They come from across the globe—from South Florida to South Korea—Young Adult Volunteers, who dedicate one year of their life to learn more about the world and about themselves.
The Young Adult Volunteer Program (YAV), part of Presbyterian World Mission, is beginning its 21st year this fall. It continues to grow and includes new national and expanding international sites for the 2015-2016 academic year. All align with the critical global initiatives adopted by World Mission, including poverty alleviation and reconciliation in cultures of violence.
New York City is celebrating its first YAV year, supported by the Presbytery of New York City. Placement sites for YAVs offer a wide variety of experiences and the opportunity to examine culture from a global perspective on a local level. Partnerships include the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations; Jan Hus Presbyterian Church and Neighborhood House Homeless Outreach Ministry; Presbyterian Senior Services and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
The Rev. Aqueelah Ligonde is the new YAV site coordinator in New York City and is a staff consultant with Ministry Architects. She also preaches and leads workshops and retreats for a number of organizations and ministries. A native of Dayton, Ohio, she is a graduate of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.
“I am thrilled to be the site coordinator for this great city,” said Ligonde. “I am also honored to be part of an amazing ministry that invests in young adults at a crucial time in their lives. I believe that this is the beginning of a great moment in the history of our presbytery, our city and our lives. God is truly doing something new and awesome.”
YAVs will also live in Asheville, N.C., for the first time with a focus on serving homeless persons in the community. They will work with the Hands and Feet program, founded by former YAV Sara Robinson. Her experiences as a YAV in Guatemala and Tucson, Az., inspired her to create the program in Asheville.
Asheville has an active public-private partnership with the goal of strengthening the services system for homeless persons and reducing the number of chronically homeless people. Prior to Asheville, Hollywood, Calif., was the only other YAV site focused exclusively on people experiencing homelessness.
The YAV program will expand internationally as well, with four YAVs heading to Northern Ireland and four to Scotland.
Northern Ireland has been a YAV site since the beginning of the program, but will expand in 2015-2016. Although violence has significantly lessened in recent years, the country still experiences deep sectarian divisions. YAVs will work with local churches and community projects to build a positive and shared future, particularly—though not exclusively—through work with youth and children.
YAVs in Scotland will be based in Glasgow, not the green hills and meadows in tourist brochures, but in urban areas of need. The Church of Scotland Priority Areas Team in Glasgow will host the volunteers. Priority Areas work extends to 68 of the most disadvantaged parishes in Scotland. Almost half of Glasgow’s residents—286,000 people—reside in 20 percent of the most economically challenged areas in Scotland.
“I’m very excited to be partnering with the Church of Scotland’s Priority Areas Program, which is a strong prophetic voice for how rich-world churches are to serve those most in need,” says Richard Williams, YAV program coordinator. “YAVs in Scotland will have a chance to dive into this exciting work, and then return to share with the PC(USA) what God is doing there.”
The YAV program provides opportunities for young people, ages 19-30, to live in an intentional Christian community while serving in God’s mission around the U.S. and around the world. It costs approximately $22,000 to fully support a YAV in a year of service. YAVs, with the help of their congregations and others, raise a portion of this. You can support this important initiative by donating via this link.