Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Project Mexico

Project Mexico

Last Thursday I attended an event called the Project Mexico Auction. Project Mexico is a service program where twenty students travel to Tijuana and Tecate, Mexico for ten days and enroll in cultural and educational activities and work on construction projects. The auction is held to raise money for the trip as well as for the communities the students’ work with. This fundraiser auctions off a ton of cool stuff including signed sports jersey’s from Loyola captains, spa days, gift certificates and even BBQ grills! My favorite thing I saw auctioned off was fifty-yard line Raven’s tickets. It was hilarious to see students jumping up and down with their auction paddles fighting for what was being offered, while other students were cheering them on. I was surprised to see how much money people were willing to spend just to support this program and of course to receive their prize. It was a great way to fundraise a ton of money. Not only was the auction entertaining but they also provided food! My friend and I walked downstairs to the box office and paid five dollars and were given red wristbands for an all you can eat taco buffet. The food was delicious and I even got to try a churro, a tasty Mexican dessert.
My tie to Jesuit education in this case would be that this program reminded me of the service program I did with my church my junior year, Project Hope. Project Hope was a program where ten of us traveled to Mississippi to help rebuild houses for Hurricane Katrina relief. It was a mind-blowing experience. I remember being so nervous because I had no idea what to expect because I had never been that far south before. The people were so nice and so grateful for our help, which I am sure was the same case with the Project Mexico people. You get a feel for what life is like for these people when you visit their homes. It is quite a learning experience and by the end of the trip you have made so many new friends you just don’t want to leave. Helping out communities not only benefits them, but it also benefits you. I gained a ton of beneficial skills from my trip. I learned how to fix up houses using a variety of power tools, except a saw, I wasn’t allowed to touch that haha, and I learned a ton about people’s culture. During one day we were helping out at a soup kitchen and the people who came to eat started singing southern songs. One guy made up his own lyrics to a blues song. We had a blast singing along. Though the work was tough and the heat was unbearable at times I still had an amazing time in Mississippi. Looking back on it now I a really happy I decided to partake in that Jesuit service program because it opened my eyes to a new world and it made me more independent.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Event Analysis 12/2/08

On the night of November 17th I attended a talk about Loyola College’s Unity Pledge. Omani Guy is a friend of mind and he let me know about it and that I should attend. There were several people who talked about different kind of racism and prejudices that they had faced. To hear that such nasty things had occurred on our campus was mind boggling.

I have two opinions about this talk. One being that racism and being prejudice towards certain people should simply not be tolerated anywhere not just only at Loyola. There was a website that was brought up during the talk that I have heard about and actually read the horrible comments left. Things such as this website just create more drama and conflicts and there are a lot of more productive things people could be doing on campus rather than writing nasty anonymous comments on a website. The stories of being spoken down to and treated differently were upsetting however at a certain point I thought to myself that we are all adults and we need to face the real world.

If we were at a larger school no one would think or look twice at someone who talked about racism, gossip, or conflicts throughout the school. Although the campus should be a nice place to live and interact with others, the real world is a harsh place. The speakers ranged in age from 18-21 and in my opinion at some point they need to realize that the world is not as pretty or nice as Loyola’s campus. Should they have to put up with being treated differently or having comments written about them on a website? Of course not. However Loyola’s meetings and speeches regarding nasty comments about the election and now its Unity Pledge are becoming over done. Loyola’s Unity Pledge won’t be able to protect us forever and we need to be able to handle ourselves once we graduate.

It’s a tough topic because I feel so differently about it. Once side of me knows what it feels like to be victimized and see other people be bullied and treated poorly. However the other side of me wonders when twenty year olds are going to stand up for themselves and teach people how to be respectful, rather than talking about it during SGA talks across campus. As seen in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” the world is not always as nice and respectful as the students across the Loyola Campus. Viola is dressed up in a disguise and involved in a love triangle, there are drunk’s and people who are only concerned with themselves (such as Malvolio). As Shakespeare’s play unravels it reveals to the reader how screwed up people’s lives can become. It’s not an ideal situation that all the characters are in but that’s how reality is. So for me to completely agree with the speech that I went to is difficult because we are now young adults and should be making people respect us for who we are.

Catholic Relief Services: a leader in HIV Programming

“AIDS is among the greatest development and security issues facing the world today.” – President Bill Clinton

Just this past Monday, December 1st, was World AIDS awareness day and to help increase knowledge of the disease and raise money for research, Loyola is holding a world AIDS awareness week. Tonight the college hosted Laura Collins of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) as a guest speaker to not only give insight on the AIDS epidemic but to share information about how we as students can get involved.
Started after World War II and originally named the War Relief Services, the CRS was meant to serve as a temporary service by concerned US immigrants who wished for refugees to be returned to the countries they fled. Today, the CRS now has over 5,000 staff members worldwide and focuses on both disaster relief (man-made and natural) and development (food security, health, water and sanitation, etc.). The fight against HIV is relatively new for the CRS but has become a major focus of the foundation. A recent census has documented over 33.2 million cases of HIV in the world. In 2007 alone there were 2.5 million new cases reported and 2.1 million deaths recorded. This proves that the need for prevention is equal to the need for treatment and care. With 65 million people infected and over 25 million people killed since the disease was first recognized in 1981, the AIDS epidemic has spread throughout the world. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most highly effected area but as the spread of disease has begun to stabilize in Africa there has been a dramatic rise in the number of new cases in Asia. On average there are over 11,000 new cases of infection daily with 95% of these new cases occurring in low or middle-income countries. This statistic alone proves the link between poverty and disease. Of the 11,000 new cases, 1500- 1800 of the infected are children under the age of 15 (mostly newborns). Though these numbers are jaw dropping, the most disturbing fact about HIV is that a majority of people who are infected do not even know. This fact greatly undermines the actual statistics about the disease. Only one in every eight people who want to be tested actually has the ability/ resources to be. This makes containing the spread of HIV almost impossible.
Though HIV and AIDS do pose an increasing threat on the world’s population we are not without hope. It is believed that only a certain percentage of people with HIV require therapy in the form of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). Many people go on to live both successful and healthy lives despite coping with HIV. But it is not easy to ignore the many lives that HIV and AIDS destroy. It is estimated that in Sub-Saharan Africa over 12 million children under the age of 18 have been orphaned due to the disease. Take into the account the large death toll and it becomes clear that AIDS is something that will not simply disappear which is where many government funded foundation and programs as well as religious charities and groups such as CRS step in. There is a global commitment to help suppress the effect of AIDS on the human population. In the millennium development goals that were set up by many of the world’s leaders at a conference around the time of the new millennium, there was a goal for a halt or reversal to the global HIV epidemic by the year 2015. With the approaching New Year we are a little more than halfway through the proposed time period and although a cure has yet to be found the world remains hopeful.
The CRS operates through partners with the ultimate goal of putting itself out of business. What this means is that instead of running clinics, the CRS provides the capacity for already existing clinics to provide for those in need. The CRS helps its partners provide until their involvement is no longer needed which often occurs through increased interest from those who reside in the community around the clinic. The CRS puts roughly 30% of the money it receives into prevention and 50% of the money into care and support. Aside from simply donating, it is up to us to not only learn about HIV but to act by spreading the word.

Catholic Relief Services Presentation and Discussion on AIDS stigma

Chris Saksa
Dr. June Ellis
Understanding Lit
2 December 2008

Catholic Relief Services Presentation and Discussion on AIDS stigma
In celebration of World AIDS Week Nora Collins of Catholic Relief Services came to Loyola to inform students about AIDS/HIV’s effect on our world and how CRS is taking strides in providing care for those patients in need. The informative presentation discussed the CRS program, the AIDS epidemic, the global commitment to improving the situation, and what we, as students, can do to make a difference. I learned a great deal about a situation that I had completely underestimated and also showed me ways where I can get involved in this wonderful program. Using visual aids such as statistics, pictures, and charts the presentation help enlighten the audience to the efforts CRS is making and what we could do to improve our world.
To open the discussion the speaker provided the audience with background information regarding the CRS program and how profound their effect truly is. Catholic Relief Services staffs over 5000 individuals in over 100 countries and aids in disaster relief, development of impoverished countries, and the AIDS Relief effort. The Catholic Church created the group after WWII in hope of helping return refugees to their homes and providing humanitarian assistance in the war ravaged nations. Originally there were no plans to continue the service organization, but their success brought new horizons. Currently CRS is the world leader in AIDS help programming and now devotes a huge focus on the relief effort. For instance, CRS has over 250 AIDS/HIV projects in 52 countries and has spent 120 million dollars in aid in hope of ending the epidemic. This epidemic, as she explained, is one that affects over 33 million worldwide.
While all the statistics provided shocking evidence of the real magnitude of the epidemic, what really made me interested in the program was the modest request for us to make a difference. The simple plan of action she asked of us was to pray, learn, act, and give. She presented this idea in a way that explained anything we do to aid the effort is a step in the right direction. Additionally she explained the U.S. initiative PEPFAR provided over 15 billion dollars in aid from 2003 to 2008, but with this five-year strategy needing to be renewed in 2009 she asked for us to sign up to push for the passing of the legislation of the new plan. This provided me a way to make a difference in a seemingly overwhelming epidemic and has made me even more interested in helping this organization. So immediately following the presentation I felt it would be a disservice to all those in need if I did not take action and join the CRS legislative network. I also plan to donate money to the effort in Boulder tomorrow because the presentation was truly and eye-opener.
For me the experience of the presentation was one that I am glad I was apart of because not only did I gain an awful lot of knowledge regarding the AIDS/HIV affect on our world, but additionally how I could carry out the Jesuit ideals and do anything I could to aid this worthy cause.

twelfth night

Carina Ecclefield
Dr. Ellis
Final Blog
Twelfth Night

On November 24, I attended the PBS documentary Race: The Power of an Illusion. This film was very educational and brought up many points and ideas that seem obvious to us, but are often forgotten. This film is important in our current time, because of the events of the election and constant efforts to stop and prevent racism. Also it is unbelievable to think of the level of racism that actually does exist. This reminded me of the Invisible Children documentary that I saw only a few weeks ago. It is something we are all aware of and know that such events takes place every day, but when we watch such a film we are really moved. It had a strong impact on me because we see the effects of people’s attitudes and we become inspired to do something about it.
Although I had previously known many facts about racism, it was still an eye opening film for me. I grew up in a town where pretty much everyone is just like me. There were a few kids I remember in elementary school who were from other countries and they were ridiculed because they were not just like everyone else. I was not one of the kids who ridiculed anyone, but I also didn’t do anything to stop it. Looking back on it now, there really is no difference between those kids and me. It is awful that because of skin color or traditions, or an accent someone can be tormented so much. I wish that I could go back and stand up for the kids who were made fun of. I am just as guilty for not standing up for them as the kids who laughed and poked fun. After seeing the video and growing up quite a bit, I would be one of the first people to stand up for a person suffering as a victim of racism.
A film about racism is extremely relevant to our lives in Baltimore. It is almost impossible to go off campus without seeing member of many races. There are people who fit and don’t fit the most common stereotypes, but if we all followed the ideas of these stereotypes we would live in hatred and in fear. The video showed how important it is for us to get past this and see people for whom they really are.
This idea of hatred, confusion, treating people badly, and caring about who a person truly is relates to Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. The deception in this play shows that people are not necessarily what they seem. It is that common saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Prior to the characters realizing this they base their relationships on lies and superficial external traits. In the end it turns out that some people aren’t what they appear and we should give them a chance without any original judgment. It also shows that just because someone is like you in color and tradition does not mean that you will necessarily like them. Although the play does not directly address racism is addresses the ideas of judgment of character based in appearance. The play does illustrate sexism which can be very closely compared to racism. Sexism is the reason for much of the confusion; it is the reason that Viola is dressed as a man. This play does indirectly relate to the PBS documentary.
Also the documentary clearly relates to Jesuit education. This is because part of our education is educating the whole person. By showing this film, we were offered to learn something that is not part of our everyday studies. It also provided us with a way to help others and become aware of the problems around us. Clearly another important part of Jesuit education: education of the person for the good of others.
The film on racism made me reflect strongly on the person I am and the people around me. It made me think more about how it doesn’t matter if you’re not doing something bad, if you’re still not doing anything about it. We often complain about our problems and how bad our day was, reflecting on this film I realize how important it is to think about the situation of others and how bad their day may have been.

Project Mexico & Twelfth Night

Erin Kadamus
Before Thanksgiving break, I attended the Project Mexico auction. As I walked through the student center I heard all of the noise from McGuire Hall. When I entered the auction site, the room was filled with people bidding on different items. Everyone there was present to support CCSJ, Project Mexico, and Encounter El Salvador. Today, this auction is one of Loyola’s most celebrated events.
Project Mexico began in 1987 and was created by two Loyola Jesuits, Peter Clark, S.J. and Joseph Koterski, S.J. It is an international immersion program located in Tijuana and Tecate, Mexico. Twenty Loyola students and three faculty members travel to Mexico in early January. They work together to serve the community by participating in construction projects, social activities, and educational programs. The mission of this program is to foster personal growth through service, justice, spirituality, and education.
After a group returned from Mexico, they wanted to start service activities in the local area. Students wanting to serve in the Baltimore area helped create the Center for Community Service and Justice. As a result, Project Mexico transformed Loyola College, and without it, the same amount of service activity would not exist.
This year, over sixty applications were received for Project Mexico. After much consideration, eighteen students were chosen, consisting of sophomores, juniors, and seniors, along with two student leaders and three faculty members.
The first auction took place in 1991 and auctioned around forty items. Today the auction sells over 260 items, including football tickets, weekend vacations, dinner with Father Linnane, and Princeton Review classes. To keep the crowd entertained there are performances by the Belles and Chimes, as well as a Mexican buffet. In addition to the activities inside McGuire Hall, there is a silent auction in the hallway. These auction items include all different categories, from art to household appliances to sporting apparel.
A partner to Project Mexico is Encounter El Salvador. This international immersion program takes place in El Salvador for ten days, following graduation in May. Nine undergraduate students, four graduate students, faculty, and two co-coordinators experience this chance in a lifetime. This program has a similar mission statement to Project Mexico, to foster personal growth, but also understand the Salvadorian’s struggle for justice and the trauma from the war.
Project Mexico and Encounter El Salvador encourage the students to be open-minded and see the world through new eyes, similar to how Viola has a new view of the world when she impersonates a man, Cesario. The Loyola students are removed from their natural surroundings, their comfort zone, and placed in a new environment. Viola wants to conceal her identity and disguise herself as a servant for Duke. She is a noble and has placed herself in a new environment, serving a fellow nobleman. Being placed in a new environment, whether in Mexico or Illyria, leads to life altering experiences.

The Room

Every week I travel to Don Miller House, and I am able to spend time with my friend Dee Dee. We play all different types of games, and usually following a similar routine. We often spend our time sitting at the dining room table, but one night I had to follow Dee Dee upstairs to help her carry her laundry to the basement. This was a strange experience because I had never been to the upper level of the house, where the personal rooms of the residents are located.
Although my journey to the second floor was a simple one, it gave me a completely different view, of how Dee Dee and her housemates live. As we ran up the narrow staircase we made a quick turn into a very tiny bedroom. The room did not seem to fit Dee Dee, because she is so vibrant and full of life. The room was shallow in length but even more drastic to the eye, was the width of the room. With the tiny twin bed parallel to the wall, there was hardly enough room for both me and Dee to stand. Even though Dee Dee was smiling, because she was glad to show me her personal space, I suddenly became sad. I guess the people living at Don Miller House have much to be thankful for, because they have a roof over their head, and delicious food every night, but in that moment I felt they deserved more. Dee Dee’s room was so small; I felt that it must be hard for her to maneuver. The lighting was also dim which added to the eerie feeling that was hanging over me.
As I stood awkwardly in Dee Dee’s special place, I noticed a manger that was sitting on her dresser. When I looked closer, I realized that my family has the very same manger, which we place under our Christmas tree every year. I was delighted and told Dee Dee my interesting fact. Her eyes lit up and she told me she wanted me to have the manger. I am not sure if she understood what I meant. Maybe she thought that I really loved the manger, and wanted to have it for my own. Of course I was only pointing out that we had the same one. Nonetheless the excitement in her eyes was incredible. She was willing to give me one of the very few things that she owned. Most people I know are not too good at sharing, but Dee Dee was going beyond anything I ever could imagine. Her generosity and kindness, even if she did not realize, blew me away. Although it was a simple action it made me smile, despite the small dark room I was standing in.
As I read William Shakespeare Twelfth Night, the treatment of Malvolio reminded me of this experience in a twisted way. Obviously Malvolio and Dee Dee do not have similar personalities or character traits, but they both have been locked up in a dark small room. Even though Malvolio is arrogant, and only concerned with money and power, he is still innocent. Everyone in the play is making him out to be a lunatic, who deserves to be locked up, but he did find a letter. Malvolio may be a bit troubled and he might need to straighten out his priorities, but no one deserves to be shut in the darkness. The people working for Don Miller House, are not choosing to “lock up” their residents, but I do feel that society has put a taint on the disease AIDS. Over the years HIV/AIDS, has been a disease that not may people have understood. Before society understood how it spread, certain groups of people were singled out. In today’s world it is clear that anyone can be affected, but that does not stop people from feeling threatened. Although Shakespeare creates Malvolio in a malignant fashion, I still found sympathy for him at the end of they play. It is easier to find compassion for my friends at Don Miller house. Dee Dee and her friends are innocent, but society has chosen to place them in a distance and dark room.

Unity Pledge Forum & Twelfth Night

On November 17 at 8pm, in the 4th floor programming room, I attended a forum on Loyola College’s Unity Pledge. The pledge was made by a group of students and administrators to bring respect and unity to Loyola College as well as to the community surrounding us. The pledge involves “upholding human dignity by respecting one’s ethnicity, religion, gender, class, etc.” The initiative of the pledge is to promote interconnection. The forum involved the Vice President of Policy for SGA, Omani Guy, who introduced seven of Loyola’s students to speak about issues they have encountered. All seven students were involved with either discrimination against their race, sex, or sexual orientation. Others were involved with, an online gossip site involving almost every campus in the nation.

The main point of the forum was for students at Loyola College to speak up about problems they have encountered on campus, and to share their emotions with other students at the forum. The purpose of this was to encourage and initiate respect on campus and in the community in order to bring unity between Loyola students and administrators. As a Jesuit institution, we are encouraged to help others and respect all no matter what the circumstance.
The forum itself was extremely emotional and deeply connected to the audience. For example, a student spoke about her life as an immigrant, growing up in a Caucasian family and neighborhood. She explained that she was discriminated against her entire life and people at Loyola, even her friends, continue to make comments about her culture. Although I am only half Hispanic, I am a minority as well and so topic deeply related to me. The audience was able to speak up themselves after the seven students. One by one, people stood to share their own thoughts about unity and respect at Loyola, and how many things need to change before we can all be united.

The reading, “Twelfth Night,” by William Shakespeare can relate to the Unity Forum because both involve respect and harmony. In “Twelfth Night” the characters are all tangled together love triangles, disguises, and more. The moral of the entire Unity Pledge is to have respect and love for one another. In the reading, there are many characters that don’t have respect, such as Malvolio, who only is concerned with himself and his own worth. People like him are the ones in which the Unity Pledge is supposed to reach out to. The pledge is aimed to allow people to be more like the characters of the clown and Viola/ Cesario, who always tell the truth about others and themselves. Most people put others down in order to make themselves feel better, such as Malvolio did. Ambition is a big theme in “Twelfth Night,” and ambition is what usually makes others treat others without respect in order to get what they want. The Unity Pledge is something that was created so that all will be respected and so that we can all learn to live and grow with one another.

Twelfth Night and Care Packages

Today I went to the Ed Society meeting to help put together care packages for teens who are going to be spending the holidays in the hospital. They spend their holidays at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center and most have chronic or serious illnesses. The Ed Society, along with Grateful Giving decided to donate to teens because most donations go to smaller children. We made packages with games, cards, art supplies and other miscellaneous toys. People donated things they believed teens would enjoy. We also included little messages in the packages and signed our names, just to add a personal touch. It was a little sad that we had to wipe down the containers with disinfecting spray because of the teens' weak immune systems. It made me feel grateful to have my health and spend the holidays with my family. I really hope that the kids enjoy these packages and that it brightens up their time in the hospital a little.

I was able to see a connection between making the care packages and Twelfth Night. In Act III, Scene IV, Sir Andrew wants to fight Cesario for Olivia. Sir Toby keeps egging Sir Andrew on, hoping for some entertainment. Cesario, really Viola, tries to get out of the fight but ends up drawing her sword. Antonio, thinking she is Sebastian, comes to her aid. This made me think of the members of the Ed Society who spent their time and money to create awesome care packages. While it may not be as extreme as risking your life for someone, as Antonio does for Viola and Sebastian numerous times, the Ed Society is still trying to do their best to help out those who are sick. We don't get to deliver the packages to the teens because of their immune systems, so we won't even get to see their reactions. But hoping that they feel a little bit happier because of what we made is, at least for me, enough reason to do it. Antonio doesn't have to protect Sebastian, but he is his loyal friend and Antonio does all he can to serve him. Their friendship is his reason for saving Sebastian's life during the wreck and accompanying him to Illyria.

The loyalty and dedication of Antonio's character to Sebastian is juxtaposed to many of the other characters in the play who use each other. Sir Toby uses his "friend" Sir Andrew to continue his drinking spree and as entertainment. He lies and puts Sir Andrew in harm's way to get what he wants. Maria plays a joke on Malvolio to entertain herself and Sir Toby, which causes Malvolio to be locked away and deemed a madman. These characters are the complete opposite of Antonio as they exploit those who are supposed to be their friends. It displays two ends of the spectrum; how malicious and mean people can be and also how giving and generous others are. I'm glad Loyola is filled with generous people, like the members of the Ed Society who donate to those who are less fortunate

Project Mexico and Twelfth Night

On Thursday November 20th I went to the Project Mexico Auction, it was an auction in McGuire Hall to support the group from Loyola participating this winter. The auction was fun, with a lot of great items and taco’s! But, it also allowed me to learn a lot about the immersion trip and how it originally started here at Loyola. Even though I am only a freshman, this auction made me aware and interested so that I can participate, or at least look into going on the trip next year as a sophomore. This kind of auction is the exact type of event that promotes Jesuit education. The thrill and fun aspect of the auction brought all types of students here to unite and learn, as well as raise money for a great group trip on campus.

From the research that I did I found out a lot about the origin of Project Mexico. Project Mexico, a 10-day service immersion program in Tijuana and Tecate, Mexico. It began in 1987, founded by two Jesuits here named, Peter Clark, and Joseph Koterski, ironically enough it was almost by accident. Father Clark wanted to give his students a first-hand experience with justice and had planned, along with Father Koterski, a trip to Haiti where a group of students and staff would work in a hospital for HIV-AIDS patients. Because of violence in that country the United States took away the groups visa. Then the group an opportunity to work in Tijuana, Mexico at a place called Casa de Los Pobres, or "the House for the Poor." After this trip, Project Mexico was born.

This immersion trip, as long as the promoting the core values of Jesuit education go along well with many of the readings we have done in this class. Specifically now while reading the Twelfth Night it brings up questions of loyalty and service. Similarly to many of the characters in this book students at Loyola are trying to help Mexico. I realize that it is a different type of loyalty but Viola and Sebastian are loyal and dedicated just like us today.
Just a couple of hour ago, i attended the awareness meeting for HIV and AID's globally. There was a speaker from the Catholic Relief Services to help explain it on the bigger picture and to give many statistics. it was a very eye opener meeting and educating me on all the new information.
CRS is funded by the US government and supplies care to millions of people all over the world. CRS drops food to places in desperate need and help them to plant crop that will last through disease and are long term. This is the first function that the CRS was started for. In 1981 they started providing care, prevention and treatment of HIV and AID's. They work with over two hundred partners in over 9 countries that are funded by the the UN. 
In the past few years the percentage of people getting HIV and AIDS has decreased a significant amount. The number of people not getting treatment has decrease "four-folded". Women are still the biggest percentage of the HIV and AID's carriers but that can easily be explained by them being more susceptible/ likely to catching it. Africa also is still the dominant area in desperate need for help and with the most agencies over there. 
At the end of the lecture, the speaker was telling us of what we could do and it reminded me of our jesuit education. being educated about other area's around the world and the problems troubling them is what we try to acquire in our jesuit education. She mentioned how we should be praying for them as often as possible because there are so many people with HIV and AID's that aren't able to receive help and the families and communities around them as well. It is our duty as catholics and students of the jesuit education, we should help send money to the CRS. At the least we could send letters to our congress to make sure that these agencies receive the money that has been promised to them by President Bush.

The Power of an Illusion

Last Monday night a screening of the film "Race: The Power of an Illusion" was shown in Knott Hall. The film analyzed the origins and implications of the widely accepted concept of race in a unique way, by approaching the problem from an objective, scientific point of view. The main claim of the film was that despite variations in skin color and other physical attributes, every human being shares nearly the exact same DNA. By presenting such concrete proof that racial differences really serve nothing more than superficiality, it is hard to deny that racism has no place in the world. Although many people strive for racial equality, racism and other forms of prejudices continue to pervade the minds of the world. This film is revolutionary in many ways. It provides indisputable evidence that race is ambiguous, something created by humans. In addition to the screening of the film, organizers of the event shared with the crowd some real life stories of how racial prejudices can harm peoples` lives.
The real question posed by the film is whether or not we are going to allow ourselves to be subjected to the illusion that is race while convincing ourselves that certain things (especially negative things) are attributable to race. After reading the opening acts of Shakespeare`s "Twelfth Night" I made a conncection between it and the film. The importance and attention to disguise, or an illusion of appearance, is quickly recognized. When in disguise, the characters act in ways different than they would had they been dressed normally. Although the Clown in "Twelfth Night" is not exactly "in disguise" he is dressed in a manner that causes others to make presuppositions about his character. However, the foolish exterior of the clown proves to be only skin deep. Throughout the play, the Clown continually makes seemingly profound, philosophical or educated remarks. Moreover, it turns out that the Clown is the most truthful of all the characters. From this, the idea that exterior features show little about the true fabric of a person emerges.
The concept of looking past exterior features can be directly and effectively applied to race relations. Someone`s skin color or complexion has little to do with their internal beliefs. There are a number of holes in the logic of race. For instance, how many races are there? Possibilities range from two (black and white) all the way to thousands or millions (1 for even the slightest variation in complexion). Especially in today`s world, it is important for people to be able to look for similarities in people rather than creating differences.
Some striking similarities, on the genetic level, between races were revealed in the film. It documented an experiment in which teenagers if varying sex and race came together and examined samples of their own DNA. Every teen hypothesized that their DNA would be most similar to that of the person who was most similar to them in appearance. To their surprise, and my own, almost every sample revealed the most similarities between people who appeared physically different. For example, a black girl`s DNA was most similar to that of a white boy. A related fact is that within racial populations there exists the same if not more variation than between different populations.
Unfortunately, over the centuries, racism has become ingrained in the world. It seems that people tended to seek explanation to physical differences and make them account for more than what they really are. This film effectively sheds light upon the truth of the matter concerning racial differences. Disguises are all around us, and are sometimes so effective that it takes science to uncover them. Whether it be the false creation of race or Viola dressing as a man, disguises almost always hide people from the truth. No matter the severity of the truth or the magnitude of the disguise, false assumptions will almost always be made based on exterior appearance. I believe that the filmmakers` intent with "Race: The Power of an Illusion" was to communicate that no matter how accepted something may be in society, it may be based on false assumptions. Preventing negative effects of false assumptions can only be achieved by seeing past the disguise.

Christopher Place and 12th Night

This Monday, I continued my work at the Christopher Place Employment Center, located at Our Daily Bread in downtown Baltimore. The center takes in homeless men and teaches them basic employment skills. As a volunteer, I help the men to search for job opportunities on the web, create resumes, and eventually contact employers. At the beginning of my three hour shift on Monday, it was unusually slow for the center. Because of this, I ended up getting into a conversation with one of my fellow volunteers, Dave. Dave is probably around 55 or 60 years old, and has worked at the center for a number of years. When talking to Dave, I found out a little bit about what his life was like. Dave is currently employed as a carpenter and actually obtained this job through Christopher Place. He then said that he comes in on Mondays because it was his day off from work. I was shocked, to say the very least. Here, working beside me, was a real life success story for Christopher Place. He said that the center helped him out when he was down on his luck and he wants to help give that opportunity to the other men that use their services. This interaction was so rewarding for me, and really was a great way for me to start my day at the center.

Because it was a slow day at Christopher Place, I really only had one “customer.” His name was Ed, and I needed to help him revise a previous resume so that he could apply for a position at a home that helps young boys who don’t really have a strong home life. In working with Ed, I really saw that he had tremendous passion for this cause and it seemed to come from the fact that he didn’t have the best life growing up. He talked about how he wanted to be a role model for the youth he would be serving and about how this would not only be a positive thing for the boys but a positive thing for him as well. In putting down all of his work experience, I saw that he had a very diverse past. He graduated high school in 1984 and has worked locally in Baltimore as a handyman for almost 25 years. He was recently laid off from his latest position, so he decided to make a career change. He said that he began to think about the change because of positive experiences that he has had coaching boys’ basketball teams in the past. Ed said that his skills as a handyman will probably help him to get hired, but he really wants his new position to be about helping the underprivileged youth.

Ed’s passion and interest in his new position reminded me of an exchange between Viola and the Clown that happened in Act III, Scene I. In the scene, Viola says to the Clown “I warrant thou art a merry fellow and carest for nothing.” This reminded me of the preconceived notions that most people have about the men that use the resources of the Employment Center, myself included. Before going in, I didn’t know what types of jobs that I would be helping these men obtain. I figured that they would be a “take what you can get” mentality, looking to accept whatever entry level job that would hire them. But, I was completely wrong. These men are all passionate, and really search hard for jobs that they cannot only get, but ones that they can flourish in. I must say that I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that every guy that comes into the Employment Center brings with them a passion for employment. This attitude has definitely rubbed off on me, and makes me that much happier and motivated to help assist them in not only finding a job, but finding them a career.

Thanksgiving Food Drive

On Saturday November 22, I took part in the Thanksgiving Food Drive that was done by multiple Center for Community Service and Justice programs with the one here at Loyola College.  Throughout the month of November, CCSJ was receive donations of canned goods and other non-perishable items that could be collected in order to be distributed at the food drive over at the CARES Food Pantry ten minutes away from campus.  They would also buy turkeys to give out with the other goods as well.  Then once Thanksgiving was around the corner, CARES would distribute packages of food based on the number of people that were in a certain person had to feed for the holiday and receive a set amount of food based off of that.

The handing out of the packages was where I came in.  I had first learned about the Thanksgiving Food Drive through my FE 100, First-Year Experience, class.  As part of the course, everyone was to take part in some sort of service project to possibly help get us involved and active in the service program here at Loyola.  Partially because I was so busy for most of the year and part I wanted to do something interesting for this, I signed myself up to work for the food drive.  In my senior year of high school, I had worked at a soup kitchen multiple times for my service project to graduate and had enjoyed it very much helped to feed people that were in need.  I figured this would be very similar just that when I handed them the food, they would start digging in on it right away. 

As myself and three other freshmen at Loyola made our way over to CARES, we introduced ourselves and were ready for a few hours of helping out many people in the surrounding area for the Thanksgiving holiday.  We got out of the car to be greeted by a bone chilling cold atmosphere.  Once being told how everything was going to work we awaited for the people to come and pick-up their packages.  My job was the unpack the ice cold turkeys from the boxes and help put them into plastic bags to hand out to the people, then break down the boxes.  After a while, holding frozen turkeys in your hands starts to make them hurt and you lose sensation in them.  It was kind of interesting to see how some of the people were reacting to receive the packages.  I thought that everyone was going to be happy and in a good mood that they were receiving some help in this time.  Don’t get me wrong, most people were happy and very thankful to be getting it, but there were others that were sort of nasty.  I was thinking like they seem as though they deserve this food and that we should be giving it out faster.  It was just annoying to see how ungrateful some people can be when it comes to service.  Then there was one woman who I remember who was so ecstatic about receiving a package.  Since there was only a certain amount of people that the pantry could give food out to, some people were told to come at three o’clock to possibly pick up a package that was not claimed.  This woman had come before three ready to be first to get one if she could.  When the woman was told she would be receiving one, she latched onto the director of the food drive sobbing, and repeating over and over again “Thank you, thank you.”  This display of overjoyed is similar to in “Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare, when Viola and Sebastian finally realize that it is their sibling and that neither of them is dead.  The excitement that both this woman and the characters from “Twelfth Night” must have felt must have been truly an amazing thing to experience. 

Overall, the Thanksgiving Food Drive was a very rewarding experience to help bring some aid to those in need in such a wonderful time near the holidays.  I hope to continue with this food drive and any other food drives local as well.   

Monday, December 1, 2008

Last Blog. St. Mary's

This first semester at Loyola, I volunteered at Saint Mary’s; at the beginning of the semester I was not planning in participating in any community service since I did not know what college was going to be like, but I decided to do it to see more about what surrounded Loyola. Saint Mary’s school provides education to many kids of the Loyola area; their parents have enrolled them here because public schools are not as safe as they would want them to be. I helped a group of students with their homework; they were all different ages and in different classes. Helping the students here is very challenging, but I learned a lot from this experience.
It was very hard for me to keep the students focused on their work. Some of them got distracted very easily, and some of them did not do homework at all. I created different ways to keep them focused by lowering the amount of distractions and asking them to take out all the work they had. This worked most of the days, but it was still really hard. I enjoyed it a lot because it was very challenging and I learned about all the trouble that teachers go through to teach these children even though they have the knowledge to actually educate them.
This entire semester I have heard that students at Loyola College participate at different community service events. Many people came to St. Mary’s with me and I got to know a few of them. The Jesuit education at Loyola has taught us to give service without expecting anything back; I see it as giving back what we have gotten from society itself. By doing this kind of work we learn about the city we live in, especially if we come from other places other than Baltimore. Also by participating in community service events we not only help others, but we learn and meet people; we feel better about whom we are as humans.
After reading “Twelfth Night or, what you will” by Shakespeare, we see one of many confusions that happen in society. Sometimes we see strange things happening in the world and we wonder why they happen. It is always unknown, but we also learn that to every action, there is a reaction. Every time we do something nice for others, we will receive something nice, and vice versa. It is always good to stay true to yourself and give service to those who really need it.
Even though I only went to Saint Mary’s once a week, I met many kids who enjoy learning disregarding their situation. Like I wrote in one of my previous blogs, we learn from every experience we have, it is part of our Jesuit education at Loyola. The purpose of providing service is for us to become better rounded and to realize that we have to get out of the so called “bubble” and experience what other people live like. Volunteering at St. Mary’s gave me another perception of Loyola and Baltimore, I learned about the challenges that many people have every day, and I realized how comfortable our lives are in our bubble. We should get out of our comfort zone and help those who really need it.