It's been a while since I've posted. Sometimes inspiration comes in waves! Don't worry, another post with a YAV Year in Photos, 2014 Edition is coming your way soon. It's pretty crazy looking back at the YAV Year in Review (The 2013 Portion!) as I sit here in my house sweating on my final week in Tucson...
This is my final blog post with BorderLinks. Other than organizing and leading delegations, I have done a lot of the behind-the-scenes work (like we all do), and one of my responsibilities has been managing our BorderLinks blog throughout my year as a PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer. And this post is actually about the closing time for a few of us at the BorderLinks HQ: Maria, Rhonda, and I will be moving on to other things; Alex is also finishing up his term of volunteer service through the Methodist US-2 program, but he will stay connected to BorderLinks as he soon begins graduate school at the University of Arizona; and our Summer Civic Engagement Program is winding down with staggered end dates based on the program schedule they chose.
So with a few of us heading different directions, on Thursday, July 24th, we decided to reflect and celebrate. BorderLinks held a potluck with staff as well as the summer interns and guests they invited from their placements at local organizations. Here are a few pictures from the day!
Maria, Alex, me, and Rhonda on our despedida (goodbye party) day.
We filled our plates with tamales, rice and beans, fruit salad, greens, jicama, and more! Here are Barbara and Natalie from Iskashitaa, along with their intern through BorderLinks' summer program, Gina - who is from my home church, St. Luke! It was fun to see Gina in Tucson some this summer too, and I'm glad she had a good experience and learned a lot here in the Borderlands too.
After the meal, Suzette called out the cards for loteria, similar to Bingo and a good way to practice your Spanish.
Alicia and Rhonda were the victors of loteria! Alicia chose the maraca, and Rhonda the small Mata Ortiz pot.
And then we moved outside for a piñata. I get to pose with our Awesomeness Director, Atyana on the left.
I am so grateful for all of the experiences I have had here in my year with BorderLinks. This work has challenged my head and my heart in ways I never imagined. I never thought one job would have me working with groups of teenagers to octogenarians, cooking for 40, driving 15 passenger vans in Mexico, interpreting on the fly, reading endless articles about immigration, making YouTube videos, facilitating tough discussions and reflections, doing ab breaks and running errands and talking in Spanglish with coworkers, having silly dance parties and more.
And now, I have to reflect on my year with this incredible organization. Thing is, this is not something I just do, reflect on, and move on from.
It’s not an isolated experience that will sit in photo albums on Facebook or on shelves in my new apartment.
It will walk with me in my next steps in life.
It will accompany me in memories, connections, inspiration, and knowledge.
It will infiltrate my career path and further education.
With each BorderLinks delegation, we ask our participants to walk through the circle of praxis: see, think, and act. Reflect upon what you saw, experienced, and felt, and use that reflection to guide you into action based on that experience. Don't let this intense experience and firsthand knowledge of these issues just sit here in the Borderlands, don't compartmentalize it and let it collect dust in your brain.
Connect it back to your daily experience, your home community, and work to see how what happens here on the border is not isolated. Immigration issues especially affect this entire country, not just in our citizenry's relationship to the system of immigration policy and enforcement, but in how our communities are changing and are challenged. I tell every delegation that even though I grew up a few hours from the Canadian border (but have never been to Canada...), I see much more the effects of our relationship with our southern border than with our northern border. In Minneapolis/St. Paul, the rings of traditionally whiter and whiter suburbs, and traditionally white small towns and rural Minnesota are seeing growing Latino populations.
So my question throughout this year has followed this see, think, and act model for how I will bring this experience with me wherever I go. Now that I know that I will be going back to my college town of Northfield, MN and will be working with students and families in the brand-new position of Community Schools Coordinator, I know that I want to keep exploring education access and different models of education, using what I’ve learned in my own educational career as well as the models of experiential education and popular education here at BorderLinks. Part of my new position will actually be focused on building that bridge from these experiences with Latino communities and communities affected so much by migration, to serving the Latino community in that Minnesota town that has its own migration stories.
I have been so fortunate to have met so many incredible people this year that will continue to inspire me. My work with BorderLinks itself is built upon connections to different individuals and organizations with varied perspectives. BorderLinks attempts to build bridges, to get people with diverse opinions into the same room or at least on the same trip schedule, and to draw people from a polarized world of yelling at one another through the media into understanding one another at a human level. The thing about being present in the Borderlands in such a polarized context is you see so many people trying to do something, to do what they can with their time, their talents, and their heart.
Thank you, BorderLinks. I will miss my coworkers and this community, but don’t worry: you’re all coming with me back to Minnesota.