Thursday, July 25, 2013

Goodbye, Chicago!

Hello LPCS Friends and Supporters!

Wow, I can’t believe that a year has gone by! It seems like not too long ago, I was packing up all my things and preparing to move to Chicago. I had no idea what I was getting myself into at the time. Now
in a few days, I will be doing just the opposite and heading back home. As I wrap up my year here in Chicago, I feel a mixture of sadness as well as excitement to move on to the next chapter of my life.

I would like to take a moment to thank everyone that I have had the pleasure working with this year. I am sorry to have to say good-bye to all the people that I have come to know and build relationships with during my time as the Volunteer Coordinator. I leave with a jam-packed year’s worth of experience under my belt, which can only help me in my future endeavors. I will definitely miss the chatty banter with Guests as they come back to the Shelter for the night as well as the volunteers I have become close with throughout the year. I leave here knowing that I have contributed to an organization that is truly dedicated to its mission in providing people the support and resources necessary to make positive and lasting changes to their lives.

It has truly been an honor to work alongside such a dedicated staff and family of volunteers and I will miss you all very much (but maybe not enough to survive another winter-haha, I will be thinking of all of you when it is 65 degrees and I am sitting on the beach in California in the middle of January).

There will be a new Lutheran Volunteer Corps Member starting in Mid-August. If there is one word of advice I can give to the future Volunteer Coordinator, it would be to jump into the job- you’ll meet some of the most interesting as well as the most good-hearted folks here. Enjoy your time here; it will be over before you know it!

Thank you once again for this wonderful opportunity. I will hold it close to my heart always.

Dana Furuyama

Thursday, July 18, 2013

My Trip to Uganda

This June, I spent two weeks in rural Uganda as part of my graduate studies in public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I traveled with eight other students and faculty to work in a private health clinic called Engeye ( During our time there, we conducted interviews and focus groups in the surrounding villages, surveying people about their access to health care and challenges they face in staying healthy. It was a wonderful opportunity and I learned so much about the Ugandan health care system and the particular challenges and strengths of a very rural and very poor country. 

You may wonder how, or if, this project relates to my work at the Lincoln Park Community Shelter. There are more commonalities than you would think! Traveling to a developing country has only reinforced my belief that health and housing are inextricably related. You simply cannot have one without the other. Stable, decent housing is essential to maintaining good health; our Community Clients, who often live on the streets, have the hardest time maintaining a connection to regular health care and taking care of their own basic health and hygiene needs. Similarly, good health is essential to maintaining housing; one of our current Guests became homeless because the mold in her dilapidated apartment was making her too sick to stay.

Similarly, in rural Uganda, housing and health are closely related. One of the biggest health problems plaguing the patients of Engeye Clinic is persistent malaria, especially affecting children. Although no vaccine is yet available, one effective preventative measure is to sleep under a bed-net, in a house with screened windows, to prevent mosquito bites. Another persistent problem is gastro-intestinal bacteria and parasites that cause disease – a result of lack of clean water and insufficient sewer systems. In the communities where I was working, the quality of housing was very much affecting people’s health! Similarly, if you are consistently cycling between wellness and health, it is difficult to work the fields and earn money to improve your housing.

Another similarity is the innovation of using mobile technology to reach those who need services the most. In rural Uganda – where over a 1/3 of the population owns cellular phones, and most have access to one (despite having no electricity or running water) – volunteer community health workers are using cell phones to send SMS messages to the government Ministry of Health on a weekly basis – recording the number of births, deaths, and other statistics and allowing real-time data for the first time. Here in Chicago, technology is becoming increasingly important as cell phones and internet become more widely available, even for those who are homeless. Libraries offer free internet access, and the U.S. government has a program to provide free basic cell phones to those who qualify. Enrollment for housing wait lists is increasingly virtual, and most people even find LPCS through the Internet these days. Online applications and resume postings have long been the standard for job searching, and new smartphone technology is even tracking open positions to connect job seekers more quickly (check out In this way, mobile technology is becoming a sort of equalizer, empowering those in poverty to access information and resources that would otherwise be unavailable to them. 

As Uganda – like many developing countries – urbanizes (more and more people are moving into cities to seek work), housing quality will become even more essential as density increases faster than the infrastructure can handle. Already, I saw many people sleeping outside on the streets of Kampala, including children. Regardless of where in the world this scene occurs, it is unacceptable. My recent work in Uganda and my daily work at LPCS have a common goal: a world where everyone has a roof over their head and a basic guarantee of safety in order to fulfill their potential.

By: Erin Ryan, Executive Director

At the source of the Nile River, Jinja, Uganda