Yesterday one of our Alumni Council members organized a social media blitz. I, for one, think that it was great to see so many people blowing up my timeline with YAV stories, pictures, and exhortations! What a great way to continue to get the word out! So great, in fact, that with a little help from a few others, I’ve decided to keep the social media blitz going. Over this week, we’ll be posting a few stories from Alumni, which were shared at the recent NEXT Conference.

Today’s story comes from Emily, who served in Guatemala and Nashville, and who recently decided to attend seminary at Union in New York (congratulations, Emily!).

Emily’s Personal Transformation:

“I served as a YAV in Guatemala from 2009-2010 and in Nashville, Tennessee from 2010-2011. In Guatemala I lived with a host family that opened their home and their hearts to me and made me feel loved and accepted. I worked at an organization that provided micro-loans for rural indigenous women and I helped teach classes to those women about environmentalism, citizenship, and self-esteem. We traveled to communities and held the classes in the churches or homes of the women who had received loans for agricultural and artisan projects. Although I wasn’t working with an organization that dealt with immigration, many of the families in the community where I lived had brothers, fathers, and husbands in the US, and many people asked me for help with their immigration papers. I felt so powerless to help and so outraged at the injustices faced by many immigrants in the US and the situations that I saw in Guatemala that drove people to emigrate that I decided to sign up for another YAV year in the US so I could work with and learn more about immigrants and their situations in the US.

Emily in Guatemala.

In Nashville I worked at an organization called Conexiòn Amèricas, coordinating  Spanish-English language exchange that matched a native Spanish speaker with a native English speaker and they both helped each other improve their second languages. I saw relationships formed between individuals and bridges built between communities that might not have otherwise happened. As a national YAV I also lived with the other YAVs who were serving at other non-profits in Nashville in intentional community, meaning we tried our best to live together, deal with conflicts, hold each other accountable for areas of growth, and support each other.

It is hard for me to remember what I was like before my experiences as a YAV. Here’s what I do know about myself now after two years as a YAV: I speak Spanish; I can use the bathroom anywhere (in a dirty outhouse, a cornfield, you get the idea); I am ok with being uncomfortable–physically, financially, in new situations; I intentionally try to live more simply; I love and am loved by countless new people; I am much better at handling conflict; I like doing political advocacy; I have hope for the future of the Church; I feel called to seminary and to ordained ministry in the PC(USA). “