SEBA students Carla Lindlar and Leslie Anne Salvador entered into the Lasallian Service Internship (LSI) program to truly experience Saint Mary’s Lasallian principle, “concern for the poor and social justice.” Now, as graduation fast approaches, both will walk away with different perspectives on how to use their management skills and business degrees to have a positive impact on the world.
The Lasallain Service Internship has been a tradition at Saint Mary’s since 1985. The program gives students the opportunity to serve the poor, both in the United States and abroad. Lindlar is an international student who arrived at Saint Mary’s by way of Baylor University to play tennis. Salvador is Bay Area native who initially chose an accounting degree because of the career prospects of the field. Both students plan on carrying the spirit of service they learned at Saint Mary's with them as they begin their careers.
Tea in Sri Lanka
“I was interested in the LSI program because service was something I had never really done before,” says Lindlar, a German national who has made a life for herself in California. “Back home, I never really heard much about service or working with the poor. When I came to Saint Mary’s, I heard about this program and knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.”
Lindlar was placed in a Lasallian community in Colombo, Sri Lanka, the country’s largest city and economic hub on the southwest coast of the island. The community was in Colombo 15, a poor neighborhood home to tin shack slums and breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean. There she lived in a dormitory that housed, among others, four other LSI students and Brother Damien, though no one called him that.
“We called him Brother Seeya,” says Lindlar (Seeya translates to “grandfather” in Sinhala, one of the two primary languages on the island). “He is such a positive human being. Every time I talked with him he would say something that I would think about for a long time after. He was an inspiration.”
During the day, Lindlar would teach English at a local pre-school, singing songs and playing with younger children. In the afternoon she would tutor high school students, working with them on their English skills to prepare them for entrance exams for universities.
“I had never done any kind of teaching before,” she says. “I was just sort of thrown in the cold water."
In the evenings, Lindlar would come back to the dormitory and listen to Brother Seeya before zipping up the mosquito net that hung over her bed. It was challenging, but the students were so appreciative. Knowing English opens so many doors for them. We were just giving them our love and dedication.”
“The neighborhood was very poor and very sad. People would stand outside the dormitory and ask for money or try to sell things in the street,” she says. “I remember one night when Brother Seeya told us that we each like a cup of tea—that if we fill ourselves up with love then we won’t be able to take in anymore. We have to give our love away so we can receive the love of others. We have to always be willing to share our cup with other people—strangers and friends alike—so we have room to take in their love too.”
Door to Door in the Snow
While Lindlar was serving on an island 600 miles north of the equator, Leslie Anne Salvador was settling in for her first snowy, East Coast winter in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Like Lindlar, Salvador also felt like authentic service was something that Saint Mary’s inspired her to take part in.
“The mission of the College is something that I admire and have a lot of respect for,” says Salvador. “I knew that I wanted to participate in service before I graduated. Pawtucket was the last spot that was open, and I felt like it was available just for me, so I went for it.”
Salvador was placed in a Lasallian community, living with five Lasallian volunteers, LSI students, and Brother Michael Reis in a four-story house volunteers called the “Pawtucket Palace.” Pawtucket sits on the outskirts of Providence and has reputation for being a little rough around the edges.
Like Lindlar, she was asked to teach—also without much experience—at a high school called the St. Raphael Academy. There she taught math, history, and foreign languages, and felt the administration of the school take her under their wings. The relationship forged during the snowy weeks in Rhode Island has stuck, says Salvador. She still exchanges emails and texts with the staff at St. Raphael.
During her time on the East Coast, Salvador also got involved with the Tides Family Services program, an agency founded by Brother Michael Reis that provides outreach to at-risk youth and their families.
“One of the other LSI students was placed with Tides and it sounded interesting. I asked to
go on a ride-along with one of their community counselors,” says Salvador. “We ended up working our way through a list of kids who had gotten into trouble somehow—theft or gang activity—and we would go to their homes to check in on them. We were making sure they were going to school or work, supporting them.”
“The trust that it takes to have someone invite me into their home was unbelievable,” she says. “We would go to poor neighborhoods and knock on doors. It would be ten at night and snowing outside, but we would stand on these porches and ask if they were going to school, if there was anything we could do. It hit my heart. I ended up volunteering with them two more times.”
The Future Reimagined
Salvador was so moved by her LSI experience that she intends to become a Lasallian volunteer. She secured a spot with a Lasallian community in Tucson, Arizona, where she’ll be working in a corporate teaching management position, acting as a conduit for ambitious high school students seeking internships with local companies. The position will last a year, and she’s pleased with the compromise struck between her accounting degree and her desire to serve.
“Hearing how genuine and passionate Brother Michael is humbling. I felt a kinship with him though. I think he’s a great role model,” said Salvador. “He’s someone I keep in my prayers.”
Lindlar landed an internship with KPMG and will be taking classes to meet California’s 150-hour CPA requirement. She remembers how Brother Seeya talked about the importance of being a citizen of the world and hopes that her professional career will allow her to have a positive influence at home and abroad.
“Brother Seeya was one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met,” said Lindlar. “I’m still in touch with him and the people I met in Sri Lanka. Despite the distance, I still feel like we’re a community.”