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“THE J. PATRICK LEE PRIZE FOR SERVICE: INTERVIEW WITH EMILY KINDELSPIRE ”

by: from University of St Thomas MN
published on June 30, 2014

     

    During a morning visit to a slum in  Dharamsala, India, Emily Kindelspire encountered a young boy who walked with a limp. He really loved flying a small, plastic kite, she said, and would get so caught up in the moment that he would release all the string. She would then retrieve the kite from where it landed among the boulders and then sit and re-role his string. “It was a monotonous task,” she said, “yet easy for me because it brought him such joy.”



    1. Why do you feel called to serve others? What or who in your past has influenced you to view service as important?

    I choose to be of service to others because I recognize that I am part of a larger reality outside of myself. What good is it to have a food in my belly, a roof over my head and a college education, all the while being aware that I am part of a select group of humans who has this luxury? Until all are fed, sheltered and educated there can be no peace.

    Mike Klein [a faculty member in the Justice and Peace Studies program] became my rock when I came St. Thomas. He best exemplifies what it means to choose to care and be kind.



    2. Has attending a Catholic institution and studying Catholic Social Teaching affected your ideas about service? Has your involvement with DES added anything to what you knew or thought about service?

    I firmly believe that the foundation of my morals has been greatly influenced by my lifelong Catholic education. Catholic social teachings have given me a framework to understand how together we can begin to build a just society.



    3. Could colleges and universities better promote and support service opportunities for their students?

    Yes, most definitely. St. Thomas has a few opportunities for service such as VIA [Volunteers in Action] and VISION [Volunteers In Service Internationally Or Nationally] and a few of the classes offer service learning opportunities. In addition, members of campus clubs have to submit service hours in order to maintain their funding. However, when service becomes something that is required and is thus extrinsically motivated, it loses authenticity.



    4. What is the most memorable moment you have experienced while engaging in service?

    During the semester I spent in Quito, Ecuador I was interning at a working girls’ school, running a preschool program in the nearby markets. On the International Day of the Woman, preschool was cancelled and there was a school-wide parade into the streets of South Quito. As we were walking along in the hot mid-day sun, I noticed a young woman, maybe 15 years old, carrying a child who was a little over a year old. I had been watching her as she walked hand-in-hand with her child, but now he was fast asleep in her arms and you could see how exhausted she was becoming. I approached and asked her if I could hold him. She smiled and handed him over to me. For the next three hours, as we continued to celebrate with a ceremony and dancers and storytellers, I held her child. She, meanwhile, went over and interacted with the high schoolers, a group it seemed she longed to be a part of. When her son finally awoke, he was startled to see me, a white faced stranger holding him. He began to fuss and his mom promptly returned for him. She thanked me and then went back to the rest of the high school girls who began doting over her son. Going back to that moment, I had freed her up to be a teenager again. It’s an example of the little things we can do for one another.



    5. How do you plan to use the money from the Patrick Lee Award?

    I decided to give the money to my parents. I thought back to when my relationship with service first began in my first year of college. After learning about a VISION trip to Venezuela, I was hooked on service. I decided that I was going to go on the trip whether or not I could afford it. But it was incredibly selfish of me to put that burden on my parents, who were already helping me as much as they could with paying for school. Now, three years later, I have been able to mostly fund both my education and VISION trips on my own. It is only right to give the money to my parents since their sacrifice allowed me to have an impactful experience and develop my passion for service.



    6 What social or political leader (past or present) would you like to meet most? Why?

    Last fall in a History of Sexuality course I learned about Ida B. Wells, an antilynching  activist and journalist at the turn of the 20th century. Ms. Wells was an incredibly bold, ambitious and brave woman who spoke out against the lynching of black men in the South. She risked her life to call attention to the double standard of the surrounding interracial relationships and of the power white men had held onto firmly even after slavery was abolished. Though Ms. Wells received limited education, she went on to teach others and actively engage her community in conversations about injustice, a feat that, considering the era, could easily have ended her life. Often times, I feel overwhelmed in the face of injustice, even when my own life is not on the line. I would love to meet Ida B. Wells and learn from her how to embrace fear, overcome it and remain committed to a cause.