The following is reflection prepared by Melissa Tsuleff, a Volunteer in the McKinley Park Community. She shares her thoughts on Amate House Orientation and how it has prepared her for her year of service and community living. Melissa is serving at the Marjorie Kovler Center this year.
Looking back on our first couple weeks with Amate House, the main thing I am feeling is thankful. I am thankful that God has provided this opportunity for me to grow in community and spirituality. I am thankful for my family and friends for supporting me every step of the way. I am thankful for the presence and support of the Amate House Staff and Alumni. I am thankful for the McKinley Park and Little Village Communities, my Service Site, and for the abundant love I receive daily.
One other thing I am particularly thankful for is the Orientation we had before beginning at our Service Sites. Each year Amate House Volunteers begin the year with a two week Orientation introducing them to the logistics of the program, its five tenets (Faith, Community, Service, Social Justice and Stewardship) and the city of Chicago.
The days were long, emotional, and exhausting, but all in good ways. We did a lot, and I learned so much. We talked about a lot of different topics, including (but definitely not limited to) culture, racism and anti-racism, Catholic Social Teaching, boundaries, non-violent communication, and community living. Although not all of these were foreign subjects to me, I learned a new angle to look at life and at those who I am serving.
One day in particular that impacted me the most was when we did a Social Exclusion Simulation at Adler University. We were replicating what it would be like for a woman who was recently released from prison to re-enter society. We attempted to find jobs, gain housing, receive medical treatment, and collect resources from a food pantry. The purpose was to introduce us to how the marginalized could be treated by social systems. Let me tell you: it isn’t very positive. In this case, the women attempting re-entry were dehumanized and treated as if their felonies defined who they were, rather than the systems recognizing their accomplishments. Too often, society and social systems look down upon those who do not fit in. These “others” are neglected because they do not have enough or because they are different. But the reality is that all of these people: immigrants and refugees, recently released prisoners, the poor, the homeless, and many other pushed-aside groups of people, are human beings who deserve respect and compassion. And that is why we are doing this year of service. That is why we are dedicating these next months to the marginalized of Chicago.
|Hanna (left) discusses the Social Exclusion Simulation with Melissa and Caroline (on the right) at Adler University.|
Another thing I am thankful for is Community. I have never lived with so many people, and I love it more and more each day. Orientation gave us such a great opportunity to spend some quality time with each other, as individual communities and as a larger Amate House community. From discussions, to sharing meals, to hanging out, we have already bonded so much. We support each other and lift each other up. These people already mean so much to me, and I can’t wait to see how much stronger our relationships become.
|Chris, Dulce, Melissa and Laura get instructions for their next Irons Oaks team-building challenge. Most Amate House alumni are familiar with this day which usually takes place during Orientation.|