Monday, May 9, 2011

Alumni Talk: Staying Connected

By Catherine Drennan, former Christian Brothers Lay Volunteer Program volunteer and Catholic Volunteer Network Recruiter

Christian Appalachian Project
Throughout your year of service, it’s impossible not to have continual communication with your community members, especially when you’re living in the same place and serving and learning together. Now that you’ve spent months getting to know a group of people, you may find that you don’t know how to live without them! Once the service experience ends, how do you maintain that connection and stay in touch with each other?  Here are a few techniques I have found helpful in the recent months.

After college I served in the Christian Brothers Lay Volunteer Program in New Orleans, LA and worked for a rebuilding organization, Operation Helping Hands, a program of Catholic Charities. During that time I lived with three Christian Brothers and two other volunteers, while also working with many other volunteers my age. After my service year ended, I began working as the Recruitment Associate for Catholic Volunteer Network. This was a wonderful opportunity to travel the country and speak to others about my own service experience as well as all of the opportunities available with Catholic Volunteer Network programs. Speaking about my service experiences helped me remember the people I met and the friends I made while in New Orleans.


For me, staying in touch with my community members has been fairly easy. In part, my position allowed me to travel all over the country, talking about service, visiting friends I had met the previous year, and even returning to my service city twice for work. Almost everywhere I went I knew someone, usually from the previous year.  Chicago, Colorado, North Carolina, and, of course, New Orleans were just a few places where I reconnected with people I had met. Not everyone is given this type of opportunity to keep in touch but I did learn a few lessons on keeping in touch that anyone can use.

There are the obvious ways of keeping in touch that I definitely recommend- email, phone calls/texts, and…..Facebook! I think Facebook is probably the best way to keep in touch with your community after leaving your service. It is a great tool to keep in touch, see what people are up to, and see if someone has changed their hair color (this just happened to me). Think about starting a group or connect through your program’s page.

With that said, I would also suggest to take advantage of the contacts you have made. Most likely you will meet people that are from or will move to different parts of the country or the world. Make an effort to visit them if you can! Not only will it reconnect you with your friends but you will get to experience a new place! It’s a win-win situation! 

Of course you can always surprise a community member with a handwritten card or letter. It’s $0.44 to mail a first class letter, but surprising an old friend is priceless.

Keeping in touch is hard to do after your service year, but even if you aren’t great at it you will always have that bond with the community you lived and served with for the rest of your life. That will never go away. It’s never to late to pick up the phone and catch up!