Greetings from Simunye!
Hannah here. Giving you all a first report on the LVC crew in Baltimore, Maryland. (The photo above is the five of us hanging out at the Inner Harbor. Moving from left to right: Hannah, Laura, Narges, Erin, Clara.)
We are a fun bunch of women. All full of passion, determination and wit. We were all strangers to one another not too long ago. But since boarding our flight to Baltimore, I’ve come to know the four women quite well. Here’s a bit about each of them.
First off, Laura Lampson. She was the first person I met during National Volunteer Orientation in Chicago. We hit it off immediately as we both wrestled our 50-pound suitcases up a narrow flight of stairs, laughing and scrambling the whole way. Originally from Western Washington, Laura is a newcomer to the east coast. While she misses the deciduous landscape of the Northwest, she seems to really be enjoying her work in Baltimore.
She’s spending the year volunteering with World Relief, a faith-based organization that offers assistance to victims of poverty, war, natural disasters and persecution. Specifically, she works in World Relief’s Immigration Legal Clinic. Laura spends a lot of her day talking on the phone and putting together legal case briefs for undocumented immigrants and refugees. When she comes home, she likes to unwind by sipping on Earl Grey tea and keeping up to date on the latest entertainment news. Don’t know who won the Emmy for best actor in a comedy series? Ask Laura. She can give you all the details.
Next, we have Clara Hesler. Unlike Laura, Clara is not very far away from home. She hails from Charlottesville, Virginia, which is about three hours from Baltimore. This year she is working at B’More Clubhouse, an organization that invites people living with mental illness to come together in community and build meaningful relationships and life skills. Clara serves as a client coordinator. She gets to be a peer for a specific set of clients and also leads various group activities. Right now her primary activity is filming a movie about the Clubhouse. Her clients get very excited about being on “B’More Clubhouse TV.” And personally, I’m pumped to see the final product.
Beyond her work, Clara loves to sing and to cook. She has a gorgeous voice and comes up with the best harmonies. The other afternoon, Clara and I sang along to a Lumineers album in the car while stuck in traffic. It was awesome. She’s also quite the vegetarian chef. She’s shown me how to be creative with sweet potatoes and cabbage, which are two things I didn’t like eating very much before this year. I hope we can continue to harmonize and cook together as the year goes on.
Thirdly, is Narges Mahdi. Narges does not love to sing and she does not keep up to date on the latest Emmy winners. However, she does love watching “The Bachelor.” Her passion for reality TV came as quite a surprise to me. You see, Narges is planning to pursue a career in international law. She’s set to go to grad school next year, actually, to study international affairs and law. She is incredibly driven and super smart. She just also happens to love mindless reality TV.
Narges is working with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) this year. She’s part of their outreach department. She spends some of her days working directly with clients and other days working with the development team. As an immigrant from Afghanistan, Narges is deeply connected to the experience of immigrants and refugees in the United States. She’s especially passionate about helping immigrant children and students understand their rights in this country. Every time I have a conversation with Narges, I’m struck by her commitment to social justice and her eagerness to help others.
Last up is Erin Michel. Erin is from Ashland, Ohio originally. She is spending the year serving at Healthcare for the Homeless, a non-profit organization that gives homeless people access to excellent medical and mental health care, as well as supportive housing resources. She works in the Referrals department there, helping clients schedule specialty appointments. And while she’s still settling into her role at the organization, every day she gains a little more confidence in her position. The clinic has inspired her to think about pursuing a career in social work.
Erin is definitely the queen of adventure in our group. She loves exploring the city and she’s always down for a free concert or lecture. Even though she’s been sick for quite a bit of our time here, she’s always rarin’ to get out of the house. In fact, she suggested our house take a trip to the Visionary Art Museum (VAMA) downtown a couple weeks ago. It was so cool! Plus, she found a night when we could all get into the museum for free. She’s my go-to gal when I need a Coca Cola slushy from our neighborhood 7-Eleven. And she’s full of Dad jokes.
I should mention that Erin is my co-worker. I also work at Healthcare for the Homeless, but I am a Spanish interpreter there. I’m really enjoying my work so far. I especially love seeing clients’ faces light up when they realize I can communicate with them in their language. Though I had some experience translating in college, I’m learning lots of new things here. I’ve spent some time reviewing Spanish medical vocabulary since I arrived. In case you were wondering, the Spanish phrase I’ve used most often in the last week is “urine sample,” which translates to “una muestra de orina.”
I come to LVC from Champaign, Illinois. I heard about the program through my undergraduate university, Luther College. I was drawn to it because a) I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to graduate school right away; b) I thought it would be cool to live on the East coast for the year; and c) I was moved by the organization’s commitment to peace and justice. My housemates seem to come to LVC for similar reasons.
I think this year in Baltimore is going to challenge us in various ways. It’s going to force us to redefine our prior conceptions of “community.” It’s going to make us think more critically about social justice. It’s going to influence our plans for the future. It’s going to put us in tough, vulnerable conversations with each other. And it’s definitely going to test our patience (i.e. Baltimore public transit). But we’re all excited for the journey!
We’ll be posting a new blog post each month. You all can look forward to Erin’s blog post in October.