In the field of education, IVC Philadelphia/South Jersey Volunteers provide tutorial assistance at five elementary schools in Philadelphia and the city of Chester. In health and medical services, Ignatian Volunteers provide support at the St. Catherine Laboure Medical Clinic in Germantown. One of the volunteers is a retired optometrist who is conducting vision testing for patients with health problems related to diabetes, a problem that affects a large percentage of the adults in poor communities. In other human services programs throughout the metro area, Ignatian Volunteers provide financial advocacy; food, clothing, and shelter assistance; inmate counseling; ESL and adult education; and custodial services.
The Philadelphia/South Jersey community participates regularly in spiritual reflection, an integral part of the IVC experience. Volunteers meet with a spiritual reflector to talk about the meaning of their work, beyond the service experience itself…and how it contributes to growing their faith. The IVC community gathers monthly to pray, reflect and share service experiences. They are guided to reflect on their work and to see God in the people they are serving. Said one volunteer, “It is more about developing relationships with those we serve and not just about the work itself.”
Organizations in the Philadelphia/South Jersey metropolitan area do a remarkable job working to meet the needs of people who are materially poor. However, most will say that there are simply not enough resources to meet the needs. As it becomes more difficult to pay for skilled staff members, nonprofit agencies increasingly look to volunteers to help fulfill their missions. The directors of the organizations that partner with IVC report that they could never afford to pay for the kind of responsible, professional staff that an Ignatian Volunteer provides.
It is not uncommon for Ignatian Volunteers to go well beyond their initial commitment, staying in the program for two, three, or more years. Currently, the average term of service in IVC Philadelphia/ South Jersey is four years.