Giving vs. Gaining, or Both

It is quite a daunting idea, to take on a service-learning experience that aims to help people who have endured suffering that I could never fathom. However, my apprehension is not clouding my excitement to be able to work with a community who I already feel a connection to. After working with the issue of the ongoing genocide in Darfur, I am looking forward to being able to broaden my efforts of awareness and understanding that will come from working with the organization and the people that are a part of the Lost Boys and Catholic Charities. Refugees are a group that should be embraced as part of our global community and I hope that through this experience I am able to do my part in working for the best interest of refugees.

I have a lot of things that I hope to gain and to give on this trip, which may be difficult given the weeklong time restraints. I hope to gain an understanding of how best to help the refugees that are new and those who have been in the Phoenix area for sometime. I also hope to gain an idea of my future and what it could hold. At this point, I am undecided about the path I would like to take in my career, but refugee advocacy and resettlement would be one that I would definitely consider. I know that I want to work with marginalized populations so the more experience I can have in this area the better I can improve how I am able to serve them in the future. I hope to learn, to learn in terms of my own capacities and in terms of learning from what the refugees will be able to teach me.

Giving on this trip, however, is more important than the lessons that I am hoping to gain. I hope to give the refugees a sense of comfort in knowing that they have not been forgotten and that there are people who care about them. I want to give them whatever help they need to make their new lives easier. I want to give them support through my experience, and not to just spend a week working with them and let that support falter, but to begin with this week of service a life-long connection to their cause.

For me, the purpose of this trip is not a vacation with a few hours of community service attached to it. I intend to fully embrace the concept of service-learning that our alternative break program is initiating. I hope to give my time and to give the best that I can, and hopefully take something away from this trip that I am able to impart on others. I think that this trip has been modeled excellently so that we are able to best serve the refugee community. The educational process that we are going through to understand the background of genocide, refugees, and the impacts both have will make the time we are giving more beneficial because we will spend less time preparing and more time doing.

To me, our trip is one of the best I could envision for being able to do as much of the service and learn combination as possible. What sticks out to me is that our trip has the important element of reflection built in as a core piece of the process. Reflection is going to offer us an outlet during this trip to talk about our emotional progress throughout the trip, to discuss how much, or even how little, we think the impact we are making is.

I do have some trepidation though. I worry that I have already invested too much in what my expectation of this trip will be, that I expect to come away from it with a completely changed outlook on life and that self-gratification that my work could impact the refugee cause on a larger scale. Who am I, a college student, to say that my week of working with Sudanese refugees is going to change the entire dynamic of their lives? But this nagging negative feeling is not overwhelming my ambition to make the most of this experience. I want to throw myself into this adventure wholeheartedly, and to me that means that I will be more than ready to undertake the journey that lies ahead.



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