This was a long time coming, but I definitely wanted to take the time reflect on the experience of participating on Vincentian Service Day alongside the UCWbL.
I (as an EDGEtern) took on the task of organizing, with the Office of Student Affairs and UMIN, to get the UCWbL represented on this day of service at DePaul University. Vincentian Service Day took place on Saturday, May 2nd, 2015. This initiative gives DePaul students, whether representing the university as a specific group or as an individual, the opportunity to practice our Vincentian core values by aiding other organizations throughout the city of Chicago. In all, 10 UCWbLers participated in the event, for which we worked with a Franciscan Catholic organization located in West Humboldt Park called the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels.
We began with a light breakfast at Starbucks, then attended the rally at the McGrath Arena; wise words were spoken and heartwarming choir music was part of it, but the the most memorable part was the bro with the blue mohawk whose enthusiasm was contagious! (See image below.)
The community service itself was great. We traveled alongside other DePaul students all the way to West Humboldt Park. On the trip there, we noticed that grocery stores and food marts became more scarce. We hear and learn about urban “food deserts” all the time, but actually witnessing this transition was a whole ‘nother ball park for me, personally.
The Franciscans working at the church where we volunteered provide supplies, food, and programs to the community. In particular, they strive to create a safe haven and environment for youth. The UCWbL aided this mission any way we could, by cleaning up inside and outside around our volunteer location. I myself spent the service time packing and sorting non-perishable food items with Molly R., a fellow UCWbLer, and we felt really great helping out in any way possible.
The experience of serving felt like it went by all too quickly, and (unfortunately) we didn’t get the chance to actually interact with the people living in the area where we were volunteering. This was the only disappointing part of the trip, since it gave me the feeling that we were being somewhat intrusive by coming in to volunteer without meeting anyone who would be affected by our work, especially since we didn’t get introduced to the families that come daily to the church where we volunteered. But, serving was fulfilling nonetheless!
The moment that stands out the most in my memory, though, is the stimulating group talk in the bus on the way back to campus. The team leader assigned to us brought up very interesting reflection questions, and this wasn’t the usual “let’s-get-this-over-with” conversation. I was amazed that people so young were extremely aware of the social inequality situations currently afflicting Chicago. Our discussion both evaluated and critiqued multiple issues, like systematic racism, the poverty cycle, the nature of business establishments in poor areas, and what the most effective ways to help the people who are experiencing this lifestyle might be.
Overall, Vincentian Day was an eye-opener. We hear about “sketchy” neighborhoods in Chicago all the time, yet many of us don’t take the time to actually think about what that means to the people who constantly have to live in such economically-depressed locations. It’s often customary (though certainly not guaranteed) for privileged people to “donate” a day of their time helping out poverty-stricken places and then head home without committing long-term thought or aid to those situations they encountered, and this is a sad reality, in my opinion. Therefore, one of my conclusions from the day of service is that everyone must try to frequently remind ourselves that dedicated service is what makes a difference in people’s lives. Everyone can help make someone else’s life better.
Hopefully UCWbLers were given the incentive from this event to continue to lend a hand to people in need, whether it is in the city of Chicago or not! Have you participated in any service experiences that got you thinking in this way, or prompted you to take action? Tell us about them below!
Here are some more pictures from that Saturday’s event!