I am excited to be spending 11 months with Meals on Wheels of Lancaster as a full-time intern through the Shalom Project. If you recall, the Shalom Project is an intentional living community of young adults serving local non-profits through a year-long program of voluntary service across Lancaster. It has the challenges and perks of living in rapidly built yet deep community, genuine social and professional experiences with diversity, and personal spiritual development.
This year, the intentional diversity took a step further than in previous years. A developing partnership between The Shalom Project and Mennonite Central Committee’s IVEP (International Volunteer Exchange Program) saw the “Shalom House” extend beyond its participants. IVEP is a similar, year-long volunteer program built around cultural exchange but normally participants live with host families.
Enter Chattu (pronounced CHO-TOO), a native of West Bengal, India. He is working at Landis Homes for his year, he loves playing soccer (and any game, really), cooking, and watching Stranger Things with the household. Oh, right, and I almost forgot to mention that he speaks five languages including Hindi which even has a different writing form of letters called Sanskrit. If you have time, it’s quite interesting and worth reading the Wikipedia page.
More than being a trivial factoid about my roommate, though, this became a relevant lesson in the value of diversity when Meals on Wheels of Lancaster began serving a new client who speaks primarily Hindi. We could not communicate with her the expectations we have of her and that she would have of us over the phone. We did not have translated materials to provide her to read. As an organization we were stuck, unable to serve her.
But, I knew a guy! I told Chattu about our situation, and he offered to translate the materials we normally send new clients. He graciously volunteered to go above and beyond simply translating the welcome letter and information about the meals. He wholesale recreated a New Client Brochure in Hindi including adding helpful images and illustrations!
I am personally grateful for the experience in community living, sharing our skills and resources and being able to identify the various attributes we bring to the table even including the languages we were raised with or the nations we come from. Thanks Chattu!