<img class="size-full wp-image-16195 alignleft lazyload" src="https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Clare-Deck.jpg" alt="Clare-Deck" width="400" height="400" srcset="https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Clare-Deck.jpg 400w, https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Clare-Deck-150x150.jpg 150w, https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Clare-Deck-300x300.jpg 300w" sizes="(max-width: 400px) 100vw, 400px" /> I really had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation going into my senior year at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. So to begin discerning what I wanted to pursue, I made a list of some of the things that I felt had greatly impacted my time at Fordham: My work with Fordham’s retreat ministry; my thesis, which focused on why the U.S. government responds differently to different groups of immigrants seeking protection; my trip to Guatemala with Fordham’s Global Outreach program; volunteering with students at a public school in the Bronx; studying abroad in Argentina; the Jesuit charism of “men and women for and with others.” This exercise brought me to start exploring different volunteer programs, and I eventually came to settle on the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC), which stood out to me because of its commitment to social justice, community, spirituality, and simple living.
JVC is a volunteer organization that places young people at agencies that serve marginalized communities in cities all over the U.S. and the world. It is rooted in values that stem from the Catholic faith and the Jesuit tradition. Volunteers live together in intentional community and receive a shared community stipend for groceries and rent, and each volunteer receives a small individual stipend.
After I applied to JVC, I was placed at Posada Esperanza in Austin, Texas, which is a shelter for immigrant women and children experiencing homelessness. My role as family advocate at Posada encompassed both shelter management and case management. Within a few weeks of beginning my service at Posada, in August 2016, I quickly realized how difficult it is to be a case manager. It’s one thing to sit down a couple times a week and do all the necessary applications and renewals for benefits, schedule appointments, and apply for jobs, but it’s another thing to empower a resident to truly believe that they have the means to move out of Posada and into a more stable form of housing. I was so grateful to be able to come home at the end of a hard day and have my wonderful JVC community members to comfort me but also challenge me to go back to work the next day.
At Posada, community is built on respect for the multitude of cultures that exist under the same roof. Social justice is walking in solidarity alongside the Posada women as they take on the obstacles that come with being an immigrant mother in the U.S. Simple living is shared living spaces and finding joy in shared moments with one another when it seems there is a shortage of everything else. Although Posada is not affiliated with a religious tradition, spirituality is present in listening to the stories of the residents and acknowledging that each one of them contains a universe to behold. The Posada community’s dedication to immigrants and refugees reflects the values of JVC, and inspired me to continue to be a part of the work it carries out. After my JVC year came to a close in July, I decided to stay on for another year at Posada through AmeriCorps. I’m committed to continuing to live out the Jesuit charism of “men and women for and with others” that inspired me to pursue a year of JVC and ultimately to end up serving at Posada Esperanza. When my AmeriCorps year at Posada ends in July 2018, I know I definitely want to continue working in the immigration field, specifically working with newly arrived immigrants and advocating for their rights.