What drew you to volunteer for Annunciation House?
A 2012 volunteer: After learning about the human rights issues on the border and throughout the country, I wanted to take an active part in fighting against oppression. I also fell in love with El Paso as a city and community, and the idea of living with the homeless and living simply without the need to spend money or make money.
A 2011 volunteer: I wanted to be in a Spanish-speaking environment and an intentional community, and I wanted to do direct service work at a non-profit. I was fortunate to visit Annunciation House before I moved to El Paso, and I immediately fell in love with the house. 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, much deeper than the usual social worker-client relationship. In addition to that, I really appreciated Annunciation House’s radical arm which included hosting student groups, not on mission trips, but instead to experience the border and the realities of migrants.
“ A desire to live out my faith and values, to try to the extent that is feasible, to live a life of solidarity, wanting to be a welcoming presence to a population that is so often unwelcomed by greater American society.” Stephanie from Connecticut
“I came hoping for a unique experience working towards social justice; learning and immersing myself within a realm of immigration. And not just working towards justice for immigration, but really living it, especially with the support of a community and volunteers.” Rachel, Minnesota
“A realization that my reality is tied up in the reality of immigrants and border dwellers, from what I buy, to what I eat, to what I see on the news. For me, this is kind of like going to grad school, except more fun, more Spanish and more service.” Stephanie from Pittsburg
“I desired to give myself in service to others for at least a year, to live simply and in solidarity with the poor, and to work towards a more just world. I found all of that at A-house.” Sarah
What words describe your experience as a volunteer?
BUSY, REAL, GRATITUDE, FUN, LIFE-CHANGING, EYE-OPENING, CHALLENGING, BLESSED, CONSUMING, THRILLING, GOOD, EMPOWERING
In your opinion, what could future volunteers hope to gain from this experience?
“Volunteering gives you the opportunity to not just work with people, but to live with them too, building stronger relationships not only with guests you are helping, but also with your fellow volunteers. And, you are always learning as a volunteer, whether it is about immigration, life on the border, peoples’ lives or about yourself.” Rachel
“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.” Sarah
“I think future volunteers could gain an experience of reality that most people, especially privileged people, never have. I think it is really an ideal way to live- radically, outside of many aspects of capitalism, in community supported entirely by generosity of the community, doing provocative work just by doing the most simple hospitality.” Katy
“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”. Stephanie from Connecticut
“One learns how to live a life in touch with reality, which is really the only way to live.” Stephanie from Pittsburg
What is the most profound lesson you have learned through your volunteer work?
“The community of volunteers- there is always someone who is going to help you if you need it.” Fabian, Germany
“Volunteering here is a privilege- entering the lives of others in this way is SUCH a privilege, which humbles you too, in a very healthy, necessary way.” Stephanie from Connecticut
“The real micro and macro reasons people leave their homes and families to migrate- NAFTA, hunger, poverty, opportunity, IMF & World Bank Loans, Mexican government corruption, Operation Hold the Line, Operation Gatekeeper, $5 a day maquila minimum wage, 60% of Mexican workforce in informal economy. Also, the capacity of the human spirit to persevere in the face of extreme suffering is astounding.” Stephanie from Pittsburg
What have you gained as a volunteer living in solidarity with guests?
“I have learned that I have much more in common with the guests than I could have ever imagined. I have experienced humanity in all its forms and discovered my capacity to love.” Sarah
“Their trust and their story to the point where they call A-house “family”. Fabian
“Living with the people you work with is an incredible experience, you see everyone and everyone sees you at your best and your worst. I feel like it creates an atmosphere of deeper respect, as we are more humanized to one another.” Katy
“Living in solidarity with guests is one of the most unique experiences of volunteering at A-house, it is not just a job you leave behind at the end of the day; its life, its home. It enables you to form deeper bonds with the guests and begin to understand each other’s shared humanity.” Rachel
“Genuine relationships, based on trust, sharing and support.” Stephanie from Connecticut
“I love being an active part in the community, both inside the house and outside of the house. I love being here to accompany the guests through various ways, especially living and eating with them daily.”
“I always have my share of privileges, such as my college degree and family financial safety net. That said, living simply. Having the daily opportunity to be a lesser participant in the U.S. consumption machine is liberating.” Stephanie from Pittsburg
What have you gained living in community with other volunteers?
“I am continually challenged by new ideas and exposed to new opportunities for growth. Each volunteer brings something new to the table.” Sarah
“I love living in community, we work, live, laugh and cry together and I have formed some really incredible friendships here.” Katy
How do you feel this experience will influence your future plans?
“My plans have changed quite a bit. Originally I wanted to live in my home state but now I want to explore different regions to determine where I fit in best and what place needs me most. I have this dream of opening a homeless shelter that could serve guests that Annunciation House encounters who need to go further north (specifically asylum cases), but have no place to live.”
“I believe I will always carry this experience with me, whatever I do next. I feel a strong pull to continue working with migrants and refugees. The lessons I have learned here will stick with me always.” Sarah
“I am in the process of applying to law school with the hopes of learning how to be a better advocate for individuals like the guests of our houses.” Stephanie from Connecticut