Transforming Your World through Service and Faith

The world over, people of faith — every faith — are called to action, to answer the plea of a neighbor in need, or to make the world a more just place. Some people volunteer through their place of worship, others through community and grassroots organizations.

For people who want to live out their beliefs through service, and to commit to full-time service in the United States or abroad, participating in a faith-based service program offers training, a connection to people in need, and a team for reflecting with on issues of religious and moral importance.

The Jewish Coalition for Service is a coalition of faith-based organizations whose mission is to inspire Jewish people to take part in a full-time term of volunteer service and to mobilize the alumni of service. JCS connects people with over 75 full-time service opportunities some of which are also AmeriCorps programs, including Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps.

Avodah engages young adults in direct service at in Chicago, New York, Washington, and New Orleans.

Watch this video about Avodah:

Another Jewish service group, the American Jewish World Service, offers committed citizens the opportunity to serve abroad in community organizations.

Next week, the Catholic Network of Volunteer Service will gather its program directors for a multi-day conference in Portland, OR. I’ll be there, partly because I am offering a workshop on supporting volunteer career transitions, but also because I am an alumni of one of CNVS’s member programs, Notre Dame Mission AmeriCorps Volunteers AmeriCorps (NDMVA).

CNVS is a national membership association of 200 faith-based domestic and international volunteer programs, some of which are either AmeriCorps-funded, or which offer the Eli Segal AmeriCorps Education Award to its members upon completion of service. It publishes a directory of its programs called The Response Directory in print, and as a searchable directory on its web site. Regardless of your faith, you should check out this list of questions you should ask before joining a service program.

I joined the Notre Dame AmeriCorps program in 2000, immediately after finishing out my term of Peace Corps service.  In Peace Corps, I had taught English to Chinese college students, and the Notre Dame program allowed me to come back to the States and teach English and citizenship skills to Asian immigrants and refugees living in Lowell, MA. I couldn’t have found a better way to transition back to the States. (Plus I met my future husband through the program.)

Another prominent Catholic service program is the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, including Jesuit Volunteers International.

If you are seeking a faith-based program to join, you may not need to be an adherent of the faith — be sure to ask. And your service may or may not include missionary activities. AmeriCorps-funded programs are open to people regardless of faith and members do not proselytize during their service.

I have looked for Muslim term of service programs (AmeriCorps-funded or not) and haven’t found anything — if you have heard of one, or a service program run by any other religion, I’d love to hear about it.

Oct. 20 update: Also at the CNVS Conference I heard about Eboo Patel‘s Interfaith Youth Core Faiths Act Fellows, a group of young people from the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, who serve to meet Millenium Development Goals.

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