Tag Archive | "Service"

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Feelin’ the Warmth

Posted on 09 December 2009 by Victoria Caswell

Cut. Snip. Tie.

One day a year, students gather to make blankets to keep the less fortunate warm during the cold winter months. They have realized many children huddle for warmth to try to escape the harsh winters at shelters across Milwaukee. In a city where wind chills make the temperature seem well below zero, and babies and children shiver in the cold, blankets are accepted into welcome arms.

Feel the Warmth is an independent event sponsored by Midnight Run and Campus Ministry. One day a year, students gather together to make fleece tie blankets to donate to charity. Last year the event raised nearly
$3,000 and 80 students participated, tying more than 150 blankets.

Rachel Longawa, a junior in the College of Health Sciences, started Feel the Warmth at her high school. When she came to Marquette, she told her friends Cindy Park and Andrew Sinclair about it. After some brainstorming, the trio decided to create the event on campus.

“I think this event is great because these blankets are truly needed,” Longawa said. “ Everyone likes to have a warm blanket around during the winter in Milwaukee, especially for his or her child. It’s also a great event that brings a lot of people together to work towards something special.”

Cindy Park, a junior in the College of Business, said she became involved with Feel the Warmth when she lived with Longawa. She said she was blown away by the idea, and she would like it to be a program that continues
long after they graduate. She said it has helped her to realize all that she has. “We all take for granted the amenities we are able to have as Marquette students,” she said. “We don’t think about something as simple as a blanket.” Longawa said the event was successful last year, but had humble beginnings.

“Right now we have an E-board with three people: Andy Sinclair, Cindy Park and myself,” she said.
This year, there are plans to make the event bigger.

The blankets made this year are for babies and children, she said. The blankets are going to be donated to expecting mothers through Milwaukee Pregnancy Help Center and to infants and children who are in the Pediatric Special Care Unit at Milwaukee’s Center for Independence.

The Milwaukee Pregnancy Help Center uses the blankets in a care package they give to women near their due date. The Milwaukee Center for Independence uses the blankets in the medical unit where low-income families bring their children who are in need of constant care. Since the center is run off of government funds, they need as many supplies as possible donated. “Many of the families who use both centers have a very low income,” Longawa said.

The group hopes to make more than 200 blankets at Feel the Warmth in January, 50 blankets more than last year. Since the last event was held on the Friday before finals in an attempt to capture the Christmas spirit, the group is expecting more people at its new date in January. The groups hopes to attract at least 200 students to this year’s event, spreading the word on Facebook and by word-of-mouth. It doesn’t take much to make a blanket, but Longawa said Feel the Warmth needs all the manpower they can get. They also take donations, which the group uses to buy fleece and scissors.

“In order to make baby blankets, you need two pieces of one yard fleece,” Longawa said.

“You place the pieces on top of each other, cut strips along the entire perimeter, and tie the two pieces together. It doesn’t take very long when you have four people working on one blanket.”
According to Park, it only takes five minutes to make a blanket with four people working on it.
Longawa says they’re planning more fundraising events for next semester.

“We have a chili night planned for Thursday, January 21 that will help raise more funds. There will also be a t-shirt sale and an event at Qdoba.

The big event, blanket-making day, will be next semester on January 30 at 1:00 p.m. in the AMU.”
Park adds that if students donate just five minutes of their time, they can make one blanket to contribute. She said it’s fun to get together with other students to help make a difference. Audrey Wayne, a sophomore in the College of Communication, said she went to Feel the Warmth last year because she heard it was a good program.

“It was a great opportunity and you can take as much time as you want to keep people warm during the holiday season,” she said. “I had a lot of fun, it was a nice, relaxed atmosphere and it was nice to meet other people who like to help out.”

by Victoria Caswell
[email protected]

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New malaria organization educates, fundraises around campus

Posted on 16 April 2008 by Victoria Caswell

NETwork Against Malaria started off as a family project, but it is slowly growing into Marquette’s newest student organization.

Maura McGlynn, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, first met Rev. Michael Mujule when he was a visiting missionary in the Diocese of Belleville, Ill. Mujule had founded two girls’ schools in Uganda, his home country, and was living in Metropolis for three years while studying to be a teacher. It was through him that McGlynn’s family learned that malaria is still a major problem in third world countries in Africa.

“More people have malaria now than ever,” McGlynn said. “Uganda has the most documented cases of malaria in the world.”

Immediately the McGlynns began to help.

Mujule said the easiest way to help prevent malaria is with insecticide-treated bed nets. Nets can be purchased for $10 and reduce the risk of malaria by 90 percent. The main problem with the nets is most people in Uganda do not know how to use them, McGlynn said. The next major problem is that since the average Ugandan makes less than $1 a day, they sell the nets and face more expensive medical bills because of malaria.

How does NETwork Against Malaria help?

McGlynn said she gives the money she raises to Mujule. Mujule then wires the money to a priest in Uganda so the nets can be purchased in Uganda. Then the girls at Mujule’s schools decide who will receive the nets and teach the recipients how to use them.

Through a grant, McGlynn is able to sell t-shirts and bracelets to raise money. T-shirts are $10 and bracelets are $5. The bracelets are made out of beads that are handmade by Ugandan women and benefit another non-profit organization, Bead for Life. The beads become a source of income for these women, and they have a way of lifting themselves out of poverty. Bracelets can either be purchased or McGlynn gives an opportunity to make your own bracelet out of the beads.

McGlynn is currently working to make NETwork Against Malaria a student organization, but for now she is just trying to raise awareness. She has been giving presentations at dorms across campus because many people do not realize malaria is a problem.

“The answer is out there,” McGlynn said. “If you want to reach the community and actually want to make a difference, this is the way to do it.”

On April 10, she gave a presentation at Cobeen Hall, 729 N. 11th St.

Emily Paprocki, a junior in Arts & Sciences and a residence assistant in Cobeen, sponsored McGlynn’s presentation. Paprocki talked several girls on her floor into coming to the presentation.

“She came to talk about it and get more student interest,” Paprocki said.

Sarah Rossella, a freshman in the College of Communication and a Cobeen resident, said she came for the bracelet making.

“It’s also a good cause,” she said.

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Make A Difference – Wisconsin, Inc.

Posted on 16 April 2008 by Monica Stout

Make A Difference – Wisconsin, Inc. was the non-profit organization that Lloyd Levin was writing the proposal for on the plane two years ago. According to their Web site, the mission statement of Make A Difference – Wisconsin, Inc. is “to empower students to make sound financial decisions by increasing their financial knowledge and awareness.”

MAD-WI sends out volunteers to Milwaukee Area high schools to deliver a financial literacy program in the classroom to eleventh and twelfth graders. The volunteers are local business students and business professionals who visit a classroom six times to give three seminars on budgeting and saving, understanding checking accounts and understanding credit cards, credit history and credit reports.

Cover PhotoMarquette’s involvement began with that plane ride. After reading the proposal, Wild told Levin to contact him if Marquette University could do anything to participate in and help Levin’s organization. Wild then had Margaret Bernhard, a professor in Marquette’s College of Business Administration, follow up with Levin a few months later.

Two senior Marquette business students, Andy Parker and Chris Teff, met with Levin and Brenda Campbell, the executive director of MAD-WI, and agreed to organize a student volunteer effort among students in the College of Business Administration. And so far, Marquette student efforts have enabled MAD-WI to reach out to the Milwaukee high school students in a more meaningful way.

“Because the Marquette students are closer in age to the high school students, I believe that they are often better able to relate to our audience. For example, we want students to know about and understand the risks associated with credit card use. We tell them that they will be bombarded with credit card offers when they get to college. We show them the real cost and dangers associated with making the minimum payment. The college student is experiencing that right now and brings first-hand knowledge and experience to the presentation. They speak the same language,” Campbell said.

So far the Marquette students have been assigned to various high schools paired with another student or with a Milwaukee business professional.

“We are happy to partner students with a volunteer from a specific field or business sector and we ask if students have a preference. This provides the student with an incredibly valuable networking opportunity as well as an opportunity to make a difference in our community,” Campbell said.

And, of course, making a difference truly is the goal of the students involved.

“By making students aware of the consequences of poor financial decisions, I hope we are able to help students start their lives out in better financial condition than they would be otherwise,” Parker, who recently began the seminar program at Bradley Tech High School with his younger brother Joey, said.

Financial decisions might be an interesting topic for many Milwaukee high school students as they figure out how to pay for college or save money from their respective jobs, but sometimes a class of high school juniors or seniors may be hard to engage. Marquette students seem to be handling this challenge well through various innovative means.

“It was important to relate what we were saying to how it would make them wealthy. The sessions where they were most engaged were the ones addressing savings because we did time value of money calculations and showed them how five dollars a month in savings could make them a million dollars over time,” Elena Braun, a senior in the College of Business Administration whose most recent teaching experience was at Riverside University High School, said.

There are often difficult topics to teach because of negative views held by the students.

“One of the biggest challenges was overcoming the overwhelmingly negative view of banks. Most kids had a general feeling that banks stole their money when they charged fees, which is a big problem as they grow up and need to establish credit. Most of the students come from families that don’t have well-established relationships with banks and breaking that cycle was challenging,” Braun said.

But what the high school students most often were interested in were personal stories about how the students handle their finances.

Parker said the students ask questions like, “Have we ever missed a credit card payment? Bounced a check? Do we have a budget?”

It is hard to know whether or not the high school students will actually be able to take something away from this experience and use it in the future, but the Marquette business students remain optimistic.

“The five or six kids who were totally engaged and interested in what we were saying made me feel good about being there. I know a few of those kids will ask the important questions that will help them make good financial choices in the future,” Braun said.

It is not only the Marquette students who believe in this program. Carl Dabols, the teacher at Bradley Tech High School whose classroom Andy and Joey Parker visited on Monday, thinks this program can help his students.

“I think that financial literacy is extremely important for all students. Most students understand taxes and savings, but they do not realize the power of saving early. Anytime I can have someone else stress the importance of starting to save early, open bank accounts and keep good credit scores is a huge benefit… Starting good habits will lead to financial success in the future,” Dabols said.

As of now, Make A Difference – Wisconsin, Inc. is only promoted by the College of Business Administration indirectly in spite of quite a few faculty, staff and students who are volunteers for the organization. Bernhard, a member of MAD-WI’s Board of Trustees, has been quite involved in coordinating campus participation. But along with the other Marquette faculty and student volunteers, many believe the program should receive more support and promotion is worthwhile to.

Because this program has “the potential to really change our community in terms of bankruptcy rates and the number of families crippled by debt as these high-schoolers graduate and join the local workforce” according to Parker, the College of Business Administration should consider promoting this volunteer opportunity to all of its business students. After all, volunteering for Make A Difference – Wisconsin, Inc. is a great way to “be the difference.”

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New MU organization to improve Milwaukee by establishing a “common ground”

Posted on 02 April 2008 by Katelyn Ferral

“You look like somebody who’s ready to make a difference.” It is this attention grabbing statement that serves as the pitch for Southeastern Wisconsin Common Ground, one of the newest organizations in the Milwaukee area involving Marquette students, staff, faculty and alumni coming together to address “critical social issues like health care, jobs and crime,” according to their Web site. The group is planning a formal commencement, coming together as one alliance to address community concerns at the Founding Convention on April 13, 2008, at the Midwest Airlines Center.

“As far as we know, Common Ground is the first organization of its kind here at Marquette, so it will be a little hard for people to understand quite what we are here for, for a little while,” Barbara Timberlake, Director of Marquette’s Service Learning Program, who has been involved with the development of Marquette’s Common Ground steering committee said.

The group hopes to attract at least 150 members of the Marquette community to the Founder’s Day Convention, which will host a variety of speakers, proclaim an issue agenda and adopt a dues-based budget. As many as 2000 community members are expected to attend. Those confirmed to speak include County Executive Scott Walker, Mayor Tom Barrett and Waukesha County Executive Daniel Vrakas, while Governor Jim Doyle has been invited but has not confirmed.

“The event will be a mix between a religious revival and a political convention, and is our way of introducing ourselves to the greater Milwaukee area,” Mark Fraley, Lead Organizer of Common Ground, said.

As a non-partisan organization working with congregations, religious groups, schools, civic associations, social agencies, unions and businesses, Common Ground’s leaders come from and aim to bridge a variety of racial, ethnic, religious, cultural and political backgrounds.

“When you look at the politics of the region, it’s pretty partisan,” Fraley said. “Our group is saying that there is a common ground we can find.”

Started in 2004, Common Ground began with 38 religious, civic and business leaders, who “have raised over $700,000 in seed money to sponsor the development of the group,” according to the Common Ground Web site. The seed money comes from a diverse group of religious organizations in addition to foundations, individuals and unions.

Common Ground currently has 75 volunteer leaders and employs Mark Fraley as a professional organizer. The group follows a model of grass-roots organizing that emphasizes relationship building and communication.

The cycle of organizing, according to Common Ground literature begins with small conversations about local specialized issues, moves to house meetings and neighborhood walks to discuss the issue, breaks down the issue to research and analyze solutions, then works to take action with a larger group of people at the local level.

“I have faith in this organization because it follows such a sound, proven model,” Kerida O’Reilly, junior in the College of Health Sciences said. O’Reilly has been involved with recruiting people and convening “listening session” meetings where individuals have the opportunity to voice community concerns. “Common Ground helps form a legacy for Marquette. Students can affect change and be involved in the community even though they’re only here for four years.”

Social issues that are addressed by Common Ground fall into eight categories: health care, education, jobs and economic development, crime, mental health, youth activities, immigration and housing, according to their Web site.

“It has been important for me to remember that each one of us has some sort of personal story or has a relationship with someone who is affected by these issues,” Kate Novotny, sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences who is active in Common Ground, said. “That is the key to our common ground. It is only in honoring these personal relationships that a commitment to community change will arise and take place.”

Southeastern Wisconsin Common Ground is affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation, the “oldest and largest institution for professional organizing in the United States,” according to the Common Ground Web site.

The achievement IAF has had in its grassroots organizing in the past has contributed to the high hopes Common Ground members have for its future.

“I have a lot of faith in the organization and where it’s going, because IAF has had so many successes,” Katie Coldwell, junior in the College of Arts and Sciences and Common Ground member, said. “It’s not a rag-tag bunch of anarchists; it’s about empowering people to affect change in their communities.”

Common Ground also offers organizing and training through Leadership Institutes designed to “teach leaders the skills necessary for successful public action and what a broad-based power organization is and does,” according to the Institute’s curriculum.

Finding common interests among individuals is a pivotal aspect of what those involved are sure will make Common Ground successful.

“Before someone joins the movement, they will ask, what’s in it for me? It’s all about gathering troops and getting people excited,” Coldwell said.

Unlike other groups students might get involved in at Marquette, Common Ground does not require an extensive time commitment, although the imapct and effect is significant.

“Nothing I’ve done for Common Ground has been a waste of time,” Coldwell said.

In the end, it all comes down to personal contact.

“It’s all relational, you build relationships and that’s how things happen,” Fraley said.

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A History of the MAP and IMAP Programs

Posted on 13 March 2008 by Nicholas Hansen

Important decisions made by Marquette students include figuring out how to spend their winter and spring breaks. Some may choose to relax on a beach or visit friends and family. But, be aware that there are other opportunities to meet new people and expand your horizons through a little service for, and with, others: it is called the Marquette Action Program (M.A.P.). Some may be familiar with this program but for the others…here’s a little history.

M.A.P., run by University Ministry, sends students to sites across the country to serve people in those communities over Spring Break. Participants will travel with a handful of Marquette students, led by former M.A.P. participants, and work in a variety of different ways, including building and repairing homes, working in soup kitchens and homeless shelters and more.

Susan Mountin, director of the Manresa Project, recalls the birth of the service program.

“The first trip launched in the spring of 1978 with the help and leadership of Sister Lucy Edelbeck, OP (Order of Preachers), a University Ministry employee.”

Edelbeck emphasized that the purpose of the experience is not so much to “do service” but to learn about and begin to understand the reality of the people at the sites,” Mountin said.

Much of the insight gained from these trips by the participants comes from conversation and reflection with those they serve as well as with those they work with. With this mission in mind, students travelled to the original sites of the sugar fields in Louisiana and at various sites in Appalachia.

Since this first trip, sites have expanded to Kentucky, Baltimore, Oklahoma, New Orleans and many others. Trips were offered in both the winter and spring breaks, but are now limited just to Spring Break. The nature of the work and sites may change over time, but the relationships that participants cultivate on a M.A.P. trip are a constant.

As the M.A.P. program grew, a new desire for an international experience emerged from students; hence, the International Marquette Action Program (I.M.A.P) was born. Dental students, led by Ron Pruhs, went to Jamaica to provide dental care for the people of this Caribbean country. The program expanded to bring undergraduate students on the trip to spend time in orphanages and nursing homes in Kingstown, Jamaica.

Another site, Belize, was added to further expand the program. Students work with St. Peter Claver Parish and the Rev. Dick Pearl, S.J. to build a church in a remote Mayan village. This writer had the privilege of going to Belize this past January on the IMAP trip, and it was truly a life-changing experience. Although much of the poverty seen was shocking, looking look past the exterior one sees personality in the people. Both Jamaica and Belize are current sites for the I.M.A.P. program.

College of Arts and Sciences Senior Stephen Horras, a M.A.P alumnus, emphasized the aspect of faith in his experience with the program.

“I decided to go on a MAP trip because I recognized that my faith, which has always been crucial to me, was a spoken faith and not so much of a lived faith,” Horras said.

Proponents argue that these trips can be an integral part of one’s education as a student at Marquette. There may not be much time on a beach during a spring M.A.P trip to Detroit, but it is something participants remember for a long time.

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Rescue Mission continues to instill hope in poor of Milwaukee

Posted on 07 February 2008 by Katie Pope

With a long tradition of service and compassion toward the poor, the Rescue Mission has become an integral part of the Milwaukee community. According to the Mission’s Web site, it yearly reaches 300 of the neediest children in Milwaukee and provides shelter for 200 men daily. Last year, the Rescue Mission sheltered nearly 1,000 women and children.When asked about the true aim of the Milwaukee Rescue’s Mission, Executive Director Pat Vanderburgh simply replied that the Mission provides necessities and “wants to give people direction.”

Although simplistically stated, this goal is much more intricate than it appears. The Mission and its staff work tirelessly to give spiritual and material help to the homeless and poor of Milwaukee.

They currently operate three different programs: Safe Harbor, a men’s shelter; Joy House, an emergency shelter for women and their children and Cross Trainers, a tutoring program for children and a brand new school.

Safe Harbor is the Rescue Mission’s oldest and most traditional program. In the winter, it has the capacity to offer 250 men emergency shelter, said Vanderburgh. The Mission also offers a long-term residential program, which lasts 18 months. For the first year, men receive educational support and job training. Then the Rescue Mission helps find residents a permanent job, as well as transitional housing.

Joy House is for single mothers with children. Typically, women are at the Rescue Mission for four to eight weeks, said Vanderburgh. They usually spend at least two weeks taking classes in money management and other life skills. The Rescue Mission is unique because they let mothers and grandmothers keep their children with them during their stay.

Cross Trainers is the Mission’s newest program. According to the Mission’s Web site, it began as a tutoring program for children in the surrounding neighborhoods who are an average of one to two grade levels behind other children their age.

Volunteers work with children and teenagers to raise their grade level, as well as inspire them with the desire to achieve. This is with a program in which Marquette students commonly volunteer.

Recently, the Rescue Mission began its own choice school, Cross Trainers Academy. The school currently houses kindergarten, first and second grades. The Mission does have plans, however, to add third grade to its curriculum and possibly more grades after that, said Vanderburgh.

The Rescue Mission continues to grow and develop after roughly 110 years in existence, as a result of its dedicated and caring staff.

Cross Trainer’s Tutoring Coordinator, Brittany Vilar, shared that in her experience, the children “just need someone to love them and be consistent with them. The tutors are important because they show the children that someone cares.” The volunteers, as well as the staff, are essential to the purpose and goal of the Mission. They make it what it is.

Today the Rescue Mission is known and recognized for its service to the Milwaukee community through hope and compassion. What was born out of a challenge to local Christian businessmen in 1893 has grown to become Milwaukee’s largest homeless shelter.

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Blood flows, donors spill at All-University drive

Posted on 07 November 2007 by Stephanie Malinski

Marquette University is known for its dedication to serving the greater Milwaukee area. This reputation was seen in action last Wednesday as students, faculty and staff flocked to the Alumni Memorial Union to donate blood.

The blood donated is processed by The BloodCenter of Wisconsin and is distributed to hospitals in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Deborah Kossoris, an account representative for the BloodCenter, helps coordinate the event. She encourages everyone to try and donate.

“Giving blood is the greatest volunteer opportunity you can do… anyone can write a check, but this requires you to give up that hour of time,” said Kossoris.

The hour of time spent donating one pint of blood can save up to three adult lives or the lives of six infants.

Ali Myszewski, an assistant director at the Alumni Memorial Union, works alongside Kossoris to organize two campus- wide blood drives each year. There are also drives held by residence halls and different organizations across campus. However, the largest drive is always the All University Blood Drive. It aims to collect between 150 and 200 pints of blood each year. That means that if the AMU met its goal, Marquette could be instrumental in saving up to six hundred adult lives, in a little less than one day.

First time donor Meaghan Kaupe, a College of Communication sophomore, said donating blood on Wednesday allowed her to save lives with minimal effort. She said the event made her feel like a “laid-back superhero.” She said that it is the simplest way to help someone and that there is no reason not to.

Although some may see donating blood as frightening, the whole process is rather simple. Donors sign in as they enter the ballroom and then are asked a series of questions by a nurse.

A rather painless finger prick follows to test the iron level of the potential donor’s blood, and if the iron level is high enough, the donors begin having their blood drawn. The actual donation time takes less than ten minutes, and the only pain most donors experience is a sting and a pinch as the needle is inserted.

On Wednesday, most donors reported that the entire process took less than 40 minutes.

Of those interviewed, none reported any side effects from the process. Becca Rusk, a freshman majoring in exercise science and physical therapy, donated for her first time on Wednesday. She said her donation was a good experience. She did not feel inconvenienced whatsoever by the donation process. To prepare to give blood, Rusk took iron tablets and drank extra water leading up to the event.

This fall blood drive was a great success. The final count was 119 donations. Although this was not as high as BloodCenter had originally hoped, Myzewski remained positive.

“Whether a drive has 20 donations or 200 donations, I would consider it a success as any amount is an appreciated amount,” Myzewski said.

The blood raised by the Marquette community will be instrumental in saving lives and those who donated know they were heroes for a day. So mark your calendar for February 14, 2008, and get ready for the next All University Blood Drive.

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The beginnings of a great tradition of compassion in Milwaukee

Posted on 13 February 2007 by Katie Pope

To many passers by, the Milwaukee Rescue Mission at the southeast corner of Wells at 19th streets carries little significance. But closer examination of the Mission’s history reveals a significant relationship to Milwaukee’s homeless.

The idea for the Mission originated in May 1893 during the passionate speeches of B. Faye Mills at the Grand Avenue United Methodist Church. Mills challenged local Christian businessmen to begin a Mission for the less fortunate, said Pat Vanderburgh, executive director of the Mission.

Mills started a collection amounting to $5,000 to rent rooms for the homeless on Wells Street, between Second and Third streets. In 1910, a building was erected at Fifth and State streets to serve as the Mission’s first shelter. This building lasted roughly 76 years until the Bradley Center, home of the Marquette Golden Eagles, was built.

Part of the structure on Wells, where the Mission currently stands, was originally built to be used as a teachers’ college in 1885. In the 1880s, the state authorized an initiative to build many teacher colleges in the area, Vanderburgh said.

The teacher’s college was incorporated into University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee several years later and moved to its downtown campus. The Mission’s building was slightly expanded, and Girl’s Tech, a vocational high school for women, moved in.

Today, carvings and statues on the building can be seen from the parking lot on Kilbourne Avenue. They were added when the girl’s school opened.

This institution did not last very long either, and in the 1970s, Wells Junior High School opened in its place. Like the institutions before it, it soon closed, and the Rescue Mission was able to finally acquire its current home.

For about six years, the Rescue Mission ran youth programs in the Wells Street structure until it finally moved in 1986, Vanderbaugh said. It has survived and thrived there ever since, finding a home on the edge of Marquette’s campus.

The portion housing Safe Harbor, a men’s shelter, is the oldest part of the building, and the rest easily fits into the block that the Mission owns, creating a safe refuge for men, women and children.

The sizeable four building structure for which the Rescue Mission is known and recognized today allows its staff to serve the Milwaukee community and reach out to those in need.

The Rescue Mission found a permanent home in the Wells St. building, as the needy are able to find a home within it. The building finally has a permanent purpose, and the Mission finally has a permanent place.

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While noble, volunteering doesn’t solve all problems

Posted on 08 November 2006 by Robert Fafinski

One of my roommates and best friends here at Marquette, Nick, recently volunteered at a food shelf through a Marquette program. The day he volunteered, a drug abuser on crack entered along with her two children. One of the children, a young boy about 5-years-old, asked Nick for a cup of coffee. As Nick poured, the boy’s sister reminded him that their mother did not allow them to drink coffee because “it’ll sober you up.” Nonetheless, Nick gave the boy coffee but was immediately struck by the significance of what he had just witnessed.As Nick talked to me about this episode, I saw how this left an indelible mark on him. In our discussion, we soon realized that there is often a very subtle, almost indistinguishable, line between effective volunteering and actions that enable destructive behavior. We began to ask questions: “At what point is one helping fellow human beings who are down on their luck?” and “At what point is one simply perpetuating a cycle of dependency?” Often a service, such as working at a food shelf, makes us feel good, like we’ve done something to rid society of poverty, but actually does nothing to change the root causes of poverty and hunger. That is to say, while the mother and her children were not starving on the particular day Nick fed them, they are also no closer to exiting their hardships.

Rather than demand that the woman sober up and get her children and herself off of drugs, it seems as if Marquette’s seemingly legitimate efforts to help have the opposite effect. This woman has a problem that must be dealt with. Instead of taking care of the problem, this woman has been allowed to continue her dependency on crack. She has lost her dignity insofar as she has become completely dependent on others to exist. Her children are the ones who end up suffering. The mother knows that despite her continual destructive behavior the food shelter will continue to provide for her and her children. She has no incentive to reform her life.

This does not mean that Marquette should end efforts to destroy poverty and feed the hungry. Rather, as Marquette students, we each need to evaluate the volunteering we do and make sure that what we perceive as help for the underprivileged is actually helpful and not harmful. Perhaps Marquette could create a new, innovative approach to social justice that has real, tangible results instead of simply perpetuating the problems and assaulting peoples’ human dignity.

While providing immediate needs (food, drink and clothing) is obviously necessary, it is extremely important that we respect the people we are helping by not allowing them to think they can continue to live off of others’ assistance without doing everything they can on their end. We need to help them help themselves.

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Footage of faith

Posted on 13 September 2006 by Diana Sroka

A crowded courtyard. Voices. Sunday morning.

There are at least 200 gathered, he estimates. They are smiling, singing, praising, with hands held high and eyes closed. Can this be the right place? It was hard for Marquette sophomore Tim Blattner, a high-schooler at the time, to comprehend that most of those gathered for the worship service are HIV positive, perhaps even near death. But just two years later, Blattner tells the story of his experience at the Faith Alive AIDS clinic in Nigeria not as one of despair but as one of hope.

A family of faith
The youngest of five, Blattner was raised in a household that placed emphasis on service and faith. He watched his father, William, an epidemiologist, travel to Nigeria to volunteer at the clinic for years, but had never accompanied him.

Beginning his senior year, Blattner pursued multiple service opportunities through his high school. When he wasn’t selected for any of the school-run summer service trips, his father suggested Blattner join him.

Just a few months earlier, Blattner’s older brother went on the trip and insisted Tim give the experience a try. He gave it some thought, and then decided he would join his family and a family friend on the June trip.

On the day of their departure, Blattner and his family flew from Washington, D.C., to London and landed in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. They spent one night in Abuja, and then drove three hours to Jos.

It rained every afternoon in Jos, and there was no running water, which made showering and going to the bathroom difficult. Sometimes, Blattner had difficulty sleeping at night because of how loud the animals were outside.

But these weren’t the things that stood out the most. A host family housed his family so the Blattners wouldn’t have to stay at a hotel or far away from the site. “They were the most kind and generous people I ever met,” he said, humbled by their enthusiasm and openness.

From service hours to lifelong mission
When he first arrived at the clinic to begin his volunteering, Faith Alive Founder Dr. Christian Isichei gave Blattner a tour of the clinic. One of the first places he visited in the clinic was the waiting room, filled wall-to-wall with one or two hundred people, half of whom would be diagnosed positive for HIV. Sometimes he would be introduced to “in-patients,” those who needed to stay overnight, because there was chance they would die in the night.

Blattner said a somber mood enveloped the room, making the moment almost unbearable.

“Their eyes were dead,” Blattner said. “It still haunts me to this day. I started crying.”

While Blattner’s original motivation for going was to earn his community service hours, he realized his presence was much greater than he could have imagined when he first decided to make the trip. “I felt I was ready to reach out and touch these people,” he said.

Recording reality
On the third day of the trip, Blattner’s digestive system took a hit from some of the native food he ate the night before, so he stayed behind during the morning session. While napping, he had a dream about his sophomore religion class and a video camera. Then the idea of creating a documentary about his experience began rolling in his head.

Blattner had never picked up a video camera or created any digital movie before in his life. But his family had brought along a camera for the trip, and he immediately felt this was the instrument he would use to share with others back home the story of his ten days.

“I just started videotaping, all week,” he said. At the end of the remaining days on the trip, he had over six hours of raw footage. He sat with patients and listened to their stories, moved by each one. “Despite the horrible reality, they are happy because they have faith,” he said.

Blattner said most of the patients at the clinic contracted AIDS through sexual intercourse and from HIV positive mothers breastfeeding their children. Prostitution is rampant in Nigeria, especially in poor communities where some women may feel that is the only way they can support their families. Blattner said a smaller amount of patients contracted the virus through blood transfusions and sharing needles.

Blattner met many patients who came for testing, service or were being treated. But one in particular stood out to him: Penrose.

Penrose arrived at the clinic from Kenya, just ten days before Blattner. After being tested positive for HIV and starting treatment, drugs were failing him and he was near death.

When Blattner first walked into Penrose’s room, it was dark, and all he could make out was a man sitting stiffly on a chair. His arms and legs were so thin that they shaped to his bones, and Blattner could make out the outline of his skull from across the room. The only way he could describe it was “haunting.”

Some patients, like Penrose, were so near death that Blattner had to fight his body to keep from vomiting. At times, he became shaky at the mere sight of shots and blood.

“I just thought to myself, ‘What kind of a world am I living in?’ These people had nothing. I couldn’t understand it.”

Opening eyes and bringing hope
Since his return, Blattner has shown his 18-minute documentary on the trip to his high school as well as in several churches. The documentary has aided in raising approximately $5,000 in donations for the clinic as well as increasing awareness of the situation in Nigeria.

Blattner and his brother are working on a Web site for Faith Alive, www.faithalivenigeria.org, and hope to release the documentary on the Internet as well.

“I want people to know that they can help these people,” he said. “We have the technology to save these lives.”

Currently, Blattner is the treasurer of Watumishi, an AIDS awareness group on campus. He is also planning on returning to Nigeria in January and hopes to bring along a peer from Marquette.

“By me being there, I was able to provide hope for the people,” he said. In the next year or so, Blattner would like to bring a group of Marquette students to the clinic, coordinated either through Marquette or independently, so more students can have the same experience. Although it may be a daunting task to organize a trip or recruit interested students, Blattner said he is up for the challenge. “If you are called to go, the Lord will provide,” he said.

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