Outreach takes many forms on Chicago-area service trip

What: Service trip to Harvey, Ill.

Who: 15 students, sponsored by Social Action Leadership Team

When: Spring break 2010

Quotable: “It was really cool not only to hand out food and give something to someone who is homeless in Chicago but just acknowledging them as a person, and it was really interesting. It was a humbling experience.”  David Jung, mechanical engineering major

Fifteen students from Valparaiso University didn’t have to travel far to find a rewarding service learning experience. The group from the Social Action Leadership Team drove to Harvey, Ill., near Chicago, and worked for a week during spring break 2010 with Restoration Ministries.

That work included outreach to homeless people and recovering addicts, working at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, improving house interiors, and engaging with children in an after-school program.

“I think it’s a really, really great program,” Annie Stanchak, a marketing major, said of working in the kindergarten and first-grade classroom. “It’s turned out to be quite a challenge because these kids are a little bit wild and crazy, as little kids are. This is the prime opportunity for them to get their homework help, and to get their food, and to get help with their English skills.”

The Valpo students put on skits for the schoolchildren, got to know residents and volunteers at Restoration Ministries’ residential recovery program, and even had the opportunity to join in exercise programs there. Restoration Ministries serves an impoverished urban area in the city just south of Chicago.

“I’ve grown on this trip, mostly in my perception of your everyday addict,” said John Webster, who is majoring in Spanish and international economics and cultural affairs. “They were all really nice guys, and we were comfortable with them. You can tell they made bad decisions in their lives, and they’re not the same people anymore. They’re not what you’d think — even using the word ‘they’ is not appropriate. They’re just like us in many ways.”