If only I had a beard

by e.lindberg / 21. November 2014 16:06

The hardest part for me about teaching at a high school is doing my best not to look like a high schooler. My male roommate grew out his beard and seemed to age six years, where I have one of those young faces that makes me look 16 years old when I’m really 22 going on 23. This made my first month working at Santa Clara High School difficult, especially when some of the seniors would walk up to me and tell me they didn’t respect me because I wasn’t that much older than they were. I was shocked, and angry! I would stand up in front of a class to teach a lesson I had put together the students would ignore me. The freshman would listen to me, but they were new to the school and still afraid of everything.

After some time went by the students would be happy to see me when I came in to sub because I wasn’t their usual teacher. They would shout out “he won’t let us listen to music,” or “she is so grouchy all the time.” So those shifts from the norm made them listen to me more and get excited for my presence.

When I start a class I walk from the front of the room to the back and yell out something like “Good morning guys! It is a great day because it is a Friday, which means it is the weekend! Who is absent?” As I make my way to be back of the class they shout out the students who are missing and I log the information into the computer. As I make my way back to the front of the room the students throw questions at me. “What’s your first name Miss Lindberg,” “why are teaching you here Miss Lindberg,” and my favorite, “how old are you?” I like to turn that question back on the students; I call out “how old do you think I am?” and the room erupts in numbers as if the students were bidding in an auction. Usually my age ranges between 18 and 26 depending on how young the students I am teaching are; the freshman guess too high, and the seniors guess too low.

When I finally admit I am 22 a new flood of questions comes out: “where did you go to college,” “do you have a boyfriend,” “can you tell us a cool story?” All of the sudden my age has captivated the class and I have gained the respect they wouldn’t give me when they thought I was barely a year older than them. I answer one question and promise to answer more if we finish the lesson.

This time in the classroom and my job of running the school coffee shop during lunch has made it easier for me to interact with the students. They are a crazy bunch of kids that have gone from calling me “Miss Lindberg” to “Linny”, a nickname I wear with pride. They love hearing about college life and telling me their plans for the future. I think looking like I’m in high school has made it easier for them to connect with me, but being older and having the ability to share my experiences and the lessons I have learned with them has given me a level of respect.

Emma Lindberg

Ventura, CA 2014-2015


Domestics 2014-2015

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

by m.dambrosio / 10. November 2014 23:46

“Most of what I really need 

To know about how to live

And what to do and how to be

I learned in kindergarten.

Wisdom was not at the top

Of the graduate school mountain,

But there in the sandpile at Sunday school”

- Robert Fulghum


This stanza from the poem “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” inspired the following blog post because, as a Kindergarten aide, I think it really couldn’t be said better. If there’s anything that brings me joy, there is little that can be matched on my “smile scale” than when I step foot into the lone classroom secured by a black fence and nestled in the corner of the blacktop courtyard at St. Pat's elementary school. Crayons roll across a round table, paint splatters onto an easel, little mouths buzz about events that occurred at recess, and pearly-white grins that never cease to make me laugh are my typical greetings. This is Kindergarten with Ms. Reagan on any given day of the week, and I feel there is nothing really else that is needed to say than that just about everything that you really need to know – you learn in Kindergarten.

Eighteen little balls of sunshine scamper around the classroom, colliding with each other for my attention, “Ms. D’Ambrosio, why are we doing this? Can I ring the bell? Is it time to wake-up? Can I draw on the desk? Why are you drinking a bottle of water?”, perpetually wondering about how they’re going to fill each moment of their year of Kindergarten. While I graduated from Kindergarten seventeen years ago, I still can’t shake the feeling that most of how I live and work and learn, the fundamentals of it all, happened in a classroom much similar to the one that I occupy presently. It brings me great joy to find the things that I constantly repeat to my students are the same things I repeat to my friends, family, community members, and self. 

These are some of the things I’ve learned (and am teaching) in Kindergarten: 

  • KINDERGARTEN SPEAK: Stop, look, and listen.
    • ADULT SPEAK: To give someone your attention, you must stop whatever you’re doing, give them eye contact, and listen to what words are coming out of their mouth. This gives you the greatest chance of making the next best decision. Miscommunication is one of the great thieves of a meaningful relationship.  
  • KINDERGARTEN SPEAK: Play nicely, and fewer tears will be shed.
    • ADULT SPEAK: If you act in a way where you think about others, there will much less negativity in your life. 
  • KINDERGARTEN SPEAK: Clean up your messes, and then help your friends clean up their messes if you have extra time. We all have a stake in making the classroom a clean and beautiful place.
    • ADULT SPEAK: We all have a stake in making the world a clean and beautiful place. Focus first on your struggles and then help those around you who are struggling; self-love is an important aspect of living life in a way that will not only make you happy, but those around you as well.  
  • KINDERGARTEN SPEAK: Relax your brain and take a nap.
    • ADULT SPEAK: It’s important to relax after hard hours of focus; we are meant to learn some and think some and play some. It helps us balance our logic with our creativity, our emotions with our analytical abilities. 
  • KINDERGARTEN SPEAK: Use your words, not your hands.
    • ADULT SPEAK: Attempt to verbalize your complaints and concerns with others rather than with physical abuse or threats. 
  • KINDERGARTEN SPEAK: You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.
    • ADULT SPEAK: Appreciate what you are given; don’t compare yourself with others. 
  • KINDERGARTEN SPEAK: Say you’re sorry, and mean it.
    • ADULT SPEAK: Make sure the person you hurt knows how much you love them. 
  • KINDERGARTEN SPEAK: Flush and wash your hands.
    • ADULT SPEAK: Flush and wash your hands.
  • KINDERGARTEN SPEAK: Playing is an important part of the day.
    • ADULT SPEAK: Find a reason to smile and laugh each and every day.


So, all in all, when I step into the Kindergarten classroom, I’m not just teaching. I’m learning right alongside everybody else. It is a true joy to wake up each day with the realization that what I teach my Kindergarteners will have a far greater impact than in just one day in the classroom, one year in school, or even in one graduation diploma. 


It very well could impact them for the rest of their lives.


And that’s surely something to be joyous about Smile


Marissa D'Ambrosio

San Diego, CA 2014-2015 


Domestics 2014-2015

One Day At A Time

by n.lombardi / 3. November 2014 00:50

Time, I feel is my biggest gift and challenge this year. I’m here in Philly with 3 strangers, doing a new job that has reasonable hours where I get to go home each night and have dinner as a community. I am able to leave work at work and focus in on my community at home. I no longer work late nights and weekends. My family and friends are not a hop, skip and a jump away. My responsibilities are to my service site, community, city and self.

To break it down for you and give you a taste of who I am I decided to give you a snapshot of what my time as an AV has looked like thus far. I like to list things. My journal doesn’t look like a story book, it is full of bullet points, doodles, questions and ideas. It is how I capture thoughts, feelings and memories. I decided to structure this blog entry in a similar fashion.

Time at my service site: Achieving Independence Center, Life Skills Classes, member dinners, calling shelters to find out about open beds, case notes, member development plans, goal setting, sharing stories, asking about weekend plans, trainings, Temple tour, evaluations, referrals, numbers, copies, housing liaisons, education and employment teams, smiles, creativity, dedication, holiday parties, children, staff mediation, orientation

Time in community: Abby, Brittany, Mary Beth, dynamic, fun loving, crafting prayers, enjoying the lights, music and hammocks at the harbor park, running errands, cooking together, sharing stories, meeting family and friends, visiting squares, scavenger hunt, Reading Terminal, 7pm mass, Ms. Elizabeth, dinners with the Friars, First Fridays, Market Street, Bananagrams, Netflix marathons, recipes, mail

Time in Philly: Rocky steps, trying all the different cheesesteak places, Bottom Dollar, WaWa, free coffee from Dunkin Donuts when the Eagles win, Opera on the Mall, walking the Ben Franklin Bridge, Temple, Washington Square, murals

Me time: journaling, classical music, dancing to top hits, walking to the library, reading, reflection, self-discovery, listening, writing letters, crocheting, let go and let God

I’m getting to work with amazing people, provide resources to youth in need, develop strong connections as a community, embrace the beauty and history of the city and continue to dig deeper and reflect on who I am.

I’m thankful this year has allowed me time to devote to my service site, community, city and self. It can be tough to sit with your own thoughts and work through different challenges but it has been wonderful to be on this journey with 3 fabulous ladies full of love and laughter through all of it. Time is precious. After all, today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present. 


Nicole Lombardi


Philadelphia, PA 2014-2015


Domestics 2014-2015

The Little Munchkins and the Three Minutes

by k.steinkamp / 18. October 2014 06:23

I open my eyes to darkness. I'm up before the sun. I somehow get out of bed and look somewhat presentable in somewhat business casual (whatever that means), and also make a lunch (maybe). I back out of the driveway...or attempt to. I reposition the car so i don't hit the house or the fence. Time for traffic. In Chicago it's not a matter of IF there's traffic...there will be. I zone out. I'm in San Diego on the beach. I'm at shoreclub with Simone and Shayla. Hot sand, salty water, tan skin. I'm back home with my mom and Addy drinking wine. I'm laughing with my aunt Betty in Oregon. HONK. I'm slowly drifiting in more than one way.

I get off the freeway, eventually, and park. Someone got shot a block from here last week. It's normal. I hear the beep telling me I've succesfully locked the car. It's chilly outside, and I remember everyone telling me that I don't know what cold is...yikes. Winter is coming.

Ms. Doty and I talk about the kids and their ridiculous shenanigans. How one of them is aggressive, another is on another planet, one is our favorite, and the other we could seriously all do without. At 7:50 she walks out the door while off-handedly saying, "Alright, I'm going to get the munchkins".

I have three minutes to prepare myself for the thirty first graders coming my way. I look around the room and take in the precious and peaceful serenity of silence...I will not experience this sound, or the absence of it, until five o'clock. 

Although my bosses have asked me to write this blog about my experience thus far...I think about it everyday in those three minutes in that tiny kid chair( which my Kilroy backside refuses to be fit in), at that tiny kid desk which has become my official perch.

I'll be honest: Everyday is a struggle. My greatest challenge of being an Augustinian Volunteer is those three minutes. My amazing roommates ask me everyday how my day went, and I cannot put into words how much I yell and reprimand all day long. Even typing this out, I cannot begin to tell you the multitude of seemingly dramatic events that unfold throughout the day. Someone is bothering someone else. Someone hit someone else. Someone has to go to the bathroom. Someone went to the bathroom...on themselves. Someone went to the circus. Someone is crying. Someone is crying because someone else is crying. Someone literally ate a button. AND their pencil. Someone continues to say "finna" and "axe". Someone has just pushed me past my limit and I am somehow keeping my cool. The lights go off - put your head down - timeouts throughout the day.

Throughout the day I am constantly barking at kids. SIT DOWN. STAND UP. DO YOUR WORK. BE QUIET.

In those three minutes before the little munchkins/hellions enter the room, I think about what the heck I've gotten myself into.

And do you want to know the most ridiculous part? 

I smile.

Between the barking and yelling, I smile. These thirty little munchkins are apart of my life, and I'm apart of theirs....which to me, is coincidentally amazing. These munchkins are six or seven years old, and have already gone through too much. One kid gets too aggressive, and then cries for his mom who is dead. Another kid opens his lunch to eat a snack, and its jumbo marshmallows (I don't know why, but that struck a chrord with me). Many of them mirror the actions of their older siblings, not knowing it's completely innapropriate. I tell them to do their homework with their parents, then flush with embarrasement knowing that some of them don't have parents, and live with their grandparents. We go out to the playground and it's disgusting, but they play their little hearts out. Some of these children get dropped off at 6:30am and get picked up at 6:30pm. I drive through their neighborhoods on the way home, and I am scared for them...I am scared of the statistics. I am scared of who they will become ONLY because of their demographics.

Each one of my little munchkins makes me so angry every day, yet they somehow simultaneously are also melting my heart. I correct their sentences, and they correct my outlook on life. 

Every day is a challenge. My very wise and amazing mother told me that this is a growing process, and although growing hurts, it is necessary. I thank God everyday I am so blessed to have two amazing people that I can call Mom and Dad, because some of my little ones don't even have that.

I'm supposed to just answer one question...but this is my answer to two: My greatest challenge is my greatest joy this year. These kids drive me totally insane, but just thinking about them now, I hold each and every one of them so close to my heart that it brings tears to my eyes.

Three minutes. I snapchat my sister and my best friends.  I miss my ocean. I miss my friends. The first of the munchkins walks in. I put down my phone...it's not about me anymore. In those three minutes I remind myself why I'm here.

I do it for the munchkins.


Kathleen Steinkamp

Chicago, IL



Domestics 2014-2015

I Appreciate Cereal More

by w.rattigan / 12. October 2014 21:23

Someone asked me recently how I have grown by doing this year of service so far. My answer is simple: I appreciate Cereal more.

I don’t have anything profound to say about how my life has changed immensely because of living in community, I mean, I have only been here a month. But I do appreciate cereal more (I even accidentally capitalized it in the first sentence) and I think that summarizes my growth over the past month. I’m sure thats not what the office is looking for as a sales pitch to next year's volunteers, but I’m being serious. Cereal is a huge commodity now a days. You see, my community has four girls and two guys. The guys eat more. It happens. Long story short, I was snacking on cereal when I shouldn’t have been. It became a small debacle. But the thing is, I loved every single minute of it; I grew from it. After a day or two of stubbornness on my part, I finally admitted I was wrong. You see, thats a big deal for me. It may not sound like much, but it was to me. When you live with five other people, your character defects come out. I’m interacting with five roommates on a daily basis and yeah, small fights and big annoyances can come up. And what a blessing that is today. Because now instead of just ignoring those things, I can take a look at my part in the situation and work on being okay with being wrong, or realizing i’m not the only one who needs the car right this second, or admitting that sometimes I eat cereal in the middle of the night because I’m bored, not because I’m hungry and not because I need it.

These little fights, no matter how big or small, also make me appreciate how tough life could really be. I’m spoiled. I’m living simply, but I’m still spoiled. I was able to argue about having a bowl of cereal out of boredom while many families would never think of eating anything out of boredom. It just makes me grateful for the small things. From the warmth of the sun we take for granted to waking up for a job that I can go to everyday. I also appreciate the big things. Like knowing I come home to five loving individuals who generally care about what I did that day. Or that I have the ability to show them that same love back. It's beyond my wildest dreams. I could write a whole blog just on my community members or just on my job at Via International (Hey, maybe i’ll do that), but I think for now I have a word count.

A year ago today if you told me I was going to be living with five people, all of whom were volunteering for a year, I would have laughed about the very thought. Now, today, I can say I have never been so blessed to have such an opportunity. If you want to talk about growth, I’d say I’ve come pretty far. For now, I’ll keep on appreciating my daily MORNING cereal bowls and everything in between will hopefully keep on falling into place. Life is good. Be sure to dig it. 

Will Rattigan


San Diego, CA 2014-2015


Domestics 2014-2015

Where Do You See God?

by b.patten / 30. September 2014 17:37

Have you ever been asked the question, “Where do you see God?” Through the years I’ve been asked that question quite a few times. I’ve answered it different ways but as I’ve become more comfortable with myself and my faith I’ve more consistently answered that I see God in people and more specifically in children. In all honesty I began offering that as an answer because one of the cardinal rules in Catholicism is to “love thy neighbor” but I didn’t truly understand what I was saying. At times I would try and reflect on interactions with people and pull out the exact moment when I saw God, as if He floated in and out of people like a spirit. But what I’ve come to understand over the past few years is that I do see God in people and He is always present. I may not see Him in specific instances but I believe He manifests himself within each individual’s personality. We all have different ways of expressing our goodness and our warmth and it is through that expression that God is most present to me. 

While all people are capable of sharing their goodness with the world, I find God to be more accessible in children. I jokingly tell my roommates that my “best friends” at Lawrence Catholic Academy (LCA) are all under the age of 6. Their youthful exuberance and unique personalities never fail to shine through. As we grow older, we seek to truly know ourselves but sometimes I feel that we were ourselves when we were younger and unafraid of expressing our personalities. The children at LCA remind me every day that you’re never too old to be yourself, show love, and have fun. 

This year I am focusing on living intentionally and I believe that growing in my faith is part of that. Therefore, I feel so blessed to work at a place where I get to experience God every day through the children of LCA. They are all so unique and their individuality amazes me. I am constantly learning (and laughing) from their genuineness and their amazing love. Their love is so strong and uninhibited that I can’t help but smile. But what I have realized over this past month is that love is the root of my happiness but also my pain here at LCA. Sometimes (especially when I learn about their family hardships) my love and attention seems inadequate. When a child goes home to a broken family or a single mother who is too busy to help them with homework, how can my hugs make up for that? My greatest joy at my work site is simply being present and spending time with the kids and my greatest challenge is accepting that that is enough. I’m currently reading a great book called “Tattoos on the Heart” and in one of the chapters the author, Fr. Gregory Boyle, writes “there is no force in the world better able to alter anything from its course than love.” I may not be able to give these children anything more than my love and attention but sometimes that’s all they need from me. I know how much their love already means to me and I only hope that over this year I can return their warmth and generosity. 

Brittany Patten
Lawrence, MA 2014-2015


Domestics 2014-2015

Routines and Restless Hearts: Actions begun by and ended in Christ

by s.dunbar / 21. September 2014 13:24

Weekday mornings here in Ventura have fallen into a comfortable routine. My alarm goes off at 6:45, which I promptly snooze with the reward of five more minutes of sleep, I get up and dressed in the appropriate dress code, emerge from my room to pour some of the coffee Mike has brewed into my Augustinian Volunteer mug, and grab something to eat before Mikey and I are on our way to Ojai. There’s always energy during these mornings, no matter how tired we may be, as everyone is preparing for another day. It’s another way we’ve learned to function as a community- one member brewing the necessary caffeine, one leaving inspirational quotes on the bathroom mirror, one making an extra peanut butter sandwich if another is running late. Even though we will all spend our days very differently, we always begin and end them together on Coronado Street. 

Once I am dropped off at Villanova Prep’s campus, I make my way to the Campus Ministry office between hellos, brief conversations, and bells warning the start of classes. I unlock the door, drop my bag and wait for the familiar sound of the students’ voices saying over the PA system, “Good morning, Villanova. Please stand for prayer and the pledge.” 

The morning prayer, although different every day, has become a special time of the day for me. Because although my morning routine has become familiar, it can still be rushed or preoccupied by worries about the coming day. And I find so much value in pausing, together with the entire Villanova community, to begin the day with reflection and prayer. I didn't always feel this was during morning prayer at my own high school, but it's funny the difference a few years can make. Often, our morning prayer contains this attributed to St. Augustine:

"Direct we beseech you, O Lord, all our actions by Your holy inspiration, and carry them out by Your gracious assistance, so that every prayer and good work of ours may always begin from You, and by You be happily ended through Christ our Lord, Amen."

At first, when I wrote these morning prayers, I would copy and paste St. Augustine’s portion from a previous day and simply add it onto whatever I had written. But when I looked more closely at it and prayed it aloud during morning prayer, I realized how it paralleled recent thoughts about my spirituality. 

I have always found it easier to understand my faith through tangible actions. This comes easily to me through service or music ministry or group prayer and reflection. Given this, it is not surprising that I find myself in a Catholic volunteer program this year after my graduation. I wanted to know that I can keep these parts of my faith that are so important to me a part of my life, and am anxious to explore them more deeply over this year. This prayer, in which we daily ask God to guide our actions and work gives me comfort that I can continue to act through God in ways that deepen my faith, both this year and in those to come. 

We end this prayer with another classic from St. Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” I am glad that I have already found a routine here in Ventura, but I am also aware that each day brings its own unique opportunities and gifts. I hope that by following the restlessness in my heart that led me here, I can make the most of each day here to grow, hoping and trusting that my actions will begin and be ended in God’s love along the way.

Sarah Dunbar

Ventura, CA 2014-2015


Domestics 2014-2015

Faces I Will Never Forget

by a.thomas / 31. August 2014 11:12

At this point, I’ve been in Peru for almost eight months, working as a teacher at the community women’s center, CETPRO Betania. The mission of CETPRO is to promote the dignity and independence of women. The center offers affordable, two-year degrees in computers, tailoring, or cooking and my primary job is teaching the first-year computer students. I have the same students every day throughout the year. This consistency gives me the unique opportunity of looking back at the year and noticing the growth and progress that has occurred. 

Working with the same thirty students has allowed me to get to know each and every student very well. I’ve learned who needs extra help, who learns fast, who is timid, who gets easily distracted and who works better in groups. I treasure my relationships with each of my students and truly care about their futures. The majority of my students are from the countryside surrounding the city of Chulucanas and entered the class with little or no experience handling computers. For example, earlier in the year, a handful of students did not know how to right-click a mouse or highlight text in a document. Now, these same students are creating Excel budgets and PowerPoint presentations!

However, aside from just an increase in their computer abilities, I have noticed an incredible increase in my students’ confidence. At the beginning of the year, the majority of my students were reserved in the classroom and hesitated showing me their work, out of fear that it wasn’t up to par or incorrect. Now, friendships have blossomed in the classroom and the students are much more comfortable interacting with me and others. The classroom has transformed into an open, accepting, and friendly environment. They show me their work with confidence and pride. It is this increase in confidence and ambition to succeed that gives me the greatest joy at my work site.

I’m happy to see the students turning their dreams into realities. It is common in Peru for teenage girls to move away with their boyfriends and start a family at the age of seventeen or eighteen. However, I have had the blessing of hearing the young teenage girls in my class talk about choosing a different, less common path for themselves. They talk about their ambitions of becoming professionals so they can be independent and not have to depend on anyone in the future. A couple of the young mothers are studying in order to be positive role models for their children and provide a better future for their families. These women have the desire and confidence to alter their futures and are taking the necessary steps to make these dreams a reality. These are the stories that make all the frustrations and challenges that come along with being a new teacher worthwhile. When I look back at my service in Peru, I won’t picture my lesson plans or the computers in my classroom, but I will picture the bright, determined faces of each of my students. These are the faces I will never forget.


Anna Thomas

Chulucanas, Peru 2014


Internationals 2014

The “Opposite of Tensions” with the Joys and Challenges of Community Life

by t.gostomski / 9. August 2014 18:21

In the popular book Tuesdays with Morrie, main character Morrie speaks of something he calls “the opposite of tensions.”  He observes that life often has two opposing forces and we are generally caught in the middle getting pulled between the two.

Ever since reading that book by Mitch Albom several years ago, that idea of the opposite of tensions has become more and more relevant in my life—perhaps the author put into words something I had been experiencing and struggling with for some time.  In every area of my life I experience the opposite of tensions.   During my year of service as an Augustinian Volunteer, one of the ways I am reminded of the opposite of tensions most is through community life and the two sides of it:  the challenges and the joys.

I initially thought community life would have its up and downs like everyone talked about at orientation whether it was the directors or past AV alum.  We’re only human and no matter how wonderful an individual or a community might think they are, tensions are going to arise whether they are major or minor.  I imagined these tensions would come and go like waves in the ocean—perhaps weeks or months of joy in community life, followed by a couple weeks or maybe a month of challenging times in community, followed by another period of joy, etc.  However, I’ve found the community life to be much less like waves of an ocean and much more like the opposite of tensions balance Morrie talks about.  That is to say probably every single day I am reminded of the joys and challenges of community and the constant “tension” between the two that reveals itself daily.  One moment, our community has an experience where we are greatly enjoying ourselves without much effort and then within hours, sometimes within minutes, I find myself being tested to my limits by the challenges of community life whether it’s disagreeing with someone, resolving a disagreement, holding my ground or, when necessary, surrendering it.

Anytime I am asked about how community life is, I am cautious to answer, as I know the opposite of tensions lies just around the corner.  When I say it’s going well, not long after I’m reminded of how much hard work community life takes to be successful (having patience, managing my ego, etc).  When I say it’s more of a struggle, I am reminded of how joyful it can be (being able to be vulnerable with others yet feel safe, sharing a special bond only your community can understand, etc.).  So, when I usually answer about how community life is, I answer in a way that reveals both the highs and lows—the opposite of tensions of life and community life.

Unlike what I had anticipated, I’ve found the joys and challenges, the highs and lows of community life to reveal themselves much more frequently and more so in pairs or “opposites” rather than happening occasionally and as individual elements.  Just about daily I am fortunate to experience the positives of community life, and forced to confront the negative.  And despite some days really not wanting to take on another challenge of community life, I know I am being pushed to my limits and being sharpened as a person who is trying to live successfully in harmony with others whether it’s in my Peru community or in this greater world.


Taylor Gostomski


Chulucanas, Peru 2014


Internationals 2014

Growing through Vulnerability in Community

by c.papuga / 2. July 2014 07:32

I do not think I could ever actually verbalize how truly thankful I am for my community. The idea of being here in Peru, participating in my year of service, without the support of a community is absolutely laughable. In the beginning, during the search for a year of service program the idea of living in a community was equivalent to cohabitating with fellow volunteers, similar to college dorm life. Living half a year in community, has absolutely shattered this perception and not only has constructed a new definition of community for me, but also directly resulted in the discovery of  new aspects of myself. Community is not cohabitation; it is the creation of a family, sanctuary, safe zone, and support team. In my community members I have found more than just fellow likeminded volunteers; I have found: dance partners, food tasters, best friends, sisters and brothers, people who know they can laugh both at you and with you, people who both offer you a shoulder to cry on and seek yours, people who will stay up with you despite how tired they are, my own personal Google team when I have questions ranging from Spanish translations to deep spiritual meaning of life inquiries, maternal and paternal figures to keep me in line, and basically any other occupation you could think of.  Community is more than just living within the same physical confines; it is learning to respect, love, be patient, communicate, experience, and truly live with other people. 

Community life has propelled my own personal growth. It is impossible to not be altered and grow in some way while living in community. Living in community takes guts, it pushes you right into the deep end of vulnerability. Forget the floaty devices. No one likes to be vulnerable; but, I truly knew this was a weakness of mine. Living in community, there is no hiding. You are exposed to your community members from the trivial quirky morning routines you have, all the way to your deep personal belief systems that support the reasons you get up each day and start those morning routines. It is scary to be vulnerable and to let other people in and know you fully, but when you do it is rewarding. Community life has given me an environment where I can be vulnerable and through this vulnerability I have been able to learn more about myself through my community members, while simultaneously learning about them. In community everyone is equalized on this front, everyone is vulnerable. This exchange of beliefs, quirks, secrets, stories, likes, dislikes, intellect, ideologies, is symbiotic. I have discovered parts of myself I would never have found if I had not opened up to my community and welcomed their perspectives. Community makes you vulnerable, but through this openness with your community comes the creation of a fortifying sense of security and safety through the bonds built in between you and your community members. After all, they are the ones that can truly relate to what is going on in your life, know you truly, have seen your ups and downs, and will always support you whether you are making a major life decision or contemplating what flavor ice cream you want.


Casey Papuga


Chulucanas, Peru 2014


Internationals 2014

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