Serve Well Blog

October 2015 Entries

10.23.15

Caleb Stewart and a Lifetime of Service Leadership

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press

This speech was given at the Krista Foundation Annual Fundraising Breakfast in Spokane, WA on September 29, 2015.

Caleb Stewart, 2002 Krista Colleague, served with the Peace Corps in Thailand. After his 27 month assignment, Caleb felt at home in the Thai culture and decided to stay. He was hired as Managing Director of the Khom Loy Development Foundation, an organization serving 18 tribal villages in the Chang Rai district. Caleb managed rapidly expanding programs in agriculture, Montessori-style education, and handicraft microenterprise. Upon his return to the U.S., Caleb completed his J.D. at the University of Washington Law School. Caleb currently works in Colorado as an attorney providing free civil legal services to survivors of labor exploitation and human trafficking.


When I reached five years in Thailand, I felt I needed to make some decisions. I either needed to make my life in Thailand permanent, or return to grad school. I decided that even if I wanted to commit to Thailand, I wanted to make that decision from the US. However, I knew that if I returned to the US, I needed to find meaningful work with opportunities for interacting with other languages and cultures. Therefore, I looked for work with migrant populations. I then decided that the most beneficial graduate degree for helping that population, for me, was law. So I went to law school with the intention of working with that population.


During my orientation week for law school, 60% of the incoming class raised their hand in response to who planned on pursuing public interest law. However, law school has its own ethos that values success in the classroom. Law school is also full of very intelligent and talented individuals. These two things combined to create an environment that closely defined what is valuable and what Is not. I found that my cross cultural skills and experiences, my language skills, my focus on serving those in need, were not valued. Those aspects of my personality weren't respected. As my competitive classmates became acculturated in the law school ethos, they often focused their attention on areas where they would get positive feedback. What that meant is that after graduation, despite 60 % intending to go into public service law, less than 10 % did.


A large reason why I was one of that 10% that did continue onto a public interest career is that I was able to step outside the law school ethos and find a community that still valued and recognized those skills and personality traits, traits that do lead towards a life of public service. In the KF community, I found people that would both affirm my desire to do public service law and would challenge me to go further in preparing for that service.


Entering my first year presented a cultural shock after living for five years in Thailand. It was disheartening, and a challenge not to lose confidence in myself and my abilities when all the qualities I had spent time developing while in service weren't valued. However, during that first year, I attended KF's transition retreat. That was a powerful weekend for me because it allowed me to step outside the law school ethos and see it for what it is, just one community of standards. I was encouraged that my service experiences prior to law school were important and challenged by the other amazing colleagues and the work they were doing.


Upon returning to law school after the retreat, the community of colleagues in Seattle and around the world constantly reminded me that there is a community that does value cultural adaptability and sensitivity as well as service of others. By being a part of this community of colleagues, I was able to go beyond the general attitude promoted in law school.
After leaving law school and beginning my legal career, I found that the connection with the KF helped me understand how to create a lifetime of service out of my service experience. Through the focus of the Krista Foundation Grant, I learned that there has to be a balance of self-care, personal development, and career development. I used the grant to further those three foundations through language study, training for, and then running a marathon. In a very direct way, I've used that language training to win a scholarship in law school and to assist Thai labor trafficking survivors in my current work. The lessons learned for self-care, personal development, and career development have helped me to maintain focus and avoid burnout while daily working with individuals that have tragic stories to tell while suffering through forced labor in jobs ranging from restaurants, farming and sheepherding to drug trafficking and prostitution.


When I first came back to the US, I was on a plane from LA to Denver and seated by chance next to a Thai man coming to the US for the first time. He didn't speak English and I'm sure I was the only Thai speaker on the plane. I helped him navigate the airport and we exchanged numbers. Later, when he found that the job wasn't what he was promised, he felt comfortable enough to call me for help when the job wasn't what he was promised. I knew what he was experiencing wasn't right, however, at this time I didn't yet have the legal training necessary to help him but I did reach out to others that did. Eventually, this restaurant was investigated and charged with human trafficking.


Later in my third summer during law school, I volunteered with the organization that assisted the human trafficking survivors that worked at this restaurant. I then had the legal training that I lacked before and was able to help them in ways I couldn't before. While at my current position one of these clients called my supervisor and left a message in his best English followed by a few sentences with him speaking to his wife in Thai saying that he tried to speak in English but doesn't know what he said. My supervisor forwarded me the voicemail and I called him back. He was quite surprised and happy to know that I now worked for CLS and could help him. He was diagnosed with cancer and denied medical coverage and other resources. He, like many of my clients who are in need of services from a large range of providers stretching from dentists and doctors, to bankers, and housing providers, needed me to advocate on his behalf before those professions so that he could get the services for which he qualified. No matter the industry, a broadened perspective gained from service experiences will help to serve the disadvantaged and vulnerable who seek those services more effectively. The opportunity to be a part of the Krista Foundation community was invaluable in sustaining me through my service assignment in Thailand, in maintaining my focus as I transitioned out of that assignment, and supporting me as I continue in lifelong service work.

10.21.15

Marisol Rosado-Carrisalez on Authenticity and Service

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press

This speech was given at the Krista Foundation Annual Fundraising Breakfast in Spokane, WA on September 29, 2015. 

Marisol Rosado-Carrisalez, 2013 Colleague, served as a program assistant for Northwest Leadership Foundation's Act Six Program in Tacoma, WA. Marisol now serves as Program Manager for the Act Six program. She is passionate about being a catalyst for the next generation of leaders and directly applies that passion through the Urban Leaders in Training initiative at NLF.

I've been asked here to share my experience of how service has had a strong influence in my life journey.

My passions for service and for my city, Tacoma, have been nurtured since I was a young child but I could never fully articulate to my peers the importance of my passions in my life. It was not until I became an Act Six scholar at Whitworth University and the Northwest Leadership Foundation, that a vision of service birthed in me that I could not have imagined prior. As enlightening as this was, one of the most difficult tasks throughout my life have been sharing my passion with my loved ones and my city. Quite frankly, this was heartbreaking until I was commissioned as a Krista Colleague.

While Whitworth University did its best in preparing for me the professional world, I could not have imagined how great my need for accompaniment, a community around me, would be. Granted, I still have great relationships with my cadre mates and I do not foresee that ever changing. However, during my two terms of Urban Leaders in Training, it was the Krista Foundation that provided me opportunities to engage with others serving in a similar contexts with complementing passions. I firmly believe that this why the Krista Foundation exists. The Krista Foundation provides space for the colleagues and others associated to learn together. It has consistently affirmed my past experiences and it encourages healthy transformation in all capacities of my life. The Krista Foundation has helped me attain a language that healthily describes my perspectives and ethics of service. One quote that I constantly reminded of when I participate in an event at the Krista Foundation is, "My images of God, peace and service are incomplete without your images of God, peace and service". This is one of the best reflections I have to offer of this organization.

A reality that I continue to wrestle with are the complexities of the racialized institutions we all operate under. I was reminded during my service in AmeriCorps that most systems were not designed with me or people that identify similarly as I do, in mind. One brief example that reflects this is when I was working with several students whose K12 and college curriculums do not feature voices they identify with. I experienced this throughout all of my education. As a first generation, student of color, I often found myself questioning my capabilities and my identity. This is the reason why I chose to serve after graduating from Whitworth. I wanted to support students that systemic barriers would have let fallen through the cracks as I could have easily done. One way I have demonstrated this culture has been through the Krista Conference. I facilitated a workshop focusing on allyship for the Krista Colleague community. This experience has birthed a desire of developing lifelong ethics of authenticity AND service. Not an ethics of authenticity OR service but a complementing dynamic that best serves and changes my city. I'd like to share a piece of poetry that has greatly describes this dynamic.

This poem is called City Psalm by Denise Levertov.

The killings continue, each second

pain and misfortune extend themselves

in the genetic chain, injustice is done knowingly, and the air

bears the dust of decayed hopes,

yet breathing those fumes,

walking the thronged

pavements among crippled lives, jackhammers

raging, a parking lot painfully agleam

in the May sun, I have seen

not behind but within, within the

dull grief, blown grit, hideous

concrete facades, another grief, a gleam

as of dew, an abode of mercy,

have heard not behind but within noise a humming that drifted into a quiet smile.

Nothing was changed, all was revealed otherwise;

not that horror was not, not that the killings did

not continue, not that I thought there was to be no more despair,

but that as if transparent all disclosed

an otherness that was blessed, that was bliss.

I saw Paradise in the dust of the street.


In closing, I can honestly say that I would not be who I am without the Krista Foundation. It is because of the Krista Foundation that I can confidently stand here with you all committing to love my city amidst all of its affliction and beauty. The Krista Foundation has helped me build the cornerstones of my identity and my life.

10.14.15

Peter Bittner on Tough Service Experiences and Discernment

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press, Post-Service Term Reflections

This speech was given at the Krista Foundation Annual Fundraising Breakfast in Spokane, WA on September 29, 2015. 

Peter Bittner, 2013 Colleague, served as a youth tutor with AmeriCorps in White Center, WA. Immediately following his year of service, Peter became a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Currently, Peter is a student at the University of California Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, engaging his passion as a global-citizen storyteller. In addition to his studies, Peter created and leads the Empowering Women and Girls through Entrepreneurship project in Mongolia, as well as serves on the Krista Colleague Leadership Council. 

For my fellow Krista Colleagues and me, fall represents a time of new
beginnings in our service journeys: the start of a new school year, a new service-term,
a new job. It may mean a new living situation or a new academic program. It's a
season of changes and, while exciting, it can also be a stressful time of year. People
falsely romanticize the concept of long-term service and volunteerism; it's tough!

Reflecting back upon my two service terms, I can attest that for me it was a
bumpy, exhilarating, and intense ride. In the fall of 2013, as an AmeriCorps youth tutor
in White Center, WA, I began to feel the very real pressures of managing an
after-school program composed of diverse, underprivileged youth from mainly Somali
refugee backgrounds. The brief (1-week) honeymoon phase was over and,
inexperienced, untrained, and unsupervised, I did my best. I realized I was in over my
head when an older student slapped a much younger one across the face with the
bottom of her shoe. This not only caused disruptions for us, but divided a housing
community already rife with clan-based tensions carried over from their home country.
Without an on-site supervisor or adequate training, I simply had no idea what I had
walked into!

During the autumn of 2014, as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in
Mongolia, I relived many of the same struggles (minus the shoe-slapping) plus some
new ones, in a completely different context. In Ulaanbaatar, I had to adjust to teaching
students from recently-migrated herder families whose level of English, and interest in
learning it, was virtually zero. In fact, my teachers and I often struggled to
communicate.
In my third week of class, my co-teacher, Oyuna, called "Hello, Peter! Where are you?"
my co-teacher asked over the phone.

"Hi, Badmaa Teacher! I'm here in class with our students. Where are you?"
"Ah, Peter. I'm very sorry! I cannot come today. My cow is melting!"
"Oh, it's melting! Well, you should put it in the freezer then!" I said jokingly without the
faintest clue what she was talking about.
"Yes, good idea! I will put it in the freezer now. Sorry, there is blood all over my house."
"Ooh! OK, you clean that up! I'll teach, then! No worries!" She's serious!
"Peter, I bought-shared a cow with my sister, and my half was inside the house for
many weeks. Because it was very cold in the winter! But, you see, spring came early!"
"I'm sorry to hear that! No problem at all. I'll continue with the lesson, then."
"OK! Thank you! Bye bye!"

It was in relaying these often hilarious-in-retrospect anecdotes through my blog, and
taking photos of everything in sight, that I began to process my experiences and
recognize and appreciate the beauty.

Peter Bittner, 2013 Colleague

As you can imagine... there was a lot to try to make sense of at the culmination
of these distinctly diverse and challenging experiences. What did I learn? What did I
like or dislike? What skills did I gain? Where do I want to go next? In navigating the
choppy and uncertain waters, how can I bypass the dominant cultural narrative of
"success equals material wealth" to build upon Christian values of "love thy neighbor"?
Should I go to business school? Or try to write a book?

In helping answer all these tricky questions and more, The Krista Foundation for
Global Citizenship fills a need that no other organization I've encountered has been
able to address: a supportive Christian community offering guidance and
encouragement through the variety of difficult decisions I face in my mid-twenties.
Hosting a Krista Foundation "Service in Perspective" event at my service-site during
my AmeriCorps term allowed me to connect with Colleagues through deep, meaningful
conversation surrounding the intercultural and ethical dynamics of effective volunteer
service and gain a new outlook on my daily routines at my community center.

And, most importantly, the Debriefing Retreat facilitated an invaluable
opportunity to meet myself at exactly where I was in the months following my move
from Mongolia to California; in reverse-culture shock, dealing with accumulated tension
and trauma, and searching for direction. Ultimately, the discernment exercise
conducted at the end of the weekend helped me make an important decision: to follow
my passion for truthful storytelling as a student at the University of California,
Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.