Sunday, December 22, 2013

10 Tips for Completing Your Volunteer Application

By Michael Garcia, CVN Recruitment Associate

If you are considering starting a year of service in the fall and  haven't started the process of completing your volunteer application yet - now is a great time to get started. The task may seem daunting, but don't worry, we are here to help. Here are 11 tips to get your started...

1. Remember to Fill Out a Volunteer Profile: The Volunteer Profile form is designed to help our member programs get to know you. Once you complete and submitted your form, programs may contact you directly to speak about their opportunities. The Volunteer Profile form can be found here:

2. What is Your Ministry?: Ask yourself what type of ministry you want to serve in. With more than 220 programs, there are numerous fields you can serve in including hospital ministry, elderly outreach, social services and education.Spend some time in prayer to see how God is calling you to serve those most in need.

3. Discernment: Be patient with yourself in the discernment process. Figuring out an important life decision like this takes time. Volunteer opportunities are quite plentiful and it can be overwhelming finding the right one for you. In the process, trust that God is with you and has a plan for your life. For advice, talk to trusted friends, family members, and mentors. Likewise, bring the decision to prayer and ask God for guidance.

4. Know Your Needs: Ask yourself what you need in terms of support and nourishment during your time commitment (i.e. your own room, an intentional community, spiritual direction or nature). Additionally, be aware of your standing commitments - whether they are financial, family, or personal. When talking with the staff members of the programs you are applying for, be up front about these needs. They will often be happy to work with you to find the program or position that is the right fit.

5. Use Your Gifts: Everybody has gifts that they can offer to their volunteer program and service site. When looking for the right program for you, think about what you have to offer and what types of things you excel at naturally. For example, if you know you have a talent for working with kids you may want to consider programs that focus on education.

6. What is the Application Process Like?: At the very beginning, be sure you have a good understanding of the whole application process. Find out whether you apply to the program as a whole or do you apply for a specific position? What types of interviews will be involved? When can you expect to have a final decision about your acceptance? Knowing all this from the start will help you move through the process with ease.

7. Deadlines: Double check those application deadlines! Many programs have deadlines in March and April but some ask applications to be submitted as early as December, while other programs accept applications on a rolling basis. It is always helpful to apply as early as possible - programs do fill up quickly!

8. One-on-One: It is always a good idea to talk to a current volunteer if you are considering service. If you don't know a volunteer personally, ask the program if they would put you in touch with one. Or, you can always call the CVN office and talk to a staff member about their service experience (half of our staff is made up of former volunteers!) This conversation will give you a better sense of what the experience of serving in that program will really be like.

9. Bring Those Questions: When contacting a program to ask about their various volunteer opportunities, be sure to have a few questions prepared. Some might include: “What sort of spiritual commitment is there?” and “What does community life look like?” Rest assured that the application process is a two-way dialogue. Programs want to hear your questions as much as they want to ask their own.

10. Be Appreciative: It is always a good idea to thank your program after your interview. A well thought out email or letter can make a big impression in any opportunity you may be seeking.

Good luck with the application process and remember that we are always here to help!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Lifelong Impact of Service

To celebrate the sixth day of Catholic Volunteer Network’s Twelve Days of Christmas, six members of our staff are sharing the ways that service has changed their lives. 

“Service changed my entire understanding of love. Through service I learned that love is not an emotion, but an action that God calls us to choose every day, in every moment and every relationship. It is in making that choice that we build God’s kingdom, here on earth.”
-         Caitlin Morneau, alumni of Catholic Charities Project SERVE and Bethlehem Farm

“One way that long-term service changed me was through my experience of intentional community. I found that one cannot fully give of themselves in ministry without belonging to a community. Community, whether with those we minister to or those we live with, is vital to the mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. My community served as a source of support, laughter and love for me and taught me the importance of journeying with others in service.”
-        Michael Garcia, alumni of Cap Corps East and Red Cloud Volunteer Program

“My experience of serving as a lay missioner in Zambia helped me understand the importance of presence. In my service I encountered a lot of situations that I did not have solutions for. I couldn’t heal the children dying of AIDS, I couldn’t rebuild the homes that were damaged in a fire, I couldn’t restore the harvest that had been lost to drought. It took me a while to realize that I didn’t need to fix everything in order to be useful, sometimes I just needed to be there.  I learned to simply listen and offer a hand to hold, and it is in these quiet moments that I felt the gentle, healing presence of God working through me.”
-         Katie Mulembe, alumni of Franciscan Mission Service

“Service taught me to appreciate the unexpected. I learned that I can’t always prepare or plan ahead for what I will face – at work, in my community, or in any other aspect of my life. My service taught me to enjoy and value this reality, instead of fear it. As a result, I became better able to grow from new challenges, learn from new experiences, and be grateful the new opportunities in my life.”
-        Emily Simmonds, alumni of Lutheran Volunteer Corps
"Through service, I learned that true freedom comes from doing small things with great love and faithfulness."
-          Barbara Wheeler, alumni of Vincentian Service Corps

“During my service year I learned the importance of recognition. The tenants I worked with had often been overlooked, pushed aside or ignored by passersby; however, these tenants were more than their housing situations and current addresses. These wonderful people I worked with were sports fans, family members, and engaged community members. Recognition in its many forms is a declaration of saying, ‘You are you.’ The recognition provided support and allowed my tenants to do incredible things – lobbying local elected officials for stronger community safety programs, teaching young adults the difficulty of finding affordable housing, and providing input on a citywide anti-homelessness campaign.”
-        Gordon Wong, alumni of Amate House

We’d like to hear from you – how has service made an impact on your life? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Alumni Speak: Moving into Action in the Philippines

By Crystal Catalan, Cabrini Mission Corps alum

Today, in celebration of International Volunteer Day, we share this story of one of our recent international volunteers. 

Keep us from just singing, move us into action, we must go.
In the summer of 2005, I journeyed with a group of hopeful, motivated, passionate college students to Manila, Philippines, as part of a Christian missions program, collaborating with global-minded students from all across the United States.  This was my first missions trip, and more specifically, it was to be my first trip as a young adult, back to my parents’ homeland.  In my heart, I had the desire to learn first-hand more about the injustices faced in the hidden corners of the communities in the Philippines, and I wanted to see these Filipinos that I had only heard about through stories from my aunts and uncles.  
I was assigned to serve at a foundation that served as a home to young girls who had been abused, trafficked, abandoned and/or neglected, many times by their own parents or close relatives. Here is where my life was forever changed – in listening to the stories of the girls, sharing meals with the girls, laughing with them, crying with them, and simply just, being with them. In that moment in time, nothing was expected of me, but to simply just be and to be in solidarity with my sisters in Christ.
To this day, eight years later, there are still a number of stories and experiences that still remain fresh in my mind from that mission, and it is those same experiences, which have greatly influenced where I am today. I will never forget one of the girls who had been a victim of sexual exploitation by her uncle. Listening to her openly speak with vivid details about the life she was forced to live, until help came her way, nearly broke my heart to pieces. But even more so, it made me angry. It was too, in that short missions trip, where I had first learned about the horrors of human trafficking.

In my yet-to-be-shaken college mind, I could not fathom what human trafficking was. I remember thinking to myself, “Why would anyone force people, especially children, to another country, beyond their own will? My mind could not fathom this reality. It was only upon educating myself with endless conversations with the social workers in Manila, and hearing first-hand stories from survivors of human trafficking and prostitution, that I slowly began to accept that this was occurring all around the world, unbeknownst to me. 
At times, I would find myself on the roof of the foundation, get an aerial view of the town and the neighboring communities, and just cry, sing, question, and pray – something I realized the majority of the girls, too, spent their afternoons doing. The difference I found, however, was that, my tears were to account for the sadness I felt from the social injustices that these girls experienced, but also for the countless others all around the world, that share these same horrific experiences.  The girls, on the other hand, cried many times because they missed their parents and wanted a place to call home.
I realized through my tears, that what I wanted most was for these girls to understand that they are God’s beloved daughters, and that God has not, and will never abandon them. I wanted the girls to never give up hope. Having this experience reminds me of the importance of treating others with the dignity that God has created them with, but further than that, to be a part of restoring the dignity of those who have been violated and mistreated, especially in abusive capacities.
After this experience, I decided to serve as a missioner with Cabrini Mission Corps in Baguio City, Philippines, where I worked with 150 indigent families through Save Our School Children Foundation, Inc. (SOSCFI), one of the missions of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (“Cabrini Sisters”).  Since my first trip to the Philippines in 2005, the Philippines had forever implanted itself in my heart, and so, my heart led me to serve alongside the Sisters at their mission here in Baguio City.
Aside from leading liturgies and bible studies in the communities and parishes, I specifically focused on working with the high school girls, who are vulnerable to influential societal pressures and vices. As a result, I was able to team up with an NGO in New York, LitWorld, to start a “Girls Club” here in Baguio City, with the focus on “women and girls’ empowerment through literacy learning.” 
I have since learned from my experiences in Manila, that education is key – both in and out of the classroom.  It is through creating these spaces for these young women, that I can then empower them to believe in themselves, to help them recognize the beauty they have within themselves, and for them to realize their dignity, strength, and courage that they have been gifted with. It is through spending time with these young women, being able to motivate them and share their joys and challenges with them, that I can too, remind them, to never give up on hope.

It was not enough for me to just cry, sing, question, and pray on the rooftop on those countless days during my mission in Manila – it was important that my heart went to the root of what injustice I felt so strongly about ending, and move myself towards the next step: into action.

Crystal wrote this article towards the end of her two-year mission in the Philippines, and is now working at a college preparatory high school for women in northern California, moderating their community involvement program and coordinating their immersion trips. Her additional mission experiences may be found on her blog at