Now that you are in the swing of things… Take us through your day. What does your typical day look like? What have you enjoyed? What’s been challenging? What is stretching your comfort zone?
Irene – Bacolod City, Philippines
Jordan – New York
For me, a typical day in New York begins anywhere between 4:30am and 5:30am (depends entirely on if I need to shower in the morning so I can give my hair ample time to dry so there is no moisture that would freeze). I shower (if I did not the night before), get dressed in business casual, wrap myself in layers, and pack a lunch before 6:00am so I can meet with the Christian Brothers and Lasallian Volunteers for morning prayer. After prayer is over I only have enough time to scarf down a quick yogurt before I step out into the freezing cold (anywhere between 10 and 30 degrees) to push against the 30 mph winds in the coldest 10 minute walk ever, catch the 45 minute subway ride to Manhattan, and once again push against the wind in the second coldest 10 minute walk ever to La Salle Academy.
Three flights of stairs later I come across my first coffee (or tea if only decaf is available) and two flights after that I get to the academic center where I shed my jacket, scarf and beanie and help students with any last minute edits to their homework assignments before their 8:00am class. On most days the academic center is then temporarily closed and I descend the five flights of stairs to help students in the library with homework assignment and college applications or engage in a lively conversation about movies and video games. At 10:30am, I climb the five flights back up to the academic center and assist wherever I can. Occasionally on Tuesdays or Thursdays, I remain up in the academic center all day. If the day is slow I have a quick 30 minute lunch anywhere between 12:00pm and 2:00pm. If the day is busy I don’t eat at all. It’s very rarely a slow day.
The academic center closes up at 4:30pm. After once again braving the cold and the subway I get back to the house around 5:45pm (the ride home is quicker). I have just enough time to shed my layers, throw on sweat pants and the thickest hoodie I own, sit for 15 minutes to catch my breath and collect my thoughts, and then do a quick workout before evening prayer and dinner at 7:00pm. Once that is over I look at any emails I might have received from students in regards to any essays or homework assignments they need help with. I then take an hour and a half to do whatever I want (ranging from YouTube to showering to LSI journaling) before calling it a night, setting my alarm, and going to bed (typically around 11:30pm).
As I fall asleep I sadly recall that I woke up and went to work before the sunrise and left work after the sunset so I once again have gone a whole day without seeing the sun. I am too tired to fully reflect on the fact and I descend into a deep, dark sleep but occasionally I dream of the warmth and sunlight that I so desperately miss. The blaring sound of my alarm wakes me from my blissful five hours of rest and after struggling for a few minutes I find the strength to push myself out of bed and tackle another day.
On Friday the daily cycle is broken and I laugh at the many attempts from Courtney, visiting LSI students, and the Lasallian Volunteers’ at getting me to go out into the city after work because I feel as if I have earned a much needed fifteen hour nap and no amount of pressuring will convince me to give that up. I get up on both Saturday and Sunday at a beautiful 9:30am and fix myself an extravagant breakfast before spending my weekend days lounging around, exploring the city, or a engaging in a combination of both. By Sunday evening, I am fully recharged and ready to once again face the dreaded Monday morning with new gusto.
Annisa – Scampia, Italy
A typical day in Scampia goes something like this! We get up and ready for the day around 8-8:30AM. Breakfast is the one meal we are responsible for preparing ourselves, so the four of us take turns making and cleaning up breakfast, & we finish around 9:30AM. Some days we all go to Casarcobaleno (the “second chance” school downstairs for 14/15 year olds) and some days two of us stay at Casarcobaleno and two of us go to the day care for toddlers run by the Sisters. At Casarcobaleno, our time consists of teaching an English lesson or helping with a lesson that is being taught by a teacher. At the day care, our time is spent playing, singing & dancing with the little ones, which is exhausting but lots of fun. Both of these finish in the early afternoon and then we come back to the Brothers’ apartment for lunch. Lunch in Italy is fairly different than lunch in America, and typically lasts around an hour and a half. We have a bit of free time after lunch, and then around 4PM we either go back to the Sisters’ where they have an after school program for elementary school students or go back to Casarcobaleno to tutor teenagers. At the Sisters’, some days we help the children with English homework, and some days we have free time for games, dancing, soccer, etc. (Our time there can be unpredictable, which has been a personal challenge for me because I prefer to have a lot of structure and set plans in my daily life. So, being flexible with plans area I’ve been working on growing in.) We finish around 7PM & then have free time before dinner. We usually use this time to journal and reflect as a group. A few times a week we spend about 30 minutes of this time praying with the Brothers and whoever else is joining us for dinner. Dinner is usually around 8:30-9PM and lasts close to two hours. We may reflect or journal a little more after this and then it’s bed time! I’ve enjoyed that much of our day involves directly interacting with the students. Additionally, the long meal times provide an opportunity for us to converse and bond with the Brothers and the other members of the community (Sisters, teachers, other volunteers, etc.) who are present. The language barrier has been especially challenging, and at times makes me feel a little lost and like I’m not being as helpful as I could be. However, this is a good opportunity to push myself to improve my Italian skills! Meeting new people and not being able to fully converse with them is difficult, and requires my introverted self to step out of my comfort zone quite a bit in order to find an effective way to communicate. This has been a little bit of a challenge, but it’s definitely a good one!
Jin – Iasi, Romania
A typical day begins with eating breakfast with the Brothers at 8 am in the morning. This usually results in a conversation about languages since we have three Brothers from three different countries. After breakfast, the day is pretty quiet since the boys go to school. Sometimes one of the Brothers will ask us to go into town with them to see more of Iasi. After lunch, we virtually spend the rest of the day with the boys. This includes homework, snack time, and free time. Dinner is the only meal we eat with the boys during the week since they all have different schedules during the day. After dinner, I attend prayer and make sure they are in bed before 9:45 pm. I have really enjoyed spending time with the boys since they are all so different. The hardest thing so far is that this experience has been very different from my LSI 1 experience. In Cambodia, I was working more manual labor and spent a majority of my time with the Brothers. The situation is a lot different as well. Br. Iosif is pretty much the only one watching the boys so our help is at times very critical for him. Unlike the Brothers in Cambodia, he asks for the help which I love. Br. Iosif seems so exhausted at the end of the day and sometimes I wish we can do more. In this experience, I’m with the boys for the most of the day. Let’s just say it is a different type of tired at the end of the day. In all honesty, nothing has really gotten me out of my comfort zone. This is where my LSI experience has really helped me. I been looking at every positive and negative as an experience
Bridget – Pawtucket, Rhode Island
Working at Saint Rays has definitely been an interesting experience. My typical day starts at 7:30am when Olivia and I check in with the Vice Principal Mrs. Baxter. I normally then go directly to the head of the math department to Mr. Soucar’s room to see what he has for me to do for the day. For the first week I was definitely trying to find my place within the classroom, so I was mostly just watching the teachers teach. I got the chance to see every teacher in his or her element, which was very interesting. After that, I did some small projects like reorganizing the files in the Math Office and looking into textbooks for Algebra, Geometry, and PreCalculus.
My favorite days were probably the ones that Olivia and I spent helping in the Art Department, as there was definitely a need for us there. We cut boards for the students to make their projects and helped touch up some of the art on the wall in the hallway which was a ton of fun. I typically eat lunch with either Math or Science teachers depending on the day and I have gotten to know a few of them very well.
I normally spend the remainder of the day looking into textbooks or helping out in the classroom. I was able to help out a lot in one of the PreCalculus classes when the students were getting stuck on certain sections, which has been one of my highlights.
Olivia and I finish school at 2:09 every day, but we try to stay engaged and either help out with cafeteria duty until 5 or visit the sports games after hours.
At 7, we have dinner and then prayer with the community, which is such a wonderful experience. Many stories are shared and we talk about different things each time.
I have gotten very close with one of the LVs Lindsey, who is from New York. She works at Saint Rays and definitely has done so much to engage with us since we have gotten here, she is always the first to invite us to hang out with them and she has really opened up to me about her experience so far. I can’t wait to spend more time with her and BMR and the other LVs with the time that we have left!
Alec Andoyan – Concord, California
After jumping right into the swing of things, I have found myself being able to assist or serve everyone in my community. Depending on the day of the week, so makes the daily task, although some jobs are constant. After the morning assembly, I help with left over errands that need to be taken care of. At 9:30PM sharp, I am at the front desk as the usual attendant is co-teaching the fifth graders math. After, I pass out snacks to the eager fifth graders, I always get a worried when they ask, “Are they any chocolate chips in the trail mix?” And I say, “No.” The face of each child saddens as if it is the loss of a great battle. Then is the fun time, lunch.
For the past two weeks I have been eating lunch with the fifth graders and they are the most interesting gentleman I have ever met. There are three different tables that sit together. Each has a distinct personality which suits their table very well. Even with all the diversity in the class, they each get along with each other as if they were brothers. In the afternoons is D.E.A.R: Drop Everything and Read. I was able to cover for Bro. Anthony, the self-proclaimed librarian. In the soon to be eighth grade classroom is a row of shelves lined with books. The selection is ever growing as they receive new donations unexpectedly. I was also able to spend some time in the seventh grade classroom for a couple of days, as well. They were much more relaxed, sitting in dim lighten reading the latest New York Times Best Seller.
In addition to DEAR, I was able to teach Technology class twice a week to the seventh and sixth graders. My lesson plans have consisted of various introductions, tools and resources that middle schoolers could use to learn coding. My interest in computer science started when I was in junior high learning how to type on a concealed keyboard. As the profession is ever growing, I figured learning various aspects of computer science may spark an interest in higher education. In the late afternoon, I am a tutor in the classrooms and have been made in charge of the chess tournament starting next week. Aside from that there are many other projects I have been able to help participate in that helped make the school a little smoother than it already is.
Maddi Larsen – El Paso, Texas
NOTE: Our days have died down quite a bit since the Gates Millennium Scholarship essays have been turned in so the typical day I am writing about is a typical day up until two days ago.
Morning Prayer starts at 6:40 every school day. I have two alarms: one at 6:30, one at 6:35, and the latter is the one I tend to listen to the most. I grab my shoes and throw on a jacket, and Meg and I head outside and down the stairs for Morning Prayer. We get back to our room at around 7 and start to get ready to be at the school at 8. Once we cross the parking lot to get to the school, we head into the library and pick a table. One of the tables is still covered with yesterday’s corrected essays and I add more that I looked at overnight.
Then it becomes a waiting game.
Most of the time by nine, one of the boys has given us a paper to look at but to be getting papers before 11 would mean that the boys would be skipping class to do one of their eight essays. At lunch, more would come, but from then until three it’s a stop-and-go correcting train. Once three comes around, however, it’s all gas and no brake. By this time, the girls who were involved with the program are in the library as well as the boys who didn’t want to skip class. We would get essay, after essay. Some would want to sit and talk it through with us, and others would leave their essay at our table to work on even more essays. At some points, I would have a pile of essays in front of me. I’ve lost track on how many essays I have read and re-read over the past three weeks.
The Gates Millennium Scholarship involves eight essays ranging from academics, leadership, and service. With about forty students involved with the Writing Symposium, I probably know at least ten of their life stories. Not many would come up to us at first, which I thought was maybe because we weren’t there for the kick off. After observation, however, I realized it was because they could speak in their first language, Spanish, with many of the others correcting their essays.
Helping them write their essays has been a lot more rewarding than what I expected. A number of their essays really showed that some of the students still struggled with the language barrier. Two of the students that I helped confessed to me that they would think of their story in Spanish and then later translate it into English. While I’ve heard them rapidly speaking in Spanish at a table next to me, they paused in between sentences to speak in English with me. I am in no way bilingual so I was impressed nonetheless but it was hard trying to help them figure out what to say when they weren’t sure how to say it. I ended up becoming a Human Thesaurus and guessed words that I thought would fit until they picked one that they liked. When I finished helping them, many were so grateful for my help that it was hard not to throw my arms around them and tell them how I think that they deserve the million dollar scholarship.
El Paso is right on the border with Ciudad Juarez, so close that I can see the city’s famous X from the school parking lot. Many might find this name familiar because it was once dubbed “The Most Dangerous City in the World”, and it is here that many of the essays that I have read take place. They have involved murders, kidnapping, bankruptcy, and crossing the border everyday to go to school. Reading these stories written by people who are three to four years younger than me was incredible. They have all been through so much already, and here they are with smiles on their faces and telling their stories so that they can have the opportunity to get higher education. I am from Southern California and so I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the immigration problem for a while. Because I lived in Orange County, I grew up thinking that Mexican Immigrants were essentially deadbeat people. Over the past five years, I have been learning more about the immigration laws and understanding why someone would want to immigrate into America.
By reading their stories, I now completely understand. The Gates Millennium Scholarship has the opportunity to give these students what they deserve: an education. I am so honored to have been able to help them through this process. They submitted their eight essays on the 13th of January, and all my fingers are crossed for them.
Humberto – San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
This January I have had the opportunity and privilege of being able to travel to San Miguel de Allende and volunteer at Casa de los Angeles. Our day here is very fun. It also goes by kind of fast. You know what they say, time flies by when you’re having fun. That is exactly the case with us here. Our day starts at 8:45 am, that is the time that we have to be at the daycare. Our day inside of the classroom actually starts at 9 am. When we get to the room, all the kids are already there. The kids have to arrive at around 8:30 am. We usually just play with the kids until 9:30 am when preparations for breakfast start. This is when we sit the kids in highchairs, put robes on them, and clean their hands. Depending on the age of the kids, we will either help or not feed the kids. For me, I am in a classroom with kids from about two and a half to three years old. They don’t need much help with feeding. After they are done eating, I help them brush their teeth. It is a challenge because they don’t like the mint taste, but we get it done. We usually do a learning activity like drawing or learning colors with the kids for about an hour or so. We will then go to the park and just play. After the park, the kids get a snack and right after it’s nap time. They nap for about an hour and a half. The volunteers get this time for themselves. I usually go back to the house and rest a little. After nap time, it’s lunch time. After lunch, we change the kids and then they go home at around 3 pm. I have enjoyed everything about this place. The kids are amazing, the teachers are awesome, and the moms are really friendly. I have become pretty good friends with the cooks, so we talk sometimes and have a good time. I think what has been most challenging for me has been the bathroom part. I’d also say dealing with the crying sometimes. Not much has really stretched my comfort zone. I just think about why we are here and about the kids. They get me through anything that I might have to deal with.
Franny – Yangon, Myanmar
Brittany – Browning, Montana
A typical day starts around 5am, which can be painfully early some days. Most days I rush to get ready and we load up in the car and make the 30 minute drive from Holy Family Mission to the De La Salle Blackfeet School. Once at school, in the mornings I help with breakfast, some days being more elaborate menus than others. After morning assembly I work with 7th grader Gracie doing individual tutoring. Working with Gracie can be challenging to say the least, but we have gotten used to each other and even bonded to an extent. During mid mornings I will either help with individual tutoring in the library or in the 5th grade class (my personal favorites). Somedays I will accompany kids to lunch and recess. Recently, I have found myself playing volleyball with the kids. After lunch, I work in the counseling office with Mrs. Davis working on case studies, graduate support interviews, and co facilitating group therapy and conflict resolutions. This is something that I have really enjoyed and look forward to. In the afternoons, I occasionally leave the school for graduate support or to tour/learn more about the educational system in Browning (private and public). After school, I have been helping with volleyball practices and around 5:30 head back to the mission. Community dinner is around 7pm each night and Franchesca and I have been doing the cooking on Fridays. After dinner I help with the dishes and we do evening prayer as a community. I retire to my room for the evening and try to go to sleep fairly early (10pm) because of the early wake up call the following morning.
I have really enjoyed the ability to create relationships with the students. Not only have I found myself in a “big sister” role, but I see how my friendships with the students have established a great amount of trust. From building this trust and compassion, students have opened up and allowed me to learn more about their personal lives. From working in the counseling office doing co-facilitations to just talking with students; I have been honored to hear about the stories. While a lot of what I have learned has been gut wrenching, it still means so much that people are trusting their story with an unfamiliar face. That in itself has taught me a lot about the practice of community on the reservation and with its people. I am an outsider, yet here I am welcomed in and invited to share in experiences. That’s community and not just community but this also tells me a lot about the trust and faith that these people maintain, whether it is a fifth grader or 50 year old school counselor. It is an absolute privilege to feel so valued by people who have been marginalized for so long. That in itself is teaching me a great about resilience and I feel blessed to be learning these lessons.
There are two main experiences that have been a challenge to me during my time in Montana. One being separation anxiety at home. First off, I have learned to value my relationships at home much more since I have been hear. I did not expect that to be a key finding during my time in Montana but I now see the blessings and the strengths of my relationships at home. I had one day in my second week where everything came to a head and the reality of the marginalization and the trauma that the kids have experienced hit me. That day was hard, I found myself in tears in the grocery store. When I got home, I called my boyfriend and I was blessed to find such positive encouragement and faith. That in itself taught me a lot about our relationship, yet it has been difficult to be apart. I try not to think about it too much or bring it up with him too often because I don’t want to detract focus from what I am doing now. Yes, it has been difficult to detach but I am so happy to have this relationship and the opportunity to see growth in it (even though that was not a factor or hope for this journey).
I have found myself at home here in Browning and at the De La Salle Blackfeet School. I have spent a lot of time journalling about community and I believe that feeling the love in a community establishes a sense of home. Therefore, the culture shock has not been too abrupt. One thing that has stretched my comfort zone is the ability to have perspective with the students. Although advised not to, I naturally have a “fixer, helper” attitude. That has been a difficult perspective to switch and that is why I had the break of week two. But in that I have learned so much, I believe that I had to be broken down to be rebuilt. That is what happened here. I learned how to serve. Service is work of the soul, not of the ego. I know recognize that it is not my role to change the world for these students. It is my job to be there for them on a daily basis, to be a smiling face, a listening ear, a light spirit, and a positive role model. A lot of those kids don’t receive that on a daily basis and since it is about them and not me; that is what I want to provide to them. This is the greatest lesson I could ever learn. Especially wanting to go into school psychology. I am learning more than I could ever imagine and my entire world is changing.
Flannery – Nyeri, Kenya
As I write this entry, it confounds me to think we have already been here half a month. It feels as if we arrived from Dubai yesterday. Yet, at the same time, it oddly seems as if Nyeri is already our familiar home. The compound – which once seemed like a maze of roads, sidewalks and paths overwhelmed with green, lush bushes, as well as the 600+ boys who live on the compound- is now a well-traversed residence, full of the same 600+ boys who now wave at us and call our names, beckoning us to come hang out and play sports. Our community welcomed us with open arms and in return our hearts have burst open to the people and places we have interacted with.
While every week, sometimes every day, changes in terms of what we are doing and where we are serving within the Saint Mary’s Boys School community, our most common schedule goes something like this:
4:45 am– Wake up and head over to the Juniors Hall for Wake-Up Call
6:00 am– Serve Breakfast
7:30 am – Group Breakfast
8:00 am-12:30 pm – Many different activities ranging from: teaching and working with the nursery school children or polytechnic boys, secondary school (high school) observations, office/filing work
12:30 pm – Group Lunch
2:00 -4:00 pm – Home visits, service with the Juniors, working in the nursery school, secondary school observations, discussion with the students
5:00-6:30 pm– Activity time with all of the boys (sports, talk, etc.)
6:30 pm – Group Dinner
7:30 pm – Study hall with the Juniors
8:30 pm – Study hall with the Secondary boys
10:30 pm – Go to bed
Needless to say, we have had some busy days! I would be lying if I said getting up at 4:45 am every day was amazing. At least I have a good identifier for how ready I am for the work world, haha! While the fatigue can be hard to escape at times, learning to deal with these struggles while still offering our best selves has been a wonderful challenge, and the time we spend with the boys, even before the sun comes up, becomes more and more invaluable as our time here starts to wind down.
Although there are daily trials, I can honestly say I have enjoyed every day. Although our wakeups aren’t easy, I love seeing the boys’ faces every morning and seeing how our commitment to be there at 4:45 am every day correlates with an increase in how comfortable the boys are around us. I love sitting outside our kitchen as the sun comes up, drinking milk tea and sitting. Yes, just sitting. Instead of my American mornings, which consist of frantically stuffing a granola bar in my mouth as I run to class, I spend my Kenyan mornings sitting- actually enjoying my breakfast and talking at the table, even once the plates are long past empty.
I enjoy seeing Brother Francis’ face light up when we create teaching propositions for the various classes in the school. I love walking the boys to the gate before they go to school and playing futbol (soccer) with them during activity time, seeing the love and passion for one game exist around the world.
Every day I discover something new. I meet a new boy or a learn a new word in Swahili or Kikuyu, and I smile. Our time is flying by here in Nyeri, but it is still incredible to think that we have been able to create such close bonds in 16 days, and that more is to come in the next days and weeks. As we grow and live in this community, as we bustle around from 5am to 10 pm, I continually feel comfort in the hope of a human community and in the living example I get to be a part of here in the beautiful country of Kenya.