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One Year Is the Beginning

Today’s post is an interview Mission Year alumna, Haley Underwood. She served in Chicago during the 2006-07 year.

Why did you decide to apply for Mission Year?

As college graduation was approaching, I wasn’t exactly sure on where my next step would take me.  I had been interested in the inner-city and social justice issues, however I knew I wasn’t ready to just move to the hood and teach.

A friend of mine had done Mission Year, and as I heard his stories, I became interested in the program.  When I visited Chicago to see the program, I knew this was something I wanted to do.

I wanted to experience life in this different and uncomfortable way.  I wanted to learn and be challenged.  I wanted a year to figure out what was important to me and what I really wanted to do with the rest of my life.  So, Mission Year was it!

What was your favorite part?

My favorite part of Mission Year was spending time with my neighbors.  In particular, my neighbor Mrs. Wright.  Nearly every day I walked over to Mrs. Wright’s house.  We would drink coffee and talk about life.

She was an example to me of what it mean to “Love God and Love People”.  I would listen to her stories and learn from her.  I would walk the neighborhood with her and get to know the other neighbors.

In the end, we were best friends.  I would have never thought that an 80 year old woman would become one of my closest friends.  And, six years later, she still is today.

What parts of the program have you taken with you after your year?

There are many parts of Mission Year that I have taken with me.  I still worship in my same Mission Year church and I still spend time with many of the neighbors from my Mission Year.

However, the one thing that has really stuck with me, was this idea of empowering our youth in the city.  During my Mission Year, I realized that many of the youth in our neighborhood and in our church had never been away from the city.  They had never seen anything besides their own neighborhood.

I also realized that our youth were never empowered to know that they had gifts and talents that could be of service.  So, I organized a trip to my college town of Alma, Michigan.  My MY team and I, took a group of 8 youth, and we empowered them to be leaders in a day camp for kids in Alma, Michigan.

The youth also stayed with host families and were able to enjoy many new experiences.  Over the past six years, I have continued to organize this trip.  There have been countless stories of empowerment, service, love, learning, and friendship from these trips.

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