I heard about the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program when I attended my first youth conference in Montreat, NC when I was a rising freshman in high school. Montreat holds Christian youth conferences for high school and college students every year and it truly is an amazing place. During high school, Montreat became my second home, my safe space, my spiritual haven. Montreat shaped my faith and led me to be the person I am today.
During Montreat conferences, I met past YAVs who told me about their experiences abroad and how being a YAV changed their lives. I wanted what they described to me: an incredible year that widens your understanding of what it means to serve others. I wanted to help people while also focusing on what it means to be a humanitarian, volunteer, and Christian. Ever since high school, YAV has been my dream.
Founded by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), the YAV program is a “one year service opportunity for young adults.” YAVs are placed “in community agencies or local churches, with jobs depending on the needs of partners and the skills of the Young Adult Volunteer. YAVs are exposed to some of the hardest problems in the world—poverty, violence and reconciliation,—while living and reflecting with other volunteers on the meaning and motivation of their Christian faith.”
YAVs are not evangelical or missionaries. Rather, they’re volunteers that reflect on their service year via their faith. The core tenets of the YAV program are:
Intentional Christian Community: YAVs explore what it means to be a Christian community with one another and their neighbors.
Simple Living: [YAVs] challenge one another to live more simply in response to an unsustainable human demand for natural resources
Cross-Cultural Mission: YAVs will work to confront the systemic challenges of race, class, gender, and power, while learning to examine their own lives and actions.
Leadership Development through Faith in Action: YAVs develop their leadership by serving in marginalized communities alongside local people of faith responding to poverty, violence, and injustice in their communities….
Vocational Discernment: Through theological reflection and spiritual practices, YAVs will participate in the process of vocational discernment.
I did not choose the YAV program because I want to convert people to Christianity and I did not choose the YAV program because I felt like it was the “Christian” thing for me to do. Rather, I chose the program because I know my time in Zambia will be emotionally challenging and I want to have the support of my faith during those challenging times. Becoming a YAV means not only giving support to others but also being supported yourself via the church. This duality of helping and being helped is what I desperately want and need, making my upcoming YAV year all the more exciting.
If you want to learn more about the YAV program, you can visit their website here! As always, if you’d like to donate to my GoFundMe page for my YAV year, you can find my fundraising page here. The funds raised will be used for medical expenses, health insurances, food stipends, and other expenses. Every little bit counts so please consider donating! Thank you so much for your generosity.