|2012 Utah Young Humanitarian – Lisa Moynihan|
When Lisa first heard the Jesuit motto, “Men and women working for and with others” during her first year of college at Creighton University, she felt the phrase would shape her life. What could be more fulfilling than working in service for other people? This concise but profound statement has inspired her actions and commitment to service ever since.
Even before being exposed to this idea, Lisa found joy in serving others. Her parents and a quality education instilled in her the importance of recognizing and working for the marginalized in our society. During her time at Juan Diego Catholic High School she participated in school wide service projects like the “Spirit of Christmas” in which every class provided Christmas presents and dinner to another family in the Salt Lake Valley. Her senior year she organized a school wide food drive for the Utah Food Bank, started a campaign called “Melons for Melanoma Awareness” and was a volunteer for one of Valley Mental Health’s women’s shelters.
Entering college, Lisa knew that service could not disappear from her life. At Creighton University, a Jesuit institution in Omaha, Lisa expanded her service by becoming a “College Buddy” in the Best Buddies program, which fosters friendships between students and young adults with intellectual disabilities. David, her “Buddy”, and his family became like a second family to her in Omaha. This was the first time that she realized how much more meaningful service could be when relationships developed between individuals. Suddenly, the idea of service not only made sense, but also seemed the only way to be truly happy. In addition to the Best Buddies program, Lisa volunteered as a tutor at a local elementary school. This exposure led her to the realization that teaching would be her calling.
Life brought Lisa back to the University of Utah where she was introduced to Youthlinc which she says would change her life profoundly over the next three years. In 2010 she was a member of the Youthlinc Kenya team. Lisa completed over 100 hours of service that year and was a member of the Education Committee which planned and taught lessons in the local primary and helped start a library system. She also worked on the construction of two classrooms, observed microenterprise meetings and fulfilled a lifelong dream of dancing in Africa! The trip confirmed, in her mind, the importance and power of an education. “Education is the most sustainable form of service because it empowers people to help themselves. There is no sustainability in blindly giving aid. There must be collaboration in projects that creates an investment in both parties” says Lisa. She is happy to report that the one classroom her team built has been supplemented by THREE new ones built by the community!
Lisa’s recent service at home has been focused on the refugee community in Salt Lake. She was a mentor in the International Rescue Committee’s youth program. There she helped the refugee children learn to speak English, understand American culture and develop friendships with each other and the mentors. Lisa was offered an opportunity to serve as the Real Life in SLC intern. Real Life is a mentoring program for refugee teens run by Youthlinc in partnership with the Hser Ner Moo Center in South Salt Lake. The goal is to create friendships between refugee teens and native Utah teens to help make the transition to life in Utah easier. As the intern, Lisa organizes and oversees all of the volunteers, helps plan and execute lessons and attends all Real Life sessions. She has truly enjoyed getting to know all of the teens and seeing them grow together. It has also been a valuable opportunity for her to have an administrative and leadership role within an organization.
This summer Lisa plans to travel with Youthlinc again to Yanamono, Peru. There she will help teach women from the community to make soap, which they can use both as a market commodity and as a means of sustainable personal hygiene. She looks forward to serving this community, seeing more of this incredible world and practicing her Spanish before starting her career as a middle school teacher while completing a Master’s Degree in Education at the University of Utah.