Christine B: Reflections on a year in service

I’m Christine, a long-term volunteer with the Christian Appalachian Project. I’m the Elderly Services Caseworker in Owsley County. My term of service is coming to an end, and this past year of post-graduate service (I'm a 2012 graduate of Hiram College in Ohio) has been a great experience! Serving with CAP has changed me in so many ways. Looking back, even though there have been tough times, I am overwhelmed by the amount of love and positivity involved with volunteering for CAP.

When I arrived at the Jackson House last August, I received a warm welcome from my new housemates. I had entered into a new environment which was different from anything I’d been in before—spirituality is a huge focus in the volunteer house. We take turns cooking dinner and preparing a daily devotional for our housemates, which really brings us all together and creates a sense of Christian community. Coming into the house, I was surrounded by other people who shared similar values and helped me to grow in my own spirituality.

Over the next few weeks after I’d moved in, the rest of my new housemates arrived. Getting to know my fellow volunteers has been a blast! We’ve been through so much together. Whether we’re taking a weekend road trip or just sharing stories from our workday at mealtimes, we’ve really been there for each other. I have so many great memories from our good times as a community.

After I moved in, I went through a few days of orientation for Elderly Services, and then I got started working in my county! It was an exciting time for me. I met my participants, about 30 senior citizens who are lonely and homebound. Despite their difficult situations, they are so delightful! I felt very welcomed into the Owsley County community. I take them where they need and want to go (doctor, courthouse, library, etc.), run errands for them, and most important, I visit them at home. All of my participants are extremely appreciative of home visits, and I enjoy them as well! My participants tell the greatest stories about their lives, and they provide me with wisdom and advice when I need it. We’ve shared some tears and plenty of laughter together. I will be very sad to say goodbye to them at the end of this summer.

CAP has empowered me to directly, positively affect the lives of others. I feel so good about the work I’ve been able to do this past year. Volunteering in Appalachian Kentucky has changed the way I think about life—I never realized how fortunate I’ve been. More important, though, I realize that when thinking about persons living in poverty, we need to view them less as poor and more as being people not so different from you or me. CAP emphasizes maintaining the dignity of our participants, which is wonderful. We serve with a smile and try our best to serve in the spirit of Christ. This is what set CAP apart from other volunteer programs I had considered. Choosing to volunteer with CAP has been the most life-changing decision I’ve ever made. Even after I finish volunteering full-time, these memories and experiences will stay with me and help guide me through the rest of my life.

Christine serves as a volunteer with the Elderly Services program in Owsley County. She is a member of the Jackson Volunteer Community. For her second year, Christine will be serving in the Housing program in the Sandy Valley region and will be living at the Johnson Volunteer Community.

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