My In-Tents Year of Service

BY KELSEY ENDO | January 10, 2018

As a Jesuit volunteer, I work at Quinn Cottages for Sacramento Cottage Housing Inc., a nonprofit organization which provides housing for people with disabilities who were formerly experiencing homelessness. Quinn Cottages is full of participants who have lived on the streets for years, some even decades. Coming from the streets into one’s own home is challenging, and it’s my job to provide the support necessary for those who are struggling with their transition, or struggling to stay sober, or struggling to stay engaged.

I work as a Personal Development Coach (or Personal Development Cheerleader which I think is a more accurate title for my job). Basically, I get to work with the participants at Quinn and motivate them through programs such as healing arts, creative writing, and even ZUMBA classes. I work directly with each participant, forming those close relationships where I get to not only assist and support them in whatever way I can, but also get to know their stories.

In September, I was able to go with my workplace to a place called Camp Sacramento. This is an annual tradition when the staff, participants, and alumni (participants of Cottage Housing who have graduated and moved into their own homes) travel to the El Dorado region to camp for the weekend. The weekend was full of intense Bingo games, tie-dying, hikes, and wellness and gratitude workshops led by myself and the two other full-time volunteers who work with me, Morgan and Georgie.

Participants and staff pose for one final group photo after a fun weekend at Camp Sacramento!

Morgan, Georgie, and I led two different workshops over the weekend. The first one centered on gratitude, and I read a meditation on why gratitude is a daily choice we face in life: “Am I grateful today? If so, what am I grateful for?” This workshop was led for the participants, but I partook in it as well. Going through a huge life transition such as moving across the country for my new job, being thrown into an intentional community (which is basically a second job), living simply (which is honestly more of an adjustment than I anticipated), and finally working on my spirituality (which let’s be real, is almost like a third job), is hard and overwhelming.

As I was reading the meditation for the participants, I stopped and paused to reflect on these thoughts. I won’t lie, there are some harder days here, where I don’t feel grateful, and instead, I feel homesick, tired, and defeated. It’s overwhelming sometimes, but this reflection helped center me. I have so much to be grateful for, especially during my transitions. I have a whole new community of support that’s there for me every step of the way. I have a chance to really work on my spirituality throughout this year, to foster in myself a stronger faith. I have the chance to live on the other side of the country for a year. I have so much, even with so little.

The author poses as she makes her way up to the infamous “Lover’s Leap” by Lake Tahoe.

Morgan, Georgie, and I also went on a hike to a place called “Lover’s Leap.” I’m not a huge fan of heights but standing at the top of that peak was amazing. I tackled that small fear of heights and I was rewarded with such a beautiful view. I walked off to the side for a moment alone and sat on a rock, put on one of my favorite “reflecting” songs, and literally just looked around me. Nature is always one place where I truly can say that I know God is with me, and I felt God in that moment of peace.

Participants getting ready to release their balloons, and worries, into the air.

The night before we left Camp Sacramento, we hosted a balloon release. Each participant wrote something they wanted to let go of in the upcoming year and placed it into the balloon. Watching all the participants gather and release their balloons together was literally breathtaking. These men and women have endured so much in their lives, and here they are, growing together. It was such a cheesy metaphor in my mind for my upcoming year with JVC. I want to release my apprehensions, fears, and grow together with my community.

#JVReflects explores the intersection of faith and justice from the perspective of JESUIT VOLUNTEERS serving as long-term volunteers both domestically and internationally with Jesuit Volunteer Corps and Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest.  Reflections specifically focus on the cornerstone values of the Jesuit volunteer experience: spirituality, simple living, community, and social justice. 

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