The VSC house has been entertaining several prospective volunteers lately. I'm excited to see next year's VSC roster slowly accumulate. I also enjoy how talking with these girls makes us reflect on our own expereinces.
Our most recent guest asked a rather random question: "Have you changed after doing a volunteer year?"
My first reaction was "Yeah, I actually hate poor people now....what do you think we'd say??"
How could we leave college, move to a new city, start full time jobs, and not change?
But seriously, how we have changed is the interesting answer. There are little ways, like my new obsession with brown rice and the fact that I have actually thought owning a dog would be fun. All of us now know tons of Vincentian Saint trivia, and some of the volunteers want to continue careers in their work now. Others, myself included, are drawn to another life calling.
In many ways, this year has paid off as I hoped. I have seen a new part of the country, lived in a city, and learned about how the poor live there. The result is a greater solidarity with and awareness of the people around me. It wasn't until I met teenage mothers, entered their homes, and drove their streets that I comprehended some of the complexity of their lives. I didn't truly appreciate my loving, nuturing parents until I saw the results of neglect and abuse. Leaving my bubble has changed me.
This change can go both ways, though. A while back some clients in NFNF's Healthy Start, a federally-funded project, got to accompany the program directors on a trip to DC. Healthy Start staff are still talking about how exciting it was to see these moms explore the new world of politics in a new city. Clients attended workshops, shook hands with congressmen, and took pictures in front of the Capitol building. They told lawmakers about the changes Healthy Start had brought to their lives, and the future changes (school, jobs,) that they hoped to make.
I hope these women and I continue to benefit from seeing the world outside our neighborhood bubble.