Tuesday, December 10, 2013 | By: Jake

Your Help

It has without a doubt been way too long since I have last posted on this blog, and for that, I sincerely apologize. During my time in Nicaragua, I had quite a bit of time for reflection. As many of you know, I was enrolled in the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame until I dropped out in January and switched over to study theology at the University instead.

When I arrived in Nicaragua, I met a very sweet woman named Lily, who was studying business at a college in downtown Managua. We spoke back and forth for a while about what I wanted to do with my life, and she was shocked to find out that I had left the business school. "Why would you ever leave!? You can do such great things!"

...to which I responded in a "this should be common knowledge" tone: "Um...because business is evil."

However, after much talk with Lily and my time at New Hope Children's Foundation, I came to learn that business is not evil, that business can actually help you do a lot. While I was at New Hope, I helped them with their social media and marketing strategies, and it really helped bring in a lot more donations.

After I arrived back in the States in August, I drove up to Notre Dame with my wonderful grandmother and re-enrolled at the Mendoza College of Business. Obviously, this journey has a lot more depth to it, but that's the basics of it. I've grown very passionate in my studies this semester...so much so that I even gave a presentation at the University entitled Why Business IS a Force for Good and NOT a "Necessary Evil".

Back in my freshman year, I helped start a microfinance institution here at Notre Dame with a few other students. For my first two years, we were a team of 6-10 students and welcomed any and all to be part of our team. However, this past semester, we have changed drastically. We're now a team of 30 students that require applications and interviews for all associates (with about a 35% acceptance rate).

Our team works to provide loans to low-income individuals in the South Bend community and help them bring develop financial independence. Our main goal is to be an organization that brings people out of poverty, in contrast with helping them manage poverty. We have already given out eight loans this past semester that have all either been paid back or are on their original set payback periods.

This organization is my main priority at the University, and we are currently in need of funds. We just started our winter campaign and are hoping to raise $8,500 by January. As of now, we are 49% of the way there, which is why I'm asking you for your help. Most college microfinance institutions struggle with finding clients and have an overwhelming amount of money...for us, we have clients calling in daily, and we have to turn them down due to a lack of funds.

I'm asking you to please consider making a donation to the Jubilee Initiative for Financial Inclusion. We've put together numerous packages such as a signed book by famous Notre Dame President Fr. Theodore Hesburgh (who currently holds the world record for the most honorary doctorates!), and your gift would mean so much to the team. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to email or call me.

You can donate by visiting our fundraising site or by going to our website at jiffi.org!

Deeply grateful,
Friday, July 19, 2013 | By: Jake

Pizza Night

The other night we had the opportunity to try a pizza recipe from Kayla's grandma with all of the kids!

At the end of it, I was even able to make a video of the night:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 | By: Jake


Back in March for my Spring Break, I went on a pilgrimage with Notre Dame's Campus Ministry. Below is the continued reflection of my journey:

After seeing a glimpse of the life of Jerome, we made our way through the streets of Bethlehem, walking past numerous different family-owned shops, seeing some pretty intricate carvings along the way...

My favorite part about walking through Bethlehem was seeing the shop-owners struggle to determine your nationality. "Hola? Hello? Konichi wa?" They would continue attempting to say hi in different languages until they would get a glance from us, but after they tried speaking Chinese to me...an obvious American...I think they realized that they were not going to sell me anything.

We made our way to the Milk Grotto, where it is said that a drop of Mary's breast milk dropped on a rock, turning the whole Grotto a powdery white. If you haven't heard of it, don't worry...I'm pretty sure none of the students on the pilgrimage had any idea what it was until we got there.

Apparently, people come here and take some powder off the walls of the Grotto, mix it with milk or water and drink it, hoping that either they become fertile or that close friends become fertile. In all honesty, even though there is a small room with many different testimonies of the "Grotto powder" leading a woman to have a child, I'm still not too comfortable with this idea...and for the most part, it creeped me out. 

Because of this, I didn't spend too much time within the Grotto...I continued walking through and stumbled upon a chapel where one of our leaders said "Perpetual Adoration" would be going on. For some reason, I just understood this as "Eucharistic Adoration", which happens at Notre Dame every weekday. 

For those who are unaware, Catholics believe that during Mass, the bread and wine become the literal body and blood of Christ. This is one of their core beliefs, and many students at Notre Dame go to Eucharistic Adoration, which is praying and adoring the Eucharist. 

But when I turned the corner, I realized what she meant by "Perpetual". Before me, a Sister of the Perpetual Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament knelt before the Eucharist. These Sisters adore the Eucharist 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With "shift changes", the Sisters spend about two minutes praying together, before the first sister leaves, assuring that the Eucharist is perpetually adored. 

Not attaining to the Catholic belief on the Eucharist, this was obviously quite the interesting experience for me. If the Eucharist does not actually become the Body and Blood of Christ, then this order makes almost makes no sense, other than for the fact of continual prayer occurring in a chapel. 

I sat down quite confused and started to journal, but within 20 seconds, it was time to move to our next site.
Friday, July 12, 2013 | By: Jake

That Weird White Kid: My Son, Max

Down here in Nicaragua, dogs are not really seen as pets...

There are very few, if any, shelters, so you have numerous dogs running through the streets all the time. There are no leashes, as dogs rarely leave their house, recognizing their house as the only place that they will get food. If you were to take the dog for a walk, or take the dog to a vet, or even buy the dog a bone...you'd be seen as pretty odd.

Allow me to interest you to Max:

I know, I know...he isn't the cutest dog in the world. Max is one of those dogs that I like to describe as "cute in an ugly kind of way." Max is from the United States and was brought over to help keep the kids occupied, as well as to help newer children adjust to the new lifestyle here at New Hope. However, Max has yet to live up to his expectations. Most of the kids run around like crazy, jumping on top of each other and wrestling each other...so obviously, Max gets a little hyper, which just makes all of the kids absolutely terrified of him.

Still, Max does a pretty good job of barking whenever there is a new visitor, so I guess he's useful for something. When I first got here, Max smelled absolutely awful, and he just kind of seemed to be around. My interactions with Max were limited to taking a few pictures of him every now and then.

However, for the past two and half weeks or so, Max and I have been pretty inseparable...

Two weeks ago, I gave Max a bath...probably his first bath in at least a year....I'm not going to lie and say that he smells like roses and cherries, but at least he doesn't smell bad anymore. And because he didn't smell bad anymore, I started letting Max sit next to me when we were sitting around in the living room.

But, being the first person that has given Max even a little bit of attention in quite a while, he has gotten a little attached. As you can see in the picture above, the high school stands fairly large in the center of our buildings. To the left of the high school is the children's home, and to the right of the high school is the mission center, where I have all of my things and where I sleep when I'm not sleeping at the children's home with Frankie and Leo.

Since the kids are currently on break from school, there's really no organized activities on this week, so clearly, I had a duty to start Boot Camp with the kids. On Monday, we ran back and forth down the street for quite some time, and by the end of it, you could say that I was a little drenched with sweat. 

Anyway, I took the girls back to the children's home and then walked back to the mission center to shower. I walked to my room, shut the door, got my towel and everything, and then started hearing a noise by the door. I opened my door to find Max outside scratching it...this might not seem like a big deal, but Max never goes in the mission center. Furthermore, the mission center has 14 different rooms...and my door was closed.

Either I really had some body odor, or Max really wanted to find me....or most likely, both. Now, Max follows me absolutely everywhere I go...to my room, to the kitchen, to the dining room, to the backyard, to the field...and because I actually pick him up and pet him, the people here have started referring to Max as "my son".

Like father, like son!
In fact, whenever Max does anything bad...chews up a diaper, has a toy in his mouth, jumps on a kid...I'm always blamed. "Jake, your son is causing trouble again!" "Jake, do you know how to teach your dog manners?" The list goes on and on...

I just gave Max a second bath today, and now I'm wondering how he's going to be after I leave...as I'm leaving in less than three weeks! The director down here said that she's thinking about trying to find a family for Max that actually takes care of its pets...which, as I said, is quite rare down here. And sadly, el gringo raro can't really help out with this problem. Although I love Max, Notre Dame does not allow dogs in our dorms.

Regardless, Max is still an awesome dog, and as long as I keep taking care of him as much as I am, I'll still be seen as quite odd for treating the dog like a son...but I think I'm okay with that. :)
Thursday, July 11, 2013 | By: Jake

This Heavenly Look

Back in March for my Spring Break, I went on a pilgrimage with Notre Dame's Campus Ministry. Below is the continued reflection of my journey:

First of all, I'm realizing that I could be posting a lot more pictures than I currently am for all of these posts, so I'll see how that goes with this post. Also, my lovely grandmother keeps nagging me about how I need to post more about Jerusalem, or just post more in general...so I'll work on that as well. :)

After we left the Church of the Nativity, we went around to the backside, where we stumbled upon The Church of St. Catherine.

The courtyard outside of the entrance that connected with the Church of the Nativity gave the place somewhat of a Hogwarts-feel to it, which I thought was particularly cool.

Needless to say, I was so excited to finally walk in a church that didn't look all doom-and-gloom. Light from the huge windows along the upper part of the walls gave the church this heavenly look. However, I will say that I was fairly disappointed by the lack of a 24/7 choir singing Alleluia...that would have been a lot cooler. The sight of that huge organ at the back of the church made me almost want to start learning how to play the organ.

But just when I thought the church was as good as it could get, I noticed Brett, one of the chaperones, walk down a stairway on the side of the isle. Beneath the Church of St. Catherine is where Jerome, the famous theologian and a saint within the Catholic Church, translated the Bible into Latin.

Underneath the church, there were many different types of chapels, altars, and Jerome's original "office". Sadly, we could not go into the office as a visiting tour group was celebrating mass in the space. However, we did get to see Jerome's original tomb, shown in the last picture above, where he was originally buried, before his remains were moved to Rome.

I thought of what it would be like to have been Jerome, to have been composing so many different theological works, biblical translations, gospel commentaries....all within feet of where Christ, the One of which all of Jerome's works revolved around, was born.

One of my favorite parts of this "underground" house was a pathway in the back that led directly to the place of Christ's birth. Currently, it is blocked off by a wall for conducting traffic, as well as for security reasons (the pathway connects the Church of the Nativity to the Church of St. Catherine). However, small holes appear in the wall, where you can look through and see all of the pilgrims venerating the birth site.

Lastly, I snapped a photo of this "cross gate" blocking off a portion of a cave, which greatly reminded me of the cross at Notre Dame that I see as the perfect place of peace and silence, other than the Grotto. I originally didn't have a picture of it. However, being honored to take a close friend's engagement photos back in May, I now have a photo of it!

Seeing the connections between Notre Dame and Jerusalem, such as this one, continually remind me that although Christ walked in the flesh in the Holy Land, we are just as close to Christ where we are right now as I was while in Bethlehem. The same "spiritual reawakening" that I experienced in Bethlehem while in Jerome's cave can be experienced at my home in Chicago, my school in Indiana, or even down here in Nicaragua.