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JESUIT VOLUNTEER CORPS MEMBER, BRIAN MCCABE
Brian McCabe, 23, is in his second year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) in Philadelphia, Pa., after having been a Jesuit Volunteer (JV) in Juneau, Alaska last year. He graduated from Georgetown University in 2006.
The Jesuit Volunteer Corps is a nationwide service program (with a few international placements) where men and women spend one year living together and working with low-income communities doing everything from counseling troubled teens to helping mentally ill patients to doing legal aid work. Since 1956, over 12,000 people have embarked on this one-year service program with about 300 JVs working in the U.S. and in six countries around the world each year. The cornerstone of a JV's year revolves around four goals: social justice, simple living, community and spirituality.
McCabe decided he wanted to sign up for the JVC after his sister did a JV year in Portland, Ore., in 2003-4. Last year in Juneau, McCabe worked for the Catholic Community Services, where he was employed by the Young Parent Center and taught at the schools. "I worked with youth, connecting them with housing services, food stamps, medical services. We provided a safe space for people to talk about things that were going on. I spent time teaching in the main high school and the alternative high school."
"Many of the youth who use the facilities had a lot of difficulties and we were trying to create a home away from home. We tried to build up some trust, hear their stories and develop relationships with them. One of our main goals was to provide them with options and give them solutions. We had a lot of young mothers and fathers and they had a ton of questions about relationships, working experiences, where to live. Sometimes it was just run of the mill things, other times it was more of a crisis. I would sit with them and help them with their decisions and work through the possibilities."
There was one woman McCabe worked with on and off throughout the year. His best memory was watching that woman "stuck in a destructive behavior pattern like drinking pull herself out and get a steady job and find a safe home. To see the effect she had on her family and the stability she brought to the people around her was amazing. I don't know that it was anything that I did, but to watch her make so many positive changes was great. She would check in and say hello and tell me the jobs she applied for. At the end she was living in a good place and holding down a steady job. That was nice to see. For me to be there for a year and for people to develop the trust to share the difficulties and the highlights the big and the little was really what made me want to go to work. I went in with the expectation that I would change people's lives, but I don't think that is what it's about. The thing I like about JVC is the ability to serve the people in the job and the people you're living with at the same time."
Now McCabe is starting his second year in Philadelphia, working at the Philadelphia Committee to End Homelessness. Ironically, McCabe is living across the street from his old high school. He is the Street Outreach Coordinator, which involves spending time in the day shelter and working with a student outreach program. "At first it seemed weird, to come back to Philadelphia where this journey started for me in the neighborhood I grew up in. I liked being in a new place I knew nothing about like Juneau, but this is a great opportunity to take the skills I gained and use them closer to home."
"My major was classical languages, but I don't think that is my future. Right now my heart would like to continue working in social services. But what's also important is the type of life I create, not just the career. I liked JVC because it is not just a 9-5 program. It is about the relationships in and out of work and how I choose to spend my time and money. I'll need to get a job after two years of volunteering. I think grad school is a possibility but a little ways down the road.The experience I had in my job and everything I learned from my housemates working in six different agencies will definitely affect the choices I make career-wise. Getting a personal look into these things is very powerful."