Gaining new perspectives : volunteering abroad with Jesuit Missions
For over 20 years Jesuit Missions has been running a programme for adults to volunteer their skills and talents with communities in need around the world.
Cecily Aldington from Wimbledon has just returned from three months in Honduras where she lived and worked in El Carrizal, a village of about 100 households in the rural west of the country. As a member of a team of twelve volunteers, six Honduran and six British, her work comprised finishing the building of a café and overseeing its opening, and teaching English and health and hygiene, to older children and adults. She reflects on how the experience has helped her grow.
“El Carrizal is a very focussed and loving community but very poor. So many families are separated by this poverty and lack of employment opportunities, with one spouse working away in the city and sending money home to a family they hardly ever see. That’s why the café was such a good idea as it offers employment to fifteen young people locally. There is a motorway nearby and some tourism so it has potential to sustain a number of families.
There was such a strong sense of community, people had very little but what they had they were so willing to share. People always invite you in. One family who grew vegetables had too much for themselves and gave away strawberries and potatoes to their neighbours.
The family I stayed with had only one knife, but it didn’t occur to them that they might want more. They were perfectly happy with what they had. It made me really think about my upbringing in London and how obsessed we are with the stuff we own in “developed” countries. Returning to London, where no-one knows their neighbours and never shares anything, was a reverse culture shock.
While I gained new perspective on material things, I also realised how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to attend university. In El Carrizal that is unheard of, no one over 16 is still in education and this results in limited aspiration.
The people had a very deep faith, even though they had no priest and hardly ever heard mass. Instead they had lay-led liturgy in their little church. There was something very comforting about the universal nature of the prayers we say, which connect people at a deep level all around the world. It helped me to feel I was spiritually part of something huge.”
If you would like to find out more about being a volunteer with Jesuit Missions please contact Clara Sheaf : clara@JesuitMissions.org.uk
You can also find information on the different volunteering opportunities on the Jesuit Missions website www.jesuitmissions.org.uk
Resources for primary and secondary school students
St Ignatius – the founder of the Jesuits – is celebrated in the church on July 31st every year. In commemoration of all the inspirational things he has done, Jesuit Missions has designed an exciting resource for his feast day.
An ideal end-of-term informative and reflective activity, this comprehensive resource delves deep into the life and teachings of St Ignatius. Over the course of three, 3 hour classes, students will be introduced to the basics of St Ignatius life and teachings, analyse his ideas on the meaning of life and conduct their own ‘Examen of the year’ using the Take and Receive prayer.
Pray with us
“Much knowledge is not what satisfies the soul and gives it contentment, but rather interior meditation on things and savouring them”. (St Ignatius of Loyola)
Paul Chitnis is the director of Jesuit Missions, a place with a wonderful history of colourful characters and extraordinary generosity of spirit and service. Read more about his work at Jesuit Missions >>