Callie Howland – Miami YAV reflection
As my college graduation approached, I knew that I wanted to serve. I didn't want to simply get a job; I wanted to do something that really made a difference and experience something completely new. So this California girl decided that she was going to pack up her things, leave behind friends and family and fly across the country to Miami, Florida, to work in the Little Haiti community. The only thing I knew about Haiti was that they had had an earthquake and that the country has been struggling to regain stability. I really had no idea what I was getting into, but I knew that I wanted this experience to teach me something new.
One of the most significant pieces of the YAV year is the placement in a nonprofit organization in the community. I was placed in a small private school that serves a predominately Haitian student body. The school is a very special place and has become a sort of a refuge for children who are not able to get the support they need in the public school system and who seek a faith-based education. My specific responsibilities change every day, but my most important contributions are running the tutoring program for ESE students, working with the school garden and miscellaneous administrative tasks. The work that I am doing is not going to fix the nation's education issues or rectify all the problems of poverty, but by doing my job to the best of my abilities I believe that I am making a God-directed and needed change in my community, however small it may be.
When I used to think about volunteer work, I mostly focused on what I was going to accomplish. What I have learned so far in my experience as a YAV is that you will get much more from your communities than you imagine. I am blessed by both the staff and the students of the school and am a better person for having them touch my life. In addition, my house in Miami is part of an urban farm that is host to all sorts of people with all sorts of stories and so much love. I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for the generosity of my neighbors, who come over to make smoothies, bring food and start drum circles by the fire pit. The farm is a place of love, connection and rest that gives me the strength to work and serve the students and the school.
It is amazing how much we can know something but never truly understand until we experience it first-hand. So much of this year has been about truly learning what life is like for people who do not have much but still express more joy than people who have piles of resources. I have a new appreciation for teachers and school administrators who work tirelessly to ensure the happiness of just one child, not to mention a school-full. I am beginning to really comprehend that “it's not about me” and what I can do; rather it's God's grand plan that truly matters. I have also learned that God has granted us the ability to choose the attitude with which we embrace the world and that our attitude is a very powerful force. I pray that I will remember these lessons for the rest of my life as I continue to pursue the plans God has for my life.
The Young Adult Volunteer program is sustained by your generous donations to the Pentecost Offering. You can give now or at any time to support YAVs like Callie by clicking HERE.
Callie, You words are so moving. I can tell that God has placed a genuine desire in your heart to be God's disciple and serve through education. I have not only heard about the YAV program, but also wish to pursue it as well after I graduate. Your post sent chills down my spine because I have thought a LOT about the YAV program in the last week, so stumbling upon your blog on the Westminster Woods Staff page, I could not help but think that the coincidence was highly serendipitous! I am an Education and English major, so your experience is highly appealing to my studies at college. If you continue to post blogs, I would LOVE to read them:) I pray that you are filled with confidence and discernment as well as peace and wisdom in these next few months. Blessings on your travels! Emily
Thank you for taking the time to capture your experience and share it with the rest of us. The lenses you are using to process your experience are so valuable. "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
Hi Callie, Thank you for heeding God's call in Little Haiti. I, too, work with Haitians but my call is to the Dominican Republic where Haitains live on Dominican sugar bateys (villages) and are in desperate need of medical care. I love my time there and can't wait to return. Blessings upon your work and your new friends!