In Berwyn, Philadelphia there is a group of young adults who are making things happen. CYACC, or Catholic Young Adults of Chester County, have been together less than a decade and yet they are going into their fourth year of serving the poor overseas through the CRS Helping Hands program. How did service become such a vital part of their mission? We talked with St. Monica parishioner, Levi Keene, service chair of CYACC, to learn more.
Shortly after joining CYACC, Levi learned about CRS Helping Hands and immediately thought of bringing it to the group (he had taken part in meal packing elsewhere). After doing meal packaging with a non-faith based group, he was thrilled to find out that there was a Catholic service program and to propose an event to the young adult group. As Jesus would have it, the night that Levi was going share the idea, another CYACC member, Yassir Granillo, beat him to it. The two of them worked together to move forward with planning the event.
Where would this new, multi parish group, hold an event? How would they raise the funds? These are the normal questions anyone who holds an event asks but for a young adult group low on funds and without dedicated space, it seemed even more challenging but Levi’s group was undeterred.
Levi spoke directly to his Pastor who informed him that, not only could the event be at Levi’s home parish of St. Monica, (one of the several parishes that support CYACC) but that he had funds set aside for a service event. Levi said that even with the space and the funds there were questions; would they find people to attend, where would they get the tables? But the group soon found out that everyone has a heart for service. Their events overflow every year and they have continued to have everything they need.
Levi believes that service not only gives value to one’s self but that it inspires us to do more. He suggests that “many of the worlds complex problems can be solved if we each play our own small part, but sometimes, we don’t know how to take that first step.” He believes CRS Helping Hands teaches people of all generations to come together and see how service can be communal, familial and fun; and he believes that the program truly inspires people to do more.
Levi’s passion and belief in the value of service led him to be invited on a Catholic Relief Services trip to Burkina Faso where he got to meet and learn even more about the people that CRS Helping Hands serves. When he went to the centers that the meals are given to he asked himself “what would these women’s lives look like without this food?” While he knew funds from the CRS program go to the meals and shipping them overseas he did not fully understand the long term programming that also goes with every meal. He was amazed at how the SILC program (savings and lending) works there and how the development funds are allowing the people who are receiving the food to focus on a long-term future. THAT, he thought, was the most inspirational part of knowing what CRS Helping Hands does – it doesn’t just feed people for now, it feeds them long-term by helping them find the means to feed themselves.
When I asked Levi what he hoped for the people he met in Burkina Faso, the people he continues to serve, he said he wanted the people of Burkina to know that “we are all in this together.” We couldn’t agree more! 7 million meals have been packaged by Levi’s group, by your group, by all of our collective groups and we can certainly tell you, the people we serve feel our solidarity!
To read about Levi’s experience in Burkina Faso see his blog at: Levi’s Travel Blog.