This chat was held in conjunction with a variety of chats on February 1, 2011. You can view the entire chat at http://columban.org/chat/
Columban Fathers: Our Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach office is in Washington, D.C. working on matters of social justice.
Columban Fathers: Julie is our Program Assistant, and Rosa is a Columban Volunteer.
Columban Fathers: Julie, what does the Advocacy and Outreach office do?
Julie Espina: Hello everyone! The Columban Center for Advocacy & Outreach (CCAO for short) does a lot, it’s hard to give a short answer! We welcome people to mission in a variety of ways. Located just outside of Washington, DC, we coordinate the Justice and Peace advocacy efforts of the Columbans in the US. We also coordinate a variety of programs that allow people to join us in mission for 5 days, a few months, or a year.
Some of the ways people can get involved are internships, volunteer service and mission exposure trips
Columban Fathers: Rosa, what do you do as a Columban Volunteer?
Rosa Lee: As a volunteer, I do a little bit of everything. I work with Michelle and the interns on the advocacy side of the work, attending briefings and working group meetings as well as writing letters and making phone calls. I also do work in the office, helping with the communications aspect of the outreach side. I just do what I can to help the ministry.
Columban Fathers: Julie, we had a guest on earlier asking about ways to live mission in D.C. or elsewhere. Can you ‘briefly’ talk about the ways she might be able to get involved?
Julie: Sure, there are a few ways people can get involved here- we have an internship program that takes place during each semester- fall, spring and summer. We also have a year-long program that runs from September-July.
Columban Fathers: What does an intern do, work with staff on issues and other projects?
Julie: The internship works best for current students or those who are looking to give a shorter term commitment, the volunteer program is best for those who have a bit more time to give.
Our interns do a LOT! They are directly involved with our our Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation advocacy (JPIC for short- in DC, we use acronyms for everything!) That means they research current issues, write letters, visit members of congress and go to local working group meetings.
Interns in the CCAO get the chance to explore current social justice issues such as migration, climate change and international economics, and to work towards positive change by sharing our information with decision makers (primarily US Representatives and Senators)
Columban Fathers: Rosa, what inspired you to dedicate a year of your life to the Columbans?
Well after graduating from college, I still wasn’t really sure what exactly I wanted to do. I was working, but I felt like there was something lacking. I was also volunteering with the St. Columban Youth Charity in Los Angeles and I heard about the volunteer position in D.C.. I thought it would be a great opportunity for me grow in my faith and spirituality as well as to see the U.S. political process first-hand. And so far it has been a great experience.
Columban Fathers: Julie – The spring intern program is just underway. Is there a particular focus they will have this semester?
Julie: Each one of our interns is assigned a specific focus for the semester, Migration, Economic Justice, Climate Change, and so on. Right now we are working with a new Congress so part of our focus is to get to know the new members and to respond to the new legislation that is being introduced. Michelle, our Advocacy/Outreach Associate can talk in more detail about our current issues projects shortly.
Columban Fathers: Rosa, So where do you live in D.C.? Is something provided for you?
Rosa: Yes, I live in Brookland, which is in the N.E. quadrant of D.C. and is also called “Little Rome.” It is a really unique neighborhood filled with various Catholic organizations and volunteers. I live in a community house with 5 other volunteers. Living in community has taught me about the virtue of living simply and has really helped me grow in my faith. The CVUSA program provides me with a monthly stipend as well as travel to and from the office.
Columban Fathers: Julie – This sounds pretty hands-on. Is there a project or two over the past few years where the interns have had a definite impact?
Julie: Our internship is definitely hands-on, that’s a great way to describe it. One recent success we’ve had was in December when the New START Treaty was approved- we worked with other groups to convince our Senators to pass the treaty which will have a profound effect on global safety and security in the years to come.
Columban Fathers: Julie – And I’m guessing December was busy with a big push for legislation.
Yes, December was a busy time for us (especially compared to the relative slowness of the election season) we were active on a number of issues- many of which will be continued through this new session of Congress
Columban Fathers: Our guests can visit the new Advocacy & Outreach website section – Just go to http://columban.org/ccao
Columban Fathers: Julie – The new advocacy and outreach online section is live. What are the major changes and reasons for the change.
Julie: yes, we recently revised our section of the website- our goal was to make the information more accessible to anyone visiting our webpages. Now you can click on a link that best matches who you are (Students, Teachers, Individuals, Parishes & Groups or Program Participants) and instantly see the information that is most relevant to your state in life.
We hope it makes it easier to navigate the site, and we think it provides a more personalized experience- and we’d love to hear your feedback!
Columban Fathers: Julie – How did you get your start with the Columbans?
Julie: I first started working with the Columbans as an intern a few years ago- I was a student at American University and I thought the idea of getting to apply the convictions of my faith to current global issues sounded intriguing…
I really enjoyed my internship and was thrilled when I was given the chance to continue my work with the CCAO full time- in my current position I still do a bit of JPIC advocacy work, but I also get to participate in the other aspects of our work here
Getting to invite people to join in mission is one of the most energizing elements of my job
Columban Fathers: Rosa – Can you talk about the projects you are working on currently, or have completed already?
Rosa: Right now, my main focus has been the yearly carbon audit. I’m responsible for collecting and analyzing the carbon emission information (i.e. utility bills, travel information, etc.) in order to determine how much the Society’s carbon footprint was for 2010, in the U.S. region. I know that Columbans in the U.S. are committed to reducing carbon emissions and doing what they can to promote more sustainable living, and this carbon audit is a way of keeping track of that progress.
Columban Fathers: So beyond JPIC Advocacy, what else do you work on? Outreach efforts?
Julie: Yes, I spend a lot of my time inviting people to mission with the Columbans- I travel to fairs and events to share details about our internships and volunteer opportunities, moderate our Facebook page to share information about our JPIC work and all of our programs with people around the world, and also provide support to our DC programs- the internships and volunteering
Columban Fathers: Talk about the Mission Exposure trips. Currently we have 3 locations, right? China, Peru and The Border?
Julie: Yes, we have three destinations right now. Currently, our next scheduled trip is to Lima, Peru. The trip to Lima will take place from June 18th-27th, and it will be an amazing chance to witness the lives and current realities of life in Peru.
I’ve also really liked getting to know the new interns in the office and doing what I can to make them feel more welcome. 🙂
Columban Fathers: Here is a link to the CCAO Facebook page Julie referenced – http://on.fb.me/idYAjH
Julie: On the trip, the group will get to visit with Columban missionaries, local parish communities and local businesses.
One of the projects in Peru is an ecological community endeavor called the Happy Earthworm Project- it’s a wonderful example of a community coming together in a business venture and a sustainability program
We are currently accepting applications for the upcoming trip to Peru- there are still some open spaces on this trip. Here’s a link to the application: http://www.columban.org/991/columban-center-for-advocacy-and-outreach/mission-exposure-program-application/
Columban Fathers: Rosa – Have you tried sustainable living, or can you give us some ideas on how someone can do that in their own home/workplace?
Rosa: Well I think recycling is something that anyone can do. As well as being a little more conscious of the amount of resources we use on a day-to-day basis, whether it be through leaving the sink running unnecessarily or leaving the light on when we leave a room. Also, I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to using a reusable water bottle. The office already has some pretty great systems in place to promote sustainability, which definitely helps. D.C. also has a pretty established public transportation system. Using public transportation when it is available is something that definitely can go a long way.
Julie: And you can read more about the trip itself here: http://www.columban.org/2489/regions/juarez-el-paso/juarez-updates/mission-exposure-program/ or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more details
Julie: Here’s that link again, this time it should be live- Mission Exposure Trip Application: http://www.columban.org/991/columban-center-for-advocacy-and-outreach/mission-exposure-program-application/
Julie: Speaking of applications, we are also currently accepting applications for our summer internship program: http://www.columban.org/989/columban-center-for-advocacy-and-outreach/ccao-advocacy-internship-application/
And it’s never too early to apply for a volunteer position in the CCAO: http://www.columban.org/998/columban-center-for-advocacy-and-outreach/columban-volunteers-usa-application/ the term of service would run from September 2011-July 2012
Columban Fathers: Rosa – Does your year as a Columban Volunteer give you ideas on what you want to do in the future?
Rosa: Definitely and while I’m still considering a variety of different possibilities, I have been considering going back to school and getting my Masters in Social Work. I feel like my time here, working on the structural side of issues has made me miss more direct service. I’ve also realized how important it is to me that my faith be involved in whatever my next step will be.
Julie: It looks like our time is almost up, but we always want to talk with you about joining our programs and efforts!
Columban Fathers: There’s a lot of info there for our guests, and some personal reflection, too.
Thanks to Julie and Rosa for joining us today!
Rosa: No problem! Thanks for having me 🙂
Julie: Thanks for having us! Laughing
Rosa: Yeah us! Hehe
You can view the entire chat at http://columban.org/chat/