By Jessie Houff
Ever since I attended college, I knew that afterwards I would volunteer. I spent so much of my life thinking about “me” and what “I” would do. I was sick of this lifestyle that only focused on me. I knew I needed to do more to make others happy. What better way to do this than to volunteer? I didn’t have to look far for a way to do this because I grew up in the Church of the Brethren and have known about Brethren Volunteer Service (or BVS) for the majority of my life. I really grew interested in it by attending Bridgewater College and hearing about it from representatives and recruiters that I encountered at least twice a year from Roundtable (an annual conference for youth of which I was part of planning) and other random events. I applied for BVS over-achiever style in the early months of my final semester. After waiting many months to finish up college, it was FINALLY time to attend BVS orientation!
Orientation took place in January at the beautiful Camp Ithiel of Gotha, Florida. Besides being able to wear shorts and t-shirts in winter, I got to meet some amazing people. Our group had 13 volunteers plus a few BVS staff members to facilitate the 3 week long orientation. BVS provides a wide variety of volunteer programs both domestically and worldwide. I went to Florida with every intention of going abroad to El Salvador to teach the arts to people young and old. If you ask anybody I know, they will say that I had no desire to stay in the states for my project. I wanted to “get out” and see the world. I didn’t think that I could gain a meaningful enough volunteering experience if I stayed in the states. When I got to orientation and reality sank in, I started to have a change of heart. Abroad projects require at least a two year commitment and a strong willingness to learn whatever language the country primarily spoke. While I had no problem wanting to learn Spanish, it was still very intimidating. How am I supposed to spend two years in a place where I don’t know anybody, don’t know the language, and will be completely on my own?
Anyway, the thought of all this terrified me and after much contemplation, prayer, and maybe a few tears, I realized that if I was ever to go abroad to volunteer, now was simply not the time. After switching my thought process and exploring domestic options, I came across a program in Liberty, New York with an organization called Youth Economic Group (or YEG) which is a project under the larger organization of Rural and Migrant Ministry. From El Salvador to New York…you can’t get much different than those two places, but what can I say? The Lord works in mysterious ways. It didn’t take long for me to be convinced that this was the project for me. BVS and the leaders at YEG spoke and deliberated, and in a few short days I was deemed the new volunteer to be sent to New York for my year-long service! So after about a week at home to prepare and pack and a 24 hour journey to Liberty (that I do not particularly wish to experience again), I finally arrived to my project.
I was welcomed so warmly by my new supervisors and all the youth that I will be working with. I have never felt more welcomed in my life. This is a completely new place, climate, and experience for me yet I feel as if I am truly supposed to be here. Now I can finally start this new journey of volunteering for a project that is doing some incredible things. I think this new chapter in my life looking through the lens of volunteering is going to be the most amazing experience of my life thus far.
To start off the BVS blog, we are focusing on how volunteers are called to BVS and their projects. Read more posts about call.