Kids Say the Darndest Things

After completing our third day of service, my outlooks and thoughts on the trip are a little more cohesive. Our day began like the others, morning and early afternoon at the school, late afternoon at the boys and girls club. I finally had each kindergartener’s name memorized and began to know them all on a more personal level. What amazed me today was the insight and purity each youngster possessed, and the curious ways they articulated them. After learning the sounds that M and S make, I got to read a story about the wind! Before I handed out Quaker Oatmeal bars to each student, and since there are about 18 of them, I had to use two boxes. After passing out the first box and returning the my desk to grab the second, I observed something quite fantastic. About six students did not yet have an oatmeal bar, but the other twelve who had one in their possession were offering to give theirs up to suffice the snacking needs of their classmate. I was awed by the kindness these children showed. Unprompted, they all rose to the occasion to help those around them. In addition, many of the boys decided to “share” their snacks with me. We all had the same kind of bar (chocolate chip, delicious) but we would break ours in half and trade with someone. The end result was of course the same, but it was more the gesture of kindness these children demonstrated that I found satisfying.

I also learned I have the same sense of humor as a kindergartener. We were supposed to use plastic insects today to practice counting, but most of the boys were far too interested in playing to complete the activities (the girls were much more obedient, though it pains me to say it). One boy put the fly on his abdomen and said “Mr. Greg, I have to go to the nurse, I have a stomach bug!” It was hard to reprimand him when I found his joke gut-busting (excuse the pun). But after a quick laugh he moved on to counting in pairs.

Along with the humor aspect, I learned I have identical interests to an 8-10 year old. At the boys and girls club, most of the kids wanted nothing short of endless pool, ping pong, and foosball matches. To their dismay, we had an activity to complete before that. Brett and I, who together were in charge of about 20 pre-preteens, helped organize a service project for the Haiti Relief effort. The first day we brought it up, the kids had little to no interest in it. However today, we proposed writing letters to those affected telling them they were in our thoughts. To my amazement, once we gave the children something to be actively involved in, the thrived. Even some of the most troublesome boys settled down to write very thoughtful things. After a half hour of thoughtful writing and coloring we had a stack of personalized, handwritten letters. I explained to the boys that there were two kinds of needs the vicitms had, emotional and physical. We realized we were helping to appease the emotional needs, and decided to implement another part of the plan. Each children vowed to ask friends, family, and neighbors to donate non-perishable canned goods to aid in the effort. One child even proposed scouring his house for clothes and toys he outgrew. The children were excited to participate and it seems that the program will continue even after we leave Chicago. It’s great to see the kids get so involved in their own service, and that some would even step up as leaders to keep the effort going. And after all the work of course, we had time for foosball.

Overall today was one of the most meaningful days of service because every ounce of effort I put towards to kids was rebounded tenfold to me in a mixture of laughter, smiling, and exertion of effort to help one another and the world around them.

Loving Chicago!!

Where to even begin…the past few days have been such a fantastic experience.  On Tuesday we arrived in at Holy Family Lutheran School where we were each assigned to a different classroom/grade level.  I was placed in the second grade classroom with 16 seven-eight year olds.  Spending the past few days with them has been almost indescribable.  The feeling of walking into a cafeteria early in the morning and having student after student run up to me yelling “Miss K! Miss K!” giving me giants hugs, completely overjoyed is simply heartwarming.  From making copies of workbook sheets, to grading papers, to making signs for the classroom, and preforming other simple tasks for the teacher, the help is clearly appreciated.  Having the opportunity to also work one-on-one with the kids and see them grow even in three days has only added to the experience.  During our tour and introduction to the school we were given a brief background of the student body.  We were told that many, if not most, of the students come from low-income families, few with two parents and many with a single grandparent raising them.  Regardless of their home life and personal struggles, the school’s goal is to, for the day, help them forget about such things by giving them a place to come that they can be feel comfortable at and excited to go to.  This great sense of community was most seen  during chapel on Wednesday afternoon.  One of my favorite experiences thus far, chapel at the school was so unique.  With lots of singing, dancing, and yelling every student, pre-school to eighth grade, participated fully.  At the end the principal assigned all the students a question for their weekly chapel reflection.  Hearing the students back in the classroom talk about what they had learned at chapel and writing their chapel reflections shows that the school offers much more than an education.

After Holy Family, we took the bus a few blocks over to the Boys and Girls Club.  A much different atmosphere, here I was assigned to help the 6-7 year old age group with different activities.  As the days have passed, the progress of the kids has been substantial.  The struggles and background of the kids at the Boys and Girls Club are certainly more evident.  The contrast between the school and the boys and girls club has only made the learning experience for myself that much greater.  With a little time and patience, there has been a great opportunities to make a strong impression on the kids at the club.  They truly appreciate having us there and even in the short amount of time we have spent with them, see us all as role models, something the kids can never have enough of.

Leaving tomorrow and saying goodbye tomorrow will certainly not be easy.  It is comforting to know, however, that even in a week I was able to leave a positive impression on the students and putting a few smiles on their faces just as they did for me.

International Affairs

Today concluded our second full day of service. We were able to connect even more with the youth we were serving, and began to feel more accustomed to our surroundings at the school and boys and girls club. However, I wanted to focus on another interesting experience that fell upon me last evening (but expect more service posts in the future, once I have collected my thoughts).

We are staying in Hostel International Chicago, which, following its namesake, houses many travelers from all over the world. After a long day of service, a few of us ventured downstairs to lounge in one of the hostel’s more social areas. I had to ability to talk to an elderly man who claimed that Winston Churchill was the sole cause of World War 2, and that amplified sound is the “devil.” It was one of the many eye-opening experiences on this trip.

Shortly thereafter, I was able to connect with three travelers who had met earlier that day, one from northern Spain, another from Bogota, Colombia, and a third from Mexico City. They had all ventured alone to the States in hopes of becoming more proficient in English. I felt as if I was holding an endless bin of candy, surrounding by sweet-toothed travelers. There were all so eager to chat, just to have the opportunity to practice. I even got to break out the good ole Espanol for a decent portion of the conversation. We chatted about the lingual differences amongst the countries they came from, the difficulties in processing multiple tongues, and our travel motives and experiences. They were eager to hear about our ASB mission and the volunteering we were doing in the city, as well as the other groups and their agendas. I few even considered bringing those ideas back to their own countries and implementing service into their lives.

Anyways, I just found it interesting that something we all take for granted (English proficiency) is pricelessly valuable to others. I was also overjoyed to share our ASB outlook and to have such positive feedback from them. It was grand to connect with those from far away, and it was really an experience I did not foresee happening in Chicago. Wooo ASB!

First Day of School

Today was our first day actually volunteering in the school. From 8-1 we were at the Holy Family Ministries School. I worked with the preschoolers the classroom I was with are “the voyagers” they are the 4 year old they are on a voyage to kindergarten. They were intelligent friendly children. I read the whole class a book then they had timeto read individually but being as they are only four years old they are not the best readers, so they all bombarded me asking me to help them read their books so I ended up reading at least 5 more books to them. This week they are learning about where they live which is Chicago. There were three tables set up in the room Math, Writing, and Art. For their Art project they made the Chicago Skyline with construction paper, which I helped them with. At the writing station they wrote the word “Chicago” some students needed assistance which I readily provided. They also did other activities but I don’t want to go on and on. Next we went to the boys and girls club from 2-6 most student get there around 3 and work on home until 4 then are free to play and travel aroud. I worked with the 10-12 year old. This was a huge contrast from the delightful 4 year old they were roudy, and inactive they neither wanted help with homework or to play but prefererd congregating in groups and talking. I much prefered the preschoolers, they were much more apprecitive and I felt like my time there actually made a difference. One thing that was differnt was that the classroom both at the school and boys and girls club was comprised entirely of African American students. I enjoyed the school and look forward to returning tomorrow and hopefully will have a more successful day at the boys and girls club tomorrow.

-Alicia Bartley

First Day of Service!

Today we woke up bright and early for our first day of service! We started our day off at the Holy Family Lutheran School where each of us were assigned to a specific class to work with.  We each helped out our teachers by completing different tasks such as tutoring, making copies, and grading assignments.  It was really great to work with all of the kids.  They were all so energetic, funny, and excited to meet and talk with us.  After lunch, we headed over to the Boys and Girls Club for the afternoon.  After getting a tour of the building, we each chose what age group we wanted to work with.  We helped them with their homework, and played games and other activities with the kids.  I was able to work with the teen group, and one of the highlights of my day was helping them to organize and hand out flyers for a drive for the victims in Haiti.  Overall, it was a great day, and I can’t wait to continue getting to know all of the kids.

Piers & Pizzas..

Our second day of sight-seeing is over, and I am exhausted! It feels like we have been here a week (we’ve been grocery shopping twice already), but we haven’t even started our service work yet – that starts at 8am tomorrow! I am looking forward to it. I enjoyed seeing the city before starting at the site – we were able to get an understanding of the city.

Today, we went to Navy Pier, which houses many stores and restaurants on Lake Michigan. It even has a small amusement park out on the pier, which is closed in the winter. I would love to come back here in the summer and see the city from the top of the Ferris Wheel! We also went to the Chicago History Museum, which was very interesting, and then we went to get some REAL Chicago-style deepdish pizza at “Gino’s East”.  We were starving by the time we got there, and stuffed by the time we left. The pizza did not disappoint.  The restaurant was also great – the walls were decorated with graffiti left by the patrons. It seemed like every surface was covered, but ASB Chicago found a space to leave their mark!  

We then made our second grocery-stop to stock up for the rest of the week and now it is time to rest up for our first day of service tomorrow!

Chicago!

After a busy day of traveling and getting settled yesterday, we got to do some sighting-seeing today.  It was nice to see and experience more of the city. Chicago seems to be a great city so far.  I am looking forward to seeing more tomorrow and starting our volunteer servie Tuesday.  Staying in an international hostel has also been a good experience, getting to meet and see people from all over the world.

Observing and Interacting With the People of Chicago

We finally have our first full day of the windy city under our belts! Our service here is based around a school and a boys and girls club, so our weekend was free to travel and getacclimated to our surroundings. Today was an eye opening experience for all.  We embarked from the Hostel in the morning and were greeted at the subway station by a man rapping loudly across the tracks. We arrived at the Chicago Cultural Center and chatted with a volunteer there who was eager to guide us in ouractivities for the day and was interested in hearing our story. We tourist hopped from the bean to the Shedd Aquarium, and concluded our evening’s festivities with team-made tacos and a Hostel sponsored Improv show.

In closing, we had a chance to see the people of Chicago in a variety of locations. From the hot-spots to the public buses we observed the culture and interacted with those around us. Maybe by the end of the week we’ll blend right in!

Sight Seeing in Chi-town

Today we went through chicago looking at various landmarks unique to chicago.  One very interesting landmark was the bean, a giant metal reflective bean shaped structure that was erected in the center of millenium park.  The most interesting part of it was the fact that when you looked at “the bean” you saw the rest of the city of chicago behind you.