Is it March yet? It feels as though our trip is an eternity away. Just thinking about our journey to Phoenix to work with the Lost Boys of Sudan and Catholic Charities evokes many emotions. I am excited for the opportunity, I am anxious for the unknown, I am eager to learn and I am hopeful of what’s to come. I have to admit that before our class meeting last week and the completion of a few readings on the topic, my knowledge about genocide and refugees was miniscule. There is so much to learn before I climb aboard that plane at Dulles. If I don’t understand the notion of genocide in its entirety I don’t think the trip will be as impactful. For empathy is everything. I want to understand and more importantly I want to feel.
Anxious. Despite being handed a pre-trip packet and doing a lot of research about the Lost Boys Center as well as Catholic Charities, my anxiety about the trip comes from not knowing. Reading testimonies or watching movies that capture some of the journey these boys have gone through is one thing, but being there; physically being present and talking to people who have been through unimaginable struggles is scary. No class, no matter how great the professor is can prepare you completely for something like this. Despite being scary, the unknown and anxiety I speak of are also so great! Great because I’m pushing my personal boundaries and going outside of my comfort zone.
Eager to learn. My mind is open and ready to absorb as much information as possible about advocacy, genocide, Phoenix, the Lost Boys, Catholic Charities and any other thing the class throws my way. Sometimes I think that my so-called “pretty life” has created ignorance about things that matter such as genocide. How have I gone 20 years being unaware of the ongoing persecution of groups of people? As mentioned above, my knowledge on this subject is minimal, so I’m eager to understand.
Hope. Wow, I’m so hopeful of what this trip will bring. I hope to grow as a person. Grow, in every sense of the word. Grow in passion, grow in knowledge, grow by listening to others, grow by sharing my heart, and grow into an advocate. Perhaps what I’m most hoping for as a result of this trip is joy. I want to bring joy into people’s lives who know little about happiness but I also want to take whole lot of joy back home to Virginia with me.
The concept of service learning in the most basic sense is learning and then applying what was learned by doing community service and then reflecting on the knowledge and service. However, I think that as the semester goes on, this broad definition of service learning will be refined and take on a much deeper meaning. As my pre-trip reflection is coming to a close, I realize that this class will embody what some may call “good service learning.” We are reflecting before our trip, and learning the multifaceted aspects about genocide and advocacy particularly regarding the South Sudanese. Refugee resettlement advocacy will go far beyond our short time spent in Phoenix.
Arguably, the most important aspect of “good service learning” is openness. We must have an open mind to cultures that are vastly different from our own. We must exhibit tolerance and acceptance for all cultures. The Lost Boys have so much to teach us,so we must possess an open heart and open ears, to truly gain everything we can from this experience. All of mine; which are open.