Although all long-term CAP Volunteers--no matter their age--are invited to live in intentional community, some volunteers who are married or retirement age choose to live independently. One of those volunteers, Debra, reflects on her first volunteer year below.
Believe it or not, all volunteers are not young. Some of us are retired people. We live by ourselves. We live in our own houses. We have been in the working world for many years and are used to a faster pace with many demands on our time. One of our challenges is learning to slow down. We are called Independent Living volunteers.
In the case of my husband Jim and myself, we live in a little house about 5 minutes from the Hagerhill office. We even brought along our two dogs and our fish. We are “attached” to the Johnson House community. While those who live in a community house get their room and board covered, those of us who live independently receive a little larger stipend to help cover our living expenses. Just a word of advice to future independents, make a commitment to stay involved with your community house. It is this connection with others that will be your lifeline throughout the year. Not only have we been able to get to know all of the other volunteers in the area, but one night a week we share a meal and devotions with the group. The energy of the younger people can be very uplifting, and we have certainly learned from some younger perspectives.
Back home in North Carolina, we belonged to a faith group that met twice a month for the past 10 years. We have laughed and cried together, and of course shared some good food. While the bond at Johnson House may not be that strong yet, it is great to know that we all have the same needs, good food, laughter, and the desire to grow closer to our God through service to others. Just as in our home community, we have had some highs and lows. We have shared birthdays, laughed about experiences on job sites, and said goodbye to new friends.
All in all, it has been a special year. We have learned many things about community life, about the special resilient people in southeastern Kentucky, and also how to challenge ourselves to go beyond our comfort zones. Before coming to CAP, I would not have imagined spending a week at camp at this stage of my life. I could not fathom driving a truck or finding my way through the hollers and finding homes with no street signs. Not only did we survive these challenges, but we are stronger and better prepared for the next round.
Here comes year number two!
Debra and her husband Jim are entering their second year as long-term volunteers. Debra serves as the Mission Group Facilitator/Housekeeper for CAP's Foley Mission Center. Opinions expressed in volunteer blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of CAP or the Volunteer Program.