Our reflection for the week comes from Kiera Reilly, a senior Psychology and PJHR major!
Which community partner will you be writing about? Briefly describe their mission and the population they serve.
This semester, I am serving at the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry Chopping for Change program. This program is designed for incarcerated women to learn employment skills before they are released. The women come five days a week for a variety of classes, including culinary education. The mission of this organization is to give women skills for them to secure a stable job once they are released from prison, and hopefully, this stability cuts down on recidivism while also giving the women confidence in the workforce.
What impacts the way you view the situation/experience? (What lens are you viewing from?)
This experience has impacted how I view incarcerated people and the reentry process. I was able to talk to many of the women in the program and hear about their families. Many women talked to me about things they are missing, like the birth of a grandchild or their children's birthdays. Meeting individuals who are incarcerated have helped me humanize those in prison and think about individuals rather than just one entity. I feel empathy towards them as they struggle with the isolation of being in a prison. I also see how important the Chopping for Change program is for them as it gives them confidence in who they are and their skills. This is so important for reentry and it isn't something I thought about critically before.
What is one way in which you’ve allowed yourself to be changed as a result of this experience?
I allowed myself to really listen throughout my experience, particularly to one woman who I spent a lot of time with when we sorted clothing donations. I learned a lot about her and also told her a lot about me. I developed a relationship with her and this has changed me. I have a name and a face to give to incarcerated individuals and this gives humanity to the issue. Now when I am thinking about people in prison or advocating for prison reform, I can think of this woman who I got to know. I am changed because she trusted me and opened up to me. I will judge less, listen more, and have an open heart because of the people I met.