Service Reflection: CRIS Tree of Hope

Community Refugee and Immigration Services, or CRIS, is a non-profit organization that aids immigrants and refugees, and eases their transition into the community. Every year, CRIS has works with a school called Columbus Global Academy (CGA) to paint a mural. On Saturday, December 1st, a small group of International Affairs Scholars, including myself, were able to lend a hand in the painting of a mural at Columbus Global Academy (CGA). CGA is a school in the Columbus City School District designed to educate solely international students.

A few of my peers were able to design the mural, centralized around the theme, ‘Tree of Hope.’ After speaking to one of my close friends, Anne Knellinger, I realized how much thought had truly gone into this mural. Anne and two other artists had collaborated to research some of the school’s different nationalities. They decided to utilize popular folk tales from each of the countries, and to paint common characters around the tree.

When we arrived at CGA, we were handed pencils and paint brushes, and went right to work! It was really a fun program to participate in, as painting is a very therapeutic activity. Working alongside my peers was also a great experience, and quite humorous, as the majority of us are not artsy whatsoever. We had holiday songs playing in the background, coffee, and bagels to get us through the morning.

In high school, I had never really thought of service events as anything other than something else on the to-do list. This was my one of my first true experiences where the service didn’t feel like service, it felt like fun! I think it is really important to be a part of the community and to give, so I think organizations like CRIS really aid in building this leadership skill. Plus, IA’s mission really centralizes on the theme of diversity. Previously in our class, we had touched on immigration issues quite a bit, as well as social events that focus on the refugee crisis specifically. I had been very interested in this for quite some time, and this event let me explore the concept much more than I could have been exposed to before. We were able to integrate our learning from the classroom through community service, and we were able to impact the diverse cultures that are present in our own backyard. The experience was eye opening. I had never been inside of a school that solely houses international students. There were so many people from diverse backgrounds that had all been together in this school coexisting.

After talking to the leader of this project, Jeremy Hollon, I quickly realized how much these murals mean to the students in the building. Another mural in the building is a compilation of all of the different flags from where each student comes from, and he said that each time a student passes their flag, they will place a kiss on the wall. Although a bunch of cute animals on a wall doesn’t necessarily resonate with us, it may help encourage struggling students and maybe make them smile through all of their difficulties.

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