CBL and Spanish: The Real Life Lesson – Katie Kelsh ’20

Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally featured on the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning blog on May 18, 2020. You can find the original at https://communitybasedlearning.me.holycross.edu/2020/05/18/cbl-and-spanish-the-real-life-lesson-katie-kelsh-20/.

On Friday, May 15, 2020, 20 senior Spanish majors were inducted into the Spanish Honor Society, Sigma Delta Pi. All 20 students participated in at least one CBL course, with 90% of them first encountering CBL in Spanish 301: “Spanish Composition and Conversation.” Senior CBL Intern, Katie Kelsh was among the inductees. Katie takes to the blog to reflect on how CBL has been so important to her Spanish major experience. Congratulations Katie and to all the senior Spanish majors on this achievement! The Donelan Office thanks the Spanish Department for all that they do to encourage Spanish students to take part in community-based learning. View a video montage celebrating all of the senior inductees, created by Professor Bridget Franco of the Spanish Department.

Lately, I have frequently found myself helping my brother with his Spanish homework. As I sit with him at the dining room table, repeating vocabulary words and attempting to explain to him the difference between the preterit and imperfect tenses, I keep thinking about my own journey with Spanish. During my first year at Holy Cross, after five years of Spanish classes, I signed up to work with the Worcester Public School Transition Program when they came to Holy Cross where I would spend time with them and also be able to practice my Spanish. However, during the first day that I spent with Worcester Transition Program, when they asked me what my favorite meal at Crossroads was, I became nervous and struggled to answer the question. Thinking about that moment, I have realized how important the CBL component of my Spanish major has been. It has given me the opportunity to gain confidence in actually using my Spanish to effectively communicate with others. The simple act of weekly conversation had helped me grow incredibly as a Spanish student. Spending time with my community partners, I was learning new vocabulary, the ways to distinguish between a Puerto Rican and an Argentine accent, and why they call the tasty Cuban dish ropa vieja. These moments were critical to my understanding of Hispanic language and cultures.

My time spent with my Worcester community partners prepared me for my semester spent abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. While not technically a CBL experience, living in Buenos Aires for a semester was definitely the embodiment of experiential learning. Having experience conversing with others in a second language helped prepare me for this new adventure. I was experiencing a new culture, speaking a second language, and living in a foreign city. It was truly the quintessential CBL experience. The lessons that I learned from my community partners such as being open to having conversations with strangers, making mistakes, and learning from others helped me through a challenging but rewarding semester. Taking my language learning out of the classroom and into real life meant daily lessons such as the importance difference between llevarand traer when ordering take out and how after many years of Spanish classes I finally started to understand how and when to use the subjunctive. Whether it was through CBL or in Buenos Aires, it has been these moments, outside of the classroom, when ordering coffee or chatting with the doorman as I waited for the elevator, that I finally understood why I enjoyed learning Spanish. It wasn’t knowing exactly when to use the preterit or imperfect tense, rather it was how learning a new language allowed me to communicate, have conversations, and simply connect with many new people. These real-life experiences, many offered by CBL, take language learning to the next level in allowing students to carry their classroom learning into real life, enabling students to learn culture and connect with people in their global and local community.

Recently, I attended the Spanish Honors Society Induction where I listened to my fellow students describe what their time as a Spanish major had brought to their life. Listening to each student speak made it was obvious that the Spanish major was so much more than just a set of classes we had taken. Student after student spoke about not only learning a new language, but the endless opportunity and experiences that came along with that language, such as finding out they could learn and live in a completely different country or getting to know their host mother. This was what we all loved as Spanish majors, the gift of language that gives us the ability to converse and connect with people across the world, people we might have never met otherwise. However, it did take a while to get to that point. The experiences we had and people we met through CBL helped us gain the confidence and knowledge to begin using our gift and I could not be more grateful for that.

Reflections from the Senior CBL Interns

Collage of photos of CBL Intern seniors

Editor’s Note: This post was originally featured on the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning blog on May 4, 2020. You can read the original post at https://communitybasedlearning.me.holycross.edu/2020/05/04/reflections-from-our-senior-interns/.

Upon  the end of their time as Interns in the Donelan Office and their graduation from Holy Cross in May, our seven senior CBL Interns were asked to reflect on one or more of the following questions: (1) What is my greatest learning from being a CBL Intern? (2) How have I grown in my time as a CBL Intern? (3) What will I take with me from the CBL Intern experience into my next step? They each share thoughtful remarks about how their time as Interns has shaped and molded their Holy Cross experiences. 

Hannah Benson ’20: My greatest lesson from being a CBL Intern will always be the lesson of collaboration. I have learned that there is so much power in starting new ideas with others. As a group, we inspire each other, and because of this, the outcome can reach its full potential. Not only is this true for the CBL interns but for partnerships with community partners, other CBL Holy Cross students, professors, SPUD leaders, and more. Some of my best ideas come from conversations with others.

 It can be difficult to consider my own growth as an Intern, but I know it’s there because I surround myself with people who let me know. I started in the CBL office as a sophomore, went abroad in my junior year, and came back as a senior and it still feels like yesterday that I was given the opportunity to start working closely with the office. I think of examples like taking Professor Sterk Barrett my sophomore and senior years and facilitating discussions in Professor Lipsitz’s “Science of Happiness” Montserrat course for those years as well. These mentors and many more have seen my growth and given me the space to learn.

For me, the most incredible thing that CBL has given me is the fearless ability to take on any project. The world we live in is not perfect, but it is not permanently broken either. There is always room for improvement and what the world needs is people who have the ideas and the willingness to work hard and make it happen.

Jack Chaffee ’20: I would say that my greatest learning from being a CBL Intern is the importance of building relationships that are founded in mutuality and reciprocity when fostering community within Worcester and Holy Cross. CBL provided me with some of the most informative and transformative experiences of my four years here at Holy Cross, and I am incredibly grateful for the lessons I learned along the way, especially about how we engage with one another. During my time as a CBL intern I grew more confident in my abilities to be a leader and peer, while also gaining a much deeper understanding of systematic issues we face as a society. After being an intern for three years, I feel much more confident in advocating for ideas or concepts I believe in, many of which have been formed by experiential learning opportunities such as CBL. Being a member of the intern cohort, and receiving mentorship from the Directors of the Donelan Office, have strongly encouraged me to pursue what I am passionate about. The support I have felt from the CBL Office was important in my discernment of post graduate plans, and I will take this lesson of unwaveringly pursuing my passions with me as I prepare to leave Holy Cross and become an assistant in L’Arche Jacksonville.

Katie Kelsh ’20: The time I have been fortunate enough to spend within the Community-Based Learning community at Holy Cross has taught me many lessons. I have learned how to make delicious empanadas with the Worcester Public School Transition Program and the best strategies to painting French nails from Wanda at Training Resources of America. However, above all, this time has revealed to me the true value of asking a question. I have learned that it is from a simple question, such as “How was your weekend?” that meaningful and lasting relationships can begin. I could not be more grateful for these relationships I have been able to form on and off the Hill through CBL, as they have greatly enriched my Holy Cross experience. Ending my time with the CBL office is one of the hardest parts of leaving Holy Cross, but as I move to my next steps beyond HC, I will carry with me all those I have met through CBL and hope to continue building community, one question at a time. 

Will McAvoy ’20: From my time as a CBL Intern, I had the opportunity to learn from my peers and realize that we all have different interpretations of the world around us. I realized this during countless reflection sessions, at dialogue sessions, during the NPCC, during intern meetings, etc. From tutoring children to sitting with the elderly, students would have different experiences between sites. Students also interpreted their experiences differently at the same site. I quickly realized in my first year Montserrat with Professor Ginny Ryan that there was no “typical experience” with CBL. Throughout the years, hearing different students explain their experiences made me grasp the course material in a different way. It was a paradigm shift. To me, that is what makes CBL so powerful; it allows all of us to view our experience in and out of the classroom in a different way, thus allowing us to have a greater learning experience that leaves a meaningful impact on each of us.

I have also learned to embrace silence. This has happened in two places. The first is bedside at the St. Mary Center. I have learned from professors that sometimes the power of being present is simply enough for a resident. Maybe the resident is tired and would rather rest by watching a show with you instead of conversing. Similarly, in small group reflections, I have learned that silence can be a powerful moment for reflection that can allow not only you, but those around you, to reflect on their experiences. From this, I have learned that moments of silence do not need to be filled. Rather, they should be embraced.

Having the experience of CBL has shown me that everyone around me has their own personal experiences that they bring to the table. What I feel in a certain time is rarely the same as someone around me, and that is something that we all need to take into account. Sitting bedside at the St. Mary Center reminds me of my grandmother who passed at a hospice center several years ago. Another student at HC may not have had that experience and would benefit from hearing my story. Similarly, hearing perspectives from others that I personally have not experienced will allow me to learn. I also learned that everyone has their own internal and external struggles that are rarely visible. Having these different lived experiences allows us to be a stronger group. These different personal experiences need to be welcomed and cherished as they will allow us all to learn more from one another. 

Fatima Oseida ’20: Being a CBL intern was one of my favorite roles on campus. When I first came to Holy Cross, I did not know much about social justice or what it actually meant. While I was still finding myself, the opportunity of becoming an intern came across, so I applied and gratefully got the position. Ever since then, every day has been a learning experience. Not only did I learn more about social justice, but I also learned about its importance in our community, not only at Holy Cross, but in Worcester. More importantly, being a CBL intern gave me a new perspective on the Jesuit principle “men and women for and with others”, because being an intern is not just volunteering at a local organization and getting some work done. To me, it means to immerse myself in the community and to learn from my own experiences. Now that I am graduating, I came to realize that, through the program, I learned what my true passions are, and that is something that I will be forever grateful for.

Christian Realbuto ’20: The person I am now is completely different from who I was when I first entered Holy Cross – and a significant part of that is because of my experience with CBL and the Donelan Office. CBL introduced me to the strong, vibrant communities that make up the city of Worcester, and allowed me to meet incredible public servants who are committed to their nonprofit agencies that add to the city’s strength and history. CBL has also given me stories of love, along with tremendous sadness. Pain, along with tremendous growth. At the core of this learning has been the incredible power of presence. That’s what we do every week at CBL. We show up. We show up to our sites and share in that vulnerable space, that, by the end of the semester, is no longer just your “CBL site,” but the place where your new friends are, and the place that’s taken a piece of your heart. This learning would be incomplete without cultivating my sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the CBL students who came before me, and paved the way for me to participate in the power of presence. Gratitude for the Worcester Public Schools Transition Program for welcoming me into their community for the past 4 years. And also, gratitude for Isabelle and Michelle – whose commitment to the Donelan Office strengthens our relationship and partnership with Worcester each year.

Being a CBL intern has expanded my understanding of empathy to include different perspectives and contexts. As I learned through CBL, communities — and the people that make them up — do not have “a single story.” In this fashion, service demands that we look beyond “a single story,” and develop intentional relationships that expand upon a person’s whole self.

As I look to make my next steps after Holy Cross, I keep coming back to David Brooks’ opinion piece, “A Nation of Weavers.” “Weavers,” according to Mr. Brooks, “share an ethos that puts relationship over self” and exhibit “radical mutuality” in their relationships to one another. I believe this sentiment encompasses CBL and our community partners. CBL cultivates Weavers – people who recognize the importance of reciprocity and mutually in relationships with one another. CBL teaches that there is no “us” and “them” – there is only us.

Thank you, to the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning any my fellow CBL interns for all the wonderful memories and experiences I was lucky enough to share in.

Delaney Wells ’20: As I reflect back on my various involvements and endeavors throughout my four years at Holy Cross, I can say wholeheartedly that Community-Based Learning has had the greatest influence on the journey of finding who I am at my core, deeply shaping my mind and heart. The relationships I have built at the Worcester Public Schools Transition Program, among other community partners, within the intern community, and in reflection sessions have prompted me to develop a more critical consciousness about our world, our structures, and the way that I exist within them. I am leaving Holy Cross with a personal responsibility to those forgotten and disadvantaged by normative economic and political structures on local and global levels. Through involvement in the Donelan Office I have come to recognize the importance of the touch of the heart in relationships formed through CBL. This significant touch allows us to form meaningful and deep connections with one another which illuminate truths about ourselves and the world around us. I now value the touch of the heart in all relationships and actions I partake in, motivating me to work for justice and equality. I am leaving Holy Cross with the lessons, conversations, and moments through my involvement with community-based learning at the center of who I am, fueling my drive to continue to seek justice.

Sindurakar ’20 Recounts Winter Break Trip to Nepal

Four people standing in front of religious monument in Nepal
L to R: Professor Naresh Bajracharya, Trishala Manandhar, Princy Sindurakar, and Maire White

By Princy Sindurakar ’20

Editor’s Note: Princy Sindurakar ’20 is a senior Biology major with minors in Asian Studies and Neuroscience. With funding from the Ignite Fund, Princy had the chance to travel to Nepal over winter break to study the complex use of sacred art in various rituals related to one’s well-being and spread of peace in Newar Buddhism. She took some time to write about her trip.

During our trip to Kathmandu, Nepal, I visited prominent and local historical sites, mainly built during the Golden age of the Kathmandu Valley, specifically due to the growth of culture, art, and architecture. Most of the visits were alongside two other students from Holy Cross and from part of the seminar, Buddhism in the Nepal Himalayas with Professor Todd Lewis and Professor Naresh Bajracharya. These sites were primarily Buddhist temples, stupas, and worship sites, all part of Newar Buddhism, a school in Buddhism.

From beautiful cities, such as Bhaktapur and Patan, to archives and tours within the city, I was able to experience the extensive beauty of the valley and perform field study, connecting with both scholars and locals around the area. For instance, I had the opportunity to observe the bathing ritual of a prominent figure in Vajrayana Buddhism, part of the Mahayana Buddhism, known as Seto Machindranath, in order to prepare for the upcoming festival. This rare sighting would occur every year thus it was fascinating to observe this complex bathing ritual of the figure at one of the local Buddhist sites, known as bahas. Most of these sites, including monuments, had been built by Newars, the historical inhabitants of Kathmandu Valley, and they played a significant role in practicing Buddhism through detailed rituals and discipline, passed down through generations.

Street in city with temples along street

I was able to further my studies in Newar Buddhism and apply my academic knowledge from my previous courses and seminars within the Asian Studies department. We had the chance to analyze the use of different art pieces, such as wood carvings, metal repousse figures, paintings, scrolls, clay moldings, and more, in the context of ritualism and worship. After our first week of visits and field studies at all these sites, I was able to focus on my project’s goals, particularly to understand the traditional practices and the role of diverse artwork on the practice of Newar Buddhism. In addition to my field study in observing the practice of rituals at different historical sites and meeting with scholars, including Theravada Buddhist monks, I studied the use of traditional medicine and its roots to Buddhism, specifically developed within the Newar community, also passed down through generations throughout decades.

I had the opportunity to visit an Ayurvedic factory which involved the making of many forms of medicine through a series of procedures to produce pure traditional medicine with the use of herbs, plants, and minerals found all over Nepal and the world. As a Newari American, this trip was truly a dream, and especially being able to perform field study during my final year, I gained an immeasurable experience beyond courses and seminars through closely connecting with the locals and observing the daily ritualistic practices at the historical vihars and bahas.

“Continuing with CBL Remotely” – Will McAvoy ’20

Raised garden planters with white fence and American bunting behind on sunny day

Editor’s Note: The below post was originally featured on the Dolenan Office of Community-Based Learning Blog on April 16, 2020. You can find the original post at https://communitybasedlearning.me.holycross.edu/2020/04/16/continuing-with-cbl-remotely-will-mcavoy-20/.

I have been offered the opportunity to stay in touch with my resident at St. Mary, Vicky, over the past few weeks.  The Activities Coordinator at St. Mary, Sandy Geller, has graciously offered her phone as a means to conduct Facebook videocalls.  Every week at our scheduled time to visit, Vicky and I have had either a video call or a phone call.  It has been great to stay in touch, and I am thankful for Sandy in making this happen!

One thing that I definitely am missing is the garden at St. Mary.  Last spring, another Holy Cross student (Megan Treanor ’20) and I applied for a Marshall Grant to establish a garden at St. Mary.  We were awarded nearly a thousand dollars to implement a wheelchair-accessible garden where all residents would be able to grow their own fruits and veggies as well as get their hands dirty if they wanted.  Vicky was one of the residents who led the charge on this activity, offering her guidance from decades of managing her own garden at her home.

Last year was our first year, so there definitely were some challenges to overcome.  However, the garden was a huge success with many residents, Holy Cross students, and families of residents, participating in cultivating the garden.  Several residents told Sandy that they now had a purpose in life.  Megan and I were proud to have made such a big impact and are thankful for all that helped make the garden such a success.

I was excited for this spring to really grow a fantastic garden.  With the current situation, it doesn’t look as if that is going to occur.  But one thing is certain: I know for a fact though that once this time of social distancing comes to an end, Sandy, Vicky, and many of the other residents will be outside at the garden.  In the meantime, I look forward to staying in touch with Vicky via phone.

To the current CBL students reading this, I would recommend that you reach out to your community partner.  Maybe a phone call is something that could be facilitated for your site.  You never know until you ask!

 

“Learning How to Dance in the Rain”- Julianne Esteves ’22

Julianne Esteves
Julianne Esteves ’22

Editor’s Note: The below post was originally featured on the Dolenan Office of Community-Based Learning Blog on April 6, 2020. You can find the original post at https://communitybasedlearning.me.holycross.edu/2020/04/06/learning-how-to-dance-in-the-rain-julianne-esteves-22/.

The famous quote by Vivian Greene, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain,” has been circulating social media recently to lift spirits amidst our current global crisis. Each time I have come across it, I have been confronted with wondering how I really can learn to “dance in the rain” while reflecting on what my responsibility to others and the larger society is during this painful time. Although I do not have answers to these questions at this point, my optimism and involvement with the Community-Based Learning (CBL) community has helped to carry me through so far and has prompted me to reflect on these questions.

As a student of a Jesuit institution, I have been reminded countless times of my call to be a woman “for and with others.” Empathy and mutuality have inspired me throughout many of my Holy Cross experiences and continue to be influential forces even as I am learning remotely, physically removed from campus. While early findings suggested that those who were young and healthy were at low-risk for becoming ill, even if they had contracted the virus, I realized that this did not leave my peers and me “off the hook.” I quickly learned of the severity of the spread of the infection as I came home to New York City, the epicenter of the virus. While I would propose that our immediate call to be “for others” is to stay home in order to reduce the risk of transmission, I believe that our responsibility to be “with others” is just as immediately necessary. In these times, I have been reminded of ways to show empathy and to consider the unique struggles and powers of marginalized populations. Through my involvement with CBL, I have gained a widened perspective on various systemic issues that cause certain populations to become vulnerable. Now, I can’t help but imagine how an added global health crisis deepens existing vulnerability and causes major financial and emotional strains on those populations.

One way I am harnessing my lessons from CBL is through unbound presence. In between Zoom classes and meetings, I have found more free time in my daily routine. While I may be tempted to jump right into tackling a “master checklist,” I have tried to embrace these quiet moments. I have realized that the coronavirus does not have a master checklist nor a set end date. As an organized and thoughtful planner, I have become very anxious that the only things that I can truly plan in advance are the meals I am going to eat for the week. Even though meal prep does bring me a lot of joy, it does not provide the level of structure to which I am accustomed. This pandemic has caused countless cancellations for the months ahead, including three summer opportunities I had been anxiously awaiting to participate in. In the absence of planning, I have been approaching each day with minimal expectations. This practice is one rooted in my engagement with those in Worcester. Most of the time at my CBL site I do not have a clear agenda or any expectation of what I am going to do. I find beauty in being present with the students with whom I work. Our responsibility to others, especially those we are living with right now, includes being more present with their needs – whether that means unloading the dishwasher before your family member gets to it or reaching out to an old friend.

As a Catholic, something that I have been reflecting upon is how the Lenten season prompts Christians to “give up” something as a sacrifice to God. I now believe that “giving up” has taken on a new perspective for Christians amidst the coronavirus. The tangible and intangible items individuals must give up during this time has been difficult to witness. My hope is that we, as a society, do not just “give up” completely. Rather, I believe that our responsibility to others is to instead “give in,” to show mercy, and to find ways to be in community with others from afar. Greg Boyle, S.J. beautifully summarized this idea by calling people, in the meantime, “to create fires that keep each other warm. In other words, in these times of physical distance, how can we “keep each other warm” through social connection?

Many people may be stuck in the mindset of viewing their days in relation to the number of days “stuck at home.” Instead, I propose to channel the hope of the message of Greg Boyle, S.J. to live out this time of social distancing as “one day closer to normal.” Even as we move forward in hope, viewing each day as one “closer to normal,” these times in which we are living are a “storm,” particularly for individuals and communities who are marginalized. Tragically, this “storm” has yet “to pass.” And yet, can living in the present and acting upon our roles and obligations to one another be our way to “dance in the rain”?

“Writing to Get Out”- Emma Powell ’20

Emma Powell sitting at desk typing on laptop
Emma Powell ’20 sitting at her desk

Editor’s Note: Over the course of the semester, we will be sharing stories from students highlighting how they continue to engage with experiential learning even while away from campus. If you would like to share your experience with remote learning, please contact jdpowercenter@holycross.edu.

By Emma Powell ’20

Remote learning has defined my life by mostly losses, but my one gain is time. I suddenly have what seems like a limitless time to do school work but also take a second to explore my passions in an environment where I can discern and ask myself, “What actions make you and only you happy?” As a decidedly extroverted person the alone time is difficult. This personality quality means I need to share my thoughts with others in order to feel balanced. I would go as far as to say it is required for my productivity level. It is difficult to focus without those coffee breaks where I chat with friends in Cool Beans.

I have wracked my brain on how to feel that void. My typical schedule would be filled with meetings, classes, and friends. The only time I spent alone on campus was to nap or do homework. I have kept in touch with my friends but facetime calls only do so much. The first week of social distancing was tough. The ongoing events were a weight on my heart and mind. I felt like screaming but instead, I wrote out a reflection for a web page Professor Hooper created for my seminar to not only share content but archive it in the context of this unprecedented historical moment. This pandemic will go down in the history books and my grandchildren will certainly ask me about it. The blog piece felt so good to write. I shared the article with The Spire, in hopes other students could empathize and relate to what I was going through.

In writing that reflection, I rediscovered something I had not done since I was a child: to write purely for the sake of writing. It was cathartic, productive, and simply made me happy.

Recently, I read an op-ed in the Atlantic about how local papers are understaffed, underfunded, and under-resourced in facing this pandemic. In writing that reflective piece, I craved to write more and to write with purpose. So now, I am writing an article on nurses and other healthcare professionals in my local community. My hope is the article will be published in a local paper so the state of Massachusetts and perhaps even higher government powers can more fully recognize just what my mother and other nurses are going through.

I want to identify myself as an activist but this is difficult to do while unable to take physical action outside my tiny bedroom. My try at journalism is an experiment to channel my energy into a space for change. Like Professor Hooper has done in our class, I encourage Holy Cross students to sit down and write about issues that matter to their community. For those just starting out (like myself), I recommend utilizing “medium” which is a free and respected writing platform for anyone wanting to write more publicly but does not want to pay for a URL for their own website. The platform also has a lot of interesting articles from students and journalists all over the country so it provides a virtual sense of community. Then from there, you can submit it to a local paper in hopes it gets published. Local papers live for community members’ perspectives. If you feel called to, use this time to write not only for fun and self-reflection, but to use your ideas for a platform for change all from the comfort of your couch.

“Take What You Need” – Hannah Benson ’20

Editor’s Note: The below post was originally featured on the Dolenan Office of Community-Based Learning Blog on March 29, 2020. You can find the original post at https://communitybasedlearning.me.holycross.edu/2020/03/29/take-what-you-need-hannah-benson-20/

Sheet of paper with "Take what you need" and various words like love, faith, strength on bottom in tearable pieces

By Hannah Benson ’20

A few years back a fellow CBL intern, Kara Cuzzone ‘19 and I started posting little sheets of paper outside the CBL office door. If you have ever passed by our door in Smith Hall I hope you have noticed how decorated it is with events, quotes, and artwork. The inspiration for this came from a journal account on Instagram that wrote plain and simple, “take what you need” with perforated tabs inviting a passerby to simply rip off a word from the bottom of the sheet. Kara and I wrote things like wisdom, peace, love, hope, passion, and confidence and it has been popular ever since. This was a peaceful project for us too, as every few weeks the sheets would become empty and we would draw another one.

When Kara graduated I really started to miss her artistic talent so I took to my computer and found that the Canva app could give me at least the appearance of artistic talent. I also found that I could print more pages, have more variety, and add more color to the idea. Just to spend a few minutes each week thinking of a holiday themed page or a new Spanish phrase was something I really enjoyed. It still baffles me today that people actually take them. I remember sitting in the office one night with the door slightly open and I kept hearing noises at the door. In the moment, I assumed it was another intern trying to play a trick on me, but as I was leaving, I realized all the words were gone and I had just witnessed people visiting the door.

I have expressed to some trusted mentors these past few weeks that what makes me most nervous about the abrupt end of my last year at Holy Cross is that I have to be apart from everyone. I know I am not alone when I say I feel like I can get through anything if I can sit with my closest friends and laugh, hug, and cry about it. So, our last few days on the hill were bearable but now comes the hard part.

This shift to remote classes means you can’t pick up a slip of paper from the door of the CBL office when you truly need it most. It means I won’t walk into the office next week to create a new page and hang it up. So, I find myself adjusting, as we all have recently, to see if we can make what was once so accessible in person, available in the digital world we now live in. These days we have a responsibility to one another to just simply check in. Even if it’s just a word or two, it can make a difference, just like a word from the door. I am confident that if we do this well it can feel like we are together again and we can get through anything.

If you are someone who frequently took a word or phrase from the CBL door for yourself or to share with a friend, please reach out! Though we may not physically be together, a hope and goal of the CBL interns is to continue to cultivate community. So, if you are in need of a word or saying to lift you up on a long day just send an email to CommunityBasedLearning@holycross.edu with the subject “Words from the CBL Door,” and I will make sure you get one!

Máire White ’20 Discusses Recent Research Trip to India

Maire White stands in front of Indian temple smiling at camera
Máire White ’20 (PC: Luke Butcher)

Máire White ’20 is a senior Asian Studies and Chinese double major, as well as an Ignite Fund fellow. She will be presenting on her Senior Honors thesis on March 10th in Rehm Library at 4:30 P.M. Her thesis is on Tamil Shaivite revivalism and Hindu activism. She will also discuss how her recent trip to Chennai, India, funded by an Ignite Fund grant, has enhanced her research. Máire recently took time to answer some questions about her research and her trip. She also extended her thanks to her external reader, Professor Dheepa Sundaram from the University of Denver, whose guidance on things Tamil has been invaluable to her project. 

1.  What was the goal of your trip to India?

I wanted to go to Chennai, India to do some fieldwork and read some primary sources for my honors thesis.  Chennai is a really interesting place within Tamil Nadu because it’s an education hub as well as a major center for IT companies, so people are really well educated and very engaged with religion and politics. I chose to live in the suburb of Mylapore, where I did interviews with people at Kapaleeshwarar (கபாலீசுவரர் கோயில்), which is one of the most prominent temples in Chennai.  Kapaleeshwarar is an important temple for several reasons.  First, Shiva’s wife Parvati is said to have worshiped Shiva who was in the form of a peacock in this temple (hence the name of my suburb, as “mayil” in Tamil means peacock).  Second, devotional poems written in Tamil called the Tevaram from the middle ages mention this temple, so it has a sort of legendary character.

I was asking people about how they engaged with Lord Shiva, one of the most popular Hindu gods in the region, on social media websites like Facebook or Instagram and how their religious beliefs inform their understanding of Indian modernity.  Furthermore, I got to visit the Theosophical Society, which is a library that seeks to help people understand “religious wisdom,” mainly Hinduism.  Most of the sources are from the 18th-20th centuries, and I was looking at collections of sources that were written by Maraimalai Adigal, who was a Shaivite orator, professor, and sannyasin that wanted to reform Tamil Nadu or Dravidian society (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu) and modernize without British or North Indian support.

2. What gave you the initial idea for this trip?

I found out that I could go on a trip like this when one of my professors, Dr. Lewis from Religious Studies, suggested that I go to India to further my honors thesis research.

3. Describe the day-to-day experience of traveling in India. What did you see, eat, etc.?

Every day, I would wake up at 4.30 am to go watch mangala aarti, which is when a Hindu priest wakes up the gods within the temple, and is one of the most crowded times for puja (worship) every day before school or work. Hindu temples typically serve small free, vegetarian meals to people, called prasadam (பிரசாதம்), and consists of a rice dish mixed with vegetables and a sweet. Then, the temple was usually open until 1:30 before they close until 4:30 so that the gods can rest, so I could stay and observe, chant in Sanskrit, do informal interviews, or participate in pujas in the temple.  I almost always ate dosai for lunch, which is like a large, savory crepe filled with masala potatoes and served with sambar and chutney.  After lunch, I could go to the Theosophical Society and read sources.  Another thing that I was lucky to have the chance to see was that it was Madras Music Season, where there are Karnatic music concerts accompanied by bharatanatyam devotional dancing in temples almost every night.  For dinner, I was usually given rice, some other kind of vegetarian curry, dhal, and chapati.  Then, I would make my notes legible or transcribe them on my computer before going to bed early.

4. What was the most significant aspect or experience from your trip, research-wise?

For me, I had the opportunity to get access to sources and visit places I never would have had the chance to without going to India.  I could not have had the opportunity to truly understand the zeitgeist within Mylapore, read some of the sources in the Theosophical Society, or do interviews without physically going to India. Further, I got to practice Tamil language every day, so hopefully it’s gotten a little bit better!

5. How did this trip fit into your academic and professional goals?

Currently, I’m writing my honors thesis on the development of a Shaivite modernity in Tamil Nadu, so this research fits in.  In the long run, I’m applying for master’s and PhD programs to continue my studies on the same topics.

A Semester in Political Debates

Student smiling for picture
Gregory Hausler ’20

By Gregory Hausler ’20

The seminar Presidential Debates: A Hands-on Approach, taught by Professor Bishop and Professor Flaherty, has been an incredible experience and I would recommend it to any student regardless of major. Both professors possess extensive knowledge of the intricacies of the American political system and the theater of debating. Despite differences in party affiliation, the professors engage in conversation and always respect opposing points of view. This respect has been echoed by the entire class, as we routinely engage in thoughtful debate and critical analysis of the current state of political affairs. This emphasis on engaging in respectful deliberation has allowed us to explore a bevy of topics surrounding not only the current state of affairs but past political events and campaigns. The professors have created an environment in which everyone in the class can feel comfortable expressing their honest opinion on matters without caution.

The professors have lined up an impressive list of guest speakers to provide us with even more expertise in the art of debating and political campaigning. The fact that these guests, ranging from campaign managers to chiefs of staff to governors, are willing to take time out of their busy days to speak with a group of students speaks to the dedication of both professors in seeking them out to try and help a group of students learn more about the field they potentially hope to enter. The lessons taught by the professors and guest speakers are not simply about debate preparation. They delve into career advice and policy analysis, and provide us with lessons that a textbook could never teach. Additionally, the skills honed in debate prep are ones that can be utilized in any context, echoing the mantra of a liberal arts college. This experience has already been one of my favorites in my entire time at Holy Cross and I’m only a month in!

“Tattoos on My Heart”: Reflecting on my Summer Research Experience in Uganda – Delaney Wells ’20

Editor’s Note: The below post was originally featured on the Dolenan Office of Community-Based Learning Blog on August 9, 2019. You can find the original post at https://communitybasedlearning.me.holycross.edu/2019/08/09/tattoos-on-my-heart-reflecting-on-my-summer-research-experience-in-uganda-delaney-wells-20/

Group of people from Amaanyi Center standing with Delany Wells
Delaney with her community at the Amaanyi Center.

CBL Intern, Delaney Wells ’20 spent her summer as a Research Fellow at EmbraceKulture. The organization works to develop the capacity of organizations serving children and youth with developmental and/or cognitive disabilities in Africa. Specifically, Delaney researched the Amaanyi Center, a project of EmbraceKulture and the first and only center in Uganda dedicated to empowering youth with special needs to achieve their potential. The following post is Delaney’s final reflection on her experience in Uganda and how it relates to other experiential learning experiences she has had at Holy Cross (Community-Based Learning, the Spring Break Immersion Program, and the Washington Semester Program).

Crazy, crazy to think that my almost 10-week experience in Africa is concluding. I contemplated for a bit which word to use in place of “experience” in my last sentence, but “visit” did not feel just right. I am very aware that I am a visitor here, and there is so much to learn about where I am. Yet, Lunyo Village has truly begun to feel like home to me. From early morning singing during Assembly, walks to church, the neighborhood goats and chickens that roam about, it is hard to believe that very soon this will not be my reality.

The last few weeks have been very special… beginning to realize my time was winding down, I was able to reallllly think about and practice living in the moment. There have been many situations that have served as reminders of the importance of presence. The very, very finicky wifi and electricity which initially was very frustrating quickly became opportunities where I could step back and take a deep breath; to learn to live in the moment. I have found that sharing time at L’Arche communities (which I did through the Spring Break Immersion Program and the Washington Program) has really reminded me of intentionality and presence, and the Amaanyi Center (where I have been spending my time this summer through the Summer Research Program) is no different. Within Disability Theology there is a writer who wrote of L’Arche and “time as experienced in L’Arche”. This revolves around the idea that time does not exist in relation to real life, things move at a truly human pace. This allows for core members and assistants alike to appreciate each moment, and feel no pressure to rush (I wrote about this a good deal in my thesis if you have more questions !!). This means that a walk that may take one person 20 minutes may take a core member an hour, and there is no shame or annoyance in that. Rather, there is just an appreciation for living life at the speed we dictate, instead of society and others dictating for us. I can attest that time as experienced in the Amaanyi Center is quite similar. We have a schedule for classes and meals throughout the day, but this is in no way binding. If our students using walkers are not in Literacy right at 9 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, we do not rush them. This applies to all members of the Amaanyi Center if teacher Rosemary needs another moment before class to finish preparing for our lesson.

I think that is where the beauty of L’Arche and the Amaanyi Center lies, in the recognition of the inherent importance of a person. Once you prioritize the person instead of the event you are late for or the deadline you are rushing to complete, you can fully appreciate them as a human being instead of a nuisance or something slowing you down. Yes, this may sound incredibly similar to the practice of patience, but I believe it is much greater than that. I just wrapped up my first flight from Entebbe and I re-read parts of “Tattoos on the Heart” by Father Greg Boyle as I tried everything I possibly could to distract myself from the mix of sadness, appreciation, love, and loss I felt after leaving the most special students behind (I think the woman next to me on the plane thought I was truly a mess). Father Boyle speaks of a parable involving a woman named Carmen, who came in to talk to him at what he felt was the wrong time. He was rushing to a Baptism and didn’t want to be bothered with whatever trouble she had gotten into. After she opened her heart to him, explaining her story, he writes “suddenly, her shame meets mine. For when Carmen walked through that door, I had mistaken her for an interruption”. In such a fast-paced world, everything that is not matching or exceeding our speed slows us down and is annoying to us. What if we spend time slowing down, to walk with someone, like Maureen, who moves more slowly? Or spent time really ensuring we hear what someone who may be hard to verbally understand, like Ketty, is saying? What if we could take the rush out of our lives and just appreciate the company of one another being human in this journey together?

Through CBL and other opportunities at school and outside of campus, many of us have come to understand the power of presence; of sitting, or standing, with someone else and engage.  To truly value humanity you must spend time with the other, this is the importance of mutuality-in-community where a relationship can be introduced where people are transformed and taught how to be human. Transvaluation, a notion held central to Disability Theology and one that KEEPS coming up in my life is discovered in personal encounters with people with profound developmental/intellectual disabilities and initiates a movement towards a radically new system of evaluation. When people meet together and engage in mutually constructive relationships of friendship with people who have profound developmental disabilities, they are changed and transformed. Disability is no longer seen as an inconvenience or devaluing concept, simply just differences among people. Really, it is the practice of engagement with respect for all involved that can allow for genuine humanity to be practiced among one another. This is something that takes practice, but what a beautiful skill to hone. If this could be the reality of our world, a real inclusive society built on genuine respect for one another, a gospel of love that is lived out instead of just a faraway notion that is easily forgotten in the day to day busyness.

Father Boyle’s book title is the perfect description for the lessons I learned through my fourteen most amazing students, the staff, neighbors and all who I encountered during my time in Lunyo Village, they have truly left tattoos on my heart. I hope we can all try to take a moment to remember and recognize the humanity among us all as we move to transition into another busy (in a wonderful way!) year. Through this, we can begin towards the inclusion we ALL, people with and without disabilities, need in order to allow for humanity among us all to be celebrated as it ought to be. Love and care for one another, how can you say no to that?