Wednesday, May 31, 2017

My Year Abroad with Franciscan Outreach

I´m Lorena. I'm 20 years old and a full-time volunteer in the soup kitchen. Ten months ago I had no idea what to expect from Chicago and what the work in the soup kitchen would be like. Coming from a small city called Schwaebisch Gmuend, (which is located in the southern part of Germany, next to Stuttgart) I was pretty pumped and curious how my life would look like for the next 12 months.

I´m not going to tell any fairy tales in this post; instead I want to talk about what significant things I experienced, how some experiences changed me and my values, and how I made progress for myself and for my future.

Lorena, in front of the Chicago skyline


I remember being a “newbie”, working in the soup kitchen, getting into the daily kitchen routine and learning a lot of things in a short period of time. Yes, it was a challenge and not always easy, but I managed. From my perspective, a great thing about the work in the soup kitchen is that our tasks change every day so we´re not always doing the same job. I remember one day around mid-September like it was yesterday, I was getting more and more into the kitchen life, trying not to burn any casseroles, learning how to coordinate our part-time volunteers during dinner, running 20 times up and down to the laundry room to get socks and hygiene kits for the guests. I was doing intake that night. Everything happened as usual but then one guest came in who was barred from the soup kitchen and Brother Doug (our Supervisor) explained to him that he couldn’t come in until mid-October. I could see how he tried to hold back his tears. He left and I felt enormously sorry for him, realizing how important food actually is, for any human being. A few days later I became aware of the fact that it´s not just food that we provide at the soup kitchen, it´s the place itself. A place where everyone is welcome, where people have a daily routine and community, and some of the guests may not have outside of the soup kitchen.

I have to say I´m glad for this experience. It has made me think about how expensive food is (here in America) and if you don´t make any money or even if you have a job it’s possible that you can only afford junk/fast food. It is sad but it´s the reality and I had to face it at some point.


The Kitchen Crew sporting their FOV squad sweatshirts
The time flew by so fast and it was already Christmas. Working on Christmas Eve was one of my favorite experiences. A lot of families came in; sat together, enjoyed the food and I gave out some Christmas cards that night, wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas. I felt really happy to work on this special day. 

Reflecting on the progress I made, I have to say I gained a lot of self-confidence during the 10 months here. Especially at work, being the only female full-time volunteer in the soup kitchen this year and expressing my opinion/ideas was not always easy but it made me stronger. Also looking at the progress I made for my future here at Franciscan Outreach, “Simple Living” is a big part of it. For instance we had a Curriculum once for Community Night which was about how spirituality tells us to be simple. We talked about the “Golden mean” which describes the middle way through life – having not too much and not too little. Speaking about values because of my work here, I´m much more aware of how important good health, something to eat and a supportive family are.

The volunteers pose for a picture at Helpings of Hope

To put it all in a nutshell, Franciscan Outreach offers a great opportunity to live in a community with people from different countries and having the experience of your lifetime focusing on Service, Community, Simple Living and Spirituality. I made the decision to participate in this program and it was the best decision in my entire life so far. If you´re thinking about doing a year of service and you´re not afraid of challenges nor afraid of change, want to be part of something big and you´re a person who cares about other people – then this is the right program for you. Take a chance!

2 comments:

  1. Your story is inspirational. I love the way you have managed all the thing in kitchen soup despite of bring there as a newbie.More power to you girl!

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  2. En cooperatingvolunteers os ofrecemos la mejor experiencia para un voluntariado único internacional. voluntariado internacional

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