Washington, District of Columbia

Compassionate Companion

Joseph's House -- Washington, District of Columbia

1- or 2-year term
Ages 20+
Mennonite Voluntary Service



The Washington DC unit is taking a sabbatical year off for the 2021-22 MVS year. 

Agency Description: Josephs House http://josephshouse.org/ is a home and "extended family" where formerly homeless men and women in the Washington DC metro area who suffer with AIDS and/or terminal illness, are welcomed as friends and cared for with skillful compassion, and respect. At Joseph's House someone who has been ill and isolated with poor or no health care, sometimes for many years, is welcome. Within the extended family of Joseph's House, every resident is invited to find their own way to belong, to contribute their strength and hope and vulnerability to the community. Residents receive comprehensive nursing care and case management to fit their particular needs and hopes. Some residents are terminally ill and are living the last weeks or months of their lives at Joseph's House. Other residents, with our strong support and comprehensive nursing care, gradually recover their health. Those who serve at Joseph's House seek to accompany our residents with our full, compassionate selves whether a person heals into life or, as we sometimes say, "heals into death".  Joseph's House's primary mission is to welcome and care for individuals who are very ill and have HIV/AIDS. We also  sometimes welcome those with terminal cancer. In Spring 2016, Joseph's House opened nine apartments three blocks from the house at the Maycroft Apartments, in partnership with Jubilee Housing. These apartments house former Joseph's House residents who have regained their health. The Maycroft residents remain closely connected to Joseph's House, visit frequently, and continue to receive case management, medical, and social support from staff and volunteers.

Position Description: The Mennonite Volunteer will serve as a Compassionate Companion. after an initial period of in-depth orientation and training, this full-time volunteer will come to understand the wide range of activities that are required to compassionately support Joseph's House residents and extended family of men and women who have become well and live independently. The MVS volunteer will provide residents with companionship, assist in case management, accompany residents to medical appointments, help with housekeeping, and assist residents with personal care, among other activities. Providing residents with companionship may mean sitting vigil with a person who is coming to the end of their life, planning individual and group activities (picnics, trips to the movies, etc.), sharing meals with residents, or simply taking the time to be in conversation with residents about their lives and your own. The volunteer will help to enhance residents' quality of life by driving and accompanying them to health care appointments, picking up medications for residents, assisting with grocery shopping and cooking house meals, and performing housekeeping duties. To further support the residents, the team members will support the Joseph's House social worker with case management. The volunteer may assist residents who have regained their health to find low-income housing, secure food stamps, get photo IDs, connect to social service agencies, etc. The volunteer will also assist the nursing staff with residents' personal care, including performing direct care duties such as administering medications, bathing, changing soiled linens, dressing, and repositioning. The volunteer will provide transportation and social/emotional support to residents in the Maycroft housing program.

Hours: Early in the member's year, shifts will be 7am-3pm, 8am-4pm, and 9am-5pm on Mondays through Fridays. Members will work a maximum of two weekend shifts per month, which will be compensated with time off during the week. As part of the Joseph's House family, the member will be expected to work some holidays.  Shifts are scheduled a month in advance with the shift coordinator.

Staff: 12 staff members, 11 volunteers

Skills and Qualifications:
The volunteer should come to Joseph's House wanting and ready to get out of their comfort zone and grow in countless ways. Joseph's House is a crossroads of cultures that includes the cultures of homelessness and years of incarceration, African American and Latino cultures of poverty and surviving it, the different cultures of gender identity, immigrant cultures, the culture of the very ill and those who are struggling to get well, the cultures of power and not enough power, education and illiteracy: middle class culture and the cultures of poverty. The volunteer should come to Joseph's House ready to immerse in these cultures, willing to be uncomfortable, willing to grow and learn and to serve from the heart. A foundational aspect of the culture of Joseph's House is learning to "be present" with a person for whom the activities of daily live have become impossible to do alone; being present with a person who is bed-bound or dying, sitting quietly, staying close and by their presence, helping to create a sense of calm. The volunteer should expect to feel deeply the passing of those residents with whom they may have grown very close.  When a person dies, the surviving Joseph's House residents, many of whom face life-challenging illnesses of their own, are often devastated and fearful. The volunteer will grow into the capacity to experience their own emotions and also to reach out and comfort those who survive and suffer the loss of their housemate. The volunteer should be flexible and willing to "go with the flow," as there is no "normal" day at Joseph's House. Sensitivity and respect for people who are homeless, familiarity with people in the African American and Latino communities is helpful, along with being a self-starter, an open, curious and compassionate person, willing to do the work of growing into maturity in an emotionally challenging environment. Finally, a valid driver's license will help facilitate the work here.

Training: The volunteer will take part in a new staff and volunteer orientation, typically for a few hours each day for two weeks. The volunteer will participate in Joseph's House many team building and other in-service activities for staff throughout the year, such as quarterly, day-long retreats, weekly staff meetings and reflection, and monthly mentoring sessions.  The volunteer will also participate in weekly sessions from September to January, where they will meet with a long-time associate of Joseph's House to reflect on their experiences and engage any questions or concerns that come up during their service. In the second half of the service year, the volunteer will participate in a weekly class taught by Joseph's House founder, David Hilfiker, MD who is an activist, author, and mentor.

From a former volunteer: "Joseph's House might sound like an intense place to work. Caring for people dying of AIDS doesn't have the same zippy appeal of teaching kids prevention or working at a clinic. But I think you should consider the placement, and here's why: Yes, there is death and dying at Joseph's House, and yes, there are times when the work is emotionally challenging. But the job is not as you imagine. There is the element of sitting by the bedside, but most of the job, believe it or not, is meeting people and laughing with them. It's varied, certainly: one minute you'll be lighting candles for someone who's passed--a person whose hand you held as he died--and the next you'll join the staff in the kitchen and sing I Will Survive using wooden spoons as microphones. Your co-workers will be gregarious and range broadly in age, and from day one they will treat you like family. You will make meals together, fold laundry, and goof around, and become friends with residents who will astound you with their strength and humility. You will take them to see movies, eat ice cream, and buy crabs at the wharf. You will hear their stories and share your own. The job, for me, was hardly work at all. It will humanize you and open your heart. It will make you better. Joseph's House is a challenging placement, no doubt, but I urge you strongly to consider it."

 Program info



Mennonite Voluntary ServiceMennonite Voluntary Service<p>​<strong class="ms-rteFontSize-4">Serve in community</strong><br></p><p>Join an intentional community with peers, serve with a local nonprofit, and plug into your neighborhood and local congregation</p><p>MVS <span><span>is a program of Mennonite Mission Network.</span></span><br> </p>

 Program site



https://www.mennonitemission.net/Serve/Mennonite Voluntary Service, https://www.mennonitemission.net/Serve/Mennonite Voluntary Servicehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/Serve/Mennonite Voluntary Service, https://www.mennonitemission.net/Serve/Mennonite Voluntary Service



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