Cleveland Immersion Retreat, May 30-June 5, 2019
Sophia Piazza '20
The Cleveland Immersion trip was such an amazing experience that positively impacted me and the way I view my home and the people around it. This immersion was very eye-opening because it allowed me to see what is occurring so close to where I live. During the immersion we went to several different places in Cleveland, many of which I didn’t even know existed! We visited several locations that allowed us to be part of a community, learn new things that were relevant to current events, and connect with individuals that had a different way of living than my own. We visited a few urban farms, a recovery home for people living with addiction, a culinary school for people who were formerly incarcerated, and many other amazing places. The main goal of these visits were to interact with the people we encounter and experience what others are going through, while making a connection with them. During our visits we met many incredible people who shared their wisdom and knowledge with us. It was a very beautiful and humbling experience to be able to interact with so many people I otherwise would not usually have a chance to converse with. It was also very inspiring to meet so many wonderful people who had been through so much, but came out triumphant and more determined than ever to live a meaningful life.
One experience that specifically impacted me was meeting two women living at The Edna House. They spoke about their experiences and their lives before seeking help at the Edna house, which is a recovery home for women who are suffering from alcohol or drug addiction. The two women that we met shared their stories with us of how they became addicted to drugs and alcohol and also how they came to find The Edna House. Both of their stories were heart wrenching and at times very difficult to listen to, but they allowed me to realize that anyone can fall into alcohol or drug addiction. They also opened my eyes to the consequences and realities that many people who are addicted face every day. One thing I really loved about this specific experience was the hope that resulted from their stories. Both of these women went through very difficult periods in their life, but are now achieving their goals and doing things they never thought possible! One woman we talked to is currently living at The Edna House recovering, and the other used to live at The Edna House and came back to work there! I thought that this was amazing because she can encourage and uplift other women who are going through the same things she went through and help them realize what a wonderful future is possible.
U.S./Mexico Border Immersion Retreat, June 2-8, 2019
Fiona Evans '20
At the beginning of June, I was fortunate enough to go on an immersion trip to the U.S/Mexico border with eight other students. Going into this experience, I had no idea what to expect. Although I had a passion for social justice and equity, I had little knowledge of the immigration laws and history of our country with regards to this issue. I chose to go on this immersion because I wanted to listen to and learn from people who have personal stories relating to their experiences with migration, and I wanted to become more educated on this incredibly complex process. I am so incredibly thankful for this experience, and I couldn’t have asked for a more eye-opening week.
The border immersion is very much an educational experience rather than a hands-on and physical experience. Much of the week consisted of listening to different groups such as Pronet, The Florence Project, and Mariposas Sin Fronteras, amongst many others. These groups would talk to us for about an hour and explain the work they do and why they do it, as well as sharing personal stories about the migration process. One of the most frustrating things for me is there is no simple fix to immigration, and that there seems to be nothing that a young person who lives 2,000 miles away from the border can do to help. While it is true that one person cannot individually fix the whole system and make it more accessible, there are many ways in which we can help. Listening to these different groups who all addressed very different parts of the immigration process, I realized that the complexity of this issue also provides countless opportunities for involvement. There are many groups that accept small donations that address a variety of needs, including free legal services, sanctuary, humanitarian aid, and much more. Although it may not feel like much to give just $5, everything matters, and there could be a large impact if everybody gave a little.
While on the immersion retreat, we had many opportunities to encounter things first hand. We saw the border wall, sat in court during Operation Streamline, and visited local businesses such as Cafe Justo and Blueberry Cafe that practice fair trade and focus on creating opportunities for people living in the border community. The experience that resonated most with me was when we visited C.A.M.E, which is a center that houses families currently seeking asylum. We got the chance to have breakfast with some of these families and learn more about the asylum process. Although there was a slight language barrier, we were able to feel the struggles and pain that these people felt. Most families had very young children with them, and had to flee their homes due to dangerous situations that threatened their families. The vast majority of asylum seekers don’t get their case granted, and it is a long and difficult process that can take several years before a verdict is reached. Being with these families made something that we hear about so much in the media feel much more real, and I was able to see my family and the people I love in the faces of these people.
Going on the border immersion opened my eyes and my heart to the harsh realities that so many people face on the border. Seeing the border and interacting with the community that lives on both sides of the wall, as well as meeting with people who are undocumented or are currently seeking asylum has transformed how I view immigration and the dialogue that comes along with it. To me, it is much more of a humanitarian issue than it is a political issue. Nobody wants to leave their homes, and migration is often times a necessary means for survival. I feel so fortunate to have been able to go on this immersion, and I know that I will use what I learned during this week throughout my whole life.
Ecuador Immersion Retreat, June 24-July 1, 2019
Lindsey Knapik '20
Before the immersion retreat, I was completely unaware of the culture, lifestyle, and reality of a person living in Monte Sinai, Ecuador. Although the internet was able to provide some information, it was not the same as having a firsthand experience. During my time in Ecuador, I realized that while we are living our daily lives in the United States, people in other places are facing hardships bigger than we could ever imagine. I gained the knowledge of the importance of living in solidarity with others. Throughout the retreat, we went on several neighborhood visits, where the people of Monte Sinai opened not only their homes to us, but their hearts too. We were able to listen to the stories, challenges, and miracles of others. I am always going to be grateful for the immersion retreat for showing me how important it is to hear what other people have to say.
One encounter that was very meaningful to me was meeting a woman named Monica. As soon as we got to Monica’s home, we were instantly welcomed by her family. Monica shared her story and inspired me personally to make a change in my life. I felt a special connection with Monica because of her kindness and her love for her family. I was able to have a conversation with Monica about how I wanted to make changes in my life and how much insight I had gained from just witnessing things with my own eyes. Monica encouraged me to start caring and to act upon the changes I wanted to make. I could relate to Monica in the sense that I would do anything for my family, just like she has. Monica has risked a lot for her family and continues to care endlessly for them.
Overall, I am so blessed to have been able to use this opportunity to discover more about the world I am living in. I have grown stronger in my faith throughout this experience, and was able to come to an understanding of what God calls us to do in life. I am thankful to have met the wonderful people of Monte Sinai.