By Margaret Hutchison
Ms. Hutchison is currently a Resident Minister at John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. She graduated from John Carroll in 2014 with degrees in Economics and Theology/Religious Studies. Following graduation she spent a year teaching English to girls 18-23 at a vocational school in Cambodia through the Salesian Lay Missioners.
“…poverty studies has taught me how to learn on my feet, live in solidarity, and work for action,” writes Hutchison who as a SHECP intern with Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation in 2012 (JCU 2014).
At John Carroll University I took full advantage of opportunities to serve with and for the poor. Through different programs and departments I helped plan food drives for our local community, speak out against injustices, volunteer with nonprofits around the city, and I participated in immersion experiences in New Orleans and Nicaragua. Our motto at John Carroll is “Men and Women with and for others” and I always felt I was living both the “with” and “for” through all of my service at school, but one of the most important things I learned with the Shepherd Consortium was the power of solidarity through immersion.
I worked at Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation (DBEDC) in Boston before my junior year in their loan office. I majored in Economics and Theology and felt I wanted to serve the poor through creating business opportunities. During this internship I learned much more than how to check credit scores, manage business proposals and counsel small business owners; I learned the personal struggles of living in poverty and trying to do a job well.
I lived in the Mission Hill neighborhood of Boston, which is right up the street from the quaint neighborhood of Back Bay and right down the street from Roxbury where things were a little rougher. My daily commute consisted of taking the bus for about 45 minutes each way, and I was entirely dependent on the approximate schedule of the bus. This reality made me realize the importance of public transportation and its affordability. Working with DBEDC, I learned about the intricate web of poverty through its multi-faceted departments helping with re-entry, housing, business loans, computer literacy, community organizing, urban planning, and more. DBEDC provided me with new perspectives, challenged my thinking, and taught me much.
My experience in Boston confirmed my desire to work with and for the poor, but it also taught me to desire the solidarity that comes from the “with.” Because of this experience, I chose to continue studying the causes and effects of poverty in my classes and eventually I decided to work in education with impoverished women in Cambodia for a year. Here I continued to learn from people living in poverty and hearing their stories continued to move me to work for justice.
The Shepherd Consortium stirred in me a passion for working with and for the poor. I currently work in campus ministry aiding and enabling students in pursuing their passions towards working for peace and justice. I continue to reflect on my time in Boston with Shepherd and how it exposed me to urban poverty and really changed the course of my studies and career. I am grateful for my time with the Shepherd Consortium and for the formation it has provided me in my life of working to end poverty. I’m not quite sure what my next move holds in store, maybe work with refugees, maybe a masters in Economic Development, maybe ministry work, but I know that poverty studies has taught me how to learn on my feet, live in solidarity, and work for action. My internship with the Shepherd Consortium was an integral part of my education through immersion and solidarity with others that taught me that addressing poverty consists of much more than just working for others.