why service learning matters.

· “Faith without deeds is dead.”

· What’s the point of learning if you are not going to USE it?
· Responsible citizenship
· Action = good, reflection = better...
· Humanity – connections – relationships

· ‘Working towards a more peaceable world’
– Beyond Borders tagline

· What we OUGHT to do (Ought vs. Is)
· Morality
· Calling, purpose
· Sense of duty

· ‘Once you know what justice is, you have the obligation to act.’

· Idea of a social contract, norms, values...
· Belonging (greater sense of community?)
· Tasks of ethics (describe/prescribe)
· Taking time to understand a problem, better able to arrive at an appropriate solution... ?
· Engaging in dialogue, finding your own voice. allowing others to do the same
· Solidarity

(a note to Joanne... these are some initial thoughts and ideas, please do not consider this my 'final!' Thanks/dyakuju.)


because it's good for us.

quickly checking in before I call it a night...
so much to do, so little time! (see list above. yiiiiiikes.)
forty six days til departure. eeeeeeee!

I met with Ruby this morning to film (as if she doesn't have enough on her plate right now - she is putting together a video for the BB program...!), and we both realized that we're grateful for the eight-months-plus of preparation that we gain through our classes at St. Jerome's as well as the seminars.

By this point, most of us just want to board that plane and GO. Myself included. But looking back, I think that the coursework of this program really is an important ingredient (I can hear my class groaning as I write this... uh huh), providing us with the tools for making sense of, and making the most of, our volunteer placements abroad this summer. We have been challenged and surprised this far - without leaving home. Personally, I've come a long way since Scott intially terrified us with lectures on lifeboat ethics, The Plague, and the dreaded Pedagogy of the Oppressed... and am trying to find the proper words to describe the growth (academically and otherwise) I've experienced over the last few months.

Simply put: think of those lectures and readings as Buckley's cough medicine... tasting nasty but working like a charm, doing their job to make us better (responsible) students and citizens. (How's that for a plug?! ...SJU Development Office - watch out, here I come!)


through our ordinary actions...

Somehow, I managed to finish reading Jean Vanier's Encountering 'the Other' over the past weekend (mind you, it is a mere 62 pages long). Various chapters focus on concepts of trust, forfeiting power, disabilities and inequalities, fear, listening and communication, peace, celebrating differences, as well as reconciliation and change.

Reflecting on these concepts could turn into a series of blog entries, as I've made more notes on this book than I have taken in certain classes this term. In short, I encourage anyone involved with Beyond Borders and anyone with an interest in social justice to read Encountering 'the 'Other.' (And hey, it's only 62 pages!) Vanier stresses the importance of relationships, of community, of encountering what we do not know. He beautifully writes that 'to live is to risk,' that overcoming fear can change our lives in unimaginable ways. As I prepare for my time in Ukraine, this is encouraging - I hope to embrace the bumps and pitfalls of this journey just as much as the excitement and the highlights. I fear that the truth is, no matter what I do, I will not be prepared for what I will encounter. This is just a plain and simple reality. All the awareness and research I could ever do between now and my departure will still leave me at a loss in Ternopil. I don't think that I can fully comprehend or realize how I will be changed by the time I return home mid-August.

“If people have a toothache, you don’t just pray for him or her; you take them to a good dentist. And Jesus says to us: It’s up to you to do something about it,
but I will give you my spirit.
I’ll give you a new force, a new strength, and a new wisdom
so that you can break down the dividing walls of hostility.’

It’s up to you and me, but God will give us strength if we open our hearts to Him and ask for that strength. We hear about the presence of God in the stories that are told of people struggling to bring peace. God trusts us so much and loves us so much; He wants us to become men and women who can receive forgiveness and give forgiveness, who can receive wisdom and give wisdom. Jesus kneeling before his disciples is a revelation of Jesus kneeling at our feet saying,
‘I trust you, I believe in you, I love you’ and
calling us to stand up and to work for love.”
- Encountering 'the Other,' page 61.

Most of us have been drawn to Beyond Borders because, in some way, we hope to break out of the ordinary, out of of the comfortable lives that we have here in Waterloo. We hope to be able to make a positive difference in a completely different culture, as crazy and/or naive that sounds. Over the past semester, I have read about the works of Jean Vanier, of Mother Teresa, of Marc and Craig Kielberger, and of Shane Claiborne (founder of the Simple Way, author of The Irresistable Revolution). These individuals have also lived as 'ordinary radicals,' each having a profound impact on the lives of others.

As a class, we have been told (warned?) that we are not going to single handedly change the communities that we will enter into this summer. That our various experiences will more than likely have a larger influence on our own lives than the lives of those we will encounter in Ukraine, in Ghana, in Ecuador, or in Honduras. But part of me is (naively) hoping for something bigger, hoping that through our ordinary actions we will have opportunities to empower those around us to make greater changes.

Mother Teresa did 'small things with great love,' Jean Vanier humbly lived among the disabled and the broken, the Kielberger brothers continue to promote children's rights, and Shane Claiborne has spent time in Iraq, India, and Philadelphia passionately pursuing social justice and ideals of the early church. I think that we have more power than we realize, that small changes really do add up and eventually have a greater impact than we are initially aware of.

“Have we forgotten that Jesus is kneeling at our feet asking us to serve each other just where we are?”

- Jean Vanier.


quote of the day, v. III

"I know that God will not give me anything
that I cannot handle.

I only wish that He didn't trust me so much."

- Mother Teresa


undiscovered europe: ukraine

this video was put together by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Ukraine... definitely worthwhile and informative!


let me be naive.

Others involved with Beyond Borders may have questioned their motives and reasoning for applying by this point in the game. I honestly haven’t doubted my commitment (yet), while there are a few ‘what ifs?’ worrying me, I strongly believe that I will not regret my BB experience. I initially applied to the program because I had always wanted to participate in some sort of international exchange while in university, and it seemed like the perfect combination of education, travel, and service opportunities. In addition to a personal curiosity towards social action and justice (I’m an SDS major, after all), I figured I would learn more in a three month placement overseas than I could ever gain in a classroom.

I can safely assume that we all hope that our experiences this summer will make a difference, and that we will in turn be positively changed. Maybe even have a significant impact on a community that is not our own. I joke about wanting to save the world, and there is truth in that. I realize that I am just one person, I will only be a part of Internat life for a mere three months, and that I will not be able to overcome the intense social stigmatization of the disabled that exists in Ukraine. Who am I to think that I can move mountains?! I have high hopes, and I fear that they will come crashing down while in Ternopil.

I know better than to assume that I can single-handedly save the girls of the Internat, let alone the rest of the world. I know that I will become angered by and frustrated with the strong stigmatization existing in Ukraine, so strong that anyone with a disability is not to be seen in public. I know that my heart will break, while I am in Ternopil and again when I return home, for those who have been abandoned and who lack a family. I know that I will become attached to some of the girls more than others, and that there will be days when I will not want to go to my placement because of my frustrations. I know that I will feel like I am not contributing, that my time there is pointless. While I know it is going to help me, expecting the negative aspects ahead of time, I occasionally want to ignore this awareness – just let me be naive, let me go into this with the best of intentions and high spirits, intent on positive change. Let me be naive, assuming that my work will be valued and that others will find it beneficial.

But – Myroslaw told Jessica and I that we are ‘building on success’ (...No pressure, right?!). Since his first visit to Ternopil a few years back, progress has in fact been made. Myroslaw is personally responsible for the existing partnership between the pedagogical university in Ternopil, the Internat, and Beyond Borders/St. Jerome’s University. He has been a source of invaluable encouragement and advice, for which I am incredibly appreciative (as is Jessica!). In the four years that BB students have worked in the Internat, social stereotypes have taken baby steps forward. Ukrainian students at the pedagogical university were stunned that Canadians had come to love the ‘unlovable,’ and according to Myroslaw, are slowly beginning to work together with the Internat staff. This is absolutely huge in a society where parents intentionally abandon their disabled children – simply for being born imperfect, 'defective'.

I only hope that I will make the most of my time and in Ternopil, that I will not be discouraged, and that Jessica and I will be able to assist the Internat staff. I pray that my heart will have enough room to fall in love with each child of the Internat!


the great divide.


· More likely to identify selves as ethnically Ukrainian

· In the past, has been under the political rule of Poland, Lithuania, Austria, and Romania

· Due to history, Western Ukrainians under a more liberal rule, a more tolerant political environment... therefore greater freedom to develop own political and social institutions

· Rural, less development

· Lower population density compared to the East

· Highly value ties with the European Union


· Throughout much of Eastern Ukraine’s history,
citizens were under the rule of tsarist Russia

· Eastern Ukrainians lived under a repressive political
system in the past (Russian/Soviet control)

· Left wing political systems in place throughout history –
Communist, Socialist roots

· Therefore more industrialized, urban

· Higher population density in comparison to the West

· Many people in the East continue to speak Russian rather than Ukrainian

· Maintaining ties to Russia is of higher importance (left wing tendencies)


let the countdown begin.

After meeting with Myroslaw Tataryn
(the dean and vice-president of St. Jerome's), Jessica and I now have a departure date set in place. We will be on our way to Ternopil in 62 days! The plan is to fly out of Toronto on May 9th, and we will stop in Vienna and Lviv before finally arriving in Ternopil to meet our host families on May 10th. Our language classes at the Hnatiuk Pedagogical University will begin immediately on the Monday (May 11th), and continue for three weeks. I feel that now that we know the 'official' departure date, a huge step forward has been taken. It's strange that having a set date makes the entire journey seem more realistic or believable; now we're able to put a deadline on those pesky to do lists and circle the date on our calendars as it is no longer up in the air. The trick now will be attempting to manage the anticipation (and nerves) for the next 62 days... trying to focus!


quote of the day, v. II

"...When we encounter, we come to know.
When we come to know, we are able to understand.
When we understand, healing and peace can really grow.
Peace cannot be imposed by politicians or churches.
Peace has to grow within each person if it is to endure.
Our society can only be healed when each person in it is healed.
That healing comes not from avoidance or seperation, but from encountering."

Jean Vanier, Encountering 'the Other'

This concept of encountering the unfamiliar ties in especially well with the basic themes of Beyond Borders, as several of us will be attending a lecture on the life and service of Jean Vanier on March 6th at St. Jerome's. A number of the placements offered through Intercordia Canada are within the various L'Arche communities established by Jean Vanier. L'Arche aims to build solidarity, providing a voice and opportunities to those living with various disabilities.


quote of the day.

"some stories don't have a
clear beginning, middle, and end.
life is about not knowing, having to change,
taking the moment and making the best of it,
without knowing what's going to happen next.
delicious ambiguity... "

- gilda radner.

first impressions... or lack thereof.

I finally began my volunteer placement through the Working Centre this past Friday afternoon. Rebecca has assigned me to Worth a Second Look (aka 'WASL'), a store run by volunteers and employees of the Working Centre. The goal is to minimize waste by reusing items in good condition, and provide affordable household items to the greater community.
Of course, this is a pretty simplified description of everything that they offer; I'd recommend clicking on the link and visiting their website for more information on their services.

I wish that I had experienced an incredible moment of clarity during my first shift on Friday, but to be honest, it was pretty ho-hum. Matt and Jessica are also doing their volunteer placements at WASL, and have had some time to reflect on their experiences there this far... I spent my first shift getting to know the store by re-stocking the shelves. No extended encounters with staff or customers took place, as I was put to work right away and quietly sorted through the incoming items.

As part of the Beyond Borders program (and preparation for the community service aspect of our placements this summer), we are required to complete at least 18 hours of volunteer work at the Working Centre this term. This is definitely a hands-on, learn-by-doing type of course, which is a refreshing change from the typical courses offered by universities today. I made a note during our first class with Joanne back in January - action is good, but reflection is better. I admit, this post is not full of introspection or even a deeper look at my initial WASL experience. Instead, it is more of a reminder to dig a little deeper in the future. To figure out why, and to quote the themes of past Beyond Borders seminars, to closely examine the stories that shape our individual lives and the communities that we are a part of.
I believe that experiences are what we make of them - how much effort you put into something typically determines how much is gained in return.