Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Service Immersion Day 5: Art - A form of restoration

Today was a very draining and emotional day. We started the day off heading to the Via International office to meet with Victor Clark, a human rights activist in Tijuana. We were truly in the presence of such a passionate and established human being. It was touching to hear how he has put himself in danger with cartels to stick up for the rights of the oppressed including sex workers and the transgendered population. It was an amazing opportunity to meet this very influential human being but I could tell that our group was exhausted. That was definitely not the best way to start off the day at 9:00am, listening to a speaker for an hour.  Once we said our goodbyes, we headed off to a homeless shelter.

We had heard stories prior to the experience that we should not be late and to make sure that we abided by all the rules of the homeless shelter. J.C. said the cooks were similar to the “Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld. Well it ended up that due to parking we were running late.  I was worried but it ended up that everything was fine. We all split up into our locations after securely placing our gloves, hairnets and aprons on. I had the opportunity to serve food. The meal our group was serving was turkey chili, buttered vegetable medley, cornbread and soup. Working at this shelter was definitely challenging and frustrating at the same time. I know there have to be rules set in place for reasons that a one time volunteer does not necessarily see, but it was very hard to enforce some of the rules including only 1 piece of cornbread at a time, especially since we had so much (and it was the most popular choice!). Our group did not really enjoy our experience at the homeless shelter, which was unfortunate.

After the homeless shelter we headed back to Crawford High School to listen to a group of students called the Peace Makers. They were going to be giving their stories of their experience and life as a refugee.

One of the rules of the homeless shelter was that we could not have cell phones. Everyone left their phones in the car but once we arrived back in the van everyone was catching up with what happened over the last couple of hours via Facebook and text message. Within a few minutes of being in the car after the homeless shelter, one of the students announced to the  car that a fellow Regis student had passed away. Everyone in the car was in disbelief. Is this really true? It’s on Facebook but can this be real? RIP was on many Regis students’ statuses. As we drove in almost silence, it sunk in to us that this had happened. One of our students on the trip was pretty close to the individual, actually the year before, spending their Spring Break together building homes with Habitat for Humanity in Key West, Florida. I could tell that she was crying in the seat behind me. My heart was heavy and since I was driving there was not much that I could do. As soon as we pulled into the high school parking lot, I reached around and rubbed my hand back. Instantly the tears she had been bottling in escaped her as if my action was saying “its okay, cry for the loss of this person.” I stuck with her while the others went in to listen to the Peace Makers. Even though I have been through some grief in my life I could not find the right words to say, so I just sat there in silence with her, comforting her.

I gave her some space and made a call to my boss to see what was going on and if this was in fact true. It was. I knew that the next couple days on the trip would be hard for my group (and many other  Regis students across the country celebrating their Spring Break). But I also realized how hard it will be as they all come back to Regis after Spring Break and  this loss becomes “real”. They no longer see this individual in class, at sporting events dancing with the dance team, no longer sharing memories of their time spent in Key West. There would also be memorials and a funeral. This next week will be hard for the entire Regis community. I also realize the role that my colleagues and I will play in supporting and comforting our students in a time like this.

Once our group had said their goodbyes to the Peace Makers, we then headed off in our “mom van” to Chicano Park to meet the artist and his co-workers  who we would be working with on mural restoration. We found out that we would be walking up on scaffolding (I’m not a huge fan of heights). Luckily we were not actually painting there but we were able to walk up there to see the view and what it is like to paint some of the spots where the scaffolding is needed. We learned a little bit about Chicano Park. Initially the plans were to build a parking lot in the area located under the bridge in this community. The community did not want this. They wanted a park to eat lunch, play with their children and dogs, a place where the community could live and play. They started the construction and the people protested by standing around the perimeters of the park. Their persistence won out and they were granted the park. It was not the best location for a park, underneath a bridge, lots of noise and traffic. So the artist decided that he was going to paint murals on the columns to add culture, art and life to the area. Now the area is vibrant in many ways!

The scaffolding

The view

Walking around the scaffolding
We had the opportunity to restore an area of art that had faded over time. We walked to the location and listened to instructions. I think everyone was in shock and worried about our task at hand. We can’t paint or draw as amazing art as we are seeing. But they ensured us that we just needed to touch up the paint and that we could add our own little flare if we wanted.

Once we understood our direction, everyone choose a color or an art piece to start on. After 30 minutes of work, we were on a roll, confident in what we were doing. By the end of the hour and a half, we had restored a pretty large section of the mural with fresh vibrant colors and some new designs. Our group had a blast, laughed a lot and helped with something that will be there for the next 10 years. This was exactly what our group needed after the new we had received earlier in the day about the passing of a fellow Regis student.

L to R: Maggie, Brittney, Alicia and Angel working on the mural

The joke of the mural restoration, don't let Brittney drop paint on you!

The main painting we working on restoring 
We then headed to the famous Ocean Beach Farmers Market where we ate dinner. Most ate pizza larger than the size of your head. Others ate from the African vendor. We all spent the remainder of our time there souvenir shopping.

When we arrived back at home (a.k.a. the church) we had to complete our task of preparing sandwiches for our service work the next day. We had to make PB&J sandwiches, about 60 of them. The group got a system down and produced those sandwiches in no time.