From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Social Work Students

From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Social Work Students

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Working With a "Forgotten Population"

by Kristin Kujawa

When I originally accepted my placement at the Casa Central Adult Wellness Center, I knew from my time at Calvin College that I would be able to fulfill the passion I have to help the elderly. I was excited to use my social work skills and share my heart with this forgotten population.  As I built rapport with my agency, the participants began to feel comfortable enough with me to share stories about themselves. This is when I began to realize with these specific people that the ‘forgotten population’ terminology was twofold.

I first realized that it was more than just being forgotten about by family. They are also forgotten about because they are immigrants.  As many people have read or seen in the news, immigration is a hot topic, especially in Chicago.  Immigration is a word commonly heard discussed by the majority of the participants with their story soon to follow.  Each participant has a unique immigration story.  While the majority went through similar processes, each participant has a very different outlook on their time adjusting here. For many of the participants this is recent. Adjusting to Chicago life is new and strange, and now they are faced with new laws and constant reminders that they are immigrants. They also all came in hopes to spend time with their children and family, yet they found many to be too busy with the American way of life.  They find that they are forgotten here as much as in their home country, but now they have to try to understand a new language and culture. I realize how forgotten these people must feel, but it is encouraging to see them surrounded by a support group of people who have similar situations to themselves.
As I enter my internship each day, I am reminded of why I am there as soon as I see one of the participant’s smiling faces.  I know that God gave me a passion for this population for a reason. I know that although I am only at my internship for a short amount of time, I can be His hands and feet at Casa Central.  I pray every day on the Blue Line into my internship that I will be able to encourage someone today and show them the love of Christ. As Christians and social workers, we can model our practice off of Christ’s example. His greatest commandment was to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Matthew 22:37-38, NIV). I view these people as my neighbors.  My prayer is that I am an example of Christ to the participants at the Casa Central Adult Wellness Center.

My name is Kristin Kujawa and I am a senior social work major at Calvin College who has the privilege of participating in Chicago Semester.  Thank you for taking the time to read!

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Breath of Fresh Air

by Alicia Curtis

Hi, my name is Alicia Curtis and I am a Social Work major interning in Chicago. I am currently in my fourth week of living in the Windy City and would love to share a little bit of my journey with you.

My biggest fear before arriving in Chicago was that I would feel claustrophobic from the combination of being around people while riding public transportation, and the studio apartment that I share with a roommate. This fear, however, has not come true and to this day I feel much more free and invigorated in this city than I was expecting.

To begin, my internship is at a residential children’s facility. The facility provides schooling, art and music therapy, yoga, counseling and case management to their clients. As an intern, my role is to help clients learn proper behavior and social skills for their age. During this time I have learned appropriate client boundaries as well as how to have a therapeutic relationship with clients. Observing and knowing when to intervene in various situations is of great importance at this site. As I have been learning the daily routines of the organization, the staff has been extremely supportive and encouraging, which has put me at great ease.

When I’m not at the placement, I thoroughly enjoy the many sites there are to see around Chicago. The number of free museums and attractions is something to take advantage of!  Last weekend, I went to the Garfield Park Conservatory with a couple of friends. Walking in the midst of such unique agriculture from the Blushing Bromeliad to the Cinnamon Prickly Pear, our lungs were quickly filled with crisp oxygen. Only our brilliant Creator could create the sheer variety of plants from the Fishtail Palm Tree to the Red-Veined Prayer Plant. God has filled the Earth with such detailed beauty, and walking around this beautiful and free conservatory was a wonderful event for a Saturday afternoon.


Overall, these four weeks have caused me to grow in more ways than I could have ever imagined. From navigating a new city, getting acquainted at my internship and exploring various attractions, I have found much joy in exploring the Windy City. This semester, although challenging at points, has been like a wonderful breath of fresh air!