Annunciation House is run by volunteers who commit to an experience of transformative service and solidarity. Some of our volunteers are local community members, while others come for a time to both live and work in our houses of hospitality. Volunteers form a close-knit community: besides the common ground of living and working together, they meet every morning for reflection; take time off together each month to relax and have fun; and often form friendships that last for life. Read on to learn about the different ways to volunteer with us.
The core of our volunteer community consists of individuals who commit to live and work in our houses for a minimum of one year. Since it typically takes several months for new volunteers to be fully trained and comfortable in their work, the year-long commitment allows them to hit their stride, gain valuable experience, and pass their knowledge on to newer volunteers. In addition to room and board, year-long volunteers receive a small monthly stipend, health insurance, and a travel stipend at the completion of their term. There are 4 yearly start dates: Feb 1, May 25, August 1, and Nov 1.
Our ten-week summer volunteer program runs from May 25-August 1. Summer volunteers live in our houses and do everything that year-long volunteers do, simply with more guidance. They must be at least 20 years old, in good health, and available for the entire ten-week period. Spanish is helpful but not required. Room and board are provided. Volunteers must pay their own travel costs to and from El Paso. Apply by April 15.
We welcome people who live in the El Paso/Juarez area to volunteer with us on an ongoing basis. Community volunteers help with all aspects of our hospitality work, including screening new guests, answering the phone and door, accepting donations, ensuring meals are prepared on time, supervising chores, playing games with children, cleaning and laundry, and being available for anything that may come up. We request an initial time commitment of at least 8 hours a week for a minimum of three months. To apply or get more info, please click the button below and fill out the form.
While I had considered volunteering abroad, I realized how important it was for me be doing this work in the United States, where I could be politically active and voice my dissent for our unjust immigration policies. I also loved the idea of living with those you serve, attempting to truly be in solidarity. While this wasn’t always glamourous, it allowed profound relationships to form.
One can hope to gain deeper insights into themselves and the realities of the border, to encounter humanity in all its forms, and to experience what it is to accompany and connect with the poor in migration.
[Volunteers experience] the joys and challenges that arise from accepting an invitation to sit with, to actually enter into, the discomfort, uncertainty, triumph and hardship that distinguishes “la vida de la casa.”
Volunteers typically sleep in the houses where they are assigned to work. Most volunteers have their own room, though occasionally two volunteers might share a room (especially in summer, when we tend to have the most volunteers). Volunteer bedrooms are private, either in a volunteer section of the house or with a door that can be locked. Accommodations are simple, in keeping with the spirit of the house. They usually contain a twin bed and a dresser or shelves for clothes.
Yes, we offer health insurance to all volunteers making a year-long commitment. Our volunteer insurance plan is operated by Cigna; further details are available from the volunteer coordinator. Some volunteers choose to stay on their own insurance plans (or on their parents’ if they are under 26 years old), as the coverage may be better or may allow them to keep their preferred providers. Our volunteers are also able to access low-cost preventative and non-emergency care from a local clinic for indigent patients. This is the same clinic used by most of our guests. Per federal law, all volunteers must have health insurance, whether on our plan or on their own arrangements.
No. Annunciation House accepts volunteers from all faith traditions (and those who do not claim a faith tradition), and the organization is committed to respecting the beliefs or nonbeliefs of our volunteers and guests alike. There is no proselytizing in our houses. At the same time, Catholicism is central to the history and life of our organization. Most of our guests are Catholic, and the houses are firmly rooted in Catholic social justice teaching. While volunteers do not need to be Catholic, or religious at all, they must be comfortable with the organization’s Catholic identity. For example, Mass is a critical component of community life, shared with guests and with the volunteer community during special services or gatherings, and volunteers are expected to attend. For some, participation is part of deepening their Catholic faith. For others, attendance allows time to reflect on their own personal spiritual journey. For still others, going to Mass is primarily an expression of solidarity with our guests and a chance to build community with the volunteers.
Yes. We believe that time for rest and restoration is critical, allowing volunteers to return to the challenging work of our houses with generosity and attention. Each volunteer can expect to receive one full day off each week (which includes overnight); an additional two-day period each month (the time frame of a weekend, but it need not fall on a weekend); and one week every three months. Volunteers can request specific days off from their house coordinator, who makes the schedule. We attempt to honor these requests whenever possible, while maintaining the required staffing levels in the houses.
It is true that Ciudad Juarez has been, in recent years, one of the most violent cities in the world. This is a heart-breaking reality that has touched the lives of many of our guests and community members. But while migrants and refugees are often targeted by criminal gangs in Juarez, there are very few instances of crime directed at aid workers–particularly Americans. Annunciation House has been operating houses of hospitality in Juarez off and on for much of the past forty years, and believes its volunteers can safely navigate there, using common-sense precautions one might employ in any big city. Even so, we only send those volunteers to Juarez who are comfortable with, and even enthusiastic about, working there. No volunteer is required to cross the border, nor will we place any of our volunteers in situations the organization considers unsafe. Meanwhile, El Paso remains one of the safest cities in the United States, with one of the lowest violent crime rates in the country. This reality underscores the deep divide between the two cities and countries, a divide that exists contrary to our physical proximity, interconnected existence, and shared humanity.
Our primary mission is one of hospitality—providing a dignified living space for our guests. Volunteers spend most of their time operating our houses of hospitality, in which they also live in community. Nearly all of our volunteers are native English speakers, but most communication with our guests takes place in Spanish. We hesitate to describe a typical day in our houses, as the work is highly varied. But each volunteer has four main areas of responsibility:
Volunteers also participate in the vital work of educating people to the realities of the border and the various forces that bring people here. One example of this work is the Border Awareness Experience (BAE): an immersion experience in which we welcome groups from colleges, universities, seminaries, and churches throughout the United States to the border. During their visit, we facilitate face-to-face encounters between them and a diverse set of organizations, groups, and individuals on both sides of the border. Volunteers are involved in coordinating these trips, translating for participants, and accompanying groups during their time with us.
Advocacy for our guests and for the immigrants whom we will never meet is also part of the work that we do. Volunteers often find themselves accompanying guests to meetings with social service agencies or doctors to provide support, encouragement, and translation. Finally, once a year we host a Voice of the Voiceless event to recognize others who are working for justice for immigrants. The months-long outreach to the border community to involve them in this event and to galvanize them around specific issues within the fight for justice for immigrants is a profound example of the advocacy work that Annunciation House does.
Changing Immigration Landscape, Changing Work.
It’s important to note that in the last several years, Annunciation House has drastically changed its operations more than once, in order to adapt to big changes in both immigration patterns (e.g. large numbers of Central American families arriving to request political asylum) and US immigration enforcement policies (from family separation to the Migrant Protection Protocols and more). We try to always serve the needs of our guests, even as those needs change. In the last three years alone, this has sometimes meant providing hospitality to a few dozen refugees who stay for weeks to months, and at other times meant providing hospitality to literally a thousand new people a day who stay for just a couple of days. Accordingly, some of our volunteers have experienced very different modes of service during their time with us. It’s important for volunteers to be flexible and willing to adapt to new circumstances, new modes of service. No matter what, our central mission will remain to provide hospitality to migrants and refugees, but how that plays out in the day-to-day work of our houses has been shifting frequently in the last few years and may continue to do so.