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Holy Joe


The stories behind the statistics

Nick Franklin reflects on his experiences working with homeless people at the Booth Centre and campaigning for social justice with Church Action on Poverty Like many of my contemporaries, I!began the JVC year with some sympathy for those less well off than myself, but a!total ignorance about their situation and most importantly, how to rectify it. My placements were an abrupt introduction to a!side of life in the UK which is kept astonishingly well hidden. Upon arriving in Manchester, I!walked around town by the steps of the cathedral without noticing anything in particular. It was quite a!surprise then to return there on the first Monday of work to find that the passers-by and tourists were in fact the users of the Booth Centre, the homeless of the city, and the grey container was not being used by the cathedral builders, but rather to store the thousands of tins of Harvest Festival donations. It was the first of many frankly awkward realisations that the haves and have-nots do inhabit the same world, and that whatever the divide of background, we are all cast in the same image of God. For me, this is the crucial reason for enacting social justice. We all make mistakes, deserve more chances, enjoy good fortune and misfortune. It feels more like accident of birth rather than any fundamental virtue on my side which allows me to live within a!comfortable margin for error, and those I!am serving this year on a!razor edge. Indeed, just as God never ceases to offer us love and mercy, we should surely aspire to the same. The placements offer a!helpful balance between the national and personal perspective. Church Action on Poverty has been investigating several aspects of the Poverty Premium, whereby poorer people pay over 1000 more for basics such as food, energy, and credit every year. I!looked into rent to own stores, which sell goods like TVs and fridges through weekly installments for those who cannot pay the full price immediately. Invariably, this costs more in the long run. That around 90 percent of these shops are located in the bottom 30 percent of deprived areas of the country is clearly both integral to their business model and manifestly unjust. CAP have also been busy enacting a!charter to regulate high-cost payday lenders in parliament, as well as lobbying government for a!formal inquiry into the trebling of foodbank users over the past year, probably owing to the economic squeeze on real wages and austerity cuts to the benefits system. It has given me a!proper awareness of the realities of poverty today, and shown some of the ways to make goodwill effective. Conversely, working at the Booth Centre has endowed these statistics with names and faces and stories. They say that charity begins at home, and it is obvious to me that both topdown and bottom-up, direct and indirect approaches to social justice are necessary. It has been inspirational to see how much can be done from a tiny!centre which looks more appropriate to Lilliput in Gullivers Travels. Similarly, the compassion !

The Jesuit Volunteer Community provides opportunities for volunteers aged 18-35 from Britain and overseas to work in British inner cities for a year, or for a month during the summer. JVC volunteers live in community, commit to a simple lifestyle and explore spirituality while working for social justice with people on the margins of British society. (Registered Charity No: 230165)

Seeing the hidden issues ... We are putting together this edition of Holy Joe alongside preparations for Christmas, with that cosy, safe feeling that comes from being indoors, listening to the wind howling outside as the winter weather starts to bite. This year, the contrast with those who will have little to celebrate with at Christmas and will suffer most from the bleak weather has rarely been starker. Medical experts are warning the Government that food poverty in Britain has created a "public health emergency" and food banks continue to grow in an attempt to meet increasing need. Yet as Nicks article shows, to so may of us, the people who suffer most in our society just arent that visible to us. Meeting these people, hearing their stories and helping in often rather small ways is one of the most important aspects of JVC. This is what JVC volunteers do in Britain, and it is this knowledge of the realities of life for those who are struggling to cope that they take with them for the rest of their lives, along with the compassion and commitment to change things for the better in future. Thank you, donors! We are very grateful to all those who have responded so generously to our Sponsor a JVC Volunteer scheme. Thank you to friends and families of current and former volunteers, to readers of Jesuits and Friends, and to all those who have sent donations or set up regular giving. Summer Programme For the first time in many years, our summer programme was blessed with plenty of sunshine. As ever, it all went by so fast, and we wish wed had the volunteers with us for more than a month.

The stories behind the statistics (continued)

! of the army of volunteers and the unending avalanche of donations helps to restore even this cynics hope. More than mere emergency aid, the range of activities from curling to drama indicate a!concern for the whole person. Our upcoming performance of A!Christmas Carol will not be the most polished to grace the Royal Exchange, but the satisfaction of mastering Dickensian language and the joy of inhabiting a!particular character is incredibly precious and not something you expect to come under the remit of social justice. Nor is it possible to give a!definite value to the most touching moments so far, like buying a!suit for a!homeless man so he could look respectable as he put it, at his mothers funeral. Of course it has not all been fun times and happy camaraderie with the service users, and sometimes it is easy to imagine that all this effort is in vain. But as the Orthodox Jews of Higher Broughton, where the Manchester community lives, might say in the Talmud, It is not your duty to finish the work, yet neither are you free to desist from it, Pirkei Avot 2.16. Amen.

Well done to our team who did a 10k run in May 2013 to raise funds for JVC

Doing things differently

Alice Gomez shares her thoughts on living in community One of the four values of JVC is the value of community and while it can sound daunting and strange living with people you have never met before, I have discovered that it can also be very rewarding. It can be challenging to live with people who have different personalities or values, which means that it is necessary to compromise and to be flexible in order to live well as a community. I struggled with this at first, because it meant: giving up to a large extent living as an individual, taking risks and making changes for the sake of the other members that I live with. Having done this programme for two months, I realised that I needed to do things differently and be willing to be more flexible, things like making varied meals rather than making the same dish every week. I have also come to really appreciate my community, as we are very close and we often have meals together and discuss stuff, so it is nice to be able to discuss our day with each other and to be able to do community trips to places. I think that it is important to get to know your community and do things together, because this is likely to strengthen the relationship as a group. Having said that, while there will always be problems, we realise it is normal to experience some difficulties and these should become easier to manage as we get know each other better. There is a lot of help, not only from the JVC staff team, but also from the Community Partners and the Spiritual Directors, who can help you individually and collectively. I can say that am very grateful for my community: we make a lot of jokes and tease each other, growing closer as the year goes on.

Clare Lewis JVC Programme Manager

From Hungary to UK simple lifestyle?

Eszter Tapai reflects on how to live simply in the city Hungary, Kiskunmajsa (a small town in the South). I would like to prepare Goulash. So, I go the local butchers to buy some diced beef, because we only raise chicken since my grandfather died. After that I go to the garden and pick onion, carrot, parsnip, celery, tomato, pepper and potato. Salt is always at home and I have just bought paprika from one of my neighbours. Everything is ready for a delicious lunch. Since September 2013 this situation has changed. I live in the UK, (in Liverpool), in a community. We do weekly shopping and buy food in a supermarket. I live in a big city and we have no garden, no animals. Moreover, we always have cereals at home and eat chocolate spread for breakfast that almost counts as a luxury for me. And even if we eat jam, it is bought in a shop and not made by ourselves like at home... The differences speak for themselves. How is it possible to live simply under these circumstances? How can I (as an individual and as a member of my community) explore this value of JVC? I kept asking myself. My volunteer year had basically just started, when I realized, that I had to come to the UK to bake bread for the first time in my life (which was an amazing, indescribable feeling), to start learning knitting and to sew my very first skirt. I did have the opportunity to learn any of these skills from my grandmother, but I didnt realize how valuable her knowledge is and how much I should appreciate that she is still with us and she can still teach me lots of things. Somehow, if things are too close we dont see them. We have to take a step back; we have to travel far away to notice what we already have. Simple lifestyle is a very complex thing. It is closely related to spirituality. It is not only about money, but there are several other aspects and opportunities as well. During the last residential we looked at different areas of life, like food, travelling, clothing, free time, etc. and tried to think about ways to simplify our lives. For me one of the main conclusions is that simple lifestyle is about living more consciously and more sensitively rather than just letting things happen in our lives. How to live simply? The solution might not be in extremes. Not everyone can leave modern society, and live in a way people lived several centuries ago. But we need to find solutions in the place where we live and where God wants us to work. Even if this experience strengthens my idea of not living in a big city in the future, there are definitely ways to utilize opportunities for simple lifestyle in a city as well. We all need to find our ways that might be different, to explore this value. It is only the beginning of my JVC year. By the time I go home I will have learnt even more about simple lifestyle and can think about how to live out this value at home in the future.

The difference between being friendly and being a friend

Sofia Martinez talks about the joys and struggles of working with children When I began to work in the school I didnt think about how difficult it can be to work with young people. During the first few days everything was new and I could see that there was some distance between the staff members, the children and myself. I needed time to be comfortable with everybody. Then, there was a critical moment in which my confidence began to grow; I felt more support from my team and the other teachers, also the children started to consider me as their friend which was good and bad at the same time Of course its good to be getting on well with them but in this world of teaching, being friends with children is something that we must avoid - the problem is I didnt know that until I started to be shown disrespect. Being a leader when I come from other country and my English is not good, is a challenge. There are children that know my weakness and they are cheeky when I am alone, without my colleagues. Not everyone, of course, but a grain of sand can be a mountain. Working with children is not easy. Sometimes I feel a lot of pressure, even impotence. Its a lot of responsibility, and I have had to learn the boundaries between being friendly and being a friend. However, when the children are pleased and I see that they want to meet me and learn from me, I feel a great sense of motivation. My ambition grows and I feel I can provide them with all the things that I have: From my country, from my culture and from me. Little by little I have seen the reality of working with children with another perspective. I am acquiring new tools to be a good leader. I must improve more, but this experience is serving me to grow in many ways.

Sponsor a volunteer
Unlike many similar programmes we do not charge a fee, to enable people to take part regardless of their financial situation. But in the current climate, we really need more help with funds. So - we are asking readers of Holy Joe to sponsor a JVC volunteer by donating a small sum each month, or making a one-off donation. You can do this online through BT MyDonate, (look for Jesuit Volunteer Community), or through the link on the JVC website. Alternatively, please contact us for a Standing Order form, or send a cheque payable to JVC Britain our office address (see back page).

Hello, Im Carolyn the new member of the JVC staff team. I have made my way up North from picturesque Devon which has a far greater sheep to people ratio than Manchester and may be fractionally warmer. Last year I was a member of the JVC Liverpool community. The JVC values struck a chord with me and I felt inspired to continue to explore them in my own life. I was delighted to be offered a role with JVC and joined the staff team in September. I feel privileged to be accompanying our new volunteers on their JVC journey, exploring the values of social justice, community, simple lifestyle and spirituality.

Last years volunteers... Ambrose says I'm studying an MSc in Polar and Alpine Science at Sheffield University. It's a really fascinating and challenging course, and i'm looking forward to going to Svalbard in the Arctic for a month next summer. I also got engaged in August! Lots of reflecting, praying and growing up in my year with JVC led to my decisions to go back to studying and to get engaged. Andrew is working for a homelessness charity in London Bndicte is working at her placement, the wonderful Boaz Trust, working with destitute asylum seekers Clmence is in Zambia and hoping to return to Liverpool soon. Christine has been in Africa for three months working in a hospital and visiting patients. They are waiting for the rain, which she got quite enough of in Liverpool Darina is working for a Christian Homeless Charity based in Manchester Emma is working as an English teacher in primary schools in Madrid Fiona is studying in Edinburgh Frances says I'm currently doing my Masters in Social Work in Edinburgh, along with working on a therapy programme for a young person with autism. When I'm not doing that, I am serving lovely ales to lovely folk in a wee pub.

Silver Jubilee
In May, we celebrated 25 years of JVC Britain, with a special Mass at the Holy Name in Manchester, and a delicious buffet at the Chaplaincy next door. Members of the congregation were especially delighted by the music during Mass, from our very talented 2012-13 volunteers. People came from as far away as Romania to celebrate with us, and lots of those who couldn't be with us sent wonderful messages of support and congratulations, including Fr Eddie Bermingham SJ, who launched JVC in Britain all those years ago. Many of the Jesuits who have worked with JVC since then were part of the celebration, and it was lovely to see familiar faces again, as well as meeting former staff and volunteers from long before our time with JVC. Marie and Matt did a splendid job in organising the event, and we are very grateful to the Jesuits in Manchester for their hospitality. Here's to the next 25 years! Tess Edwards, David Birchall SJ & Ann Wilson were there at the start of JVC

Here at JVC towers we love to hear good news from former staff and volunteers Jean-Philippe Martin form France who was a volunteer in 2011-12 married ! Amlie this summer

Ciprian Ciobanu, from the same year, from Romania married Flori

Marcin is living in Manchester and studying accountancy. Mnica is working in a Boarding School in Madrid for children from dysfunctional families or those who have limited resources. Stephan I'm in the German airforce now and training to become an officer. The obvious part is the physical training but more importantly Im learning about constitution, law, history, and leading people in a right way and with dignity. So the exciting thing for me is to combine a military leader and a valuable member of the society we try to protect.

Christophe Montjoie and Jin Sook Kim were married this summer. They met while both volunteers in 2008-9. As he is from France and she from South Korea we were especially delighted to hear they made their love work despite the distance. Former staff member Austeja, and her husband Brian have a gorgeous baby boy, Zigmas, who was born this May. If you have a good news story youd like to share with us, please let us know.

JVC Office: JVC Britain Green Fish Resource Centre 46-50 Oldham Street Manchester M4 1LE Tel: 00 44 (0)161 234 2933 email: