By Sr. Gabriela Duszynska, CSFN
“Our attitude towards immigration reflects our faith in the American ideal. We have always believed it possible for men and women who start at the bottom to rise as far as the talent and energy allow. Neither race nor place of birth should affect their chances.” Robert F. Kennedy
This past spring semester, I took a class for my social work degree which incorporated some field learning experience. As part of the class, I was required to find a place where I would be able to volunteer. When the semester started, Sr Theresita Donach, CSFN, introduced me to Brother Michael Gosch, CSV, a Viatorian brother who just started a new program, the Viator House of Hospitality, for undocumented immigrant young men, ages 18 – 22, who have been released from detention facilities. Most of the young men are seeking asylum.
As a religious woman and future social worker, I have a personal sense of calling or mission to help others who are in need. As a child, I learned to be a helper, so it is not a surprise that as an adult I am seeking a helping profession in both my personal and professional life. I felt it would be a good experience to offer some help to those like myself who came to this country and want to make it their home.
In the present political climate, the topic of immigration is challenging. The problem of immigration is complicated and each individual case is different. I’ve often seen that immigrants are treated like one group and not like individual humans who have their own life story. I knew the experience at the Viator House of Hospitality would give me better insight into this issue.
America was built on immigrants. From my work at the Viator House of Hospitality, I learned that many of the problems of immigrants are more complicated than I thought. For example, I met a young man who left his country because he lost his mother and his step-mother did not take care of him. He did not receive any help from his father, either. The young man’s only hope was to come to the U.S. and try to experience the American Dream. However, instead of getting what he wanted, he was kept in detention and dehumanized because of his illegal status.
There are many people like this young man. Some of their stories are similar and others are more tragic. But, those stories changed my life and my understanding of the real issue and human struggles around the world. The experience at the Viator House of Hospitality made me look with different eyes on a reality that was different from my own immigration experience.
I was able to help those I encountered with their basic needs like buying clothes, helping in mathematics or just talking and listening. I did activities that I would never have had a reason to do otherwise and that pushed me out of my comfort zone. One example is when I simply helped a young man buy a pair of jeans and T-shirt. I believe the service I gave helped me more than what I did for the young men.
This service was more than just a class assignment. I hope to continue to help immigrants like these young men because I am grateful for those who helped me in my journey to America and taught me many good lessons. I want to continue to help those who search for a safe home on American soil.
Editor’s note: Sr. Gabriela Duszynska, a native of Poland, is currently a student in the Five-Year BSW/MSW at Loyola University in Chicago. The program allows students to complete both their undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work in five years. She entered the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in August 1999.