Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Service in the Real World

In his speech, The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, emphasizes the importance for Jesuit institutions to guide their students and faculty to strive for social justice. It is not enough to just teach faith but solidarity with others must also be included in this Jesuit education in order for the whole person to fully be educated. This mission in itself allows travel in the sense of relocating to provide aid to those who are considered to be other then yourself. Also this travel takes the participant beyond their own frame of reference used to navigate the world, in order to allow for a space to be created within the self to form solidarity with others. This solidarity is what Kolvenbach promotes through his focus on justice.

Kolvenbach calls for education to, “’educate the whole person of solidarity for the real world,’” (Kolvenbach 34). This education in solidarity forces the student to take their learning beyond the class room and into the “real world” being beyond that of a person’s individual world or space into a space connected with others. Through this learning process students must physically travel beyond the confines of what they know and what is the space of their world, to go to that of other peoples’ worlds. The physical separation of each person’s world must be taken out of the equation in order for solidarity to be formed among the two parties. By serving others in their environment rather than staying within your own, the ties of separation or otherness can be broken down. This solidarity of people in itself is what truly makes up the real world and the space for social justice changes.

Kolvenbach furthers that “when the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change,” (Kolvenbach 34). This means that personal experience creates the space in a person’s mind to form this solidarity with others. I have personally experienced this space created within myself and changed the inner travel of thoughts and ideas through my own service experiences. Last fall I served at the Saturday school of the Education Based Latino Outreach Program and expanded my thoughts beyond what I believed I knew of the immigration community through my direct experience of what actually is. I worked with elementary school children all coming from different backgrounds but going to the school for the same reasons. They all needed extra assistance in school subjects, primarily being Math and English. Through this program I was able to interact with the students and help them with their needs as well as redefining the ideas in my own mind. I was able to mentally travel beyond with I thought I knew and learn through the children their stories of their families and their struggles. Immigration to America and in some case possibly non-illegal immigration became concepts that had never before been so important to me. The citizenship status of the families were not discussed for good reason, but in either case the immigration struggles of some families were evident through the children. Having lived in the United States all my life (at this point in time) I could not begin to understand some of this hardships some of these families had faced coming to a new country with entirely different customs. The program provided great insight to me of what it is like to share customs from two different cultures and the issues that arise from trying to merge these cultures. This concept is one that I had never truly contemplated much before. Only by having this direct experience with EBLO was I able to travel within the concepts of my own mind and open them, creating another place for thoughts to travel, filled with thoughts of these children and their families experiences.

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