FrancisCorps | Syracuse, NY

Highs and Lows

By Elena Northuis, FC 22

A day in the life of a FrancisCorps volunteer involves a lot of what you would expect: work at your service site and a vibrant community life. In actuality, it is so much more. Every service site is different; I work with the Youth Program at Northside CYO, a refugee resettlement center. My days begin with waking up and grabbing something quick for breakfast to eat on the way to work with Phoebe. Once at work, my daily tasks begin. On a regular basis, my morning looks very different. Sometimes I am busy making lots of calls to the school district, other times I am busy with paperwork, I am also frequently driving around in the big twelve-passenger van running errands, but a lot of times I am just in the office planning for our snack program and our after-school program. 

The afternoons are exciting and busy in the Youth Program; the kids are there! A lot of our kids are dropped off at Northside CYO after school. With COVID-19, our after school program looks a lot different than it normally would. We don’t have nearly as many kids coming after school since it is important to keep them socially distanced. As this is the case, we are currently offering programming to only the most newly-arrived refugees. When the students arrive, we first check them in and complete a COVID-19 screening. Snack is next; a lot of the kids are quite hungry after a long day at school so we feed them! Then the real work begins: the after-school program. During this time, we provide academic support for the students and provide a fun learning activity that promotes English language learning. Right now academic support looks different than normal since it involves a lot of technological support (It is a learning process… I am not super great with technology). We all do our best though! 

After work, I come home and relax for a hour before dinner (unless it is my night to cook). Dinner is one of my favorite parts of the day. We are all together having a blast talking over delicious food. Much to my dismay, dishes come next. Prayer is a daily communal activity and is always a wonderful part of my day. On a regular basis, I spend the evening just spending time with my amazing housemates. I am so blessed to have such an intentional, loving, Christian community here in Syracuse! 

With everything, there are highs and lows. In general, community life is a constant high; I feel very loved and supported here! I don’t really think there is anything in particular that is low except dishes: I really don’t like doing dishes. At work, when I am working with the kids and they are gaining confidence and excitement in learning English that is a real high for me; it is incredibly rewarding. The low at work right now has a lot to do with the pandemic. These kids are new to English so they are struggling with their academics due to this language barrier. Going to school in-person is one of the main ways they gain exposure and practice English. As they are no longer going full time and are now dealing with a technology barrier (believe me, their online coursework is not the most user-friendly). This is a low for me as it frustrates me a bit to see their feelings of defeat. Overall though, my FrancisCorps experience has been incredible.

Elena is a Youth Mentor at Northside CYO. Visit our service sites page to learn more about Elena’s site and others we offer. 

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