A Week in the Life

Please note: this description is for our “regular” year-long volunteers and does NOT describe our short-term hospitality efforts. If you are considering coming for a few weeks to volunteer with our temporary hospitality centers for refugee families, you will want to read this instead. Prospective long-term volunteers should be familiar with these efforts as well, since they often help coordinate the temporary sites.

It’s hard to describe a typical day in the life of a volunteer, but over the course of a week some patterns emerge. Here’s what a week at Annunciation House might look like (Casa Vides is a bit different, and less structured):

Monday. The week starts with an all-staff breakfast, reflection, and meeting, at which volunteers check in about how they’re doing, discuss plans for each guest, and talk about upcoming events, house maintenance, and anything else that needs attention. Afterwards, you might eat lunch with guests, then spend a few hours in the afternoon working on your ‘permanent rotation’. Each volunteer has one or two of these responsibilities, such as: maintaining the clothing bank, ordering food and supplies, working on the house or car, or keeping records of guest visits. Monday night ends with a house meeting with all the volunteers and guests.

Tuesday. A.M. shift! you wake up at 6am, help a few guests get started on cooking breakfast, and walk through the house to see that all is in order. Breakfast is at 7, followed by Reflection with the other volunteers at 8. Throughout the morning you answer the door and phone, greet new arrivals, put a pot of beans on the stove, talk to guests in the sala, accept and sort through donations. Lunch is at noon. Afterwards, you assign chores (lunch dishes, sweeping, etc) and write a few notes about the morning for the next volunteer, who starts the PM shift at 2. You’ve been on your feet all morning, so maybe you take it easy the rest of the afternoon–go for a walk, shoot some hoops with a guest, or read quietly in the volunteer sala.

Wednesday. Nothing in particular scheduled for today, so after morning Reflection you take the opportunity to work on your weekly rotation. These are chores that volunteers take turns doing each week: house laundry, cleaning the guest kitchen, inspecting fire alarms and safety exits, or tidying the volunteer areas of the house. You also check in with your guests, maybe make some phone calls to try to get one of your guest’s children into daycare, or take another down to the clothing bank to get some new pants, or accompany someone to an appointment with the doctor or legal services. After dinner you head to Casa Teresa for your night off.

Thursday. It’s your day off! Maybe you’ll walk to the cathedral or the public market in Juarez… or work on graduate school applications at the library… or go swimming at Armijo Pool… or sit and drink coffee for hours at a cafe near the UTEP campus… or catch a movie at Fellini Film Cafe… or take a bike ride up Rim Road… or visit friends across the border in Anapra… or just stay at Casa Teresa and nap all afternoon.

Friday. Back in the swing of things, it’s your turn to lead morning Reflection. In the morning you might check in with guests or go put in a load of laundry. Then at 2, you’re on PM shift! You walk through the house to see who’s around and what’s happening, and stay busy answering the door and phone, keeping water jugs filled, and getting guests laundry soap or a sharp pencil as they go about their own business. Around 4:30 you find some willing souls to cook dinner, then gather everyone to eat at 6. After the food is gone and the chores have been done, you might put on some music in the sala for an impromptu dance party. Then all too soon it’s time for bed. At 10pm you close up the house and say good night.

Saturday. No Reflection this morning, so you sleep in: ahhhhhh! More odds and ends to do today: touching base with each of your guests about their plans and progress, some more work down in the clothing bank or tidying the volunteer sala or working on an article for the quarterly Annunciation House newsletter. In the afternoon you meet up with a friend from Casa Vides for coffee, or maybe tag along with a Border Awareness Group on a hike up Mount Cristo Rey. You come back for dinner, though, because a local church group is bringing fried chicken. Yum.

Sunday. Your final shift of the week, but today it starts at 7am instead of 6–a nice extra hour of sleep. Most guests enjoy a more leisurely morning today, and some gather in the chapel at 9am (along with volunteers who want to) for Mass. There’s a nice big breakfast at 10am, after which you assign chores. In the early afternoon, some vanloads of guests and volunteers head up to Madeline Park for a hard-fought but friendly game of futbol. They come back in time for dinner at 5, but by this point you’re done with shift (it finishes at 2pm) and kicking back in the sala with a good book or a card game. If it’s summer, maybe you’ll go later to Music Under the Stars at Chamizal Park– always a great concert, even if you get caught in a summer shower!