Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Spring Break Service Adventure in Detroit

The following was contributed by Creighton student Marissa Smith, who spent a week with Daughters of Charity in Detroit for a service trip.

Photo courtesy of Marissa Smith
I led a spring break service trip to Detroit, Mich. My group and I stayed with the Daughters of Charity for a week and got to see and experience the problems that surround Detroit as a city. The Sisters made us feel right at home from the beginning because when we got there, they made us a cake that had the state of Michigan on it with a dot that showed us where they were located within the state of Michigan. From then on, I looked forward to every night that included dinner with the Sisters and talking about how everything had gone for that particular day. We would have community time with the Sisters by watching the local news and the world news.

I learned about certain places around Detroit based on where the Sisters worked everyday. All the Sisters we stayed with each did a different job in the community, from helping run a soup kitchen to running an international organization for the Daughters of Charity. The sites I got to see this week really instilled into me the will and desire to help others in any way I can possible. By the end of the week, I really felt in community with the Sisters as a group because it was nice staying with so supportive Sisters who were very encouraging and had plenty of wisdom to share with me about the experiences from their lives.

On Sunday, my group and I went on a tour around Detroit. This tour helped put in perspective how lucky I am that I can receive an education and that I am able to support myself later in my life. I think the situation in Detroit is unfair to the kids put in this situation of poverty because it was just an accident of birth. I thought it was interesting that when I was in Detroit, I was the minority as the white person because there were many blacks in this particular area. All around Detroit there was much graffiti because of the gangs that controlled territory in a particular area. The mentality of some of the Detroit people is that they are stuck in that cycle of poverty and do not know a way they can get out of this vicious cycle. This tour contributed to larger cultural discussions when my group and I discussed this later in reflection that the people were so welcoming and the implications I felt as being the outsider who was welcomed into the community especially at the church we went to Sunday. On this tour, my group and I saw homelessness, poverty, bulletproof windows at a restaurant, graffiti and how many of these aspects affected the lives of the people in this area.

Another example of an event that contributed to discussion was the meanings behind the Heidelberg Project. Tyree Guyton was the creator of the Heidelberg Project who came up with the idea after many of the houses part of this project were abandoned. The Heidelberg Project creator wanted to five people something to talk about by the way he turned these abandoned houses into colorful art projects. Each of the houses in the Heidelberg Project had a different theme or cultural aspect associated with it such as "The Party Animal House" or "The Penny House." This helped me think about how these houses can be used to represent any number of cultural aspects important to the people of Detroit and just makes me, as a person, rethink some of my most basic beliefs. After seeing the Heidelberg Project, this helped me realize even if there is a bad situation, it can be turned into something beautiful that many people want to see. My group and I got to meet the artist of this interesting project and he was a fascinating man with much wisdom and knowledge that went into creating this project.

The Sister who took us around on the tour told us an arsonist burned down some houses that were part of this project. This made me sad to think about because this project made me question what constitutes as art and what are the main aspects the artist wants to convey through this project. I looked up pictures of the houses from the Heidelberg Project that were burned down by the arsonist and all those houses were just as thought-provoking as the ones I saw.

I think there is a cultural aspect behind the burnings of the Heidelberg Project because many people in Detroit are taught it is good to fight fire with fire. For example, gangs are very controlling in Detroit and these people retaliate hard when it is "needed." I think there is a social aspect behind the Heidelberg Project because when I saw this it made me think about some of the tougher questions of the social parts of my life and it brings the community together to view these pieces of art.

After all our experiences for the week as a group, we discussed the causes for the poverty and homelessness in Detroit. As a way to accomplish this task, we had six sheets of paper with six different systems functioning in a society at the top. The six systems of a society are economic, social, political, education, healthcare and religious. As a group we discussed the larger implications that can be made by putting one bullet point in the economic system and how that relates to another bullet point in the healthcare system. For example, one of the bullet points that connects to another system is not getting an education so therefore if you have a kid you will not be able to teach him/her. As a result, this helps fuel the cycle of poverty because if you have one uneducated person who has a kid then they will also be uneducated. This cycle just keeps going in this order and never stops.

I learned a decent amount about Detroit during this spring break. I learned how I can be a voice for change and some simple changes I can make in my own life that have a huge impact on people around me.

No comments:

Post a Comment