Every year Northwestern participates in spring service projects, during which many go out to serve and strengthen communities. This year there are 14 service projects and more than 20 student leaders who will be donating their time to lead them. Among those leaders are four individuals who wish to challenge the campus on what it means to not only transform other people’s lives but also transform their own.
Jessica White will be leading a group to Urban Ventures in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Urban Ventures focuses on breaking the cycle of generational poverty.
“It’s not just one aspect; it’s several: financial, spiritual, educational and even physical poverty,” White said. “It’s one of the top organizations in the country.”
This will be White’s second time traveling on an SSP to Minneapolis. Last summer, she interned for Urban Ventures in the employment resource center. When asked why she is so excited about serving others, White said it’s because she is passionate about experiencing life with other people.
White said she believes it is important for students to remember that they can serve others now.
Carly Rozeboom will be leading a group to the Cary Christian Center in Cary, Miss.
“It’s hard to see some of the things you see,” Rozeboom said. “You want to ignore and reject it, but when you accept the reality (of them), it is really life changing.”
For Rozeboom, it was difficult seeing racial discrimination and the wealthy and impoverished parts of the city merely divided by a river. Rozeboom, a junior, has been traveling to Cary since her freshman year.
On this trip, Rozeboom will challenge her group to re-think charity.
“I read Toxic Charity,” Rozeboom said. “It talks about how charity can be toxic for communities because they build reliance and don’t empower people to rely on themselves.”
Rozeboom will also challenge her group to discover what it means to serve.
“When I went (to Cary) I thought, I’m going to help all these poor people; they really need me,” Rozeboom said. “Not the case. I needed them. You don’t go there to do work. You go there to learn from them. I keep going back because I feel at home there.”
Sam Nelson will be leading a group to City Youth Ministry in Jonesboro, Arizona.
Nelson will be leading a group to City Youth Ministry in Jonesboro, Arizona.
“I fell in love with the ministry last year,” Nelson said. “The kids that we work with really humble you. They had a rough upbringing, but they still smile.”
Nelson said the trip had some difficult challenges but encouraged anyone who has a love for children to apply for the Jonesboro trip. Nelson credited the trip with helping her faith grow.
“You become stronger in your faith,” Nelson said. “You see the love of God. My life is better because of those kids.”
For nursing student Gretchen Sutherland, the people she met and the meaningful conversations she had on her previous SSP to Haiti made her decide to lead the service project to Haiti this school year.
“Every interaction I had, (the Haitians) always turned it back to Christ, either praising God or thanking him,” Sutherland said. “They somehow took every opportunity to witness in every conversation. They had faith as the forefront of their minds. That’s what I’m striving for in my own faith journey.”
Sutherland said that despite the many obstacles Haitians have faced after the devastating earthquake a few years ago, the people, especially the kids seem to be happy.
“The joy Haitian kids have is just so full,” Sutherland said. “They enjoy every moment. Haiti made me realize how many blessings I have here. I learned how joy doesn’t come from the things around us; it’s with the people you are with. I wish everyone could go to Haiti and experience it. It’s something that sticks with you. Something you won’t forget.”