A Life Changing Experience

Dominican Volunteer Josie Umuhoza serves as a teacher at the Opening Word, a literacy and job readiness Center for immigrant women in New York. Thank you for your service, Josie!

Josie and her students.

An empowered woman is inspirational, a motivator and a mentor; she impacts so many people around her in a positive way. This is exactly what I have encountered in the Opening Word. I remember two weeks before taking this journey, I was confused, nervous but excited at the same time. I kind of knew what I was getting myself into because I am always ready to step out of my comfort zone-especially when it involves helping those who are in need.  In August of last year, I said goodbye to my friends and family and headed to Long Island for 11 months. I had no idea what to expect but have faith and put everything in God’s hands; all shall go well. However, despite all the anxiety and fear, I said to myself that I was going to be just fine.

I was changing my lifestyle, things now might not be allowed or I may not be able to do them, but just be open minded. If I only knew how amazing and wonderful this experience is, I would not have been so worried.

This service program thus far, has taught me how to live in a community with 4 sisters. My community living is no different from my family living, in my regular family, I help my parents to do chores, same thing goes with the community, and all members split the work. I have so much fun mopping the hall ways every Saturday and cooking once or twice a week. I have movie/TV shows nights, eating ice cream or cookies every day, talk about Politics, justice issues.

I strengthen my faith by praying together with my community. Every day, at 7:15AM, we gather in the chapel to pray; listen to a song, read the gospel and finally preach by reflecting on the scripture. Once a month, I have spiritual direction; this will help so much in terms of getting closer to God and also finding out what it is that God wants you to do or become in life.

Every month, read and reflect on one of Dominic’s preaching methods with your community. I am able to ask as many questions as you want because I live with religious people who know everything related to that. I am also working with an amazing staff, the best boss on earth and incredible students. My women/students are from all over the world, women who are eager to learn.

I enjoy talking about all of the different cultures. I am changing their lives but most importantly they are changing mine. In the Opening Word, I have room to grow spiritually, emotionally, and professionally. My boss is very understanding and flexible. I have become good friends with the women. Finally, it has brought me the greatest joy, knowing that I put a smile on another person’s face especially a woman. Women supporting women.