YAVs share stories and perspectives from their contexts with family, friends and program candidates
by Blake Collins | Special to Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – Five core tenets — intentional Christian community, simple living, cross-cultural mission, leadership development and vocational discernment — resonate with participants at each of the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program’s 21 sites. To better show how YAVs engage in these principles, the YAV program has begun a series of Instagram account “takeovers,” where individual sites are allotted a 2–3 day period during which their images and stories will be featured at @yavprogram. This dedicated focus allows candidates, friends of the program and volunteers’ home communities to receive a moment-to-moment, day-to-day understanding of how YAVs live and work.
“The biggest blessing by far has been the community that has joined me along the way, both in the form of fellow YAVs and the many coworkers and friends I’ve made in the Philippines,” said YAV Andrew “Flanny” Flanigan. “I hope our Instagram takeover showcased that.”
The YAV experience can be challenging for current YAVs to describe to supportive family and friends. Program coordinators hope the use of social media will allow these stories and experiences to be shared and understood by a wider audience.
“What I have loved about Miami is getting to truly experience the cultural diversity that exists in what I can only describe as an ‘international city,’” said YAV Savannah Caccamo. “In Miami, there are many languages being spoken and religions being practiced; this creates learning moments around every corner. The mixture of diversity and seeing the wealth disparity firsthand allows YAVs to experience and discern challenges that can only be understood by seeing it with our own eyes.”
During their year, YAVs learn how to honor the stories of others, particularly those that are not often celebrated.
“Being a YAV is Glasgow has meant being a part of the Priority Areas team within the Church of Scotland,” said YAV Ekama Eni. “Each of us works at different churches on different projects and because of that we have been able to collect a variety of stories that belong to others; not just our own. I think these few snapshots are just a wee window into the truly wonderful gift that is the kingdom of God.”
Volunteers say sharing their stories this way is a reminder that “we do not go alone” in God’s mission.
“It was a joy and pleasure to be able to share our placements and experiences in Austin with everyone through picture and blurbs and we really appreciated everyone’s support on our posts,” said YAV Lukus Ebert.
Many of the YAV sites are in well-known cities across the United States and around the world.
“To be a YAV in New Orleans is to experience the constant dichotomy of joy and sorrow which embodies the journey of faith,” said second-year YAV Hillary Leslie. “I was humbled to share the beauty of New Orleans’ unique culture, people and festivals that offer tangible lessons of love, hope and celebration. This year I’m learning how to find hope and patience in times of darkness and suffering.”
The YAV year is described as “a year of service for a lifetime of change,” which encourages volunteers to constantly reflect on their experiences and themselves.
“While scrolling through our photos, I realized that the Korea site aims to spark reflection around self and history in order to make positive changes during the year and those that follow,” said Emi Lungmus. “After this year, I certainly will continue these practices.”
Through the Instagram takeover, YAVs are encouraging other young adults to apply to the program. YAVs will continue taking over the @yavprogram account leading up to the 2017-18 application season final rounds. Round Three ends April 1, and the final date to apply is June 1. The YAV program year coincides with the academic year, August to August, and is available to young adults ages 19-30.
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