After Volunteer Experience (AVE)
After Volunteer Experience (AVE) is a re-entry program sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati and an outreach to young adult women who have participated in postgraduate service domestically or internationally. Transition after a year or more of volunteer service can pose significant challenges. AVE provides a reflective space to integrate the volunteer experience and discern future directions in life and ministry:
- Room, board and meals for 1-3 months in Southern New Mexico
- Intentional community with Sisters of Charity
- Program structure customized to participants needs
- Weekly volunteer experience at the border
- Spiritual Direction and overall health counseling
- Career planning and development
About the Program
The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati have developed the AVE program for women returning from a year or more of volunteer service to help integrate the experience as they explore “what’s next” in their lives. Over the years we have had volunteers live and serve with us and have offered hospitality and support to young adults serving at the border with several other programs. Our experiences have inspired us to create this re-entry program to facilitate a smooth transition after volunteer service.
We successfully piloted AVE in 2014 and now open application to women volunteers returning from long-term service with a Catholic Volunteer Network member program. Our rolling admission process allows a flexible start date for candidates who may choose the length of the program from one to three months. We only ask that participants cover travel expenses to and from Casa de Caridad, located outside of El Paso, TX in southern New Mexico.
Casa de Caridad is the initial formation house for the Sisters of Charity (SC). Volunteers live intentionally with the local SC community along with friendly pets (dogs and cats). We have a common ministry across the border in Mexico at a center for children with special needs, Proyecto Santo Niño, where AVE participants volunteer on Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other Saturday.
Additional components available during AVE include spiritual direction, mental health, vocational and career counseling. There is a weekly integrative conference with the program director. Participants may choose to attend a Mission-to-Mission weekend re-entry program (http://www.missiontomission.org/reentry.html) and make a privately directed retreat at the Sisters of Charity Motherhouse in Cincinnati.
Who is the program for?
Cara Gubbins (front, left) an AVE participant, peels green chiles at Casa de Caridad - an annual community ritual.
The ideal applicant for AVE is a woman who wants to make meaning of her volunteer experience in the greater context of her life. Because we are Catholic women religious, living in a marginal place, crossing the border in service, we are seeking women who want to continue to be transformed by encountering Christ in persons who are poor and marginalized. Discernment is a lifelong process of opening our decision-making to the Spirit of God. We are hoping to find women who want to develop their capacity for personal and communal discernment.