Tag Archives: Creighton

Their dreams need to be shared.

(6/5/18)

Two full days of shooting done and I feel like I have learned more from these two days than I have in a year at university. (Not necessarily a year I have experienced at Creighton, but more a year of schooling in the United States). The ways that I expected to be uncomfortable have turned out to be the highlights of our time in Uganda so far. After setting up cameras and audio for interviews and having some creative freedom with shooting B-roll, the filming aspects have helped me cope with the hard things we have learned while in Kampala, Uganda. One instance stands out to me, that my uncomfortableness has turned into an instance for reflection and a perspective change. 

We have spent the past two days at Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Kampala. In a short 72 hours, I have already felt Ugandan hospitality while being at JRS. We have met a wide array of people who have proven to come from all walks of life. A simple question shot me straight into a feeling of uneasiness. 

All 12 of us were standing in front of one of the of the English classes, being introduced, at JRS. This classroom had about 30 young adult refugees who are learning English in order to be able to communicate and work in Kampala. The teacher prompted the class by asking, “They are visiting us from America, does anyone have any questions about America?”. One Congolese man stood and asked, “What does Trump say about African refugees?”. I think we all froze a bit, I certainly did. Not that we didn’t know the answer but because we could sense that there was a sense of optimism in the room. His question insinuated that there is somewhat of a desire for some of these refugees to start a new life in America. I have been able to have more conversations, and dive deeper, about how America is perceived by refugees at JRS. The main dream for these people is to be able to go home. Something that simple can be a dream for millions of people. For some, going home is incredibly impossible at the moment. However, the thought crosses some of their minds that America is another option for a dream. America is painted as a place of opportunity and new beginnings. Even if we had a good president right now, this is still not a rational reality for all (or any) of these refugees. That in itself made me question what we are doing in Uganda and how I can cope with the privileges that I have. However, it reminded me that we have a platform. Maybe our documentary will be seen by all of America, maybe it won’t. Who knows. But I do know that stories about people who persevere while suffering spreads fast. And that is important in itself. I can’t think of another time in my life that I have been able to have as much of a first-hand experience as I am right now. That is important and what I am seeing and feeling needs to be shared.  

The question from the young man made me feel evasive in their space at first. What were we really going to be able to do for these people? We can’t instill optimism, or promises, by  being Americans bringing in our cameras and tripods. And that in itself is a hard, heartbreaking pill to swallow. But I realized that we need to tell everyone we know, about what is going on. And with that, what is really going on. 

Their dreams need to be shared. In two days, I already stand in solidarity with their dreams. They deserve to go home. 

A giant avocado found at JRS (note to self: start taking more pictures).

Peace n’ blessings!

A Call to Bear Witness

Four years ago, I listened to a small panel of journalism students and faculty professors describe the unique networking and writing opportunities offered by the Department of Journalism, Media & Computing (JMC) at Creighton University. Like every other prospective student sitting in on that early morning session, I perched stiffly in my banquet chair and concentrated intently on the panelists’ expressions, attempting to gauge their sincerity as they exalted the JMC Department, while also pretending that I wasn’t embarrassed by my mother’s frantic note taking beside me. Every now and then, Mom’s pen paused dramatically mid-scribble, prompting my glance her way so that she could flash me her signature “Did-you-hear-that?” raised eyebrows, followed by the “If-you-don’t-ask-a-question-I’m-going-to-ask-one-for-you” smirk.

Quite a lot of pressure hung over this particular journalism panel (although I’m sure none of the department’s representatives realized it). At the time, I was an indecisive high school senior who was in the final leg of my college tour, anxious to find the right collegiate environment where I could thrive. I’d never heard of Creighton until a month prior to my visit; I didn’t know what a Jesuit was, much less what being a part of a Jesuit institution meant; and as a Californian spoiled by warm weather and our swanky In-N-Out Burgers, I wasn’t too inclined to migrate to Nebraska any time soon. Needless to say, Creighton was at a slight disadvantage in terms of convincing me to apply.

As the panel discussion continued, the conversation turned to a study abroad program called Backpack Journalism. My interest was immediately piqued. The concept of shooting a mini documentary to shed light on an injustice as it is experienced in a different part of the world seemed right up my alley. Backpack Journalism blended two of my strongest passions: versatile storytelling and social justice – interests which I had previously considered mutually exclusive. I fell in love with the idea of utilizing journalism to provide a voice to the voiceless, to share stories that matter.

In that moment, as I watched clips from previous Backpack Journalism adventures and heard about the meaningful relationships that students had built with their global subjects, I realized that I had found what I was looking for. This program catapulted Creighton to the top of my universities list; I knew that if I was committing to Creighton, I was also committing to Backpack Journalism.

Rachel, my roommate of four years (right), and I (left) adventuring in my home state. It’s crazy to think that if I hadn’t heard of Backpack Journalism several years ago, I may not have met one of my best friends.

Cut to four years later. I am now about to embark on a two week pilgrimage to Uganda as a participant in the very program that helped me find my home away from home.

This year the Backpack Journalism team will bear witness to Sudanese refugees who are staying in settlements throughout Northern Uganda. We are going to investigate the lived realities of involuntary displacement, the modern impact of historical trauma and sociopolitical conditions in Africa, and the Church of Uganda’s spiritual and practical impact on the refugee crisis. In the process, we’ll (hopefully) gain a broader perspective on real world issues, in addition to discovering a beautiful humanity that is often distorted by Western society.

I’ll admit, I’m finding myself in a bit of emotional flux as our trip looms closer. I couldn’t be more excited to develop narratives with the individuals I’ll encounter and to learn new storytelling techniques through videography. And of course, it feels almost unreal to finally be participating in the study abroad program that influenced my decision to come to Creighton.

At the same time, I feel slightly anxious about stepping so far out of my comfort zone and entering these vulnerable places (If I felt a public spotlight while sitting next to an overenthusiastic parent taking copious notes, how am I going to feel filming b-roll with strangers out in the field?). In these moments, I have to remind myself that the stories worth telling aren’t the ones that we observe from the sidelines – they’re in the midst of the action.

To my dear friends and family members reading this blog, please keep our small group in your thoughts and prayers over these next few weeks! Pray that we remain conscious and intentional throughout our journey; that we grow spiritually as well as intellectually; and that we can survive the few grueling days of Backpack Journalism boot camp.

I’ll end my first blog post with a verse that has been on my mind lately. In my opinion, this verse perfectly captures the call to bear witness that we young journalists and theologians feel compelled to follow:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” : Isaiah 6:8

New Experiences

Hi, my name is Andrew Bodlak. I’m originally from Colorado Springs, but found myself in Omaha for the course of my college career. I am studying Neuroscience with hopes to go to medical school after I graduate next year. However, when I heard about the backpack journalism course my freshman year – a then-senior named Nico came into my freshman orientation class and showed us the backpack journalism film that had been shot in Alaska that year – I knew that I would have to delve into my journalistic psyche in order to participate in the next trip. The opportunity was too precious to miss. Particularly, I am excited to listen to all of the stories that we will uncover on our trip. To be with the South Sudanese refugees, to reflect on their life experiences – to absorb. I am an idealist: I can get discouraged when I see things in my world which are deviated from the “what should be”, in what I would argue is an objective sense. For example, I think that it is never okay to exploit someone for your own personal gain, no matter the culture, circumstance, etc.

My point is, I will learn a lot from people who are undoubtedly plunged into a chaos of deviation from the ideal. I’d dare to wager that for some of the people we meet, their concept of should be might be turned into a desperate could this ever be? For someone like myself, whose hardest experience in life was moving to college (where I had ready access to wonderful food, housing, and family), the comprehensive phenomenology of a refugee’s suffering is far beyond my mental sympathetic capabilities. I simply don’t have to experience to fully understand their experience. I only hope that I can step a little closer during the course of the trip, maybe enough to catch a spark of empathy – note the “e” – such that would smoulder in my heart for the rest of my life.

Praying for transformation and a set of open ears to accompany an open heart.

Started from the Bottom, Now We’re Here

I knew from the start that my passion for social justice was about to grow indefinitely. I was completely right. I have learned so much on this backpack journalism trip. 

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 3.37.33 PM

I’ve learned how to be a better photographer. I’ve become an amateur film maker. I’ve learned how to conduct interviews, set up cameras, make sure all of the chords are plugged into the right places, always have backup sound in case you forget a chord, converse with the interviewee, and edit the final product. I have learned how to capture a variety of shots in one setting so that I can edit them into one scene later. 

I’ve learned about the Avery Dulles’ Models of the Church. I was introduced to the many varieties of these models and how they can differ depending on the location of the Church. While I grew up in the Catholic Church, I never thought of the concept of the church being based on models. I also had this idea in my head that the Church was the same everywhere. I personally thought that everyone had the same old way of doing things. I became bored with the monotone masses I was attending and found myself not being able to relate to anything concerned with the church. In my time at Marian and Creighton, I have had my views altered and had them evolve. Avery Dulles, SJ, brought up a whole new dimension to the church in his book, Models of the Church. Before  I read this book, I saw the Church as more of an institution of old men and chanting people.

I believe that Dulles brought to mind some good points and recognized the disadvantages as well. It went hand and hand with our trip to Nogales. I assume that the knowledge will help me in the future as well. I wa able to learn more about the Church as well as myself and my position within the Church.

I read and watched a lot about Jon Sobrino, S.J. who is a liberation theologist. He discussed this idea of the Crucified People. 

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 3.37.23 PM

We are called to stand in solidarity with migrants who can easily be seen as a Crucified People. These are our neighbors that we are talking about here. Since we as Americans are the more privileged of the two, we are called to advocate for those who cannot. Both countries have a shared “faith that calls for a living and just world, not one that is ruined by violence and discrimination.” We followers of Christ, we must work and pray for the universal good.

My confidence in the subject of migration has evolved and although I am not a master, I am more educated. I know that I will be able to live differently by how I handle myself when encountering strangers. Everyone has their own cross to bear, their own hardships. It is not my place to turn a blind eye or judge them. Instead I will meet them where they are and walk with them as my brothers and sisters. 

Why?

My Beautiful Mother & I A lot of people say that I look and act like my mom. We have the same cheeks, on our face and rear end. We both like to talk way too much and think we are funnier than we really are. I always have to be careful when I am in public because the odds are that someone knows who my mom is. I used to annoy her by constantly asking “Why?” to things that she said. I was never satisfied with simple answers.

St. John's June 20, 1992My mom used to tell me about her college days at Creighton. These were some of the best years of the first part of her life before I was born (the dull years). After I was born, the next 21 years would be her favorite because, duh, I am a delight.

There are two specific events that my mom recalls the most. 

The first being when she met her best friend, my dad, in a car on the way to the store to get party supplies. Intrigued by hi

s silence, she asked her friends about him. Eventually, she befriended the quiet, brown boy. In an attempt to flirt, they would play tag and run up and down the stairs, chasing each other in circles. She sprained her ankle one too many times. Whether or not this was an effort to trap my dad into feeling bad for her or if she was really hurt, I do not know. After dating for seven years, they got married in Saint John’s on June 20th (Happy Anniversary).

My Parents on June 20, 1992
My Parents on June 20, 1992

They waited two more years before they had the most incredible child they could ever dream of. Afterwards came three more hooligan children with whom I have had to teach how to be civilized.

The second noteworthy experience that my mother had at Creighton was her immersion to the Dominican Republic with the ILAC program. She was one of the first females to lead a group as well as one of the only non-medical students. This experience helped her become more fluent in Spanish. I would flip through her albums and see her grinning with her braided hair talking to the Dominicans. This was one of the few moments that I thought my mom was cool. There was one picture that I distinctly remember. It was of a little girl, maybe 3 or 4, and a bowl full of dirty water where she was cleaning her sandals. I took interest in the photograph because the girl looked to be around my age at the time.

A girl from the DR washing her shoes in a small tub.
A girl from the DR washing her shoes in a small tub.

Why?

That was my first exposure to the third world and to those less fortunate than me. 

My mom planted a seed within me. Ever since then, she has taken me along with her to serve those less fortunate in our community. My mom made sure that I would become a women for others. She has taught me that it is important to pray, but even more important to act. She has taught me that it is important to act, but even more important to do thoughtfully and intentionally. She has taught me to do things with purpose and with love. She has taught me to not be satisfied with the initial image that I am presented with while serving others. But to rather ask why things are the way they are? 

During my journey to the border, I tried to keep her lessons in mind. I saw a wall that literally divided a city into two, that sliced streets right through the middle. What happened that the US felt a need to build something so ugly and disrupt a city? I saw women and children who had been exposed to the desert, left to fend for themselves. Why were they left so vulnerable? I experienced the border patrol and the stone cold faces that they wore. Why the cold vibes? I saw the unjust Operation Streamline and how many people a day, in just one court setting, were prosecuted as criminals for illegal entry and re-entry. Why do they need to be prosecuted as criminals and face time in private jails? Why are people okay with putting millions of their own tax dollars into private people’s pockets by putting migrants into jail? I saw people face dehumanization, corruption, violence. Why have we become so immune to these injustices. Why do we find it okay to devalue someone else’s life? 

Why am I just now discovering all of the injustices that are going on at our Southern border? What other injustices have I not yet learned about? How can I continue to act and serve when I am just one, broke, college student?

Because of Backpack…

I anticipated that I would finish the five weeks with new knowledge of immigration, the ability to turn a camera on and other practical skills every journalism student should know. I had no idea that the knowledge would change me. I know, I know that it sounds incredibly cliché, but it’s true.

Because of Backpack… I am a seeker of truth.

Because of Backpack… I am margin traveler.

Because of Backpack… I am a listener.

Because of Backpack… I am a team player.

In my first blog, I wrote about how I am a “Yes Woman.” And even though I found this trip by saying no, it taught me that it is almost always right to say yes. By saying yes to the early morning B-roll, the extra interview, the longer explanation… I have learned so much and gained an incredible amount of confidence. It is Because of Backpack that I have grown as a writer, a film maker and as a friend. Saying yes, even to something that scared me, has been the greatest decision of my life.

Because of Backpack… I am thankful.

 

My teammates. My friends.
My teammates. My friends.

 

So, what is something I can do differently based upon what I learned? I can stop worrying about needing to say no and start embracing my love of yes.

For now,

Natalie

Piece by Piece

My comfort zone is located in several odd locations: any rollercoaster, local coffee shop, or airplane.

However, you won’t find it anywhere near spicy food.

You won’t find it by a scorpion.

You definitely won’t find it behind a camera.

After two weeks of hanging out with all of the above, it felt incredible to be welcomed back with words.

I was in my element in Hitchcock 203. The satisfaction of seeing the story sprawled out on the surface was spectacular. (Side note: I love alliteration. Can you tell?) I loved collaborating with my teammates and organizing our hundreds of pages of material. It was much harder than expected to make the cuts; I wish our movie could be a day long, but I don’t know any film festivals with that requirement.

Overall, I loved reading the interviews again. That’s when I knew we had something special, when I was excited to read an interview that I already knew by heart. The writing team would shout out great quotes from the transcript they were reading and we would all comment on how much we adored it. Praise for our people became a regular pastime in that room. I hope… No, I know that we will make them proud.

I have a wonderfully excited feeling about this film and I cannot wait for you to watch it.

The Piecing Process. PC: Carol
The Piecing Process. PC: Carol/Aly

More to come,

Natalie

The Realization of Complication

Complicate.

It’s a word that we learned on our very first day in Nogales. One of the Kino Border Initiative’s main goals is for groups to leave with an understanding of the complicated reality of migration. After two weeks on the border, I can’t imagine anyone leaving without complication packed in his or her baggage.

I thought I learned complication from the desert walk, our discussions with people who work on the border, Operation Streamline or the migrant’s stories, but I didn’t understand it until I got back home.

When my family asked what I learned, my mind went blank. I felt like every question, every frustration, every sign of hope was at the tip of my tongue but couldn’t escape; I had so much to say, but no way to say it.

That frustrating feeling was when I truly understood the layers of complication that migration carries. I always knew the layers were there and I uncovered even more during the trip, but to know and to understand are not the same thing.

I think this is part of Kino’s magic; they taught us as much as they could, but left the understanding for a later date.

Now that I truly understand, I am so thankful for the outlet of film.

Even though I often find myself frustrated and overwhelmed with migration’s level of complexity; knowing that there will be an epic film full of b-roll and sick edits, gives me relief.

Credit to CU Backpack
Credit to CU Backpack

More to come,

Natalie

If Memory Lane were a Photo Album…

When I studied abroad in Rome last year, one of my favorite professors forbid photographs. He would take us to the most beautiful churches in the world and go absolutely ballistic if he saw a student snap a photo.

Despite my initial annoyance, I learned how to appreciate whatever was in front of me (something very hard to do nowadays). Besides filming and updating the Snapchat, I didn’t take pictures during my time at the border.

Thankfully, my classmates did.

Here are some of my absolute favorite people/memories:

Lil' John. Our tour guide for the desert walk.
Lil’ John. Our tour guide for the desert walk.
Fr. Neeley and Daniela
Fr. Neeley and Daniela. Two awesome interviewees!
Desert walk selfie!
Desert walk selfie!
Some of the CUbackpack team
Some of the CU backpack team
Dinner/Dance Party!
Dinner/Dance Party!
Shrine in Tucson, Arizona
Shrine in Tucson, Arizona
Entrance to Mexico
Entrance to Mexico

(Photos do not belong to me)

Operation Streamline

PC: hrw.org
PC: hrw.org

There has never been a definitive, defining moment in my life where I thought, “Yes, this is it. This is why I want to be a lawyer.” I’ve just always sort of known.

Although we had been prepared for what happens during Operation Streamline, I still felt a familiar feeling of excitement when I entered the courthouse. I find law and the idea of justice to be intriguing because visiting courts is like taking a peak into my future.

When I entered Operation Streamline, however, I felt shame. There were about 60 captured migrants in chains and headphones. They were quiet and they looked scared. Despite how angry I felt when I saw the chained people, that anger didn’t compare to what I felt when I saw their lawyers. They looked carefree and comfortable.  They were standing around casually chatting with each other and laughing while their clients sat alone. These were the people I was supposed to look up to?

Now, the moderator in me has to be fair; I have no idea what the lawyers said to the clients before entering the courtroom. They could have been kind and compassionate, I don’t know. What I do know is that if I were in a new country, surrounded by a language that I didn’t understand and waiting to hear my fate, I wouldn’t want the person who was supposed to be fighting for me to look like they were on a lunch break.

My inner optimist would like to believe that these lawyers are good people. They are defending one of the most vulnerable populations, after all. But  I want the migrants to feel respected. I want the process, despite it’s regularity, to be respectable.

Although the whole Operation Streamline process, not just the attorneys, disturbed me. I don’t want it to scare me away from my chose career path; I want it to inspire me to be better.

I guess you could say that it was my definitive, defining moment.

More to come,

Natalie