A Year of Service Ruined Me

By Sarah Spech

When I made the decision to commit a year of my life to serving my neighbors in need through Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati, I expected–hoped–that my life would be changed. That I would finish the year a different person from the one I started. That I would have a different outlook on life, form different habits, understand [some unnameable thing] better.

What I didn’t realize is how complete the change would be. “Transformative,” some could call it. “Life-changing,” others might say. And, my personal favorite, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps: “Ruined for life.”

How true that is.

I can never forget all that I’ve learned here. I can’t forget the faces that walk through our doors, the stories they tell, the tears shed, or the ways a broken system has continued to fail so many members of our communities. I can’t look past the roles play within those systems and the responsibilities I forever hold to work for change.

After this year, I won’t be able to continue living my life just as before. I have found meaningful work and seen how it is never finished. I have learned how my daily choices affect those I don’t even know.

Having gone to social justice-minded schools up until this year, I had been exposed to injustice and poverty through theories and text books, class discussions and statistics. We had been taught the plight of those in poverty and problems with the many systems that maintain inequality and injustice throughout our cities, this country, and the world.

Learning about it is great. It’s important that we are made aware of the problems in our country and the communities that we are a part of. Without previous education, I would not have made the choices that got me here. However, there’s no replacement for experience when it comes to fully understanding the struggles of our neighbors in need.

It is through personal encounter that I have changed, that my outlook has changed. It is the people, their stories, and my attempt to live in solidarity that have ultimately changed who I am and how I will live for the rest of my life.


To learn more about VVC, visit http://bit.ly/learnVVC

Sarah Spech hails from Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from the University of Dayton with an English degree. She enjoys music, talking about feminism, a hot cup of fair trade coffee, and dreaming about one day living beyond the borders of the Buckeye State.


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