Transformative Education through the Assumption Volunteers Program (England)
The English province of the Religious of the Assumption has a small volunteer programme which has been running for 15 years. Following St Marie Eugenie’s conviction that “each of us has a mission on earth” the Sisters of the Assumption want to help people discover the meaning of their lives and how they can be of service in our world. They offer ten places each year for young adults over 20 years old to share for one year in the lives of the poor, the young and the marginalised in an unfamiliar culture in projects connected with the Religious of the Assumption.
During this period 106 young people have been able to share their gifts with others and have gained more than they could have imagined. About half of the volunteers have gone abroad to serve in the Philippines, Thailand, Tanzania, Rwanda, Lithuania, USA, Mexico, El Salvador and Brazil and half have come from abroad (the Philippines, France, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Brazil, Mexico, USA and Canada) to serve in the UK.
One of the volunteer projects in the UK, Kids Kabin in Newcastle, was originally set up by the Sisters and offers young people creative alternatives to boredom and destruction. Catering to children from the ages of 8 - 13 it offers woodwork, pottery, painting, arts and crafts, cooking, gardening and bicycle repair on the premises and in the outreach activities in different locations around the city.
It also runs residential trips, day outings and camping expeditions. The international volunteers bring energy, ideas, and the gifts of their own cultures and have helped it to expand and reach more local children while living in community brings all the challenges and joys that inter-cultural friendships entail.
In this exchange of gifts the lives of the volunteers and the children are transformed. The volunteers especially have been able to reflect on the changes that have happened in their lives through implicitly living the gospel values of service. These are some of the reflections we have received :
- “This year of growth and exploration has been a true blessing and gift from God. The freedom I’ve found to be myself, the love and complete fulfilment from my work, and the community of friends I’ve built are all things I don’t want to leave behind. One big thing I’ve learned through this experience is trusting in God. Saying goodbye to Newcastle doesn’t mean I’m leaving all this growth behind. I’ll take my new found personal freedom and greater understanding for my calling and direction in life to continue finding fulfilment and peace through each door God opens.”
Lauren from USA to Newcastle
- “A very enriching opportunity for me, it widens my perception in life and made me see the other aspect of being poor. I have come to realize that the people whom I’m serving are not financially poor but spiritually poor.”
Gilda from Philippines to Newcastle
- “We have just got back from an unbelievable trip to Rupert’s Wood, where we stayed overnight with the children. I want to point out that some of the kids we had on this trip were considered in the past problematic ones, but their behaviour was absolutely brilliant. I enjoyed every minute I spent over there despite the drizzly weather, especially food cooked on the fire, the games we played at night, hot chocolate, swing jumping over the river, sleeping in the tents, night wind, toast with ash… Thanks to Kids Kabin and to the Assumption Sisters for this amazing opportunity to be here for a second year and contribute something to local society.”
Igor from Ukraine to Newcastle
“I have learnt so much more than I can possibly give, the value of looking beyond and into a person, and just being grateful for all the small things but above all else not to worry about what I can bring, or what I can offer because by just bringing ourselves with an open heart we are already giving more than what is required.”
Chris from UK to Philippines
- “I thank God for giving me this opportunity to experience Jesus in the people who have touched my life. Those who have known me before know I was not a very committed Christian. I do not pretend to be so now. However my relationship with my God has improved immensely since September. This group has given me the gift of simplicity and humility ; they have opened my eyes to my shortfall in an affectionate way and made me a better man.”
John from UK to Philippines
“I have really enjoyed and learnt such a lot from my placement here, some teaching skills and a new culture and language, but I have also learnt a lot about myself, and especially about relationships with others and community. I think that the biggest lesson for me personally has been to see and be part of a real community day to day, at school with teachers and students, and with Sisters/Samaritans*. The experience is quite challenging sometimes but very worthwhile.”
Rebecca from UK to Lithuania
Each year brings us new people, varied skills, fresh energies and, in the exchange of gifts, appreciation of their uniqueness and vocation in life and a contribution to the extension of the Reign of God. More details about Assumption Volunteers can be seen on the website www.assumptionvolunteers.org.uk.
* “Samaritans” is the name of the youth hostel administrated by the Sisters in Vilnius