Ariana’s Mission to Peten, Guatemala

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Greetings from Guatemala! I am currently volunteering in a small village called Chacte in Peten, Guatemala. Chacte and its surrounding communities are predominantly indigenous communities. It’s been a humbling experience learning about the culture and celebrating the Eucharist in a beautiful dialect (Q’eqchi). During my time here, I will be teaching English in two different villages, volunteering in the community clinic, and helping the Sisters with Youth & Women’s ministries. My experience, thus far, has been filled with meaningful, God-present moments. Viva Jesus!

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Heydi’s Mission in Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras

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It is with joy and gratitude that I am writing to you all from Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras! I have been at the Instituto de Maria Auxiliadora since June 26th. I have been working with 34 girls who reside at the school who are referred to as “internas.” In the morning, I attend the English classes that all the students receive and help those students who struggle the most in the class, then in the afternoon I teach English classes to the internas.  After the classes we pray the rosary then the girls have an hour of rigorous studies that I oversee. The girls have dinner at 7:30 PM followed by a few minutes of recess before the Good Night message.

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Time is flying, but each day I try and share my joy with everyone I come in contact with especially the internas. Despite the difficulties and troubles the internas may be experiencing, they genuinely love and welcome others to their home. I see a piece of Jesus in each one of them and they have been teaching me so much more than what I can teach them.

Each day brings a new challenge and God always provides the graces to conquer each one. While I only have two weeks left, there is still time to be God’s humble servant. Therefore, I ask you to please pray for the Sisters in this community, the students here and pray that I may allow God to work through me every day.

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Fernanda’s Mission in Carcha, Guatemala

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I served in Carcha, Guatemala for four weeks. I helped teach a values class at the local public schools throughout the morning and tutored during the evening (assisting with homework and teaching english classes). On weekends, I was able to teach the values class again and share a morning meal with the kids and assist with the lesson plans of the oratory on Sundays. I also helped with community development of the q’uechi women and taught them the importance of a well rounded meal.  I am blessed to have served alongside three hard working Sisters in Guatemala! I can’t wait to serve again with the Salesian Sisters!

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VIDES – Giving Tuesday

Celebrate the power of ACCOMPANIMENT. Be a part of VIDES mission by sharing of your treasure. Be sure of our grateful prayer. God loves you and we do too!
Sister MaryGloria and all VIDES

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Estefani’s Mission in Honduras

The place I was assigned for my four week mission was Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras. The drive into this town was about 5 hours from the closest airport, and there is only one road that gets us to this mountainous region.

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I was assigned to the Salesian Sister’s School and boarding house in Santa Rosa. Initially, I thought that because it was a boarding school as well, it would be “more well off” students I’d be working with. In reality, the school houses 45 girls this year, most of which come from really poor families.  The tuition is very low to promote an education for girls. The boarders help with all the household tasks like cleaning the facilities and outside patios.

The Sisters accept the goods their families cultivate as a form of payment if  need be. The families can exchange sacks of beans, rice, bananas, and coffee in order to provide their girls with the opportunity for an education. The resident girls are allowed to visit home every 2 weeks but most of them can’t afford to go home since they live in some of the most rural parts of Honduras. Many come from really poor communities referred to as “aldeas”. Whatever education these girls arrive with is typically minimal and so the Sisters do everything in their hands to help them get up to speed and instill loving discipline. Since most of the girls spend months without seeing their loved ones, they really are in need of love and care. They are so loving and warm, always seeking a warm embrace. It has been truly beautiful to accompany these girls with the love and care every person deserves.

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The daily routine is pretty exhausting since we wake up at 5:20 to get ready for the day. The morning routine consists of grooming and spraying myself down with mosquito repellent (I only forgot to apply it once to learn my lesson). From 6 to 6:30 AM all the girls and I do the house chores which include sweeping, mopping, and/or dusting the halls, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, showers, and patios. And then we finally have breakfast at 6:30!

The girls are at school from 7AM until 1:40PM. During that time, I have my own chores and organizational tasks to do.  From 9:30 to 10 the girls have a 30-minute recess in which I’ve gotten to know some of the students that live in a nearby orphanage that is in walking distance.  At 12:05 they have a ten minute recess in which I help sell snacks at the school’s snack stand. I have lunch at 12:30 and at 1:40 the business kicks off. I spend my afternoon with the girls since they have lunch at 1:50, chores right after, and time for homework.  I teach English classes from 3:30-4:30 on certain days while another volunteer hosts a computing workshop. At 6, we pray the rosary together and then head off to do silent study time. At 7:30 we have dinner.  They have some down time after dinner and at 8:15ish they gather for the “goodnight” thought from the Sisters. Around 8:45 all the girls are seeking hugs before heading to bed.  The other volunteer and I gather with the Sisters to unwind for a bit but usually by 9:30 or 10, we are so tired that it is time for bed. Our day starts again at 5:20 am.

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It has been a very hard task to memorize the names of each of the 45 resident girls; however, it has been truly worth it when their faces light up as I remember them by name. It makes me think about how important it is for me, and all of us, to remember to make our neighbor feel noticed, important, and cared for.  A simple warm genuine smile may seem like such a minuscule task but I am convinced that it is our kindness that impacts the world.  I invite you to take it upon yourself to share a smile, be kind without expecting a favor in return, be thoughtful, be passionate about reflecting the love of God through your warmness and contagious smile. At the core of all this is the simple idea of accompaniment.  By being reachable, relatable, and accepting of differences, we build a relationship that enables trust and closeness.

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I have learned and practiced a lot of the skills I’ll definitely be needing for my therapist trainee position coming soon and it’s simply wonderful to see how God not only uses me as His instrument, but uses the sweet people I have met to give me a different perspective on life, poverty, gratitude, and fulfillment.

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Teaching Teachers to Teach in Texas: Formation Service Camp

My name is Erica Hudson and I’m from Hopkinton, Massachusetts. In May of 2018 I graduated from Saint Anselm College (Manchester, NH) with a degree in International Relations and French. In the future, I hope to use my degree to work in the field of international policy advocacy or law. I chose to do a post-grad year of service to give back to the world that has given me so many privileged opportunities, while others suffer without the same opportunities. Before I begin my career it is important to me to have experience traveling and serving so I understand first-hand what the human rights situation looks like around the world.

 

For my mission with VIDES I will be going to Geneva, Switzerland for 3 months, and then to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for 6 months. In Geneva, I will be working for Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice, a nongovernmental organization in consultative status with the UN Human Rights Council. This organization, run by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Salesian Sisters, advocates for education for all – with a specific focus on women and girls facing poverty and in urgent situations. This is a cause that I am very passionate about and I look forward to serving this cause through policy work. In Ethiopia, I will be teaching English and music to elementary students at a Catholic school in the capital. I look forward to working with children and accompanying them on their educative and faith journeys, while immersing myself in the unique culture of Ethiopia.

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From left to right: Erica Hudson, Sister Sydney Moss, and Julianna Lewis visit the Alamo during an evening off. 

I attended the VIDES Formation Service Camp in June 2018 in San Antonio, Texas. I was accompanied by one other volunteer, and we spent the week with the Salesian Sisters at the their provincial house. Throughout the week we learned about the teaching styles and philosophies of St. Maria Domenica Mazzarello and of St. John Bosco, co-founders of the Salesian order. Sister Gloria Mar and Sister Sydney Moss instructed us in our formation, offering practical and spiritual guidance for our upcoming missions.

 

During the second week of the Formation Service Camp we organized and ran a Bible camp for unaccompanied minors at Saints Peter and Joseph’s Children’s Home in San Antonio. We were joined by over 30 youth participants, who voluntarily signed up for our camp. Each day consisted of a song, skit, lesson, worksheet, craft, and outdoor game, all instructed in Spanish. Each day we followed the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-44), beginning on the first day with the brothers selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites, and ending on the last day with the reunification of the family. The themes we focused on were sin, divisions, forgiveness, and reconciliation. The participants were very engaged and voiced their appreciation for us on the last day of the camp.

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From left to right: Julianna Lewis, Diana Vargas, Erica Hudson, and Jackie Vargas rehearse skits to perform for the Bible camp at St. PJ’s Children’s Home. 

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A Sunny Stay in San Antonio: Formation Service Camp

My name is Julianna Lewis, I am originally from Houston, Texas but attended Tulane University in New Orleans for my Bachelor of Science in Public Health with a minor in Spanish on the pre-medical track. Throughout my time at university I led mission trips to the Merendón Mountains in Honduras and helped found and became president of Tulane’s chapter of Catholic Relief Services Student Ambassadors. My involvement with these and other activities along with my faith journey have led me to desire to spend a year doing service before continuing with my studies in medical school. I decided to choose VIDES+USA for the year because it seemed like the perfect integration of my Catholic faith and the opportunity for service.

During my year of service with VIDES I first be serving in Bogota, Colombia. There, I will be helping take care of the elderly sisters and accompanying them in daily life. I will also have the opportunity on Saturdays to help host Oratory with the Aspirants and Postulants for the local children. My second placement site will begin in January in Geneva, Switzerland at the Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice Human Rights Office for the United Nations. There, I be working with other interns to help in the office’s activities such as translating documents and assisting with other miscellaneous tasks. I am ecstatic for these two unique opportunities and forms of service and am looking forward to my year with VIDES.

In June, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in the VIDES+USA Formation Service Camp (FSC) in San Antonio, Texas. During the formation, I was able to meet a fellow future VIDES missioner and share the experience with her. The FSC was held at the FMA Provincial House where many elderly sisters reside. The community was incredibly receptive and welcomed and integrated us immediately into their day to day activities. The actual formation taught on the foundation and vision of the Salesian Sisters and the VIDES organization. I was able to learn a lot about what it means to accompany those who we serve in mission as well as the theoretical and the practical ways to live it out. It was an enriching experience that prepared me for my pending mission and made me even more excited about the work I will be doing and the organization that I will be serving with.

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Picking Peaches: Julianna Lewis (left), Sister Sydney Moss (center), and Erica Hudson (right) share an afternoon of peach picking for the sisters. 

The Formation Service Camp also included a week-long component of volunteering at Saints Peter and Joseph’s Home in San Antonio. St. PJ’s serves as a home for undocumented children and teens (ages 5-17) who were picked up near the border and are awaiting legal decisions on if they will be able to locate, contact, and  be reunited their family in the United States. This year, we held a Bible camp for about 32 boys and girls at the home. The Bible camp featured and followed the story of Joseph, son of Jacob, and the trials he faced in life. Skits and songs were performed in able to convey the story as well as worksheets to reinforce what the kids had just seen or heard. The camp also included various crafts which the children seemed to greatly enjoy as well as engaging games and activities. The most touching part of all though were the shared prayer moments and intentions with the children. The kids were incredibly sincere and prayed fervently with us each day. Sharing in life with the youth throughout the week was an experience that I will not soon forget.

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VIDES Volunteers for St. PJ’s Home from left to right: Kristie Martinez, Sister MaryGloria Mar, Erica Hudson, Diana Vargas, Jackie Vargas, Julianna Lewis, and Sister Sydney Moss

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Melodious Mass by VIDES Family

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Amanda and her daughter, Lily, playing at the Commissioning Mass.

VIDES+USA is incredibly grateful to Amanda Alvarez and her family for joining us at the Commissioning Mass of our two newest volunteers, Julianna Lewis and Erica Hudson. Amanda shared her talents with us by playing the piano and singing for the Commissioning Mass. Amanda served as a VIDES volunteer in Honduras and her husband, Paul, served as a VIDES volunteer in Sudan. They now have a lovely family together and continue to share of their time and talents with the VIDES program. Thank you to the wonderful family for their presence on Sunday!

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VIDES Family: Paul, Lucia, Lily, and Amanda Alvarez. 

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Sent Off and Sent Out into the World

VIDES+USA has just completed our June 2018 Formation Service Camp! At the camp we trained two volunteers to prepare them for their respective mission placements over the next year. VIDES+USA offers this formation camp twice a year (in January and June) for all prospective missionaries with the program. VIDES+USA offers placements for lay missionaries in over 100 countries around the world. The program provides the opportunity to integrate faith and service for short, medium, and long term time periods.

On Sunday, June 17, 2018, Bishop Michael Pfeifer, OMI celebrated a Commissioning Mass as a send-off for the two new VIDES volunteers. Julianna Lewis, of Houston, Texas, will be serving in Colombia and Geneva and Erica Hudson, of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, will be serving in Geneva and Ethiopia this coming year. The beautiful celebration included the presentation of missioner crosses blessed with a cross given to Bishop Michael Pfeifer by St. Pope John Paul II. Afterwards, the volunteers, Bishop Michael Pfeifer, Sister MaryGloria Mar (VIDES+USA Director), and the sisters shared in a special lunch celebration together. Please keep the VIDES volunteers in your prayers as they go forth on their missions!

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From Left to Right: Sister MaryGloria Mar, Erica Hudson, Bishop Michael Pfeifer, OMI, Julianna Lewis, & Sister Guadalupe Medina

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What it Takes To Serve at UN Geneva

The IIMA-VIDES Human Rights Office, which is located in Geneva, does a great deal of work advocating for human rights at the United Nations (UN). This means that we, as interns, are trained and formed in the three months we are there, to intervene on behalf of our organization, which is a non-governmental organization (NGO).

In my first week we went through a crash course on the UN and its structure and how IIMA and VIDES fit into it all and, as interns, where we fit in. Needless to say, we were busy. Dependent on our skills we had jobs specially assigned to us. Some had to do translations, some videos/technical support, and others were editors. However, this is just a part of our daily tasks. The underlying understanding is to be flexible and willing to go with the flow.

Due to the nature of the office, we never are certain exactly what we will do, because even with a weekly schedule, we find ourselves changing jobs day to day, hour to hour. The main work we’ve done thus far is our intervention at the UN during the Human Rights Council (HRC). We had a chance to write our oral statement and to speak on behalf of our NGO in front of the HRC and the state representatives. It was an amazing feeling!

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The daily routine is ever flexible. We start work at 8:30 AM and end the day at 5:30 PM. This is a shifting scale which is dependent on whether we need to go to the UN for meetings and sessions, which could go over the work schedule. In this case we might have to show up early to the meetings and stay until the sessions are over, which is usually 6 PM. Please note that because the sisters’ house is in Veyrier, which is about 45 minutes from the UN by bus, we often take the 7 AM bus to get to the meetings on time.

As far as transportation is concerned, the sisters suggested that we buy the monthly Swiss pass. My only suggestion here is to calculate if this is going to be beneficial for you before you invest for the three months you are here. For some it is worth it, others, not so much because of the number of times it was used. For those under 25 the cost is about 40 CHF and for those over 25 the cost is 70 CHF. The cost of a one way ride in Geneva is 3 CHF and a day trip within Geneva costs 8 CHF. Test out the first month and see if this is something you wish to invest in.

Meals are as follows:

Breakfast is dependent on you. Lunch is served in the school dining room next to the sisters’ convent around 12:45 PM. Dinner is eaten with the sisters near 7 PM.

Noteworthy tidbits:
During the weekdays it is difficult to go out because of the alarm system. During the weekends, if you would like to go out, make sure you make plans in advance and tell the sisters of your arrangements so they know of your whereabouts and whether to save you food and expect you back or that you will be sleeping somewhere else. If you wish to do a bit of exploring, it is also a good idea to consider traveling with the other interns in order to save money. Things are 3 times more expensive in Switzerland than in the US, so if you want to travel or buy anything, be mindful that nothing is cheap here. If you find a good deal, take advantage of it.

Lastly, the best advice I can give is to start learning Italian and/or French if you want to converse with the community here. The sisters do not speak English and it would be wise to know conversational Italian and/or French. However, if you are a fast learner, you won’t have any problems. Just be open to the many languages that are going to be spoken and start to immerse yourself.

Ultimately, this volunteer/internship experience is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced and is a very unique service offered by VIDES. Remember to be open to change and to share joys and challenges with Suor MariaGrazia, the Director and the sisters and interns. It is always better to converse and speak out when something is bothering you. Your experience is what you make of it.

Theresa Nguyen
VIDES volunteer in Geneva, Switzerland

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