All Posts By

Kara Halpin

On connection and balance

By 2019 No Comments

I’m an International Studies and Psych student. My time at SSU has consisted of pondering big questions about the problems in our world and discussing possible solutions to those problems. These discussions almost always come back to the need for connection: connection with God, with people, with the environment and with ourselves. I’ve learned to ask a lot of questions such as, “who’s at the table?” and “who isn’t at the table?” My studies have challenged me to try and see people and understand their experience by watching and listening to their stories.

In light of this foundational value, you can imagine my surprise that I have had the opposite reaction while traveling in Europe.  I keep finding myself wanting to ignore all of the people here. We’ve been traveling through bustling cities, contemplating in packed museums and voyaging on overfilled transit. There are people, sounds and movement everywhere we’ve journeyed. I’ve encountered this disconcerting paradox of feeling as though individuals are getting in the way of my own experience on the one hand and wanting to hear about their experience on the other. This tension has felt uncomfortable. It has felt as though I must choose to focus on connecting either with myself or with others.

Yet, over the last week, I’ve come to recognize a new possibility! Our tour guide at Mauthausen Concentration Camp Memorial challenged us to consider what individuals can do with the power they hold. On this trip, I’m learning that with the power I hold comes the responsibility to recognize the need for balance. Not everything has to be thought of, felt or experienced in one moment. Furthermore, taking time for myself does not mean I don’t see someone else. I’m practicing different types of connection. I’m learning to hold experiences, to nurture them and to value them over time.


Catching The Morning Bus To A Better World

By 2019 No Comments

Hope is like the oxygen that propels our lungs in the midst of deep inhales and exhales.  Hope creates a space for us to be able to see clearly. It creates expectancy that no matter what has happened in the past or what it looks like is happening in the present, something beautiful is possible. On the trip, hope was hidden in the mundane moments of the everyday. It was in the little things that caught my attention unexpectedly.

The first morning in Barcelona, I was taken by surprise by the intentionality of the people on the bus. After catching our breath from the sandy jaunt to the bus stop, all eighteen of us piled on ready to see the city. I first noticed the shock of the daily commuters as the bus was suddenly much fuller than before. As we got closer to our destination, however, I noticed something else—something more peculiar for the world of public transit (at least to the public transit I know). The daily commuters were getting up and giving away their seats. They weren’t annoyed or hesitant—they graciously moved for those just getting on. The week went on and I continued to watch. That first morning wasn’t an exception or an enforced rule. It continued. I saw conversations amongst friends and strangers and I saw a society that does things very differently from my own.

Each time this happened, I was given a little hope to carry through my day—and a little more hope in humanity. It made me think about how simple it can be to make the world a better place. It answered a question that I had been asking: what is needed where I am right now? There are big problems that need big solutions. But people right in front of us need to be seen—and so does something a bit different than the morning headlines.


Jump Right In

By 2016, Asia No Comments

It was our first Saturday in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and we were ready to explore the city.  There were so many activities to choose from. Cafes and restaurants, elephants and nature parks, even the famous Thai massage.  A bunch of us squeezed into the back of a Songtaew and set out. Our decided destination was a museum called Art in Paradise. This was unlike any museum I have ever been to. The entire museum is interactive. You take pictures the entire time as you pose with the art.

Sharing the LOVE outside Art in Paradise.

Sharing the LOVE outside Art in Paradise.

When I first got there I had a difficult time with the whole premise of the museum. I had a thought of how our generation is addicted to taking selfies. Then I realized that I was thinking of how many pictures there would be of me on my Facebook page.  We paid for our tickets and started taking pictures. At first we were kind of clumsy and didn’t know how to pose but then we looked at some of the pictures. It was amazing! It looked like we were really standing inside of the art.  Once we felt excited about being at the museum there was a spark of creativity. We came up with fun ways to pose and it turned out that we had a lot of fun together.

Looking back on the pictures now I can see how the artist brilliantly painted each scene to make it look 3D.  In every picture there is also each one of us. We are part of the art.  This wasn’t by accident- the artist intended for the people coming to the museum to not just pass by but to jump in.

We made the cover of TIME!

We made the cover of TIME!

Throughout the rest of our trip through Thailand and Laos we took many more pictures.  We took pictures with friends we met along the way, at waterfalls, on top of mountains and in the middle of fields. There was art all around us. The Creator had made vast scenes and if we so choose we could jump right in and become part of it all.

As I sit here now back in Canada watching the fresh snow cover the trees I’m thinking how amazing it is that God, like those artists, wants us to jump right in. He wants us to part of his art. I must say I’m also thinking how great it would be to be back in South East Asia right now…. Soaking up that warm, gorgeous sun.

Sunny days in Thailand

Sunny days in Thailand

Community, Conversations & Wonder

By 2016 - Aski Learning Tour (Ottawa & Timmins, Ont), Education for Reconciliation No Comments

[The first in a six part series of posts from SSU students participating in a First Nations Learning Tour, hosted by Mennonite Central Committee. The group is travelling in Ottawa & Timmins, Ontario from April 26th – May 8th, 2016.]

We have started off our Learning Tour in the nation’s capital.  We have quickly found that Ottawa is filled with many kinds of people. We met with the staff at Mennonite Central Committee’s  (MCC) Ottawa office this morning. This was a great way to start off our trip seeing that we will be with MCC in Timmins next week. Rebecca  (policy analyst) and Esther (intern) had a great amount of wisdom to share with us about advocacy work.

Throughout the day the significance of community was brought to my attention. There is value in spending time with people over a long period.  Nothing can replace this time it takes to build a strong community. Yet there is also significance in finding others to partner with.  Individuals and groups can and do make a difference but they cannot make change alone. As Rebecca and Esther shared about their work it was apparent that they have the same heart that the SSU community shares.

Rebecca and Esther are constantly learning and sharing about people and the issues that they face. For them every person they meet matters. They celebrate when one person sees victory in a situation that they have been facing. They shared a story about one indigenous man in Canada who had been stateless for most of his life. This means that he didn’t have a birth certificate and therefore could not get necessary documents for living in western society. He could not get a driver’s license, health card, loan, or even legal guardianship of his children. When our goal is seeing the value of people, we shift from trying to make an issue go away, to helping find a solution for each person.

We learned that we each have different roles to play in advocacy but there are key political actions we can all participate in. The first thing to remember is that the politicians we elect into office work for us.  It is important to tell them what matters to you.  One way to talk to an elected official is to set up a meeting. Another way is to write them a letter.  Writing a letter is easy and the great thing is that there is free postage when sending a letter to your MP.  Another great way of supporting an issue that matters to you is to either start or sign a petition.

By the end of our time at MCC it was clear that education matters and can make the greatest difference. I am so thankful that we have this time to learn from people who are devoting their lives to listening to and helping others. It is like a web that will be ever extending: after this trip we each will be going home to our communities. We have an opportunity to share what we have learned and hopefully those we share with will tell others too.

Visiting Parliament Hill!

Visiting Parliament Hill!

When our group was touring Parliament I saw the potential influence we each have.  We stepped into the elevator of the Peace Tower at the end of the tour. We were filled with awe and wonder and apparently bubbling enthusiasm.  The tour had just taken us through elaborate architectural feats where we heard about some Canadian history and saw many pieces of art (these are some of our favourite things).  As the elevator reached the top of the tower the attendant told us to turn around to see the bells.  We were amazed! The attendant said that she never saw anyone get so excited to see them.  Our excitement and questions opened up all kinds of conversations with everyone we met during the day.

Some may say that we are just a small group of nerdy young people. This is probably true but at the heart of it all we are filled with wonder. Each of us in our own way has a passion for seeing the greatness of our world.  We are going to take this opportunity to learn and understand.

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