“Each human being, however small or weak, has something to bring to humanity. As we start to really get to know others, as we begin to listen to each other’s stories, things begin to change. We begin the movement from exclusion to inclusion, from fear to trust, from closedness to openness, from judgment and prejudice to forgiveness and understanding. It is a movement of the heart.” – Jean Vanier
For the last year, I have been working at St. Boniface School. St. Boniface is a part of CISE, the Catholic Inner-city School Education Fund in Cincinnati. The city of Cincinnati has a very high childhood poverty rate, so CISE gives children access to Catholic education in a safe and nurturing environment no matter their religious background or financial status. Sadly, most of the children that attend St. Boniface live in low-income households.
The biggest questions I have been asking myself this year has been, “What can I do to make their lives better? Is anything that I am doing really making a difference?” The truth is, I don’t know. I have had days working with the students where I have seen so many wonderful accomplishments and small victories. There have been days where I’ve been so frustrated about things that are out of my control that I have been brought to tears. The root of the problem with childhood poverty feels incredibly large and so widespread that I have no idea where to start. But these kids have given me so much hope.
Resilient is the word I would use to describe the students at St. Boniface. They are brave and strong in ways that many can’t even imagine. Hearing about what most of them have gone through in their short lives is heartbreaking. It’s unfair and cruel. And yet, they are so full of joy. They fill the halls with laughter and excitement. The students here have taught me more than I could ever teach them. They have challenged me, made me laugh, and have opened my eyes to so many injustices. They helped me realize how privileged I am and have asked really tough questions about life. I have been humbled in every possible way.
This year has been unlike any experience I have ever had. I have never had to say goodbye to something like this before. Even though my year of service ends in July, in some ways it feels like it ended in May. Saying goodbye to the students at the end of the school year was so unbelievably difficult. I miss them already. I pray that they know that they deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. I hope they never forget how important they are; that they have the capacity to accomplish so much. I am so proud of them. It has been the greatest honor to work and learn from them this year. I will miss them dearly.
Elizabeth Lounsberry: Cincinnati, Ohio