Isabelle Lewandowski, DSHA ’19 | Vocare Site: Vision Forward, Milwaukee, WI
Before going into Vision Forward, I was prepared to be the eyes of the children and to help them with everything. However, I learned that the visually impaired are so capable and independent, even at a young age.
Many people think of blindness as a huge disability, but I have found that any child and adult can do whatever they set their mind to and their disability does not hold them back.
I have learned that patience and calmness is a huge part of working with children. I have learned that you have to always remember that they are learning or do not understand the same way, so we must creatively and patiently think and create new ways for their understanding.
Every child deserves the chance to learn no matter his or her disability.
Faith Adewunmi, DSHA ’19 | Vocare Site: Milwaukee College Prep, Milwaukee, WI
Vocare taught me a lot about the level of patience and dedication it takes to work as a teacher, especially with young kids. I was always exhausted by the end of the day, and I honestly still don’t know how the teachers do it every single day.
Maggie O'Loughlin, DSHA ’19 | Vocare Site: Milwaukee Catholic Home, Milwaukee, WI
Overall, I learned about the circle of life and the importance of compassionate care to people at the end of their journey.
Although I had trouble with the site at the beginning of my experience, I was able to reflect and discover why I was there. I was able to see the characteristics of my own grandparents in the residents. I realized my work had meaning because that is how I would want others to treat my grandma, who has Alzheimer’s. These residents have families, friends and a whole lifetime of work that should be valued and respected, even at the end of their lives.
Maria Robledo, DSHA ’19 | Vocare Site: Emerson Elementary School, Milwaukee, WI
One thing that I learned through my Vocare experience is the importance of an education in a kid’s life. It reinforced the idea that receiving an education and being surrounded by people that wish to see them strive impacts the kids’ lives in such a positive way.
Nicole Norfolk, DSHA ‘19 | Vocare Site: Curative Care, Milwaukee, WI
One thing that I would want the rest of the school to know about Vocare is that I believe the random option is truly amazing because all of your trust goes into God's hands to put you exactly where you need to be. That is what I feel like happened for me.
Before Vocare, I never truly loved doing service. I always did it and felt good afterwards, but never really wanted to go back or do it in my free time. I thought that was something missing in my life. I saw my classmates loving the service they were doing, and that was what I wanted in my life as well.
So I prayed about it. God answered my prayers. While I believed this before, I have been reassured that God puts each and every one of us where we need to be and that we must trust him in that moment. And what we can do in that moment is to love. Love everyone possible in the most genuine way and make sure they know it through our words, but more importantly, through our actions.
Gianna Stanton, DSHA ’19 | Vocare Site: St. Rose Messmer, Milwaukee, WI
One big thing I learned through Vocare is that you know way less than you think you do about anyone and anything, so you’re basically the least qualified person to judge anyone.
Julia Basurto, DSHA ’19 | Vocare Site: United Community Center/ Bruce Guadalupe Community School, Milwaukee, WI
One thing I learned from my site is that kids in their own way can be role models for us. For example, they find joy in almost everything from making shapes with play-doh to playing with their classmates.
Also, kids are the few people that love and accept everyone. In our society, we are often stressed and begin to dislike people because they don't agree with our ideas. Being in a classroom with these kids has shown me that we all have the power to love our neighbors.
Emily O’Connell, DSHA ’19 | Vocare Site: St. Ann’s Center for Intergenerational Care, Bucyrus Campus, Milwaukee, WI
One thing I learned from Vocare is that service is not about yourself and what the server feels; it is about the people being served and how you make them feel.
Bella Puchner, DSHA ’19 | Vocare Site: Goodwill Industries SE WI, Waukesha, WI
During these past two weeks on Vocare, I learned to cherish the simple things, and was amazed by what can make people truly happy.
Never once did I see a cell phone while I was at Goodwill. Real company was all that each individual needed at my site, and I was amazed to realize that it is all I need to find true happiness in every moment as well.
These people wanted someone there to high five them when they won Candy Land, to read the newspaper to them, or, what surprised me the most, to ask "Will you pray for me?"
In each individual at Goodwill over the two weeks, I saw genuine happiness in the same things that I overlook as opportunities to find joy in my own everyday life. I have learned to find happiness in the simple things. I realize that happiness cannot come through a screen, but only through cherishing the presence of others. I am beyond grateful for this experience!
Kelley Schlise, DSHA ’19 | Vocare Site: Capri Communities – Wilson Commons, Milwaukee, WI
At the beginning of Vocare, I had to adjust to the slow pace of the elderly home where I served, which sharply contrasted my tightly scheduled days at DSHA. The two weeks have taught me that I can connect to the residents in spite of the differences in our daily routines. Ultimately, their routine became my new routine. The snow day during the second week helped me recognize how much their activities had become integral parts of my day, and it was weird to miss out on them.
The point of Vocare, and my life's work, is to find new means through which to connect to people that are different than me. Serving at Capri Wilson Commons has accordingly provided a host of opportunities to connect with a community that I would have never otherwise encountered. I am so grateful for the little things I have learned about loving others over the two weeks there.
Audrey Garrett, DSHA ’19 | Vocare Site: Blessed Sacrament School, Milwaukee, WI
Creativity must be encouraged. It was so rare to see a classroom full of such wild ideas. The teacher consistently encouraged these out-of-this-world ideas and assigned homework that would continually support the kids’ creativity.
The kids were never attached to technology or drama in the classroom, as I remember during my fifth grade experience. They were so captivated by everything, from art projects of mod podge to the Super Blood Moon to the possibility of new inventions, like a pencil that regrew lead or a bed that flung you onto a launching pad every morning as an alarm clock.
Seeing this classroom gave me so much hope. There is a gentle kindness in that place, and I am so excited to see how my fifth grade friends will change the world with their crazy ideas. I forever wish I could spend more time with them.
I only hope that they receive the creative encouragement I witnessed at home. Each child has such a different personality, yet there is always something that ties each individual together. There is always a common ground, even between them and myself.
At the end of the day, everyone in that classroom was loved just the same, and I pray that as they get older, they remember how important and beautiful each of their minds are. I hope they notice that through all their differences, there are strange and wonderful preferences, facts and stories that tie them together. There are not enough words to describe how much these kids mean to me. They truly have taught me to find peace in differences and encouragement in friendship. I will miss them a lot.
Nora Bauer, DSHA ’19 | Vocare Site: Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Open Door Café, Milwaukee, WI
My favorite thing from Vocare was how much my heart changed. Not in a big way, but in a very, very simple, specific way.
The first few days, Katie Bates and I worked endlessly to clean out and organize a closet filled with hygiene products and clothing donations. On the fourth day of our service, neither of us felt like we had made any relationships other than the friendship between us. In that moment, though, when God closed a door, He opened a window.
The next day, we had to readjust our mindsets. So when the guests came for lunch in the Café the next day, we decided we would each grab a tray and sit with them. First, we sat with a woman named Lela and talked about music — country, R&B, jazz, everything. She kept making up these outrageous stories, and both Katie and I laughed and enjoyed ourselves with her.
Since then, we've sat with the guests each day. We do our work, and then we just talk and relax. While some of the guests might struggle with homelessness, drug abuse, mental illness or violence, all of them struggle with fear, loneliness and pain. Still, they all have something to say and something to teach. They've definitely taught me to open my heart and to let go of fear. I need not fear another person just because their life experiences are so drastically different from mine. I can't be afraid to ask questions, whether I receive a positive response or a negative one. I can't wait to go back and see some of my new friends again.
The biggest thing I've learned, though, is to rebound. Things didn't go well right away, and honestly, we didn't feel like we were able to integrate into the community. But we powered through, forced ourselves to get comfortable and dig in, and actually have built relationships now. We rebounded and tried again, even after things didn't go our way. And we learned a lot in the time. My heart has been so full of love those weeks!
Laura Kloser, DSHA ’19 | Vocare Site: Catholic Charities – Adult Day Care, Milwaukee, WI
A woman named Mary told me something that I feel encompasses Vocare. She and I were watching Diana, a staff worker, help a woman named Nina and she told me that watching people take care of each other made her feel good. She told me that watching the other women like Nina stand up straight made her feel good. To me that describes Vocare. Vocare is about recognizing the dignity of each person.
I went expecting to serve others, and now I feel like others have served me. When they thanked me as I left on the last day, the words that came to mind were not "you're welcome," but instead, "thank you." I entered into Vocare worried that I could not be a blessing to the people I served; yet I am returning grateful for the angels I met.