Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Visit with the Amate House Founders

During the first week of our Orientation, we were honored to be joined by John Haggerty, Ken Brucks, and John Horan, the Founders of Amate House.  To mark this special occasion, we had their visit and their conversation with the Volunteers recorded.  Please enjoy!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Look Back at Amate Orientation 2012

The following is a reflection written by Becky Sinclair, one of this year's North House Volunteers.

On the Friday before my first day of work, a friend who lives in Chicago and kind of understands what Amate House is all about sent me a simple text message. Are you oriented yet? Understanding that she was simply asking whether the activities classified as “Orientation” had finished, I said yes, and we moved on to discussing our plans for the weekend. But later on, I revisited the question, and realized that to be “orientated” to a life as an Amate Volunteer means so much more than simply introducing ourselves 500 times to the same 32 people and talking about who is going to clean the bathrooms each week.

Amate Orientation is two weeks filled with activities and discussion that is intended to orient us to the lifestyle which we have committed ourselves to live for the next year; a life filled with service, community, personal formation, and, of course, love in action. It is a most curious experience; we all move into our new houses where we will live with 11 total strangers (who, of course, have become our best friends three days later). We then embark on a series of talks, meetings, and activities designed to introduce us to the idea of simple living and intentional community, as well as our service sites, where we will walk with others through the joys and pain of life. And let us not forget about having fun – though I think the jury is still out on whether fitting 12 people into a 2ft x 6ft box at Irons Oaks was actually fun… It sure was a close bonding experience).

Not everyone understands what we really do here at Amate. And let’s be honest, I’m not entirely sure myself. But Orientation has been a time to truly immerse ourselves in the year to come, to let go of the fact that we are no longer college students, that we aren’t starting high paying jobs like the rest of our friends, that we have 11 roommates and not a lot of personal space. These past two weeks have been a blessing and a challenge. It feels like we have been here forever, and we have hardly even started work. But, it has made me immensely excited for the year ahead.

Over the course of Amate Orientation, I have had the chance to get to know 32 amazing individuals, 11 of whom I get to live with. We have already had some formative experiences together, because what brings people closer than carrying a 350 pound TV up a flight of stairs just to find out that it doesn’t actually work up there?

Even more than the joy that has been Orientation is the hope that it gives me for the year ahead. As I understand it, to be oriented as an Amate Volunteer means understanding that to love is to live. Loving not only those with whom we are working, but also those with whom we are living. Two weeks isn't enough time to really “get it,” but it’s definitely a start. And, I can’t wait to see where this year takes us.

Becky with her North House Community at Promontory Point

Monday, August 13, 2012

Looking Back in Gratitude

The following is a reflection written by Felipe Fernandez del Castillo, an alum of the 2011-2012 Program Year.

A month after my tour of duty with Amate House has ended my strongest feeling is that of gratitude.

Gratitude for the dedication and support of the Amate House staff whose hard work made this experience possible. Gratitude especially for Ali Schlereth, world class House Coordinator and baker.

Gratitude for my coworkers at Cabrini Green Legal Aid, not just for their patience with me as I spent ten months learning how to do my job, but gratitude for the examples that they were in how to put love into action.

Gratitude for the volunteers I worked with at Cabrini Green Legal Aid who always impressed me by their willingness to make service a part of busy schedules, their passion for justice, and their simple friendliness.

Gratitude for the clients I worked with at Cabrini Green Legal Aid who were almost uniformly good natured, patient and extremely happy to hear me pick up my phone.

Gratitude for the opportunity to live in Chicago’s wonderfully vibrant Little Village Community, where construction workers pull their trucks over to leave flowers before the statue of Our Lady of Guadeloupe at the corner of 24th and Albany, where the only things to buy seem to be food, cell phones and dresses the color of hazmat suits, and where the sounds of giggling children, ranchera music and car alarms fill the air at all hours of the day and night.

Gratitude for my fellow volunteers, especially the ones I lived with. Gratitude for Melissa’s joy, Mayer’s good sense, Amici’s unflagging high spirits, Courtney’s eagerness to please and be pleased, Katy’s strength, Katie Kenefick’s ability to laugh at things, Nicole’s zest for life and Earl’s easy going goodness. I miss you guys already, and can’t wait to see you again.

Best of luck to all the new volunteers! You’re in for a great ride!