Ella instantly lights up every room at Selfhelp with her kind personality! She leads the morning exercise classes with a bright smile. Residents are warming up to classical music as they rotate their ankles, arms and head. During the 30 minute class, Ella patiently helps everyone focus on balance, mobility, and strength. It’s hard to believe that her one-year internship at The Selfhelp Home will soon be ending. We are grateful to have been gifted such a caring, hard working intern!
Ella is adored by all of the residents while she contributes to creating a fun environment together on the rooftop garden, developing the in-house newspaper together, running memory games and learning about each person’s living history. She has fully immersed herself in the Selfhelp community and has positively impacted many of our staff and residents. Ella stated, “I’m so humbled to be with those people who have suffered and are so welcoming to a girl coming to help.”
For the past 20 years, Selfhelp has been host to a student that interns from Germany through a program with Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP). ASRP strives to work together with all those who are committed to a more just and peaceful world. “For over 50 years ARSP has been committed to working toward reconciliation and peace, as well as fighting racism, discrimination and social exclusion.” This organization takes an ecumenical approach in seeking understanding between generations, cultures, religions, and peoples based on living historical memory. High school graduates have the opportunity to sign up for this one year program. The volunteers work with survivors and their descendants, socially disadvantaged people, e.g. with handicapped persons or with refugees, and in historical/political education programs such as in memorial sites, and anti racism organizations.
Ella shared that applying for the opportunity was quite a thorough process – they don’t accept just anybody! Her top three countries were the United States, France and Belgium. After several interviews, she would ultimately be matched with one country and one project. She was very grateful that sixteen sponsors, family and friends helped her financially make this dream come true! “When I arrived at Selfhelp at the end of August 2018, I couldn’t even imagine the independence I now enjoy!” Ella lives in her own apartment at Selfhelp and now knows how to run her own household and manage how to live independently. Creating memories, she has traveled to Boston, New York, Philadelphia and will venture to California before her program ends!
During her free time, she has explored local Chicago neighborhoods riding around on her bike and discovering the city’s cultural side. Ella had the pleasure of seeing Hamilton with her mom, as well as some of the classics including; Hello Dolly, The Book of Mormon, and Chicago. Finding her own voice, she joined a choir club and became part of the Japanese Cultural Center community training as a student in their Karate Club 2-4 times per week. Chicago has increased Ella’s love for political activism, zero-waste, and vegetarianism.
Being naturally hardwired for service to others easily inspired Ella to apply for the ASRP program. Her voice saddens as she speaks about the Selfhelp friends she will miss, such as Bill and Esther. They have shared their stories, traditions, enthusiasm for education, and a lifelong passion for living one’s best life. Ella will also miss everyone’s kindness, openness, and the beautiful Lake Michigan! For her, Chicago has been a wonderful melting pot of diversity. As a country of immigrants, America will forever be a vast land of people connected through living histories.
In closing, Ella said, “It has been quite a privilege to be here. I am very thankful to have been at The Selfhelp Home. In relation to what happened in Germany to many of these people, they see me as a human being and truly are kind to me.”
The entire Selfhelp Home Community wishes you all the best Ella as you continue your education and reunite with your family and friends in Germany! Thank you for the time you’ve shared with us and the positive influence you have had on our community!
We hope to see Ella soon, we look forward to seeing our interns when they come back to visit…
Selfhelp enjoyed memorable visits this year from a few former interns!