CARITAS + Ledbury
“How to tie a tie."A relief for our shy coworkers, the exercise gives everyone a moment to speak and collaborate. Some men learned to tie a tie for the first time and others wore them since their childhood. While we announce each step, the classmates help one another and bask in a newfound validation. As students finish their task, conversation shifts away from the technical and towards the anecdotal. We hear personal histories akin to a Humans of New York profile. One student relocated from Kentucky in search of sobriety and community. Another shared tales of a college-bound adolescence and risks taken in the name of early gratification. Other students remained soft-spoken but laughed along jovially. Soon after, they asked many questions about us, our company, and our shirts. They expressed a vulnerability that resonated throughout the room, one seldom found in the financial district of downtown. In an intersection close to scenes depicted in Richard Linklater’s latest introspective film, Boyhood, that hour allowed us a glimpse of their lives and, conversely, a glimpse of ours. But this experience is neither Humans of New York nor a Linklater work - this is someone’s day-to-day, their reality. An era of status anxiety and the prescriptions of Andrew Carnegie often emphasize a myopic focus on personal success and ignore social climate. Somehow, somewhere, something failed - but CARITAS doesn’t rest on the failure. CARITAS rebuilds self-identity through peer support and daily activities. They engage in critical reflection without scrutiny and foster community from disparate origins. From sobriety clinics to job placement, CARITAS values work over rhetoric. On its own, one-hour a week, every five weeks is hardly an accomplishment. It is one small piece in an intimate and intricate process. Volunteer work is less of a solo mission to save the world and more of a conversation to make sense of it. CARITAS’ holistic aim of personal and social change matches those changes in the Manchester area and echoes a shift in Kansas City and Detroit. The surrounding machinery, in various states of use and disuse, reflect the delicate work of recovery and community. In the way a seasoned mechanic diagnoses and repairs a starter engine, the staff, volunteers and participants at CARITAS take note of all possible solutions and pursue the best one. While software hackathons and Startup Weekends are often revered for their fun and innovative results, pivots also take place in less suspecting places.
CARITAS BriefCARITAS offers the only area shelter for single fathers and single women. With over 15,000 volunteers, the program houses entire families and strives to maintain same-school enrollment for children. Initiated in 2005, the Healing Place mixes family and volunteer support with the 12-Step recovery approaches of AA and NA. Since its start in 2011, the CARITAS Works program humbly boasts an 81% job placement rate. In the last four years, Furniture Bank volunteers and Healing Place graduates repaired and repurposed 180 tons of furniture. For more on CARITAS please visit their website. For volunteer opportunities in your area please see Americorps. -- Tavish