New Directory of Faith Based Service Opportunities Available

Response 2010, the directory of Christian service opportunities published by Catholic Network of Link to search opportunitiesVolunteer Service (CNVS), is now available in print and online versions.

Response 2010 lists nearly 200 service programs in the United States and around the world, representing countless more individual service opportunities.

Participation in many of these opportunities is not contingent on your own faith background (but you should ask each program you’re looking into), and in many cases opportunities are open to non-U.S. citizens. Programs included range from larger organizations with hundreds of opportunities to serve, like my alma mater Notre Dame Mission Volunteers which has both international and domestic service opportunities — to more intimate programs like FrancisCorps, which offers a total of a dozen or so year-long volunteer opportunities at sites in Syracuse and Puerto Rico.

In addition to offering you the tools to find a good program match for your situation and goals, CNVS also offers reflection questions to help you confirm your commitment to service, and to help you decide which program to choose.

Link to order a print copyIf you work with potential volunteers in a school, faith community, retreat center, or informally in your own way, you can order free copies of the Response Directory for your resource library, or to share. Order online or send an email to cnvsinfo [at] cnvs.org.

CNVS, established in 1963, is a non-profit membership organization of 200 domestic and international volunteer and lay mission programs. Currently, more than 10,000 volunteers and lay missioners serve in these programs throughout the United States and in 108 other countries.

Have you served in a CNVS member program? Or taken a look at the Response Directory? What have been your experiences?

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Pride Month Podcast Transcript

Gay Pride 8-colors Flag by Stonewall Veteran<br> Gilbert Baker

Gay Pride 8-colors Flag by Stonewall Veteran Gilbert Baker

Below is the transcript of our June podcast, “Lesbian and Gay Perspectives in AmeriCorps and Peace Corps.” Huge thanks to podcast intern Sara Lozito, an AmeriCorps member, for work in creating the transcript.

Amy: Welcome to the Idealist podcast. I’m Amy Potthast and this is the The New Service Podcast from Idealist.org – moving people from good intentions to action.

June is Pride Month, so The New Service podcast is taking a closer look at the experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals serving in Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. The terms lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender are abbreviated throughout the show as LGBT or GLBT.

Today’s guests are lesbian and gay former service corps participants: Continue reading

Human Rights Prize to Dorothy Stang, SND

picture-10On International Human Rights Day 2008, the United Nation honors several peace activists and groups, including Sr. Dorothy Stang, SND.

I want to highlight the work and courage of Dorothy Stang, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur — the same order of Catholic sisters who operate the AmeriCorps program in which my husband and I served — Notre Dame Mission Volunteers AmeriCorps.

Sr. Dorothy was born in the United States and became a naturalized citizen of Brazil. According to the U.N. announcement, “Despite numerous death threats Sister Dorothy had defended the rights of the poor, landless and indigenous populations of the Anapu region of Brazil for nearly forty years.”

Her brother David Stang published this story in Maryknoll magazine a few months after her death:

Dorothy was murdered for her outspoken defense of peasant farm families, who had moved into the rain forest region in a government-sponsored resettlement plan. Besides forming each settlement into small Christian communities that prayed and studied the Bible together, Dorothy established agricultural and rain forest preservation projects. Her initiatives outraged the big landowners who wanted the forest for logging and the land for cattle grazing.

The day before she died, Dorothy telephoned me. “Just hearing your voice,” she said, “makes me feel the cool fresh air of Palmer Lake (where I live in Colorado), even though it is so hot and humid here in Anapú (where she worked).” Then she told me, “I can’t talk long because there are people outside my door, asking me to go down the road with them to show support for several poor families who had their crops and houses burned down by hired hoodlums.”

Armed with her Bible and government documents granting peasants rights to the land, she accompanied the people to the Bõa Esperança Settlement near the rural town of Anapú in Pará State. Confronted by Dorothy, the pistoleros, backed off this time. When my sister returned the next day with clothes and food for the homeless families, the fatal confrontation took place.

See the trailer for the documentary They Killed Sister Dorothy:

Other Human Rights Prize honorees this year include Human Rights Watch and assassinated, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Read about others who’ve won the 2008 prize. Read more about the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Universal Human Rights and International Human Rights Day.

Notre Dame Mission AmeriCorps Volunteers is a national AmeriCorps program with service sites in 16 U.S. cities. My loving and amazing aunt Sr. Anne Colette, SND,  introduced me to the program and sent me its newsletters, even as I was starting my term of Peace Corps service. I ultimately chose to apply for NDMVA — to work with immigrants and refugees in Lowell, MA — as a transition home from Peace Corps. Read more about the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

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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.