JVC makes a real impact in the world by increasing the capacity of local organizations to provide direct service to people who are poor or marginalized. JVC places volunteers alongside those who are disenfranchised so that they come to understand the realities of poverty and injustice faced by much of the world. They are transformed through reflection on these experiences, and by the close interpersonal relationships they form with those they serve. The JVC experience brings a global perspective on living and seeing the world that becomes a part of those who serve, and they spend their lives advocating for compassion, fair treatment, and structural change that addresses the root causes of injustice.
In the words of our Jesuit Volunteers:
Here I am struggling to find God in all things. I am struggling with solidarity, struggling to find meaning in the sorrow and pain of my students, a pain I feel so distant from and yet yearn to touch. I am struggling with justice, with the idea that I came here to feel empowered and to empower, and instead come home some days to vent to my community how un-empowered I feel. I am struggling to feel the reality of Fr. Dean Brackley’s words, “Feeling powerless in our service with the poor is probably the closest we can be to solidarity with them.” How do I let myself be okay with this idea and reality of powerlessness at times? I am struggling with restlessness in my presence here, in a country colonized in a not so distant history, where some people still murmur of sentiments of present day colonization.
– Carolina Dominguez, Belize City 13, After School Program Coordinator- St. Martin de Porres School. Spring Hill College 13.
I wasn’t prepared to be confronted with the realness of my student’s situation. I will always have food. When I was seven years old I never had to go to school hungry or worry about where my next meal was coming from. This isn’t an issue I came here to fix; it’s systemic. But I’m confronted with it every day, and sometimes the guilt is unbearable. I can no longer pretend that my reality is even close to my students’ reality, even though I want to believe I am “living simply.”
– Courtney Kern, Chuuk, Micronesia 15, Teacher-Akoyikoyi School. Creighton University 15.
My new home is one of the poorest, most violent cities in America. Those metrics may paint a depressing picture–of drug dependency, violence, an education system that fails its students, or a local economy that doesn’t employ people who live in the community. What it doesn’t tell you is that there is a vibrant community that strives to build something, to force the local institutions that have failed the city time and time again to actually provide services.
Living here, I have never been so conscious of the privilege my race, education, and upbringing has afforded me. It’s a humbling experience seeing literal manifestations of your privilege every day. Having a college degree, having a job, being white in Camden opens your eyes to the reality of poverty that is nothing like what I’ve read in the classroom. Poverty isn’t just income, it becomes a paradigm that informs every decision, influences every life choice.
– Michael Boniho-Britsch, Camden 14. Community Center Coordinator- Fair Share Housing Development. Santa Clara University 14.