When I read the mission statement of the Little Sisters of the Assumption, I found it expressed my own sentiments when it said, “We bring together the least advantaged and the privileged in a spirit of family to inspire everyone to participate in creating a just society.”
'LITTLE STEPS' by Philipp Kappestein
‘LITTLE STEPS’ by Philipp Kappestein
“If many little people take many little steps in many little places, they can change the world”. – This sentence had and still has a deep impact on my life.
Over the last few years I had a thought in my mind that started to grow: God gave me so many gifts and blessings in my life and I realized that it was a real privilege to have a family that loves me, a roof over my head and enough food on my table. I thought it was time to pass a little piece of that gift to other people who are less privileged. I knew it was time to leave my family and all the comforts of home in Germany and to open myself to new experiences by working with the least privileged in society – the poor. I wanted to be part of a movement that strengthens, improves and changes people’s lives. The Family Lifeline Volunteer program (formerly The Little Sisters of the Assumption Volunteer Service) gave me an opportunity to do so. When I read the mission statement of the Little Sisters of the Assumption, I found it expressed my own sentiments when it said, “We bring together the least advantaged and the privileged in a spirit of family to inspire everyone to participate in creating a just society.” I wanted to be a part of this process of change in people’s lives.
I started my work in September 2002 and it did not take long before I realized that “change” is difficult to identify. Change is something that is only visible if you understand the “language of the little things.” A smile means “thank you” and a handshake or a hug can mean even more. Once you understand this language you are able to see the fruits of your work. You are able to see that people benefit from your work and you see clearly that you benefit personally from your contact with the people in your life. It seems unbelievable to me how much I changed during my volunteer service over the last few months. I have come to the realization that I am a small and yet vital part in the whole process of change.
To work with homeless and low-income people has helped me to appreciate so many things in my life. I now realize what I should have realized long before my experience here: I can no longer ignore the fact that we are one family and that we are responsible for each other. We have to take care of each other in a way that excludes no one. We can benefit from each other and learn from each other in a way that I was never conscious of prior to my service. Before I started working at Project Hope in Dorchester, I considered myself to be a socially conscious person, a person who was open minded and who knew more than the average person about politics and social issues. After a year of being in this program, a year of witnessing the harsh reality that homeless people face each day, I have to say that there was, and is, a lot for me to learn. Living my daily life with people who are victims of a failed economic system, coupled with a thorough investigation of the system which oppresses them, has led me to better understand the reality of poverty in a national, as well as, global context.
It has often been hard for me to see that I changed specific things or the lives of people through my work, but it is quite apparent that my work and my life as a Family Lifeline Volunteer has changed me. I am very grateful for that and I consider my experience a great gift.
'Giving a Darn'- One's LSA Volunteer's Experience by Lukas Oldenburg
‘Giving a Darn’- One’s LSA Volunteer’s Experience
by Lukas Oldenburg
Pernet Family Health Service
9-99 through 9-00
When I decided to give a year of my life to work with youth in the USA for an organization I’d never heard of and in a country I had never seen before, many of my friends thought I was wasting my time. They said I should study at university; time was too precious. But I didn’t feel ready to go to University. I wanted to get a more complete picture of this world before I committed myself to a particular life path. So I chose to volunteer for one year with the Little Sisters of the Assumption, at the Pernet Family Health Service in Worcester, MA. I came in blind faith, all the while listening to an inner voice that told me I was doing the right thing.
My main interest was to work with the Pernet youth. My role grew from Assistant to Coordinator of the Youth Program, preparing the curriculum for the Youth and Team groups, and leading group meetings. The Program Director trusted me in a way I had never experienced before; she gave me a lot of space to make mistakes in the learning process. I was also struck by the way the staff believed I could coordinate this program. I had had very little previous experience — merely one year of working in a boarding school with teenagers from wealthy families in my homeland of Germany.
After a couple of teen Group meetings, I realized this group would be a very big challenge. The kids, ages 8 – 12 were apathetic, seemingly unappreciative and without respect for any authority. All the Group activities were deemed “dumb and boring” if they didn’t consist of pure amusement — which seemed to be the only thing on which they could thrive. It was difficult to identify any strong morals or values in their lives. I learned that in the homes that most of the children came from the parents were either absent or were unable to provide a role model for their children. I knew I could not change their home situation, so I thought the most important thing I could give them was to model appropriate behavior. I became a “Big Brother” to two boys with whom I met every week, with the hopes that my presence provided some stability and consistency in relationship.
At times, I was very discouraged and even thought about leaving the program. I felt that I had given my whole heart to these children but almost nothing ever seemed to come back. But what kept me going were the Little Sisters, newly made friends, the Pernet staff – and my own determination to keep going.
After a while, most of the teen began to relate to me. Problems with individuals were discussed and most of them began to make remarkable steps in their lives. They grew as I did – by overcoming jealousies, personal fears, and self-consciousness. Some even volunteered to help me out with groups of younger children in another program!
As I come to the end of my term of service as a Little Sister of the Assumption Volunteer, I realize that my working for the Pernet Family Health Service and living in community with other Volunteers filled me up so entirely that I never even got homesick! I learned to live humbly, with my talent as a musician and the love of the people around me as my constant companions.
I know that these 11 months have given me much more than two semesters at a university could ever have given me; I now feel much more ready to resume my studies.
I believe I have a broader sense of “what’s going on” in our society; I now feel that every citizen is in some way or other responsible for everything in this world. It is everyone’s duty to do something to make this world a better place.
My message: don’t be afraid to give a darn!
Testimonial by Lourdes R. Paredes
When I first began to consider the LSAV program, I was very attracted to the mission statement of the Little Sisters of the Assumption : to transform the family in the spirit of Christ by living out the Gospel message, and working with the poorest to bring about healing in our society, thereby affecting this big, broken world. From that moment on, I knew that I had something to learn from this community. I wasn’t sure what I had to offer them, except a willingness to work in whatever capacity they needed. What happened during my volunteer experience continues to amaze me. I was first placed in the nursery for what everyone was hoping was a temporary shortage of workers: two of the grandmothers were on leave indefinitely. I was very unsure of any skill or particular gifts I had for working with and teaching children. Had anyone asked me if I’d enjoy spending my full-time work primarily with children, I would have categorically replied, “No, thank you.” I could not yet imagine loving it. Within about two weeks, I was hooked. During my brief orientation to working in the nursery, Lorraine Tierney explained her philosophy behind the nursery’s mission statement, which eventually gave my work meaning: Establishing relationship and attachment with the child and his or her parent will most likely lead to positive development of the child. Furthermore, the examples they see, the love they experience, the lessons they are taught during these early years, 0 to 3, are particularly formative for later learning and life skills. With this said, I never took my presence and work lightly with the kids. Who would have thought that God’s love, which became incarnate to me as I was loved by significant persons in my life, could and would become embodied in my work and actions with the children of East Harlem ? This was grace. This was my call to come and follow Jesus into a poor neighborhood to love and to be loved, to see Christ in the eyes of a child. By Lourdes R. Paredes LSAV 1-96 through 6-96
Testimonial by Margie Joyce
My stay in East Harlem was the single most important experience of my life up to this point. It has prepared me to live without judgment, to seek hope, and to enjoy the rewards of kindness. I learned more about the subtleties of life and the importance of healthy sustainable relationships. I matured emotionally and spiritually through the guidance of several people who touched my life in different ways through their strength and faith. I believe when you are surrounded by positive energy you are better equipped to handle each new day. I certainly felt the positive energy that surrounded my work life and home life in East Harlem. The overall sense of purpose and dedication to serve the people of East Harlem is deep-rooted and is indeed the backbone on which the Agency and the LSA community as a whole stands. You are a part of a larger network of hope for our inner-cities. Now my heart and mind are ready if I am called to return to community service in the years to come.
I can only say that feelings transcend words, and there are no words to express how I felt when a child ran to hug me, when a student’s eyes brightened when they grasped a concept, when kind words of encouragement caressed my soul.
I want to validate how successful a program I found the LSAV to be. The program gives individuals who may be searching for fulfillment true satisfaction.
East Harlem, NY
January ’96 – June ’96
Testimonial by Anna Peterson
I came to the program expecting only that I would do what I was to do and that I would grow as a result in the way that I should. I didn’t know at all how specifically that would happen; I only knew that it would be worth it–and it was, beyond my wildest dreams. My faith is so much stronger, as is my love and understanding of others. I’ve learned so much about people as I’ve worked with them, and so much human beauty and strength has been revealed in their actions, that it has served as a lesson to me. Thank you all so much for your efforts in bringing me here–I promise that none of it was lost on me, and I am forever grateful.
East Harlem, NY