jvc news, diversity equity inclusion, strategic plan

Listening Carefully to Build a Better JVC

October 2021

Dear JVC Community,

In the midrash, an ancient commentary on Hebrew scripture, there is the story of Naschon, a young man about 20 years old. According to the midrash, when the Israelites reached the Red Sea, they found themselves surrounded by the Egyptian armies. Seeing the armies, hearing the fear and desperation of the Israelites and with their leader, Moses, nowhere in sight, Naschon decided to act. 

The commentary says that Naschon waded into the sea and when the waters reached his shoulders, the sea parted. The Israelites were able to pass through while their aggressors were lost in the waves that filled in behind the Israelites. Naschon, a young man, saw a crisis and decided to take action.

Each year, young adults from around the country join JVC. Like Naschon, JVs are responding to a call that comes from within them to act. They courageously agree to live in community, deepening their understanding of the systems of racism and social injustice while living simply on a modest stipend. All this takes place as they learn and use the tools of discernment that are core to Ignatian Spirituality. Our volunteers take action through the work they do everyday where they analyze the structures and systems that promote poverty, inequities, and racism and unpack the various privileges they bring to this experience. 

This is the core work of JVC - creating a healthy and supportive place where JVs can challenge themselves and each other as they enter into community and accompaniment during their JV experience. And it is the work that we intend on continuing to do. But this understanding of our core work is not grounds for being content with the status quo. 

That is why we are engaging in a yearlong strategic planning process to help guide our path forward for the next five years. And why we are asking you to be an essential part of the learning.

Next week, we will be arranging focus groups and sending a survey out to everyone within the JVC family, including current JVs, former JVs, donors and many more. This survey, along with information that we’ve already collected from our board and staff, will help us evaluate what we are doing well, and how we can better serve all communities. Hearing from you, our JVC family, is one of the most important steps in the strategic planning process and I want to thank you in advance for being part of this journey with us.

While we are in the early stages, I am energized by this strategic plan because we are intentionally centering the JVC community and prioritizing an inclusive process at every stage. In addition, because it will be developed in partnership with our staff, Board, and JVC community, this strategic plan will allow us to think creatively and collectively about our future. Instead of gathering dust on a shelf, this strategic plan will sit at the forefront of all that we do for the next five years.

The last three years have provided us the opportunity to rebuild and stabilize the organization.  I am grateful to our board, staff and our many supporters who have brought us to this place of opportunity.  Now, we want to look forward and grow, with you.

It energizes me to think about strengthening an organizational infrastructure that has staying power for years to come. It challenges me to ensure that our anti-racism work is integrated into every aspect of the organization, along with a commitment to take on this hard work with dedicated funds to sustain and advance Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI). The JEDI and strategic planning work focus me on creating a strong JVC culture that welcomes and supports staff and JVs—particularly members of the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ community--and creates an environment where people can bring their best selves. And part of that culture is ensuring that we continue to recruit, retain and develop staff who, along with others, uphold our mission and values and move this organization forward.

Naschon was an ordinary person who was brave enough to do extraordinary things in service of others. And while it is unlikely that JVs will be faced with the choice of parting a sea or ocean, they will be challenged to enter a turbulent world to make change for the good.  These transformational experiences are what JVC is all about and why this strategic plan is an important part of how we as an organization help them achieve their lifelong goals.

Thank you for being part of our family and thank you for helping shape the next five years of JVC.