Through Service, Providing Global Relief, in Worcester

May 01, 2019

Traditional final examinations are generally held in a classroom with a proctor. For students enrolled in GLS 112: Perspectives on Global Humanitarian Relief, their final exam found them at Urban Missionaries, a refugee apostolate in Worcester, supporting its efforts to provide for refugees, asylees and immigrants as well as those in the greatest of need.

The course’s focus on global migration is what drew the students to Urban Missionaries on Assumption’s Study Day, a day free of classes that students typically use to prepare for final exams. The time spent at Urban Missionaries empowered students to witness first-hand the plight of immigrants and refugees – to see beyond the often skewed media coverage.

“Our entire ministry here is run by volunteers,” said Jeffrey Hall, manager of The Little Store. “The Assumption students in the shed are helping retail operations out by sorting through our goods and sending them where they need to go in the store. The students in Christmas Giving are helping out by basically cleaning the place up and making sure it can get the gifts out to the kids this year.”

Assumption students spent a better part of their study day cleaning, painting and preparing rooms at Urban Missionaries of Our Lady of Hope to store Christmas gifts. The organization provides nearly 15,000 gifts for 3,000 families each Christmas, and the collection and sorting of gifts is a year-round operation. Other students sorted through donated goods that filled two shipping containers that were originally destined for overseas, but diverted to the Worcester-based nonprofit. The goods will be sold in Urban Missionaries’ retail establishment, The Little Store.

“I took the Global Humanitarian Relief class by my own choice because I love to work with immigrants and refugees,” said Sarah Boisvere ’20, a global studies and theology major. “I also love volunteering in community service, it’s really rewarding. We came down here with our class and are so lucky to get this opportunity.”

As a new course offered at Assumption, students were unaware of the lifelong impact the course  would have on them.

“When the class began that first Wednesday night in January, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Hanna White ’21 an English major and Light the Way scholarship recipient. “All I knew was that the class was about global migration. Now, at the end of the semester, this class opened my eyes to the complexities of migration, both on a global scale and our own debate over immigration here in the United States. Considering Worcester is home to almost 40,000 immigrants, this topic is relevant for any college student in this city.”

GLS 112 is a new one-credit course offered for the first time during the spring 2019 semester. Light the Way scholars, who were invited to enroll in the course, apply for a competitive scholarship and if selected, receive $25,000 in financial aid each year for four years to recognize past, and encourage future, service endeavors that fulfill a need in society. The course draws from Catholic Relief Service’s (CRS) Faculty Learning Commons curriculum, a benefit of Assumption’s designation as a CRS Global Campus.

During the semester, Deacon Walter and Kathy Doyle, the couple who run Urban Missionaries,  spoke to the class sharing some of their efforts in Worcester on behalf of immigrants to help them find homes, enroll their children in school and even providing citizenship assistance.

“They came in during class one day to tell us about the work they do, and we decided that we wanted to ‘just help’ along with them,” shared White. “For the remainder of the semester, my 13 classmates and I worked with Urban Missionaries in a variety of different ways and putting into practice what we learned in the classroom.”

Inspired by the work of the Doyle’s, the students established a goal to raise over $700 to cover the expenses of one application for citizenship. They managed information booths on campus to encourage students to support the effort and to raise awareness of an international challenge in their own community. In addition to financing an immigrant’s citizenship application, the students also committed to the day of service at Urban Missionaries.

The lifelong impact of this one-credit class is immeasurable.

“Taking this class has impacted me and led me to take action to help those in need and those in search of a better life,” said Anna Hundt ’22 an elementary education major.

The class also imparts upon students elements of Assumption’s mission, in particular, thoughtful citizenship.

“One very important thing I learned from this class is that every individual has the moral obligation to help one another, especially those in need, despite the fact that they may not be personally affected,” said Katarina Barbas ’22 who is also an elementary education major.

“(This class) showed me that even though there is so much bad in the world that there are young people still willing to help and change things for the better,” said Caitlin Mathers ’22. “If you want to be one of those young people still willing to help, consider taking GLS 112.”

The course, combined with the service opportunity at Urban Missionaries provided students a new perspective on the struggles faced by those resettling, either voluntarily or due to often dangerous situations.

“I think it is very important for college students to be involved in their local communities,” added Hall. “It’s important for them to see the people they will be helping. This is a great place to volunteer if you’re interested in helping refugees and asylees.”

For those interested in supporting the student’s efforts to raise funds towards a citizenship application, please visit a GoFundMe effort established by the students