Saturday, May 11, 2013

CONANI Love :)

Hi everyone! This is Courtney, Laura Renner, and Sarah from Comunidad 15 and we just wanted to post a little something about the project we did for our service site this semester: CONANI.

CONANI presented us with many challenges this semester in terms of our semester project because the needs of the children at CONANI were very different than the needs of the individuals at the other sites. While children from other service sites can really benefit from teaching materials or donations of toys, our children would not all have benefited from such projects. Not all of the children learn in the same way and some do not play with toys as much as others. Therefore, when thinking about this project we were at a bit of a loss of what to do and at first were a bit nervous.

After spending time with the PT students from Creighton, we realized what the children of CONANI truly need is consistency be it with love, physical therapy, or specific treatment. Therefore, with the help of the PT students, we made a video to help promote what we had already done during our semester and what the PT students had done with their time. This, for us, was a representation of ingenuity because we had to step outside of the box of what would normally be done as a project and look to how we could best serve the children's needs. It also took our being self-aware because we had to realize that the PT students were more knowledgeable about how to help the children from a physical therapy perspective.

We discovered heroism throughout this process because it allowed us to better come to know the nurses and nannies at CONANI. We saw heroism in the nurses because they have a low paying job and work in a place in which it is easy to become jaded, yet they come to work with fervor and truly love the children who have so little. Through our semester we learned how important it was to come to know the nurses and we learned a lot simply through our relationships with them.

The video we created includes our own advice and advice of the PT students of how to add some more consistency to the lives of the children in a way that is easy for everyone to follow.

It speaks for itself so enjoy! :)


Friday, May 10, 2013

Acción Callejera

            This semester, we were challenged to make a lasting difference in our service sites as part of the Emerging Leaders Program that we were participating in. We knew about it from the beginning, but like normal college students, we put it off until the last moment. As we struggled to come up with a good idea, we realized several things:
The first deals with our lack of planning and proactive actions. Do we need to have consequences hanging over our heads in order to have the motivation to make changes? As time was running out to come up with an idea and project, our goal was to complete the task, not to make a lasting impact. It wasn’t being graded and we weren’t super invested in the program, so we didn’t need to make it perfect. We just had to get it done, and if it worked, it worked. This was very different from the goal of the project. The hope was that we could use our ingenuity and think outside the box to come up with different plans of action to make an impact on those we serve. It could be little or big, but it was supposed to be different than the norm, something to address the problems.
Here comes the second realization: ingenuity takes time. In order to find a “solution,” you first have to know the problem you’re addressing. We decided that leading and following was something the boys struggled with. Because of their backgrounds, many are very tough and don’t always like to follow the rules. We wanted to provide a way to build their skills as both a follower and leader. But good ideas don’t often come to you in 20 minutes. Unless you’re a natural innovator, it takes time for an idea to be born and grow.
Finally, we realized that things don’t always go as planned. Our boys love basketball, so we ended up playing the game “HORSE” where one person decides where to shoot from and the rest shoot from that location. If you miss, you gain a letter of the word ‘horse.’ We were hoping that it would help the kids both follow after those in front of them, and be leaders by keeping track of their own points. However, the boys never fully understood the game, and instead of playing a fun game, it ended up getting chaotic and even leading to fights.
Reflecting upon our semester at Acción allejera and more specifically, our failure to create and put forth a project that we were proud of, we have come to some conclusions. To begin with, we believe that our EDP class should require us to design and implement such a project as part of our service component. Along with that, students should read articles, news, or books on the issue or issues, which they face at their service sites, so that they may understand exactly what they should be responding to. Their own research should prompt them to not only go to their service site, but to make their service a part of their life as much as possible. Finally, we believe that the project should be sustainable and that it should attempt to address the root causes of the issue or issues. We failed to understand the totality of the boys’ situations as children working on the street, as children of Haitian immigrants or refugees, as children who dropped out of school, and as children of lower social classes of Dominicans. Essentially, the project should be a strong demonstration of the students’ journey, which should include research, service, reflection, and action. 

--Kelly Sullivan and Jelena Pjević

Thursday, May 9, 2013



San Vicente de Paul Hospicio is a nursing home near the center of Santiago de los Caballeros, and is founded on the ideal of St. Vincent de Paul to take care of the elderly in the community. It was a challenging service site for me. Being around older people is very different from the atmosphere of a school or a youth group. 

It was not always comfortable; there were a lot of people, and it while there were many people there that made it great, it is not a perfect institution. We heard stories of how people were left there by their families and never see them after. The lack of stimulation there seems to atrophy many people. The language barrier can also be more difficult than with children, as age and illness take course, and we cannot connect by running around playing pato pato gonzo. 

Another challenge was seeing how the staff, although very friendly, was not always taking adequate care of the residents. Falls are frequent at the hospicio, and people have bed rashes and open wounds that are not attended. It was difficult to put these two realities together, and I know it is a difficult balance and lack of resources for hospicio, but it seems so simple to change. That alone has been frustrating and looks like negligence to me. Somethings are not just cultural differences. 

We spent a lot of time talking to the residents, and while we learned a lot, and I hope made them feel important, loved, and wanted. I feel that is important, but there needs to be sustainable change. I did not do enough in my time at Hospicio. There are many people, not everyone wanted to talk, not everyone had the same interests or friends there, but I find it hard to make an impact that will outlast our presence. We need to leave, and with that, our relationships we made change.

Even though the Encuentro program does an excellent job of maintaining the presence of students there, the nature of relationships changes. Next semester may not talk to the same people that I did, it is hard to make that continuous service. To make something more, the relationships are important, but there needs to be a more ingenious way that works within the structures at hospicio to promote better quality of care and life for the residents. It took me a long time to realize just how significant some of the issues at hospicio were, spending 4 hours a week is a short time when the residents are always there.  By making the relationships and talking, I felt that we made good connections and helped the residents maintain dignity in a place that often it is very hard to keep.

Learning about heroic leadership, I feel I learned to make better changes and take opportunities, and I look at Hospicio as a place where I succeeded at times, but more often failed. I see it as an opportunity to grow, because there were so many possibilities that I didn’t take to make positive change. Service was difficult, and while there were many rewarding moments, I look back at many other times where there was the chance to do more. Perhaps that is just magis talking, but at times it seemed inadequate, or at the very least unfinished. Places like Hospicio are demanding, even though at times it looks like a very simple commitment.

However, service is never a completed action, as Encuentro ends, it is time to return home, and continue to build upon Encuentro there. Conflict has been part of the struggle with service I experienced. Learning from the struggles and finding better opportunities and making them when they don’t present themselves has been a lesson I am taking away from my time here. Service needs to be integral to whatever we are doing.

Its a long road. 

Sorry for the text block and ramblings. Just thoughts about the challenges of service I have. 

Encuentro el campo por Angie O'Brien

El 15 de febrero 2013

               Today marks our fifth full day in the campo. It’s amazing how quickly one can fall into routine. Although we have been here less than a week, it feels as though we are fully part of the community. Each morning we gather at the casa of Felicia for breakfast at 8:00 am. While we fill-up on a carbohydrate-loaded meal, courtesy of Felicia, we can always count on a friendly smile from Negrito, her husband and entertainment from watching little Nicole play/torture the pet goat. Then, we all jump in the pick-up for a day of challenging manual labor. Comunidad 15 is currently assisting in the construction of an aqueduct for the communities of Las Caobas, a region in the DR that is currently without a public water system. All morning, the Comunidad carries tubes, mixes cement, and climbs mountains while carrying sandbags. We gather for a customary Dominican lunch at 12:30 consisting of some variant of rice, protein, and salad. After relaxing, chatting and laughing with the Dominicans, it is back to work in the afternoon. After a few more hours of labor, each of Comunidad 15’s members returns to the casa of their host family. After relaxing and (often cold) bucket showers, the Comunidad again gathers for dinner at 6:00 pm at the casa of Felicia. “Fiesta” is probably a more appropriate term than the word “cena.” After dining on some hearty Dominican cuisine (who knew fried cheese could taste so good?), we talk, play dominos and dance with members of the community. Then, it’s back to the host casas for family time, often spent chatting, playing dominos, or watching telenovelas.

                Although this week sounds like a picture right off of a postcard, it has not been without its physical and emotional struggles. Much physical exertion has been placed in the aqueduct. We have all had to come to terms of the inequality in the world and our role in it. Some have come face-to-face with their physical limitations. For some, the poignancy of homesickness has sharpened. Yet, the biggest challenge for the members of Comunidad 15 is what we are going to do when we return to the States. As easy as it is to fall into routine, it is easier to fall out of it. If one decides to only take bucket shower back in Omaha out of guilt, then the purpose of the campo has been lost. To quote JFK (or Spiderman), “With great power comes great responsibility.” As students in a Jesuit university, we have been presented with abounding opportunities: many of us aspire to become doctors, educators, social workers and more. And although we will all eventually fall out of the campo routine, we now have the responsibility to remember what the campo taught us. If we do our duty, our futures cannot help but be changed by it.
*Note: this blog entry was originally written on toliet paper.

Struggling with Service

This semester has definitely had its ups and downs.  From struggling with the concept and implementation of community to living in solidarity with the materially poor, I have been pushed in ways that I couldn’t imagine before coming here.  One thing that I expected to get from this semester was a love and a passion for service.  Surprisingly, I didn’t get that.  I didn’t have any sort of revelatory experience while in the Dominican Republic that called me to be a better person or that sparked some internal aptitude for service.  Rather, service is just as unappealing as it has ever been, just as time consuming, and I continue to find inner rationales for not continuing. 

I was expecting some sort of mental or spiritual jump-start from this program and for a while, I was dismayed that I didn’t have one.  After three months of being in this country, of doing service on a weekly basis, and living twice for ten days in the different campos, I was quite disheartened to find that my attitude towards service more or less remained the same.  But the more I reflect and the more I dwell on this subject, the more I realize that my base attitude towards service isn’t likely to change any time soon.  There will always be something that I would rather be doing, whether it’s something educational, like studying, or purely self-serving and lazy, like binge watching Game of Thrones on HBO.  Now these things aren’t bad by any means, I’ve just come to realize that emotionally or physically demanding service will never be as attractive as curling up with a good book for hours.  

Now this is where the difficult part comes in.  My big realization of the semester is that service will never be easy, might not be enjoyable, and probably won’t be relaxing and comfortable, but is an obligation all the same.  It seems like a fairly obvious concept, especially when looking at the life of Jesus.  If, as Christians, we’re supposed to use his life as a role model, then we are going to be complete and utter failures in the eyes of a society that is focused on creature comforts and stability.  Service isn’t something that we’re going to want to do; even Jesus wasn’t a big fan of his upcoming path when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane.  My problem in the past is that I’ve been waiting for a revelatory moment that is never coming.  I’ve been waiting to get the service bug and to suddenly have the desire to go out and save the world.  But that’s not going to happen.  

Service is always going to be a choice, and it’s not going to be an easy one.  It’s going to be uncomfortable and I will always be able to rationalize not doing it.  But this semester has shown me that I have an obligation to do it anyways.  Service is not about me, it’s not about being comfortable, or getting attention from others, or getting hours signed off for this or that; it’s about realizing that the Other is just as important, just as worthwhile, and just as needing of love as myself.  And who knows, maybe years down the road I will love service and I will have a passion for it that drives me to change the world.  But right now I don’t have that, and I can’t wait around for it anymore.  I need to stop waiting and start doing, and hope the rest falls into place.  


Encuentro was a great experience, although very taxing mentally, physically and emotionally at times. Regardless, the program will offer students the tools and the mindset to work towards making a change in the world. While we do make an impact- whether big or small- in the Dominican through service and campo immersions, the most important lesson that can be taken from Encuentro is that service and social advocacy should not stop as soon as students return to the states. In order for the semester to not have been in vain, the passion to serve must be translated to one's home country after the semester abroad.

When I arrive in the states, I plan to continue to serve others in areas that interest and inspire me. Service, just like a job, is much easier to do if it is something that one can enjoy at the same time. Being at Creighton, we are BLESSED to have the CCSJ that coordinates weekly service opportunities for students. I will certainly become involved in a weekly service opportunity next semester.

NO EXCUSES WILL BE MADE!! It is very easy to think of a million reasons for why one can't serve- whether he or she is too busy, has to study, or whatever. If serving is something that one really want to do and feel passionate about, one can usually make time for it. Also, don't expect service to be initially rewarding. It is a dynamic process that has its ups and downs. Keeping a bigger picture idea of the need that exists in the world and the good that can be done. This will help one to stay motivated though the good, the bad, and the ugly. We must live to serve one another.