country, language, and culture.

Under the warm autumn sun, we scraped, dusted, and sanded the gates for three hours (though our group – working on the second gate – took about an hour to make a dent of progress). However, as noon rolled around, one of the gates was almost done. An outsider can be deceived into thinking that not much was done but, that day, we contributed in a meaningful way and most importantly – in a way the community partner needed us to. We were working with them.

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Reflection
A few paragraphs ago, I mentioned that there are important lessons with each volunteer opportunity. The take away can be different for each person but this fall break as I reflected on hunger, refugees, and volunteering, there are two conclusions:I promised you a honest reflection and here are my raw thoughts:

  • Hunger – in the entirety of its definition – is real.
  • Simple volunteering without reflection is like a pendulum that does not swing.

It is a fact that each person is on a different step on society’s ladder. Some are more fortunate than others – maybe because of something we did or maybe not. However, I think, that those of us that are a step ahead, should definitely keep climbing – but carefully reaching out to the person stuck below will not lead to a fall. If the ladder you are on is treacherous and you are at a risk of losing footing, the least you can do is appreciate that you are climbing up until you are stable and then turn around to help someone.

Most often, people think that being grateful and appreciating what you have is equivalent to feeling guilty for enjoying life. That is the most ridiculous thought I have ever heard. If you are able to afford a meal at an expensive restaurant and eat delicious food, by all means do so. You only have one life after all (throwback to the YOLO days). However, if you gloat and turn a blind eye when you know and see that you can help then… take a step back and reflect.

Segwaying into my second point: community service can be ugly. Fleshing this out will require another thousand words but as another blogger mentioned “your great work might not be so great at all” and reflection of the volunteer moment is as imprtant as direct service. Always reflect on identifying if you didin’t unintentionally leave the person you are trying to help suffering. A picture might be worth thousand words but a person’s eyes speak a million.

I am going to overlook philosophical debates when I form my next sentence. We are all rational to a certain degree and all have the free will to choose and be deliberate about our actions. Hence, we should be wise and extend a hand, all the while keeping in mind that helping someone whilst unable to help yourself is a slippery slope. As hard as it might be: Be realist.

Written by: Chamindi Wijesinghe

Defying Limits One Intellectual Disability at a Time

“The only limits that exist are the ones in your own mind”. I have learned a lot about limits through my First-Year Seminar: Exploring the Portrayal of Mental Illness and Disease in the Media. Whoever said limits were meant to be broken, is right. Throughout the course of this class we took visits to Ruby Van Meter; which is a school for students only with intellectual disabilities. One week, we set up a homecoming carnival for the students to play fun carnival games and win prizes. All the smiles and laughter and eagerness to obtain a prize filled the school. Seeing their smiles after I handed them their prize was so heart-warming. Almost every single student got to participate in each of the carnival games, whether it was throwing pies at our faces or stepping up and taking a silly picture in the photo booth with a rocking face painting covering their face. These students were capable of so much more than what their disabilities define them as; they can do many of the things you and I do. They for sure defy their limits. Sharing this incredible homecoming experience with these students is something I will never forget. The students at Ruby Van Meter are an inspiration to crushing your limits.

Written by Maddie Monahan, First-year student

Students gain practical skills while supporting community in Internal Auditing course

ISCPA Audit Team: John Nicholson, Elizabeth Cokel, Michelle Thompson, Neal Usry and Rachel Schaefer

Masters students in Jaime Grandstaff’s internal auditing class were able to apply what they were learning in the classroom this spring by meeting real community needs. Half of the class partnered with Youth Emergency Services & Shelter of Iowa (YESS) to review employee expense reimbursements, and the other half worked with the Iowa Society of Certified Public Accountants (ISCPA) to review cash receipts. The students worked closely with staff at the organizations throughout the semester and then provided final reports on April 17.

In addition to the projects, panels of subject matter experts from businesses across the area came to class, and some classes were also held at Principal Financial Group and Wells Fargo. Together, these experiences provided opportunities for networking, real-world experience, and job and career options. To read more about the outcomes of this class and hear from those involved, check out http://news.drake.edu/2017/05/12/drake-internal-auditing-course-partners-with-iscpa-and-yess/.

“With this being a new course and a new community engagement project, I had a lot to learn about how to set it up,” said Grandstaff. “The Community Engaged Learning team helped me through the process with what forms needed to be completed and who I needed to talk to with all aspects of the project.”

There are many benefits of incorporating a community engaged learning component into a course. For more information, resources, or to explore community partners, visit www.drake.edu/servicelearning or contact the Director of Community Engaged Learning at renee.sedlacek@drake.edu.

A Community Thrives

My name is Bri Dressel and I have been interning at the Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC), specifically working with direct food assistance. My recent work has been exciting because I have been given the freedom to make DMARC’s video grant application for the A Community Thrives grant of up to $100,000! This video took a lot of time and energy but I am happy with the way that it turned out. Applying under the “Wellness” category, my video needs to get one of the top number of votes to move to the next round. Though there are many submissions and my video may not win, this is a good opportunity for DMARC’s cause to gain publicity. Here is the link to vote for my video (http://act.usatoday.com/submit-an-idea/#/gallery/60434946) , voting is open until May 12th and everyone can vote once daily! The footage shows a little bit of what Des Moines is like and the Drake Area Food Pantry, which is one of DMARC’s 13 pantries. DMARC has 12 pantries and 1 mobile food pantry. I had the pleasure earlier in the year participating, helping, interviewing, and photographing “A Day in the Life of the Mobile Food Pantry.” Later the photos I took and the story I wrote from my interview with one of the pantry visitors, Ida, was featured on the cover of DMARC’s newsletter. Working at DMARC has provided me with a lot of opportunities to get a better grip on what food assistance means—a perspective shift for sure.

Small but Mighty Nonprofits

My name is Jamie Lamb and I am a first year student at Drake University in the college of Arts and Sciences. Through the Engaged Citizen Corps (ECC), I am currently an intern with Rebuilding Together Greater Des Moines. Rebuilding Together helps with home repairs for low income, senior citizen homeowners. This includes anything from simple around-the-house tasks, to installing wheelchair ramps or grab bars to make a home more accessible to family members with wheelchairs.

Although Rebuilding Together is a large organization with offices in about 135 cities nationwide, the office that I work in is small. When I began my time with Rebuilding Together, the office included three other women other than myself. This included the executive director and two other part-time workers. Towards the middle of my first semester in the office, one of these ladies left our team, leaving only three of us left. Just recently, this number decreased again when the other part-time worker also left her position. This left the executive director and myself the only two people left in the office.

This organization has a lot going on all the time, this time of year probably being one of the busiest. Between planning single work days and National Rebuilding Day, which is May 5th and 6th, there wasn’t a lot of time for the extra work that needed completion. There was about a week and a half/two week period in which every day spent at the office consisted of running around and trying to do four tasks at one time. Kimberly and I had to manage phone calls, filing, planning and managing all upcoming work days. As the weather gets nicer, more time is spent outside of the office, but in order to do so, it requires a lot of planning.

One day in particular that was more chaotic than expected, was a Friday, which is the longest day I have in the office. This Friday began with the normal checking of messages, but instead of the usual three or four messages, there were fifteen messages that I needed to listen to, take notes on, go through with Kimberly and call back. This task took about an hour to complete if not more. I barely had the chance to finish just listening to the messages when a couple of homeowners walked through the door requesting an application. It was my job to go through the application with them because they had difficulties reading and writing and we wanted to make sure we received all of the information that we need.

Going through our tedious application was a difficult task, however getting the chance to learn about this particular couple is something that I took special interest in. They were very kind, not married, but living together. The woman told me about her eight children, and how one of them had a mental disability. Hearing their story was one of the first times that I was able to experience the type of families we help first-hand. This time, I was not told their story through someone in the office and I did not have to read about their story in one of our newsletters; they told me their story directly. As we filled out the application together, I truly felt as though the work I do in the office makes a difference out in the community, even if my job isn’t always the most exciting in the office.

After the application was complete and all questions were answered, they shook my hands and continuously extended their gratitude. It was easy to see how genuine they were and how much they appreciated our help.

If organizations such as ours didn’t exist. It would be difficult for low-income homeowners- such as the ones I helped that day- to complete the required repairs needed to keep their home safe. Over time, houses break down and wear down and become unsafe for families to live in. Should the homeowner not make enough money to make these repairs, they will leave it alone until the house is no longer safe to live in. Rebuilding Together bridges that gap and provides those services for repairs to be made, and for them to be done well.

The Rebuilding Together Greater Des Moines office is small, but that doesn’t take away from the impact that it has on the Des Moines area. This particular experience, combined with the rest of my time with this organization, has taught me so much about the behind the scenes of a small nonprofit. It’s impossible to spend one hundred percent of the time doing hands on service work- the office is where it all happens. Sometimes it becomes hard to remember that it’s not always going to be the exciting hands on service work. There is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into each project. Which makes the work done in the office just as important as the hands on work that is completed during work days.

Lessons in Difference and Activism

By Adam Resnick

In April, the Engaged Citizen Corps went on a field trip to the most important building in Iowa: the Iowa State Capitol. During the meeting, we met with the state representative for the Drake area, Mr. Ako Abdul-Samad. Abdul-Samad is in his fifth term in the Iowa House of Representatives and has tirelessly fought for progressive values and social justice in his time in office. Through his background as a Black Panther and civil rights activist, Abdul-Samad learned the values and methods to enact powerful change and to resist the status quo. Over time, he grew to fight injustice through elected roles and ran in his first election in 2004 when he became a school board member for Des Moines Public schools. Abdul-Samad is also the founder and CEO of Creative Visions, a non-profit in Des Moines that works to build communities and hope. During our meeting, he discussed his background and the challenges he has overcome to rise to the position that he currently holds. Abdul-Samad also spoke to us about the necessity of honesty when dealing with those different from yourself and the importance of knowing your own identity when trying to enact change.

In examining the lessons from Mr. Abdul-Samad, the first thing that stood out to me was his message: “If you allow people to put you into a box, you allow them to define you.” Through this message, Abdul-Samad meant that people are not simple. By allowing others to give you a label, they are trying to reduce you to an abstraction that they can make generalizations about. These clichés are often hurtful or inaccurate and can lead to unfair judgments about your character or actions. Relating this message to current events, as a former Black Panther and a Muslim, Mr. Abdul-Samad is an easy target for those that like to bring identity politics into daily life. In our current political climate, many politicians and citizens make vast generalizations about huge groups of people in order to win support. These statements, such as “Mexicans are rapists” or “Muslims are terrorists” reduce entire swaths of unique individuals into faceless stereotypes. It is easy to target groups because inevitably, individuals have preconceived (and sometimes racist) views about those groups. Modern politicians can capitalize on these views and baseless fear to drive people to the polls. Abdul-Samad urged us to “respect every one’s beliefs” while also recognizing our own biases. Abdul-Samad said that it is ridiculous to say that “we don’t see color” because human beings were built to see race and that is a part of our process of cognition. To ignore this essential factor of our humanity will lead to lying to ourselves, a dangerous choice that undermines the ability of individuals to have honest conversations. These honest conversations between individuals with differing views are what Abdul-Samad said are crucial to mitigating hate and working to solve issues in a way that promotes unity instead of further division.

From Mr. Abdul-Samad, I learned valuable lessons in humility. It is necessary to have the humility to accept not only the positive facets of one’s outlook, but also the negative biases that we each inevitably possess. I learned that understanding our own identities allows us to open up to those that we see as our “enemies” or those that have viewpoints contrastive to our own, in whole new ways. With an understanding of our own identity, we can honestly discuss how the actions of another party makes us feel, our concerns, and our shared aspirations. When these honest conversations occur, we find it much easier to make substantive and positive change occur than when we blindly target “cardboard cutouts” of generalized groups of other people. In all our conversation with Mr. Abdul-Samad, I learned valuable lessons in difference and activism, inspiring my own ability to make change in my community.

The Ugly Truth About Community Service

By Kylie Hunter

Hello, my name is Kylie Hunter and over the course of the past year, I’ve discovered some ugly truths about community service. I encourage you to read this with an open mind – for when I first discovered these truths, it was hard for me to comprehend. It’s extremely difficult to hear that your “great work”, might not be so great after all. These truths are not meant to hurt your feelings, rather I bring them up, with the hope and intention to end the cycle of inadequate community service.

Before we discuss these ugly truths, here is a little background information on myself. I’m currently approaching the end of my first year at Drake University. Over the course of the past year, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to participate in the Engaged Citizen Corps – a program dedicated to service-learning. Through this program, I was offered an internship at Habitat for Humanity; here, I was able to examine the direct effects of community service. On campus, I’m also involved in Residence Life and a member of a business fraternity, this is where I had the opportunity to serve as the VP of Community Service. This position gave me the ability to test out some of the ugly truths in community service.

The main point of this blog is not to say that all community service is bad, in fact there are many forms of community service that are thriving. Instead, this blog is being written to inform oblivious, but well-meaning volunteers. So that these volunteers become well-informed and more aware of their impact.

Too often, our good intentions are used as excuses to avoid the task of truly examining the impact of our actions. Not examining this impact simply because we had “good intentions” is one ugly truth. When we don’t take the time to evaluate the impact of our service, we are not helping anyone. Unfortunately, this occurs far too often on both college and high school campuses, mainly because often times these institutions create a community service environment, in which service becomes just another “to-do”. Those hours may look great on resumes – but out of all those hours, how many do you think were actually impactful? Reflecting on my past volunteering experiences, with the knowledge I have now, I’m sad to say that many of my hours weren’t as impactful, as I would have liked to think they were. Of course, I had great intentions but since I never checked the impact my work, I was blind to the reality of my service. This occurs frequently in the world of community service. A real-life example occurs at an animal shelter, we go to this shelter and decide that our time would be best spent playing with the puppies and kittens. However, because of our intent to help these animals, we are blind to the fact that the animal shelter doesn’t need us to play with the animals, they really need help cleaning the cages, filing paperwork, and other unglamorous aspects of service. When we don’t check the impact of our service, we become selfish volunteers – this is why when we complete community service without checking its impact, those we are trying to help suffer.

Many times our community service contributes to endless cycles of reliance and poverty, this serves as a second ugly truth of community service. There is a parable that illustrates this concept, “If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man how to fish you feed him for a lifetime”. This shows the importance of service that works towards long-term solutions. I was able to experience this type of community service at Habitat for Humanity. One of Habitat’s mottos is “hand ups, not handouts” – this motto provides a standard that should be set holistically for community service. By giving hand ups instead of handouts, Habitat ends the cycle of poverty for individual families. Habitat homes are not just given out – the family has to pay for their home, go to financial workshops, and put in sweat equity; however, families do not go through this process alone, Habitat is always by their side. The unfortunate reality of this type of service is that, referring back to the parable, it is quicker to just give the man a fish. It is an investment, sometimes of both time and resources, to teach the man how to fish, but it is worth it. So do you let the man starve as you try to teach? No. That is why short-term community service is still needed; however, we should always be trying to think of how our service can be altered to create long-term change.

So there you have it, those are just a few of the ugly truths of community service. I hope that these truths empower you to make your community service experiences even more, impactful and long-lasting. While working together and changing our mindsets, we can use community service to make a meaningful difference in our world.

 

The Des Moines Student Healthcare Partnership learns about healthcare and homelessness

By Kristina Nikl, P3 student at Drake University

The Des Moines Student Healthcare Partnership, which is a collaboration between Drake pharmacy students, Drake OT students, DMU DO students, DMU PA students, and a variety of nursing students from Grandview, DMACC, and Mercy College in Des Moines, joined together for a service-learning opportunity at Central Iowa Shelter and Services (CISS) on Friday, March 31. We prepared and served dinner to the residents of the shelter, and had the opportunity to have a discussion/reflection session with Deanna Lehl, one of the healthcare providers that is employed by Primary Healthcare and works in the clinic at the shelter. This event impacted both the community, as it helped provide resources to those in need, and our group, as we increased our cultural awareness and learned more about people who face homelessness and about their access to healthcare services. From Deanna, we learned about the challenges that come with providing healthcare to this diverse patient population but also about how rewarding it can be.

Throughout this event, we were able to learn about homelessness by directly interacting with people who face homelessness, as well as by interacting with staff at the shelter. We interacted with the residents of the shelter as we personally served each of them. We interacted with the staff in the kitchen of the shelter as they helped us prepare the meal and clean up the kitchen after the meal. Conversing with these staff members gave us a perspective of what it is like to prepare and serve meals on a daily basis at the shelter. We also had the opportunity to see the clinic and ask Deanna questions about the clinic and the patients she sees. This direct interaction with the shelter residents and the staff at the shelter allowed our learning and reflection to be an important component of this event.

The Des Moines Student Healthcare Partnership was a recipient of a service-learning mini grant from the Office of Community Engaged Learning and the Community Action Board.

Collaborative Drawing Emphasizes Importance of Empathy in the Community

By Professor Emily Newman
Assistant Professor of Art and Design

During the Fall semester of 2016, beginning drawing students traveled outside their campus studio to collaborate on a large scale drawing with youth from Iowa Homeless Youth Centers (IHYC) in downtown Des Moines. Eight students and I gathered with participants at the IHYC ready to embark on the creation of a large 60 inch drawing.

Prior to our first visit, students were assigned the same drawing project in class. The large scale, collaborative drawings utilized techniques of gridding to scale up, shifts in value to create representational images, and an introduction of abstraction through the drawing process and materials used- skills covered in beginning drawing curriculum. After starting our project in class, students were now prepared to repeat the techniques and help instruct youth participants.

The collaboration between art students and IHYC is in its infancy and with any first time partnership there were expected and unexpected bumps in the road. After each drawing session, the students and I would meet to reflect upon our experience. We discussed the experience of service learning, including dispelling myths about the perceived needs of those without permanent shelter. Student Christian Verdin reflects,

“At first, I was somewhat opposed of the idea of teaching art to young adults in need, just because I believed they needed other information and tips on how to escape poverty, but my mind was changed as I thought further about it. Art was a way of escaping reality for some of these individuals.”

We also reflected upon the challenges of creating a partnership from the ground up. Our student participants far outnumbered the youth from IHYC. We discussed possible changes to the structure of the project to increase participation and enable a more empowered experience. Students identified this learning experience as a valuable lesson in project organizing and management.

“The IHYC service learning experiment was a good lesson for everyone, including myself. It taught me to never assume that something will turn out the way you want it to, at least on the first try. Things take time and effort, and they will not always run smoothly at the snap of your finger.”-Jordin Wilson

The overall service learning experience of a collaborative drawing was not what any of us had perceived. As a project that incorporates teaching a new skill set by interacting with youth of the same age, yet different backgrounds, the comparisons and contrasts of participants to one another were visible. By the end of the experience, students reflected upon the larger goal of the project; creating art together provides a pathway to empathy.

“I was able to have good conversation and to teach simple drawing techniques to the few individuals who did participate. But regardless of the numbers, I think that it was an important project…I am thankful for the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone, and to just be youth drawing together and disregarding the circumstances were (sic) placed in for just a couple of hours.” -Courtney McCuddin

The partnership between the Department of Art and Design and IHYC is continuing in thanks to the support of the Office of Community Engaged Learning and Taylor McKee, Volunteer Coordinator at Iowa Homeless Youth Centers.

The Confusion, Fear, and Discrimination Following President Trump’s Recent Executive Order

By Delia Koolick

“Refugees banned from entering the United States” the CNN headline read the day President Trump signed his refugee ban. For the clients of EMBARC, this is scary thing to read. EMBARC, or Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center, serves refugees from Burma and the areas surrounding in Asia. Many clients do not speak English well and seeing a headline like that spread fear throughout the community. Would they see their family members still in Burma ever again? Would they get deported?

My name is Delia Koolick and I am a first-year Psychology Major. I am the Engaged Citizen Corps member working with EMBARC this academic school year. Since starting with the organization, I have learned many things about the big and diverse refugee community in Iowa. I spend a lot of my time working with refugee and immigrant students at the Meredith Middle School ESL after-school program where we work on reading skills. Recently, I have started to conduct research on newer refugee communities in Iowa, such as Syrian and Eritrean, as EMBARC will begin to work with some of these families within the Des Moines Public Schools system.

Back in January when the initial travel and refugee ban was enacted, EMBARC had many curious and fearful clients come in for help. When you understand little English, “refugee ban” is big, daunting topic of concern. Even though none of the effected countries were clients of EMBARC[1], this executive order still took a toll on these refugees’ lives.

The Executive Order states, “I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order”1. The ban prohibited entrance from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syrian, and Yemen[2]. While no EMARC clients were effected, it became clear to them that they could be in trouble next. Families coming for political freedom and safety could no longer feel safe politically.

Anti-refugee and more specifically, Anti-Muslim immigrant discriminatory acts have risen in America since the attacks on Paris in 2015[3]. This includes Iowa, as Governor Branstad tried to block the entrance of Syrian refugees in late 2015[4]. This rise in discrimination effects all refugees as they get shouted at to “go back from where they came from” and that “we speak English in America.” This unfair reality has only grown worse for refugees since the signing of the executive order as the media has shaped perceptions and influenced that thoughts of people across the country and world[5].

While at EMBARC, I have learned so much about the refugee community in the United States. However, the most important thing I have learned is no matter how different people’s backgrounds or experiences are, we all have similar goals. Refugees need our help to integrate into society and feel safe. They should not have to worry that every move they make could be grounds for discrimination, hate, or even deportation. By responding with fear and discrimination, we are going directly against the values the United States were founded on. To continue learning my understanding of refugees backgrounds, I plan to continue researching all different types of Refugees in Iowa for EMBARC. By understanding, education, and advocating, the fear and discrimination may lower as people start to realize we all want the same thing; success in the United States of America.

 

[1] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/27/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/03/06/us/politics/trump-travel-ban-groups.html?_r=0

[3] https://www.aclu.org/feature/anti-muslim-discrimination

[4] http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2015/11/16/branstad-urges-caution-accepting-refugees/75877326/

[5] https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/19195/spreadnohate-hate-speech-against-migrants-and-refugees-media-symposium_en

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