Friday, December 13, 2013

A Survey of Former Volunteers of Catholic Volunteer Network

Former volunteers often share how much they feel like they've been changed by their experience as a volunteer.  Sometimes people volunteer and meet their future spouse, decide to change a career path, or go back to school.  Until now, most of our understanding of the power of full-time service has been anecdotal. 

Recently Catholic Volunteer Network (CVN), an umbrella organization that supports domestic and international faith-based service programs (including Franciscan Outreach Volunteers), commissioned a survey with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University: "A Study of Former Volunteers of the Catholic Volunteer Network".

The survey looked at responses from more than 5,000 alums of volunteer programs and results were shared at the CVN annual conference in November.  Questions included demographic and background information, as well as questions about alums experiences with their volunteer program and their lives post-service.  The following is taken from Catholic Volunteer Network.

Some significant study findings include:

On service-
  • 98% of former volunteers said they decided to serve because they "felt compassion towards people in need." The same percentage also believe that their volunteer service experience made them a better person.
  • 95% say that they would recommend their volunteer program to others.
On faith-
  •  Nearly half (46%) of former volunteers attend religious services at least once a week.  This is significantly higher than the U.S. population (27%) and the U.S. Catholic population (25%).
  • Almost two in five former volunteers (37%) have considered a vocation to ordained ministry or religious life.  27% of these respondents have considered a vocation very seriously, and 35% say they have considered this somewhat seriously.
On life-
  • More than two-thirds of former volunteers (67%) say their volunteer service was either 'somewhat' or 'very' important in influencing their choice of career. 
  • Almost half of former volunteers are married (47%).  Excluding respondents who say that they have never been married, just under one in ten (9%) have ever divorced.  This is much lower than the corresponding proportion of the U.S. population (31%).
  • More than eight in ten responding former volunteers (82%) say that they have volunteered time, donated money or property, or both in the past 12 months. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Laundry is Patient, Laundry is Kind


E.F.

As if through an eye patch, I gaze out the partially boarded window to view the mundane alleyway below. Long after I finish my tasks, I stand motionless, lulled by the humid August air and rhythmic hum of the dryer. A table for folding rests before me, two dryers stand to my right, and shelves of tattered clothing tower to my left. A layer of freshly shattered glass crunches beneath my shoes. The brick that landed on the laundry room floor did not just smash through the window but exposed every appliance, every piece of soiled clothing, and even myself to the elements. Now filled with fear, disgust, and confusion I cannot help by sardonically wonder, how did my most abhorred chore become my full-time job?
Community dinner
If eyes are the windows to the soul, the eye patch of a broken window I stare through now divulges the life of this laundry and why my hands fold it. This distaste for laundry arose in fourth grade as I gained responsibility for washing my own clothing. Tossed to the end of our first floor hallway, the dirty clothing sat until the owned fed each article through the washer and dryer. Once finished, the freshly cleaned laundry languished on the floor outside the dryer, removed piecemeal as needed. This seemed untamed and chaotic when juxtaposed with the order and rule of the laundry system I faced at boarding school. Two hundred teenage girls forced to share nine washers resulted in surgically divided weeks and time allotments assigning each dorm and age group their right to use the machines. Breathing heavily, I traipsed up and down the four flights of stairs that separated me from the elusive dream of a clean uniform. After struggling to find an open day, open time slot, and an open machine, I flung the clean tights, kilts, and blue oxford blouses in the drawers of my wardrobe, folding only the top layer, in quiet rebellion of the laundry expectations during weekly room inspections.
Emily finding Senegalese food in Chicago


I thought my frustrations with laundry could reach no higher peak until I moved to Senegal, West Africa after graduation. As the identity of being female is entwined with household tasks, the women of my new desert, village home were baffled by this hand-washing newbie. Deemed incompetent after failing to produce the signature squishing noise of violently rubbing soapy cloth against itself, my neighbor and kindred spirit, Khoudia, was assigned to aid all my laundry endeavors. Frustration faded to gratitude as I gleaned the blessings in each task. I gained patience as I waited day after day, in typical Senegalese fashion, from my initial complaint of dirty clothing to the inception of our washing. I came to value the teamwork and, in turn, selfless resignation as Khoudia and I worked and compromised on the expected whiteness of socks. I learned to truly appreciate the warmth and protection provided by each piece of sewn together material, but most importantly I came to value the process itself. The process that allowed me to spend time with Khoudia; time to slow down; time simply spent alive.
At the Chicago tree lighting, photo credit Chicago Tribune
I stand next to the same dryers on the second floor of the Marquard Center. The same shelves of tattered clothing tower to my left. The air is still humid and the hum does not cease, but the room has changed. The plywood eye patch has been removed, and I can see again. At times, the violence and mental illness of the homeless population I serve evokes bouts of nostalgia for the ease of my laundry growing up, the rationality of my laundry at school, or the time I spent with Khoudia in Senegal, yet as Matt or Raul inhale the freshness of their socks that I cleaned, I am filled with the warmth of every load of laundry ever dried. They, too, are alive.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Serving the...um, uh...Homeless?

H.P.

Hannah getting donations at Franciscan House
Since starting my year of volunteer service, I always falter when explaining to others what I do.  Not because I'm embarrassed or afraid of judgement from others, but because using the term "the homeless" unsettles me.  Homelessness and poverty are issues that we cannot ignore, but when we start grouping people together and identifying them by their state or lack, it can be very disempowering.  I sense a barrier going up when I use terms like "the homeless" and "the poor" - a defining line between those who have what they need and those who desperately need help.  I fear that rather than helping the situation, this divisive terminology actually feeds into the power imbalances that perpetuate poverty and homelessness.

The disturbing reality of these barriers and power imbalances is what led me to commit to this year of service.  I wanted to form deeper relationships with people than what a three-hour-a-week volunteer commitment could give.  I wanted to learn how to respond to issues of poverty and inequality in our society from the people who are most affected by these issues.  Upon starting this position, however, I realized I walked into a whole new set of barriers between me and the guests we serve at the shelter.

Sara, Hannah, Sassi, Sara, & Kelly at the Chef Event fundraiser
I now see the women at the shelter multiple times a week, and I've had the opportunity to form deep relationships with some of them, but I have this opportunity because I serve as an overnight volunteer at the shelter.  I immediately walked into a position of authority over them - me, a 22-year-old, who just graduated college, and had never been to the shelter before this year.  This inevitably affects my relationships with them, and it has caused me to question "why?"  Why has life put me in a position of authority over them when I'm so much younger and less experienced than they are?  It doesn't seem fair or right, and while I'm very grateful for this position, it also wearies me because I'm constantly reminded of the inequalities and injustices in our society.  Inequalities and injustices that seem inescapable. For even if I had chosen a different volunteer program, I would still be the inexperienced, young adult coming in to a new place, yet trusted with more responsibility and freedom than the people being served.

Throughout all this I'm learning that, as much as I don't like it, this inequality and injustice will always affect my relationships with people.  The natural workings of our society do not often lead people of different races and classes to become friends or neighbors.  As I'm forced to acknowledge this, I'm learning that I can't let fear or guilt stop me from trying to cross these relational barriers that exist.  I come from a different cultural background from a lot of the guests, and my life experiences have been very different from theirs, so sometimes I worry I'll say or do the wrong thing.  But uncertainty, confusion, and risk exist in any relationship.  As I'm getting to know some of the women better, I've learned that making mistakes and misunderstanding people doesn't ruin relationships.  In fact, they move relationships further in a way because they give us a chance to learn from each other.  On the other hand, what stagnates relationships is remaining silent because of fear.
Community night life-size Clue game

One of the ways this has become especially clear to me is through a few theater workshops I've started hosting at the shelter.  These workshops started as an idea, but I felt unprepared and incompetent to actually put them together.  I also wasn't sure if any of the women would want to come, but I decided to take a risk and offer what I could.  Looking back, I'm so glad I did.  I've had four workshops so far.  Each one has been different, all of them have been small, none of them went as I expected, but I've left all of them smiling and inspired.

One of my favorite aspects of the workshops is that I can't do them on my own.  They depend on the community effort and collaboration of all of us.  I'll bring the simplest activities or ideas, but with the group participation, they come alive.  They take risk, trust, creativity, and imagination on everyone's part.  They lead to laughter, surprise, and meaningful shared experiences.  To give you just a glimpse of what I'm talking about, this past workshop we were improvising skits on the spot, and two women were up as NFL quarterbacks.  Here is what I can remember of the dialogue they had:

Quarterback 1:  Why don't you help out more on the team?  I'm having to catch all the passes.

QB2: Because I hate football.

QB1: What? You hate football?! How can you hate football?  You're one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL!
Hannah & Sara helping out at the soup kitchen

QB2:  I hate football.

QB1: But why?

QB2: Because I'm an old woman!  I'm 75 years old!

None of us saw that coming, and in the context of the scene, it was hilarious.

Another woman always brings in a question for us to end on.  She's asked us, "What is the most beautiful thing you've ever seen or the happiest you've ever been?" "If you could have a conversation with one person, who would it be?" and "If you could have any job, what would you do?" After the lighthearted silliness of most of the activities, these questions give us the opportunity to sit quietly and listen as everyone shares things that really matter to them.  In moments like these, the relationships between me and the women aren't so harshly defined by our differences.  The barriers between us blur and fade, while at the same time we see each person's individuality and uniqueness.

Unfortunately, as I leave the workshops to go home, I see the women going back to their beds and the shelter - a reminder once again of the inequality between us.  It's important to have those reminders, so we continue to live to change things.  But I'm also so grateful for the times when they're not as present, and we can enjoy just being together.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lucky 13

G.W.

Gracie & Sassi doing dishes on retreat
As long as I can remember, 13 has been my lucky number. To some people, the number 13 is cursed or unlucky. Often there is no 13th row on airplanes or a 13th floor in tall buildings, but the number 13 has given me plenty of good luck. Whether there is actual truth behind lucky numbers or it’s just coincidence, the number 13 has played a significant role in my life. For example, playing sports was the highlight of my childhood and adolescence, and I always wore jersey #13. When I went off to college, I was nervous of what was next. College seemed like a scary place, but after spending my freshman year living in room 313 in Stuart Hall my parents had to almost literally drag me home for the summer because I had fallen in love with The University of Dayton. While I was at UD I had a number of life inspiring experiences, but the most inspiring was the summer I spent in the Appalachian Mountains doing service work. Coincidently enough we lived on State Route 1031, the number 13 backwards. After 4 amazing years at UD I sadly had to graduate, but it seemed like a sign that I was graduating in 2013. It was as if someone up above was telling me that even though one door is closing, the next door that is being opened will be full of hope, promise, and good luck. Now I am living in Chicago, which is a life-long dream come true. To top it all off I am doing work that I love and I am a part of an amazing community comprised of....wait for it…13 incredible people that have become family. Coincidence?

Iron Chef community night!
Getting the opportunity to live in community has been one of many highlights of being a Franciscan Outreach Volunteer. After living in community when I was doing my summer of service in the Appalachian Mountains, I knew that if I was going to be doing a year of service, I had to live in community. But what does it mean to live in community? Being a part of a community is more than just being roommates. It means being intentional with each other. Picking each other up when we are down. Community means challenging each other to become the best version of ourselves as possible. It means holding each other accountable for the promises that we have made to ourselves and to our community. Community means spending time with each other. Whether it is a community dinner on a Sunday night, or it is having an “Iron Chef” competition at one of our Wednesday community nights, being with each other is a top priority. Community is laughter. My favorite part of the day is when we are all sitting at the kitchen table together talking about our days, staring stories of our lives before FOV, and laughing until we cry or until milk out of our noses, whichever comes first. Community means inclusivity. Yes, there are 13 of us that make up the 2013-2014 Franciscan Outreach Volunteers Community, but it also means that the 13 of us work together towards expanding our community to include those around us, especially the guest of Franciscan Outreach. Above all, community means love. Loving and accepting each other for who we are. Community means supporting one another as we learn to love others, especially the guests of FO, for their character, not undermining them because of their choices or life situations.
Themed Thursday in the soup kitchen

Community is one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given, and I feel so lucky that I have been blessed with an amazing community here at Franciscan Outreach. Community has shown me that we are not meant to go through life alone. We were meant to live life together. In Dorothy Day’s autobiography The Long Loneliness, she says “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community”. Ms. Day could not have spoken more truthfully.  With a little luck, hopefully one day through the power of community we will no longer know loneliness, only love.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Geronimo!

M.Y.

Mike & Gracie jumping in with both feet on retreat
One year ago, I was starting my last year as a Boston College undergraduate, finishing up a BA in Theology.  Somewhere along the way, life provided a plan for me.  A perfect storm of coincidences eventually brought me here, to be sitting on the third flood of the Marquard Center, at a computer that is slower than a snail in molasses, writing this blog post. 

How exactly I got here isn't important.  The most important thing I've learned as a result of the experiences I've been blessed to have, is no matter where you are in life it is of the utmost importance to jump in with both feet.

Looking back, this is a philosophy that has served me fairly well.  After I took a fairly rudimentary theology class, my interest was piqued. The next year, I did what any irresponsible 20 year old with zero foresight would do, and I switched my major from Pre-Med to Theology.  And I didn't drown.  By jumping in with both feet, I found more than just a major, I was changed by it.  It ignited a passion within me for the close study of scripture that I still carry with me.

Wining team for "Chopped Challege" Community night
There are other instances of jumping in with both feet that I found have served me equally well--by deciding to fully and ambitiously explore my faith, I can confidently say I've found a deeper relationship with God.  Fully trusting in myself and the future allowed me to travel to South Africa and have some of the most adventurous times of my life.  But it is in the work that we do at Franciscan Outreach every day that I see this lesson fully realized.  One of my community member's once wrote on our quote board, "throw your heart into your work, and jump in after it".  I fully believe that in order to gain the most from any experience, especially a year of service, it is important to jump in with both feet, and, keeping with the metaphor, swim away from the ledge into deeper waters.

Mike & Timo at the Open House event
At Franciscan Outreach, we work directly with those who are homeless.  But you already knew that.  Daily we come in direct contact with human beings in various situations, many of them in crisis.  We stare at hunger, substance abuse, mental illness, and poverty in the face, every single day.  We prepare food for our guests and provide them a safe place to sit down, relax, and have a meal.  Nothing that happens in the building can ever be half-assed.  In fact, it is the opposite.  Every day, I find that we have to give more of ourselves to our guests and our work than we expect.  We share more with our guests than food and a building--their struggles become ours, their heartaches ours, and their defeats ours.  When Chris* was kicked in the leg by some punk when he was sleeping, or when Brian* is threatened and kicked into the street by his ex-wife, or when Curtis* has all his belongings stolen, those struggles become ours and part of the weight we bear.  When you make a commitment to serve a marginalized population, you should be prepared to take their sorrows and make them your own.  If you insist on keeping a distance between yourself and the people you serve, of only living with them half of the time, you'll drown.  It's not all bad though.  With the sorrows and defeats also comes incredible joy and life.  When Julie* got a job or when David* got housing, we rejoiced with them.

Making dinner
Committing fully and jumping in with both feet is a theme that consistently comes up in the Bible, and oftentimes it is the measure of a great person.  When Abraham left his ancestral land of Ur, he did not do so apprehensively.  He heard God's call and followed, leaving his home and country behind in the hopes of a better life ahead.  When Joshua led his people from the wilderness into the land of Canaan, he faced seemingly insurmountable odds.  And yet, he trusted in God and carved out a country for his people. In these instances, neither one said, "Oh I'll just dip one foot in and see how it is".  The patriarchal stories lose their ring if after Abraham heard God he said, "Okay, but I won't sell my hut just yet, maybe I'll sublet it for a few months in case things don't work out.  Sarai, can you put some of the appliances in storage"? In both instances, these men were called to do something and they answered with a resounding "Yes".

If you are thinking about doing a year of service, listen to your heart.  Do you feel that you can fully commit to giving yourself to a population desperately in need, homeless or otherwise?  Do you feel drawn to do it?  If you're like me, you may not be able to articulate exactly what draws you toward service, but that's fine.  If you're going to do it, do it all and do it well.

There is a very simple reason that a year of service demands that you jump in with both feet and hold nothing back: a year of service is a year of living out love.  Giving yourself to those who are homeless, or orphans, or refugees, or homeless orphan refugees, or any marginalized demographic is an act of love, and an act of love is to give yourself wholly and fully to another.  And it's not easy.  There may be days when you don't feel like working or days when you feel crushed by everything--the systems of poverty, hopelessness and despair.  But that doesn't matter.  You agreed to live in love.  You agreed to be love.  Trust in yourself, your heart, and whatever God you choose, and things will turn out for the best.

*Names changed

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Learning the Ropes

S.B.

Sassi at the apple orchard
About a year ago I was filling out my application to be a Franciscan Outreach Volunteer.  At the time I was in school and living in a small German village with my family.  A lot has changed since this time last year! Now I'm living in the third biggest city in America, in community with 12 other people and working overnight shifts at our shelter.

Since my first day here in Chicago, I knew that the decision I made a year ago was definitely one of the best I've ever made.  I feel like I learn something new every single day.  It's not always obvious or important, but just living in another country with a different language and community teaches me a lot.

Thinking back on my first shift at the shelter, I still didn't feel that comfortable speaking English to the supervisors or the guests.  I couldn't really imagine that I'd know almost all of the ladies names one day or that it would get easier to work overnight.  But at this point in my year, I can already say that this is exactly what happened.  At first the ladies were guests and that's all I knew about them.

In the last three months, these women have become more than just "guests" to me.  They all have one thing in common:  they don't have a place to sleep; they are homeless.  This was the only thing I knew when I came to the shelter.  However, besides this one aspect, all the ladies and all the guests, are totally different.  Our guests have different ethnicity, some are in their twenties and others are over 60.  Some of the ladies sleep at the shelter for several years and others are new and only stay for a couple days.  We have pregnant guests and guests with or without jobs.  And the most important difference:  They all have their own personalities, needs, and stories.
Sassi, Mustafa, Sara, and Zach at the Cub's game

Since I've been at the shelter, I've talked to the guests and they tell me about themselves, about their children, or even grandchildren.  One of the ladies recently came to the desk where I was sitting and asked me if I wanted to see pictures of her family.  She opened a folder and told me all the names of her grandchildren and their ages.  Another guest looked at the date one day and shared that the next day was her son's birthday.  She shared stories of her three sons that she hadn't seen in a long time.  Other women are more quiet and don't talk a lot.  But finding this out is also a part of getting to know them.

2013-14 community serving dinner after Orientation
Some of the ladies don't talk a lot about themselves but are interested in my story.  It always starts when guests ask for my name and I tell them "Saskia". The response is typically, "say that again" or just "what?" so I repeat it or I say "my nickname is Sassi, maybe that is easier to remember" and I often add, "I'm German, that's the reason for the name".  At this point they get really interested in how long I've been here, how I like the U.S. (especially Chicago), and the differences between the two countries.  All in all, it's a great experience to live in another country, in a big community, and to work at the shelter. I feel like I am learning every day from the guests and my community members and I'm looking forward to what else will come this year!

Monday, September 23, 2013

One Small Act of Kindness, One Giant Leap for Humanity

K.C.
Kelly enjoying Portillo's chocolate cake!

Being here in Chicago for about two months has been absolutely amazing.  I've learned so much that I can anticipate what the entire year might bring.  Coming from a rather unknown small city in Massachusetts, Chicago has been full of surprises.  Up until this point, my interactions and experiences with the homeless population was limited.  In the short time that I have served, my eyes have been opened to a whole new set of problems and issues.  Welfare checks, food stamps, and substance abuse are issues that this population faces every day.  We serve about 120 guests each night for dinner and already I have noticed frequent visitors.  So far, I think that the hardest part of my service has been learning names.  Because of the multitude of guests, it took me a while to remember even half of their names!

But it is important for us to remember each one of their names because it shows that we do acknowledge them.  Very often, our guests are ignored or turned down on the streets and not many people give them a second look; not many stop and ask them for their story.  The Marquard Center should feel like a home to them--a sanctuary, where they are away from the streets, feel safe, and relaxed.
Sara, Kelly, Saskia & Kristen at a recent fundraiser

We as humans, need to remember that every person has a story and is struggling with their own battle.  Coming from the medical background, I often visualize situations with a different perspective.  I often see the solutions to many of our guests' underlying problems with a quick surgery or simple medication.  But then I realize, that it is not that easy for them.  There are many issues hindering the possibility for our guests to obtain quality medical care.  Many of them do not have proper insurance or even the means to obtaining insurance, which automatically limits the quality and access to medical care.  Substance abuse and alcoholism is another issue that can impair their health and put them at further risk.

Marquard volunteers on their recent "Theme Thursday": Hawaiian Day
That is what makes the work that we do, here at Franciscan Outreach, so important.  Prevention of common health risks is one of the best actions that we can do.  Providing services such as proper nutrition, proper hygiene with showers and laundry and a safe place to sleep doesn't alleviate all of our guest's problems, but it helps.  Sometimes it is really easy to become so involved with daily tasks that we forget that every act of kindness, no matter how small, goes a long way. 

We don't need to feel as though we need to feed all the homeless and save the world but rather stopping someone on the street and asking what their name is or what their story is goes a long way!  You wouldn't believe how much it makes their day.

Everyone is special and has the potential to lift your heart in ways that you never thought possible.  All you need to do is listen.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Who are We to Judge?

Patrick Penner
Patrick is a second year Franciscan Outreach Volunteer serving at the Franciscan House shelter.

Patrick serving at Franciscan House
Especially when you live in a bigger city you see homeless people all the time.  Some asking for money or selling newspapers.  Some dangerously walking between driving cars or standing at street corners.  Thousands pass them every day.  If you pay attention, you notice that most do so without even noticing.  Busy all day, rushing around, their thoughts focused on the next thing on their to-do list.  Or they are ignoring the person that expresses their need to them, pretending not to see them.

I used to belong to this group of people.  Whenever I would pass a homeless person I tried to look very busy.  Either looking at my phone or quickly walking past with big steps.  When I was spoken to, I would not even look at whoever tried to get my attention, not seeing homeless people equally.  And I did not feel bad about it.  Everyone did it.

During the past year that I have served at the Franciscan House shelter, I have gotten to know the homeless - whom we call guests - more closely.  I've learned about what has happened to them in the past and what is going on in their lives now.  What our guests appreciate the most is someone who listens to what they say.  You can see how their faces light up when you call them by name, taking them out of the anonymity.  I  learned not to judge them based on their homelessness.  Who am I to judge anyone anyways?  We often forget that those who are homeless aren't different from most of us.  They are college graduates, unemployed, people with jobs, proud fathers and mothers.  The only thing that makes them different is that they happen to not have housing.

Patrick helping Emily with intake at the Marquard Center
My experience from interacting with our guests has taught me this:  If you don't want to give someone money, that is totally fine!  But if you are being asked for it, don't just walk away.  Take notice of that person and respond!  There is nothing wrong with a, "no, I'm sorry!" By responding you are showing that you value this person as a human being that has the right to be treated equally.

If you want to go one step further, take a few minutes to get caught in a conversation.  Or talk to someone who looks lonely, even if you have to step out of your comfort zone to do so.  Here, my friend and former volunteer Carissa Stewart is a good example.  She just walks up to people and introduces herself, seeking out those who others don't talk to.  There are so many interesting stories that are just waiting to be heard.  Without any effort, you can brighten someones day and learn to be more understanding of those in need.

Let's remind ourselves to be more aware of those who don't get attention.  To accept others where ever they are in life, no matter rich or poor.  To treat everyone the same way we would like to be treated; we are all equal residents of the same planet.

Because, who are we to judge?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Meet our 2013-14 Community!


Back Row: Ephraim, Patrick, Mike, Timo, Zach, Mustafa
Front Row: Emily, Saskia, Kelly, Gracie, Kristen, Sara, Hannah

Kristen serves as our Community Assistant.  While a southerner at heart, she has been in Chicago for many years working in urban ministry and absolutely loves the diversity and energy of the city.  She served for a year for Mission Year Chicago and has a M.A. Social Justice and Community Development from Loyola. Kristen just returned from living and serving in Costa Rica at a non-profit bilingual school.

Hannah comes to us from Tulsa, OK.  She recently graduated from Wheaton College with a degree in Anthropology.  While in school, she had the opportunity to live in Cambodia, teaching English.  She hopes to work with immigrants and/or refugees in the future and possibly live internationally. Hannah loves learning other languages. She is serving at the Franciscan House shelter as a CVN AmeriCorps member.

Timo has traveled all the way from Hamminkeln, Germany and is serving at the Franciscan House shelter.  He chose to do this year because he wants to do something good for society. He loves traveling and learning new things about different countries. He also enjoys motor biking. Timo hopes to become a mechanical engineer one day.

Ephraim joins us from Berlin, Germany. He has 6 siblings and claims to get along with all of them at all times.  He just finished high school and sees this year as an opportunity for character development.  He loves rap music and has been rapping himself for 5 years. He is serving at the Franciscan House shelter. 

Emily went to boarding school at Culver Academy in Indiana. She then spent a year living in rural Senegal; working with the NGO, Millennium Village Project.  After her experience working at a local medical clinic, she desires to become a nurse and provide quality healthcare to women in Africa. She is serving as a CVN AmeriCorps Member at the Marquard Center.

Gracie hails from Hudson, OH and is serving as a CVN AmeriCorps Member at the Marquard Center. She graduated this year from the University of Dayton with a degree in psychology.  She lived and served in Appalachia for 2.5 months, an experience which inspired this year of service.  In the near future, Gracie hopes to hike the Appalachian Trail from start to finish.

Patrick hails from Bielefeld, Germany.  He is serving his second year with FOV, at the Franciscan House shelter, because he loves Chicago, living in community, and had a wonderful experience his first year.  Patrick hopes to go to university in the States next year to study graphic design.  He loves exploring new parts of the city.

Mike joins us from Hillsboro, NJ.  He studied theology at Boston College. He likes watching basketball and is always discovering new music to listen to. Mike studied Hebrew Bible in Israel.  He wants to go back to graduate school to study divinity and social work. He is serving as a CVN AmeriCorps Member at the Marquard Center.

Saskia  is from Nottuln, a small village in the northwest part of Germany. She just graduated high school and this is her first time in the US.  For the past 2.5 years, she worked at a gym, in reception.  She loves spending time with her friends and experiencing different things with them. Saskia is serving at the Franciscan House shelter.

Zach traveled the smallest distance, hailing from Woodstock, IL. He attended Augustana University, receiving a degree in anthropology and business. While in school, he led a fundraising effort called Crossline for Divide for his fraternity, raising over $3,000. Zach loves playing the guitar.  He also travels because he is fascinated with new cultures.  Zach is one of our cooking masters, trying out new recipes all the time! He is serving as a CVN AmeriCorps Member at the Marquard Center.

Sara is from Florence, TX and recently graduated from Texas A&M University with a B.A. in English.  While she is not quite sure what her next step in life will be, she is trying her best to trust in God's will.  She would like to continue her education in not-for-profit work. Sarah loves watching old movies.  She used to watch TCM with her Dad. Sara is serving as a CVN AmeriCorps Member at the Marquard Center.

Mustafa is originally from Havixbeck, Germany, but is actually Turkish. After finishing his service in Chicago, he wants to study medicine and become a doctor. He speaks German, Turkish and English and wishes to learn other languages in the future. Mustafa also enjoys playing the guitar and watching sports, particularly soccer and basketball. He is serving at the Franciscan House shelter.  

Kelly comes from Fall River, MA, where she just graduated with a degree in bio-chemistry from UMASS-Dartmouth. She is serving as a CVN AmeriCorps Member at the Marquard Center. She has worked as a CNA for the past four years and plans to attend medical school following this year, to become a cardio or ER doctor.  Kelly loves to rock climb and is searching for the perfect rock climbing gym.