Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It’s official. I’m accepted!!

For the past year, I’ve been searching--searching for something that combines my passion for learning about new cultures and helping others. Five months ago, I began volunteering at the International Institute in St. Louis after hearing about it from a friend who started volunteering after she served in the Peace Corps in South Africa. I was a teacher’s assistant in an advanced English class for adults and loved it! Although satisfying, I wanted more. I found what I was looking for a few months ago, and now, I’m finally “reaching out and grabbing it.” Beginning this fall, I will be training to become a VOICA volunteer. 

VOICA or the Canossian International Voluntary Service is a nonprofit organization associated with the Canossian Daughters of Charity, an order of nuns founded by St. Magdalene of Canossa. VOICA provides lay men and women (not priests, nuns or monks) the opportunity to grow and live in faith and to share their gifts with others. VOICA volunteers are currently serving in Togo, Congo, Uganda, East Timor, Albania, Indonesia, Angola, Paraguay and Brazil, helping out at a hospital, bakery, library, cyber-cafe, professional center for women and schools for boys, girls and refugees.

I learned about VOICA through the CatholicVolunteer Network/Response Volunteer Directory. It’s a great source of volunteer opportunities both in the U.S. and abroad! Also, in case you’re wondering, even though most of the organizations have ties to the Catholic Church, you don’t have to be Catholic to volunteer.

In addition to helping people and learning about new cultures, I’m hoping to help myself by strengthening my relationship with God. Where better to start than the epicenter of the Catholic faith? As part of my preparation, I’ll be spending about three months in Rome prior to going to my mission site. (I’ll practically be neighbors with the Pope!). I’ll be living in a house with other volunteers, learning about the Canossian sisters, communal living, volunteering in general and language and other skills specific to my mission site. (This includes cooking—for those of you who know me well, this and eating the foods I learn to cook, might be my biggest challenge). Once I get to Rome and the VOICA staff has had time to get to know me and what I can do, I will receive my placement.

I’m beyond excited to start this new experience, and I need your help! First and foremost, I’m asking for your prayers. I know there will be difficult days, and I ask for your help in getting through them. Knowing that I have people out there thinking of me and asking God to help me means the world.

And now, what I’m sure many of you were expecting, I'm asking for your financial support. I need to raise $2,000 as a donation to VOICA to help cover the expenses they will incur having me as a volunteer for a year, which is about $5,000. That’s in addition to the cost of maintaining the mission. Because of the generosity of my family and their willingness to house me (Thank you Jenny & Matt!) I have been able to save money to take care of my plane tickets to and from Rome, medical insurance, food, and personal expenses in Rome and personal expenses while I’m in my mission.

For small amounts, checks can be made out directly to VOICA (just put my name in the memo line). You can send them to me and I will send them to VOICA in Rome. For larger amounts ($200 or more), donations are tax deductible. Please contact me for more information or if you have any questions.

Thank you! Grazie! (I’ve got to start practicing sometime :) )

P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about what some current VOICA volunteers are doing and what past volunteers have done, here are some of their blogs. I’m addicted!