Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day One Volunteering

Today in our group had a very full day. In the morning we went to Little Black Pearl, to work with high school students. In the evening we went to the Veteran Arts Project. We worked with both young and old, and both experiences were enlightening to all of us.

Little Black Pearl is an organization in Chicago which provides arts opportunities to area youth. This week, while schools are on Spring break, they are having a program for high school students to create art about violence. We watched a video there, which told us that this year around 30 students in Chicago have been killed from gun violence, many as innocent bystanders. We will be going back to LBP tomorrow and Wednesday, but today we were just getting orientated to the program and meeting the students. We did an ice breaker in which students would step into the middle of the circle if a statement applied to them. For example, we might say "step forward if you have an older sibling". What was surprising for most of us, was when we asked students to step forward if they knew anyone who was in a gang. The kids almost laughed that we even had to ask, and every student stepped into the circle. Later we reflected on that, and how their experiences are similar and different to our own high schools.

In the evening, our discussion with the veterans became another time for us to reflect on our own experiences. Each person at the event had 25 minutes to make a collage about how war affected us. The stories the veterans told us were moving, and enlightening. Each person who shared their collage had a different story or point of view to share, and it was fascinating to hear the stories. We were hoping to have more time to talk to the veterans; it seemed like the time went by so fast. What we learned, though, were ways to open up conversations with veterans, and the rules for how to receive those stories. This will enable us to create better communication with people in the future.

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