Center for Citizenship and Community

How will I understand myself and the world differently through the ICR?

Understanding hope
"To him, hope meant a deliverance from a refugee camp three years ago. Hope meant finding a new home and new opportunities in the United States that he might not have had otherwise. Hope meant being thankful for life." ~ show more

Alex Tallentire '13, political science

Fulfilled Indianapolis Community Requirement by: Building bonds with refugees at Northview Middle School and First Baptist Church

For course: Introduction to International Politics and Political Science Research Methods

Favorite activity: Learning about himself through working with others

An "Aha!" moment: Listening

For nine months, I worked with a Burmese high school student who had lived in a Thai refugee camp and who had taught himself art by drawing in the dirt with a stick. 

Three years ago, this student and his family immigrated to the United States, and he was thrown into the American school system as a fourteen-year-old boy.  With little time to adjust, he found himself lost, confused, and completely isolated.  At one point, he was kicked out of school, and he tried to take his own life.

However, at the end of nine months, I did not see the same student. Instead, I saw a young man who, on one of our last days together, drew a picture entitled "Hope."  This picture, he explained, defined what hope meant to him.  To him, hope meant a deliverance from a refugee camp three years ago.  Hope meant finding a new home and new opportunities in the United States that he might not have had otherwise.  Hope meant being thankful for life. 

Such experiences as these are what lead me to believe in the work the Center for Citizenship and Community does and the meaningful, powerful reciprocal relationships that result.

Confronting mortality
"The cancer will probably lead to the end, but that is not what he thinks about or decides to dwell on." ~ show more

Emily Ellsworth '17, pharmacy

Fulfilled Indianapolis Community Requirement (service-learning requirements) by: Working with and learning from clients at A Caring Place, an adult daycare facility.

For course: PX200

An "Aha!" moment: An old friend.

What I love most about A Caring Place is the chance to look into the future and imagine what kind of person I want to be when I reach my eighties and nineties.

My old friend Leo, for example, has been battling lung cancer, and he makes it to A Caring Place only once a week due to his radiation therapy. I am greatly saddened by his condition, and I think he could see it on my face when he saw me on Friday. He said, "Don't worry dear. I have done more than I ever wanted. I have fought two tours in the army, I have four kids and many grandkids, and I have learned the feelings of love and compromise with my wife."

This cancer will probably lead to the end, but that is not what he thinks about or decides to dwell on. I just hope when I am sent to meet My Maker, I can approach Him like this.

Community across boundaries
"You have a brother. You need anything, call me anytime." ~ show more

Emily Jones '12, communication sciences and disorders

Fulfilled Indianapolis Community Requirement by: Meeting with Iraqi refugee families to learn from them and to help them better understand American culture.

For course: RL 345 - Islam

An "Aha!" moment: "Ech"

The following excerpt from Emily's reflection journal provides an example of how meaningful relationships are built during the service learning experience.

Today, Omar showed me videos and pictures of his refugee camp. Pointing to an aerial view of shoddy white tents, he explained, "These were our homes." A short video of men dancing together came next. "Some liked to dance; it brought us together." Two more images followed - of a man on a stretcher and another lying lifeless on the side of the road. "We lost so many people," Omar murmured. "My father and brother died there."

After seeing these images, I asked Omar how his experiences had affected his faith. Omar sat still for a moment, thinking. He finally looked at Muhammad, our translator, and offered him a very lengthy response. When Omar finished, Muhammad merely said, "I guess our faith was strengthened."

This was how my questions were usually met: with brevity. However, Omar and Muhammad's brevity was not to be confused with superficiality. I understood their short answers to be the deepest and most expressive responses I could hope to hear from them. Both men were usually very hesitant to share their experiences, primarily because their relationship with Islam and their struggles in Iraq were too personal to be set out before me in casual conversation.

Neither was their brevity to be confused with hostility. Toward the end of our meeting, Omar asked me, "How many brothers and sisters do you have?" When I told him none, he pointed to his chest. "Brother. You have a brother. You need anything, you call me anytime."

Utterly humbled, I asked him, "How do you say 'brother'?"
"Ech!"
I smiled and nodded to him. "Ech."

Independence
"This boy had a lot of patience… If I were in the same situation, I hope I would handle myself the same way." ~ show more

Brittany Foerg '13, biology

Fulfilled Indianapolis Community Requirement by: Mentoring and learning from students at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI)

For course: FYS 102-The Enduring Quest for Community

Favorite activity: Being appreciated for who she is by students at the ISBVI

An "Aha!" moment: Independence

I arrived early at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) last week and was waiting in the parking lot for the Butler students to come.

While sitting in my car, I heard a few taps on metal. I turned around and saw a high school boy walking around at the end of the parking lot. He was tapping his cane along the edge of the lot and retracing his steps.  I realized he was trying to find a sidewalk. I thought about getting out of my car to help, but having heard numerous ISBVI staff members talk about independence, I decided to stay in my car and watch to make sure he found his way. 

He would walk ten or so steps, realize he was by a car or a sign, and then turn around and start over. He would walk into the grass a few steps and all along the edge of the pavement, but he could not seem to find a sidewalk. After a while, he made up his mind to go to the other end of the parking lot, where he easily found a sidewalk that led to the elementary school.

This boy had a lot of patience. He kept calm and continued trying no matter how many times he found himself right back at the sign. He was outside by himself, obviously unsure of where he was, yet he still managed to find his way to a sidewalk. If I were in the same situation, I hope I would handle myself the same way.

Connecting across boundaries
"Working with Alma and watching her grow was what really made my service-learning experience so remarkable." ~ show more

Nikki Green '15, pre-med/biology

Fulfilled Indianapolis Community Requirement by: Getting to know children in English as a second language

For course: Service Learning in Spanish

Favorite activity: Translating homework and helping the kids read books

An "Aha!" moment: Understanding

When I first enrolled in "Service Learning in Spanish," I thought I would just be helping Spanish-speaking kids with their homework.  I quickly learned, however, that tutoring was only the bare bones of my service-learning experience.

I tutored a second-grade girl named Alma.  Alma was not doing well academically, and she barely spoke a word of English.  After only one session with her, though, I discovered Alma was a bright girl and knew the answer to every question I asked.  The only reason her grades were poor was because she could not understand the teacher.

When I had first met her, the language barrier had isolated her so much that she would sit at the back of the classroom and would only talk with another Spanish-speaking student. 

However, working week after week with Alma, I came to know her more as her English improved and her confidence increased.  By the end of the semester, she was eagerly speaking, interacting with others, and participating in class.

Working with Alma and watching her grow was what really made my service-learning experience so remarkable. My significant connection with her is what made all the difference between just a semester's experience and life-long learning.

Challenging stereotypes
"Through this experience, I learned that there is no stark difference, no distinction of pure good from pure evil, between Christianity and Islam." ~ show more

Madison Chartier '15, creative writing and French

Fulfilled Indianapolis Community Requirement (service-learning requirements) by: Learning from and interviewing congregants at the Nur-Allah Islamic Center

For course: China and the Islamic Middle East

Favorite activity: Conversing with the imam and the congregation after jummah

An "Aha!" moment: "The whole world is Muslim"

When I first enrolled in "China and the Islamic Middle East," my understanding of Islam was limited to images of September 11th and the War in Iraq, images of terrorism, hate, cruelty, and conflict. When I entered the Nur-Allah Islamic Center for the first time as part of my service-learning experience, I had expected to be shunned as a "non-believer" and even to be attacked as a Christian.

Instead, the sermon began with an express renouncement of Al-Qaida and all acts of terrorism. "That is not true Islam," the imam declared. "Islam does not make war, but promotes peace between Muslims and Christians alike." To demonstrate his point, he referenced text from the Bible and quoted a passage from the Qur'an that states, "Our [Muslims] God and your (Christian/Jews) God is one" (29:46). This verse implies that, all three religions are connected by and founded upon the same principles. Islam, therefore, promotes the same ideals of love and compassion through a deeper relationship with God and fellow man as Christianity. This is what Muhammad had intended: A loving, welcoming, interconnecting community - a real community - in which the spiritual values transcend the physical practices of religion and apply to all followers of the faith. As the imam explained, "The whole world is Muslim."

Through this experience, I learned that there is no stark difference, no distinction of pure good from pure evil, between Christianity and Islam. Misunderstandings have grown in abundance from the actions of a violent few, but these are not the reality. No true conflict exists between these "sister" religions. Only misconceptions.

New perspectives
"This past week, I went with three Butler students to a laser tag event with students from the Indiana School of the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI). It ended up being a ton of fun." ~ show more

Brittany Foerg '13, biology

Fulfilled Indianapolis Community Requirement by: Mentoring and learning from students at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI)

For course: FYS 102-The Enduring Quest for Community

Favorite activity: Being appreciated for who she is by students at the ISBVI

An "Aha!" moment: Laser tag

This past week, I went with three Butler students to a laser tag event with students from the Indiana School of the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI).  It ended up being a ton of fun.

Beforehand, one of the Butler students expressed some confusion, because he didn't think the ISBVI kids could play laser tag. However, as he quickly learned, the ISBVI students were more than ready for and capable of action.

Only two out of twelve students needed assistance. I helped a girl by holding her cane, warning her of stairs, helping her down them, and shielding her from the laser rays. Other than that, she could see the flashing lights on the vests of our opponents and had lots of hits.

I think events like these give service-learning students greater perspective outside the classroom. All three of the Butler students left knowing the blind and visually impaired can do plenty of things that sighted people can, and they can have just as much fun doing them.

Discrimination in action
"Hearing about their struggles has made me wonder how many other Muslim refugees have had difficulties assimilating into American culture." ~ show more

Emily Jones '12, communication sciences and disorders

Fulfilled Indianapolis Community Requirement by: Meeting with Iraqi refugee families to learn from them and to help them better understand American culture.

For course: (RL354)

An "Aha!" moment: Gross misunderstandings

This excerpt from Emily's reflection journal captures how stories from the refugees affect how students perceive themselves and the world differently as a result of the interactions they have through service learning.

Visiting Omar's family one day, I was apprised of certain humiliations the family has experienced. Omar's son, Yousef, was pulled aside at school and questioned about his family, especially about Omar. The teacher wanted to know whether Omar, a gentle man, had violent disciplinary tendencies. This questioning was followed by a visit from Child Protection Services while Omar was away at work.

Incidents like these have occurred frequently with Omar and his family, and Omar has had to defend his case each and every time. He and his family are making all the efforts they can to learn English, to work full-time jobs, and to study in American schools, yet they are so widely misunderstood because they are Muslims. Hearing about their struggles has made me wonder how many other Muslim refugees have had difficulties assimilating into American culture. My greatest concern is that, if such incidents as these continue to occur - whether from simple fear or deliberate discrimination - families like Omar's will be entirely discouraged from making this place their home.