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Jeff in UK Walker

Jeff Cipriani, from New York, served in Walker:

Jeff with boyALVP gave me the opportunity to do all the thinking I never had time to do in university. Back there life was an unwieldy mash-up of grades, jobs, university clubs and social weekends - and never a moment to spend on forward planning. At the end of my four years of study, I knew I had plenty of accomplishments under my belt, but I didn't know how I wanted to apply any of them. I felt like an artist with paint, brushes and canvas, but no vision.

Serving in Newcastle is certainly busy as well, but what's different is that there is no more bottom line. As a volunteer, I am free to discover the projects in which I want to participate, and I decide how much time to devote to each. It was a bit of a struggle deciding how best to fill up my diary at the beginning of my contract, but the freedom helped me to experiment in different places and figure out what my strengths, weaknesses and, most importantly, interests are. I currently volunteer primarily at a youth work program called Kids Kabin, but I also help provide social services for asylum-seekers and refugees and volunteer at a day-care center for pensioners. At the beginning of my year, I even spent a day grooming horses at nearby stables.

Uk Walker - JeffSpiritually, this experience has helped to mature by leaps and bounds. When Jesus said, "whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me," he was speaking about the demographics I serve here: children who are poor in spirit, homeless asylum-seekers who hunger and thirst, and lonely and mournful senior citizens. These people have become Eucharistic for me, and I personally experience God through them. Overall, I have developed a service-driven theology in which faith and good deeds are, as Martin Luther once suggested, as inseparable as fire and heat.

Furthermore, my time with ALVP has taught me more practical values as well. Without access to a car, I have learned to enjoy cycling to work and to social occasions, appreciating the exercise it affords and even coming to be thankful for the rain, which is just as much God's creation as the sun. Living in an intentional community has helped me to value relationships over competition. The chance to live simply and on a low budget has taught me not to be judgmental of poverty, and to prefer minimalism to excess.

Being involved in a year of service after university was a fantastic experience for me. It gave me a chance to deliberate on what occupation I would like in the future, while doing something both adventurous and productive. Every day here is an opportunity to change and to be changed.