Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lil Vil

The following is a reflection written by Maeve Raphelson, one of this year's Little Village Volunteers.

To begin my third day of work, I was instructed to meet one of my coworkers at 8:30 by the tamale cart in between Our Lady of Tepeyac Church and our office, which used to be the parish convent. When I told my roommates about this plan, they said “That is so Little Village!” and it was true. Every evening as we gather in our house, we can hear the carts – paleta (popsicle) carts, tamale carts, sno-cone carts. More ubiquitous than the carts, however, are the ice cream trucks. I think when my Amate year is over, I will have lost the ability to fall asleep without listening to “The Entertainer” converted into jingle form. After four weeks of living in Little Village (Lil Vil as some of my roommates like to call it) I have grown to like the carts and trucks. For one thing, cute children tend to gather around them. But more than that, families gather around them. Little Village, for all of its faults, is a family centered neighborhood.

Another place where family-centeredness is very evident is Douglas Park. While this park is technically across the border in North Lawndale, residents of Little Village tend to take over the southern part, the side closer to our house. While most of my time there is spent during my morning runs before work, my favorite time to go there is on the weekends. It is a completely different park on Saturday and Sunday afternoons because families take it over and have picnics or watch local soccer/football/softball/rugby league games on one of the many playing fields. Perhaps it is the typical Midwestern attitude of spending every possible moment outside while it is still warm enough to do so, but these families are always together. In fact, our neighbors throw block parties every other week, barricading the streets from traffic so their kids can ride their bikes anywhere they want and the mariachi bands can take over the street. Not many of my friends can say they have been serenaded by a mariachi band right outside their bedroom window.

While there are many things to love about living in Little Village (can we say $1 tamales at 87¢ pastries?) I think my favorite part is the palpable sense of community. It is so much easier to build up a sense of community in our house when we can see from our dining room the family-run taco stand across the street and the families that barricade streets twice a month so they can have mariachi bands come to their block parties. All our house community has to do is reflect the community we see right outside our house every day. And, we are growing to see ourselves in our neighbors. Last Monday, I had to take a few posters back to work which somehow made my two-block commute seem much longer. But then, I was met by a small school boy who was also carrying poster boards, but they looked bigger than him. We smiled at each other, eying up each other’s posters, and then the walk to work/school was suddenly much shorter because we had seen in each other a kindred spirit.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Orientation Recap

This blog post was written by Mark Piper, one of this year's South House Volunteers.

The beginning seems to be a good place to start – and so let me tell you this tale from its beginning.

Amate House 2010 – 2011 began the weekend of July 31/August 1. The weekend was filled with an ample amount of heat, humidity, and sunshine (an omen for the weather we would have for our two weeks of orientation). As the 34 of us volunteers moved into our new Amate House homes, our orientation began.

Our official schedule was this:

1 - Move In on or before Sunday August 1st

2 - Partake in the opening BBQ and Liturgy at South House / St. Maurice Church of Blessed Sacrament Parish.

3 - Let the two weeks of orientation begin!

I myself moved into South House on Saturday the 31st after a 3 hour drive down from Wisconsin with my parents. Of course my welcome to Chicago wouldn’t have been complete without the bumper to bumper traffic on the Kennedy. (Part 1 complete)

My family had to head out of town, but between Saturday and Sunday I had already begun to meet my new housemates; from Jen who greeted me at the door, to Kevin whom I would share the Mother Superior Suite with (never thought I’d inhabit a Mother Superior Suite). We, the 2010-2011 Amate House volunteers, began to walk down the awkward road of salutations, information gathering, and community building. The opening barbeque and liturgy helped keep the awkwardness of “newness” and the “unknown” away and we began in earnest to learn who we will be as Amate House volunteers, what our mission is, and how to build our intentional community. (Part 2 complete)

With move in and the opening ceremony complete, it was now time to orient ourselves to the tenants of Amate house (Faith, Service, Community, Social Justice, and Stewardship) and to begin living in solidarity with those whom we will serve this year.

We did many things in many places during orientation. We talked about and reflected on each tenet. We had time as a whole group (the 34 of us) we had time in our house (South House 12; Little Village 9; and North House 13) and we had time to ourselves (although they kept us pretty busy). We explored the city, and our neighborhoods with scavenger hunts aided by our curiosity. From DePaul to Roosevelt University, Millennium Park to McKinley Park, Irons Oaks to the Cardinal Meyer Center, we spent the better part of orientation learning who we will be living with, how we will live together “simply,” mindful of our modest stipend and more importantly, I think, we examined who we are now, so that by June we can assess who we have become. Oh, and of course there were a few late nights, mostly filled with conversation, card-games, or in the case of South House, watching White-Collar.

At the opening barbeque, one of the founders of Amate House shared with us the story of the program’s ‘patron saint.’ Obviously not officially recognized by the Vatican – at least not yet – her name was Sr. Mary Ellen Nolan RSM. Throughout all of orientation -the talks, writings, readings, reflections, and insights, what has had the deepest resonance with me was what I heard about Sr. Mary Ellen. Furthermore, she exemplifies the service, vision, and dedication to the common good that we hope to embody throughout our year at Amate House. This was our orientation; yet from time spent with the alumni, I know it is only the beginning of what promises to be a wonderful and challenging year.