Last month we received a phone call from Sam Heptig, a recent college grad, who said he was interested in Ithaca’s immigrant community and offered to volunteer for our program. We immediately brought Sam on board and since starting here he has been busy doing research for some of our legal cases, translating documents (he’s a fluent Spanish-speaker), and meeting with our Spanish-speaking clients. For several years now, ISP has been very fortunate in having a string of talented college students and/or recent college grads help us out (Emma Banks, Teresa Rojas, Dina Ljekperic, Kait Hulbert, Pete Quandt, Sarah Browne, and Ryan Opila) and we’re happy to add Sam to that list. We asked Sam to introduce himself via our blog and to share his thoughts about the Pope’s recent visit. Here’s what he wrote….
My name is Sam Heptig and I’ve just recently begun to volunteer at Catholic Charities for Tompkins/Tioga. I was born and raised in Trumansburg, and have lived here most of my life.
As for the other parts, I was lucky enough to be accepted as a Rotary Exchange student and spent a year living in Argentina after high school. Upon returning, I attended college at the University at Albany SUNY and graduated with a BA in Political Science and minor in Spanish. I learned about Catholic Charities through my current job at the Cornell Catholic Community, and after learning more about the work they do, and specifically their work in immigrant services, I decided to volunteer.
My year in Argentina is what first began my interest in working with international organizations and immigrant communities. Living in a different country gave me a better perspective on what other people have to go through, and the great potential for aiding them. My degree had a focus on Global Affairs, and I specifically took classes on regions and aspects of Latin American culture.
My Catholic faith has also influenced me greatly in guiding my actions and steering me toward work that will allow me help people in a personal way here in my community. Having lived in Argentina, my study of international trends and policy, and lastly having been given the chance to work helping immigrants and migrants at Catholic Charities has all correlated in an interest in Pope Francis and his message on migrants in his recent trip to US cities. The Pope’s message has not been scarce or hard to interpret,
“We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal.”
He is calling on us as individuals who are part of a greater community of humanity, a “universal network of cooperation” to come together to understand that these are people, who deserve the safety and dignity of being treated as such, and not as simply an issue to be addressed. These families are fleeing some of the worse conditions on earth; from war-torn regions of civil unrest to the violently run cartel territories, frequently for the betterment of their families and children above themselves. You can watch numerous videos of parents all over the world begging border officials or aid workers to take their children to safety without them, betting everything on the chance for a better life for their young. That kind of desperation cannot be met with regulations or harsher laws, they should be sheltered and protected as we are all connected here on earth. The love of God and the love of your fellow-man goes beyond borders or nationalities, we are all humans, and we all deserve the chance for a good life away from such strife, but that chance isn’t handed to many around the globe. Therefore the duty to help falls to all of us, we cannot continue to distance ourselves from the global connection we share; whether that connection manifests as religious faith, or simply caring about your fellow-man within your own set of beliefs, what matters is that we ARE all part of something larger and we should begin to reflect that in our actions.