The group partnered with the ministry’s outreach programs for youth and adults. Working in one of the most impoverished areas of Chicago, the Mount Mercy team volunteered their time in programs such as the mobile soup kitchen, the youth sports center and adult education center.
The service project, the first from Mount Mercy to travel to Chicago, included reflection and discussion time built into the team’s trip, allowing students to develop a deeper understanding of human service projects and how to process helping and interacting with those in need.
Part of the students’ work focused on providing support for Port Ministries’ “Mommy and Me” music program, which provides childcare for mothers who are taking English as a Second Language (ESL) classes during the week.
“They only had three people able to help the kids and sometimes there can be up to thirty kids,” says Chelsea Blake, a junior human resource management major from Clarence, Iowa, who went on the trip. “They were so grateful to have us there for a week to help, but what they don’t realize is how grateful we were to get the opportunity to help them in any way needed.”
“Knowing and seeing those kids and the neighborhood that they are expected to thrive in was one of the most difficult things I experienced, but I know I can make a difference if I want to. That is what I’ve learned,” says sophomore nursing major Sophie Blake, from Clarence, Iowa.
Students also had the opportunity to lend assistance with the ministry’s bread truck program, which takes sandwiches and other supplies to unemployed and homeless individuals in the area. “I was able to go [on the bread truck] twice during the week and the experience is something that I will never forget,” says Chelsea Blake. “I realized, more than ever, how grateful I was for every opportunity I have been given in my life.”
“The students faced many challenges, but in the end I think we benefitted as much as the people we served,” says Coordinator for Volunteerism and Service Learning Brooke Oehme, who accompanied the group. “The people at Port face incredible odds, and yet they remain loving, generous, and optimistic. Their optimism is inspiring, and I believe everyone who went will carry that with us no matter where we go in life.”