Friday, October 26, 2018

Life as a Dominican Volunteer in Redwood City, California

DV Elizabeth Broussad

Hello friends, family, and Dominican community,
Impossible as it may be, it is the beginning of my eleventh week here in Redwood City, California. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time and work here so far, and know I will continue to do so. While I have had the chance to talk to a few of you about my volunteer work and my life here on the West Coast, many of you may still be wondering what exactly I got myself into when I signed up for a year of service. And though I would love to tell you all about my amazing position, the incredible individuals of all ages I get to work with and alongside, and the variety of activities I get to cultivate, I am even more eager to tell you about the other aspects of my life here.
This year, I am a volunteer with Dominican Volunteers USA, a national, Catholic service organization that matches recent college graduates with non-profits around the country. They have partnerships with many orders of Dominican sisters, who graciously open their homes and their hearts to the volunteers. I live with a Sinsinawa sister named Sr. Christina Heltsley. I couldn’t ask for a better housemate. She is fun, adventurous, a great cook, a fellow dog lover, and enjoys “vegging” with myself and my other housemate after a long day of work. My other housemate is another volunteer from New Jersey named Sean. Both Sean and Sr. Christina keep the laughter rolling in our household, and make me feel at home even when I’m miles away from Texas. They, alongside my incredible coworkers, have made sure that I never feel lonely.
One thing I did not mentally prepare for when leaving Texas was weather. When I imagined moving to California, I pictured miles of palm trees and constant 75 degree weather. Apparently those Hollywood dreams are reserved for southern California. The Bay Area is a bit of a different story. Though it does eventually warm up to a comfortable temperature in the afternoon, I bundle up in a jacket every morning (August was no exception). The way to survive these 20 degree temperature fluctuations? Layers, layers, layers.  Cardigans have become fast friends of mine. All that being said, I do appreciate the cooler weather here. While I hear stories of 90 and 100 degree weather back home in Houston, I enjoy cool morning hikes comfortably in the surrounding mountains.
Hiking has become my favorite way to spend free time out here. With Redwood City’s proximity to numerous national and state parks, mountains, coasts, and forests, you can drive an hour in practically any direction and find a new park to explore. Equipped with a water backpack and hiking boots, I find myself more and more frequently escaping the hubbub of the city for solace. But the life and proximity of downtown Redwood City does draw me to its streets just as frequently, and it’s only a fifteen minute bike ride to visit their gorgeous library or find a few deals at my favorite thrift store, Savers.
Even though my work often carries into the weekend, it is enjoyable. As an ESL tutor for women learning English, the religion teacher for a second grade class at Holy Family School, and the Education Coordinator at Siena Youth Center (an afterschool program for middle school students), there are many lesson plans and activities to be drafted. But the enthusiasm and energy of those I work with inspire me, and motivate me everyday to provide the best learning opportunities for them and myself everyday. I feel truly blessed to work in this ministry for a year, and I cannot believe so much time has already passed. I hope to continue growing closer to those I live and work alongside, and to learn more about myself and what the future holds for me. Thank you all for your support and love; I miss each and every one of you, and look forward to seeing you all soon.
With love,
Elizabeth Broussard

Elizabeth and fellow DV Sean Puzzo

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