- Message of John Paul II for the Year of Volunteer Work
- Every high school student must complete at least twenty (20) hours of community service per school year – e.g. June 2012 - May 2013. (National Honor Society students must complete additional service hours.)
- Students may also contact one, two, three, or more teachers, guidance counselors, or administrators at Villa – e.g. Students may arrange times to organize classrooms, offices, files, or clean.
- Please review “High School Service Opportunities” (access link on the left) to explore potential service opportunities.
- Please review “General Service Guidelines” (access link on the left) for more information regarding volunteer situations and other procedural facts.
Dialogue and a Praxis of Volunteerism(pdf)
Quinton Jefferson, Campus Minister
What We Believe
We work, converse, help, love, sponsor our peers, our elders, and our progeny. This is an individual challenge – collapse your imaginary boundaries and experience positive vulnerability.
As we face this challenge, we deepen our understanding of ourselves and others. In this, we develop the Benedictine value of community. We hear this idea of community in Jacob’s witness of God. “I will make you a community of peoples…” (Genesis 48:4).
We are active participants in the lives of others. We share economic, ecologic, ethic, and political ideals. We have common goals and desire a restoration of the common good. We exercise systemic change. Everyone works independently and interdependently; we use our singular gifts to collectively organize methods and institutions, which uphold our principle of faith. And, we pray our partnerships in faith increase in their effectiveness and augment our longing for the good things of God (Philemon 1:6).
Enter the Experiential and Exponential Growth through Service
We perform service for a variety of reasons. The best reason is that we long for a relationship based in reciprocity. Age does not determine or create boundaries. Each peer group receives wisdom from the present, the past and the future; one age does not trump another. One group gives “A”; another group gives “B”; one group receives “B”; one group receives “A” – ad infinitum. Interdependence bonds our society. We strive toward an inclusive community. We can and do change the world.
One correct model or mindset of service work does not exist. Our basic challenge is following and upholding the course for the advocacy of justice – establishing reciprocal relationships with the poor and marginalized – through the grace of God. Respecting others is ethically correct. We “learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed and correct the oppressor. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). And, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34). Others’ lives shape their culture as much as our lives shape our culture. We are born in certain economic situations, education backgrounds, environments, and chromosomal facilities; later, advantages, events, and people shape our lives. There but for the grace of God, go we.
Holding these in mind, we identify our motivations
We often accept volunteer opportunities based on our value system and how closely the opportunity resembles it; the more closely our image mirrors that of the organization, and vice versa, the better. We observe significant issues that do not appear in quotidian life. Gradually, we strive toward a type of service-activism with the initial steps being service (first) and service-learning (second). We identify a need, acknowledge that we can be the means to end this need, and fill a role that is uniquely made for our talent(s).
We are only building a culture with those who have or are open to our belief system – similar to the letters in the New Testament. If the others do not share our beliefs, then we must not succumb to thoughts that create artificial boundaries with the others. The others are, nevertheless, part of our human family.
Using the converse approach, one volunteers only for academic, economic, political, or other status seeking reasons. One does not value the other. Instead, one’s view of the other is that of a means to an end. The end being gained through using the other as a ladder to a nefarious goal. For example, one volunteers in order to join a particular team, club, or some other popular crowd or group.
The popular mode of talk in the twenty-first century is monologue – an individual speaking to an audience – and passive listening. Even though this is the case, a return to an interdependent model is needed – dialogue. In dialogue, the unwritten rule is that both parties actively listen to one another, weigh and assess the words, and communicate a response to the other. In this way, each side works toward a unique, shared goal. The goal may not be known or envisioned, but it is the best solution. Where dialogue does not occur, domination does. This is evident in service projects where the particular needs of the community are not addressed. Instead, organizers and volunteers have preconceived notions about the project and the solution to a given need. The work is completed and those on the receiving end must express gratitude. Such a model only devalues the other; it robs them of their humanity and their dignity. Educator, Paulo Freire, spoke of similar ideas several times throughout his life. “If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed.” Additionally, “some may think that to affirm dialogue—the encounter of women and men in the world in order to transform the world—is naively and subjectively idealistic. There is nothing, however, more real or concrete than people in the world and with the world, than humans with other humans” (Freire). We have the right and ability to participate in critical thinking; we should engage in this process.
We encourage the development of skills and resources in individuals we hope to serve. Accomplishing this requires an increase in the knowledge of others’ needs without filtering their needs through our lenses of privilege and of our cultural mores. Not accurately acknowledging what the other has to offer, limits the others’ degree of participation and fails a legitimization of their communities’ needs.
Is There a Problem
Remaining silent or “neutral” equals a yes to the current goings-on – the status quo. Reality occurs. Volunteering catalyzes change. Honest service requires education, reflection, introspection, debate, publicity, and further education, reflection, introspection, debate, and publicity. Today’s great model or service opportunity can easily turn into tomorrow’s outdated model or opportunity; honest service requires continuous updates from all stakeholders.
Numerous researchers suggest that each positive episode of participation increases the likelihood of volunteerism in the future if the project is seen as mutually beneficial. For this reason, Villa Madonna Academy does not mandate service organizations and volunteer activities; we allow students choice. We develop our students’ inner longings toward a shared vision of reciprocal service. It is our hope that Villa students develop their faiths, leadership, and interpersonal skills. Strong ties to the community are key.
Locating a service opportunity requires numerous steps. Where does your passion lie? Does a particular group need or share in your quest? (This question confronts many and is not specific to class, gender, or race. This question needs individual and collective investigation.) What is your availability? What is the age range of potential participants? How many individuals are involved? Will people from your age range participate? Will your friends participate? What distance are you willing to travel? In addition, one needs to engage in dialogue either with the organization or the individual(s) involved.
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