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.
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.