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!