Today, the Mythbusters team got right to work at Haven, and split up into different teams upon arrival. Some people worked on organizing and planning for the Gala, Haven’s largest annual fundraising event, by making phone calls to donors, or making center pieces for the event. Others worked in the shelter, organizing supply closets and other organizational tasks. I spent most of the day in Haven’s resource room, where I had been working with others for the past few days to create a library system for Haven’s clients by organizing, labeling, shelving, and creating an inventory of books that residents can easily locate and use as resources during their stay.

After we had completed our tasks for the day, the Mythbusters group moved into the residence area of Haven, where we had a pizza party with the current residents. We ate, played board games with the children, and got to know some of the people living in the shelter. For me, the most exciting part of the day was when our group got to join the shelter’s children in interacting and playing with service dogs that were brought into the shelter for the afternoon.

Today was probably my favorite day of service, as I got to finish the project I had been working on for the past few days, and got to see the residents we had been working with and how our contributions could positively impact their lives in the shelter. As today was our last day working in the shelter, we were sad to leave, but thankful for all of the education and accommodations Haven has provided for us over the week.

A personal education & bonfire!

I signed on for this trip because, obviously, I have a passion and a stake in this cause, but also because of my personal desensitization towards the topic. It’s difficult to constantly have the same conversation in every class you take, every event you go to, every news piece you read. The constant cycle of outrage – enlightenment – motivation for action – discouragement from all the resistance diminishes in weight for me with every time it’s repeated. Heavy academic involvement, especially (I’m an A&S major, which means I talk about gender roles on a daily basis), both burns me out and induces me to talk about issues in abstract, theoretical terms that sometimes make me feel more nihilistic than motivated. So far, I think being on this trip has done a good deal of things to reduce this desensitization of mine.

First of all, kudos to Haven for being extraordinary. Waseh’s probably really lucky in his choice of shelter to go to – Haven has a new, big facility with many different kinds of services for victim of domestic violence and sexual assault, with prevention education on top of it, and through exposure to the shelter itself, we are able to see many different facets of solution. This ranges from emergency response to rape examination, counseling, legal advice, child care, crisis call, etc. In addition to all of these, they went to great length to ensure that we have education on top of volunteering, and talking to people doing actual social work, who are way more overexposed to this issue, really puts my privilege into perspective for me.

Another thing that I appreciate about this trip is the collective knowledge that my peers and Amy bring to the table. We have varying levels of exposure to the topic among people on our trip – ranging from knowing very little to having worked at a rape crisis hotline, and I found myself gaining a lot from everyone – either reinforcing things I already knew, challenging me to confront new notions, or informing me of alternative approach. I could especially see this during reflection last night, when we broke out into small groups and discuss different scenarios of sexual assault/ domestic violence and how we, as bystanders, could react. I value the input of Amy and Kaitlin, who have been in the field and could inform us of the ethical standards and guidelines among experts, as well as of everyone else who contribute on perspectives of friends and kin. There are definitely rooms for more contention, but I think we walked away more equipped to handle personal situations.

Last but not least: Bonfire! (Credit: Rachel!)

MythBusters: An unclear path towards prevention

The day began, bright and early, at Haven’s shelter for domestic and sexual violence, and the staff there quickly introduced us to a place that for many people is considered a home or “safe haven”. The education sessions so far have been insightful and piqued the interests of many peers on the trip. A myriad of information was thrown at us about power and control, gender norms, consent, etc., and all of it revealed how sexual assault is not as black and white as many perceive it to be. It’s not simply about explaining to men how to treat women properly, and it’s not simply about showing women how to protect themselves at all times. In a perfect world, everyone would be taught about these issues from a young age and they would learn to foster these ideas on prevention throughout their lives in order to form a safe and sexually aware community. Unfortunately, in the real world, most people are not introduced to these topics until it’s relevant to their lives.

The rest of the day was riddled with tasks helping around the shelter which ranged from cleaning playrooms to sorting resource rooms. However, the most fulfilling part of the day is seeing all the children in the shelter. They all seem so cheerful and bright, despite the situations they’ve been involved in. This also begs the question of what can be done to prevent this from happening. How can we prevent people from having to go through this pain?

The day ended with daily reflections, and today’s session included a documentary called Invisible War. It was frustrating to hear about the many accounts of sexual assault in the army, but it was even more frustrating to know how little help these people receive. My peers were focused on this topic and branched off of it for over an hour. It’s still unclear as to how prevention should truly be implemented especially with the lack of funding and lack of care in public education. All I can say is that I am thankful for Haven’s efforts to try and educate others on topics that are often overlooked, and I simply cannot wait to bring all of it back to share with the community. Stay tuned for more about our adventures at Haven!

You can’t sell your brother at the garage sale

Although still snowing outside, the Mythbusters team started their day with coffee and were able to get right into the work at HAVEN. The first half of the day was spent in creating a library system for the resource books available for the people living and working at HAVEN. And being the skillman/kirby library trained worker that I am, me and Emma got right into it. Organizing the books by the category ranging from “Sexual Assault” or “Divorce” to “Therapeutic Methods”. All the while we were both shocked and amused by some of the books, such as for a children’s book entitled “You can’t sell your brother at the garage sale”.

For the other half, before continuing with the library, two amazing educators who work in the community outreach programs, came and talked to us more about what they do, how they do it and why they do it. They target K-12 and then further university and professional level as well. But the idea of making the programs they do (K-12) systemic and sustainable had me falling head over heels for them!! It was exactly the type of solution I had hoped to see being implemented and here were people I could talk to about it! We learned more about primary vs secondary and tertiary programming while giving us things to think about while planning for reorientation. Which is what we did later at night!

After watching half of “The Invisible War”, a documentary on sexual assault in the US military, and then reflections, we broached the topic of reorientation and what we can do to stand out and make people remember our education and actions.

Shout out to Amy for being the best!


Day One at Haven

Today was our first day at Haven! Haven is Oakland County’s “comprehensive program for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault”. This morning we met with two employees at Haven for an education session.

During education we learned about Haven’s different programs, including: the Crisis and Support Hotline, Counseling, Shelter, Advocacy, Prevention, and Educational Programming. We also explored the complexities of domestic violence and sexual assault through Haven’s empowerment model. Throughout this education session, members of the Mythbuster’s Team were able to ask questions and engage in a productive dialogue. This education session was extremely important, as it allowed the team to learn more about Haven’s individual efforts and how these issues affect everyone. Further, because of the spectrum of knowledge on our team, the education program was very helpful at contextualizing the whole week and providing the group with a jumping point for further reflection.

After our morning education session, our group broke out into different teams and assisted the shelter in various tasks. Tasks included sorting donations, preparing food for later meals, organizing bookshelves, and stocking priority items (such as detergent and diapers).

After our day at Haven we came back for our first reflection. To start off reflection we watched a Ted X talk by Scott Louis on the topic of talking to individuals who have experienced trauma. This talk reinforced the lessons we were taught at Haven: to defer to the individual, to not write someone’s narrative, to recognize the victim is the expert, and to understand that you’re role is to provide emotional support and other resources.

We look forward to learning more these next few days!

-Kaitlin & Emma

Making Reservations at Mount Rushmore

The Making Reservations team stopped at Mount Rushmore on their way to Pine Ridge Reservation! They’ve also met and learned from Lakota elders, participated in an artist lecture, and swung some sledgehammers.  I’d say they’re off to a great start!

Mythbusters: Detroit Culture Day

The Mythbusters team had a very successful culture day and we got to explore different faces of Detroit, Michigan. The first stop was the Henry Ford museum of American Innovation. We were able to visit exhibits which explored the technological advancements related to energy, automotive, and aviation developments. We were able to even walk into a fascinating housing concept, called the Dymaxion which was coveted by thousands, but never successfully went into production. It was circular and weighed only 4 tons, once suspended from the ground it had amazing environmental benefits as opposed to a normal house which would weigh hundreds of tons. Only one family lived in this home, and its owner was an original designer. They found it to be technologically ahead of the time. Another interesting attraction in the museum was the Montgomery Bus that Rosa Parks rode. We were able to see the very spot where she sat and refused to give up her seat when more white passengers boarded. We learned about the popular misconceptions behind this story, which ignited the spark of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. We also discussed President Obama’s visit to this notable historic exhibit and the impact of both figures on African American history. He sat on the seat parallel as not to overshadow her legacy.

We also visited the riverside where we walked along the Detroit River and saw a view of Canada. Next, we visited the Heidelberg Project in Detroit. This was fascinating as it gave us the opportunity to drive through the streets of Detroit and to learn about experiences by talking with locals. This art project encompassed an entire residential street, and included thousands of items of reclaimed garbage. We chatted with one of the people who inspired the art and he discussed his experiences in returning to Detroit, and the struggles of the neighborhood which have persistsed since the 1970s.

Stay tuned to learn about our work with Haven!

Thousands of Steps

A Pilgrimage is defined as a journey made to a sacred place as an act of religious devotion. For us, this trip was more a pilgrimage to define and solidify our values as a group that values interfaith work, as well as an opportunity to deepen our understanding and compassion.We came from many different backgrounds, and each member of the team walked a slightly different path, yet each person  on our trip came away with a new understanding of interfaith cooperation and service.

The Interfaith Team returned to Lafayette from Washington, D.C. on Friday the 20th after a very successful week. Driving out of the city we all felt a bit of relief to be going away from the madness that was the inauguration and all the traffic, police, and people that go along with it. We walked 4 miles round trip to attend Friday prayers at mosque Masjid Muhammad near the Dupont Circle area of D.C. The prayer service and subsequent conversation with Imam Shareef at the same time as the presidential inauguration was taking place felt like our personal vow to continue to learn and support people of all faith traditions. It was an act of solidarity, of learning, and of faith in one anther as compassionate humans. During the prayer service, the Imam spoke about how we all have faith in something. He spoke of young children and babies that have faith that a parent will take care of them as a particular example. I took this to mean that we are not alone, that at some point in our lives, no matter our faith tradition, we all rely on other people. This sentiment was echoed over and over at the many service sites we volunteered at during the week. Many of the sites we visited served the homeless or impoverished populations of DC by providing needed food, clothing, transportation, support, and most importantly, dignity. At many of the sites, the staff who ran each program had experienced homelessness themselves, and their desire to serve those just as they had been served struck many on the trip. So often, we focus on the differences between faith traditions as points of division, instead of remembering to look at the common shared values. Differences should be celebrated, but not at the cost of forgetting another group’s humanity and diversity. As the group transitions back to life at Lafayette and prepares for the upcoming semester, we take with us values from our thousands and thousands of steps in all sorts of shoes.


Swastika: the symbol of good fortune or that of the Nazi?

The name Swastika is a Sanskrit word that means good fortune.It is an ancient religious symbol originating from the Indo-Aryans of prehistoric Central Asia, that generally takes the form of an equilateral cross with four legs each bent at 90 degrees. However, with the rise of Nazi power it went from being an auspicious symbol to a symbol of genocide and terror.

Visiting the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. made me realise that if someone on the streets of the Western world saw me wearing a Swastika they are going to think of me as either a Nazi or ignorant. However, in reality I would just be wearing a sacred religious symbol. So, I decided to post this to show the difference between the Hindu symbol of good fortune and the Nazi symbol.

Image result for difference between hindu swastika and nazi swastika

The first symbol on the upper left hand corner was the Nazi party symbol while the bottom left corner is the Hindu symbol of good fortune. They are NOT the same!