Well after two and half weeks here I’m falling into a routine and understanding how life works at Jubilee (though there are still some things I need to work on, like better timing of when to do my laundry so that it doesn’t all end up hanging to dry in my room due to a rainstorm). After all, I was only at Alta for two weeks and I definitely understood what life entailed there! But things are a bit more complex here; the history of Jubilee is incredible and the people here are inspiring. I apologize if this entry is a bit dry. Last night my friend asked, “So, how’s the new job? Wait . . . is it a job? What are you doing there?” So here is a bit of information to attempt to answer that question. I’ll explain and you can tell me if it’s a “job.”
The first full week here was orientation, which included basic introductions to the property, the animals, garden work, the school, etc. as well as several thorough sessions of teacher training. By the end of the week we were all ready to get out of our seats and start working! On Monday morning at 8:30, Blake, a partner and the work coordinator, holds our work meeting where all the volunteers receive their work assignments for the week. Every volunteer rotates teaching English classes and providing childcare for the refugees kids while their parents are in English classes. When we aren’t teaching or watching the kids (we are usually assigned to each a couple times a week), there are plenty of other jobs/chores that need to get done around the property. We work from 8:30-noon and from 1:30 until 5:30 with devotions and an hour lunch break at mid-day. Generally the jobs you do during the morning are different than the ones in the afternoon. Obviously all of our time is very structured, but none of it feels busy or rushed. The evenings can be quiet for reading, or full of laughter if someone gets a game going. Because we live here without TV and minimal access to the internet, many of us sit around talking, drinking tea, writing letters, reading, or watching Jacob, the cutest one-year old child I have ever met, who belongs to Lisa and Ben, two of the other volunteers. Jacob acts as a constant source of entertainment and as Emily, a fellow volunteer from Canada, said the other night, “I can’t imagine ever being accustomed to that much cuteness.” Along with the evolving evening routine, Stina, another fellow volunteer from Minnesota, and I have also implemented Monday, Wednesday, Friday morning runs. Ok, we just implemented them, so there has only been one so far, but we’re off to a good start 🙂 Many of the partners also have high school or college age children who are fun to get to know and hang out with. They live pretty normal high school lives, but come home to quite a diverse community that I’m positive their peers don’t experience! Rebecca, a high school junior, just brought me her English essay to proofread. Is it weird that I’m strangely excited to read it?!
Throughout the workday, everyone goes about their tasks as necessary and there isn’t a “boss” who we must report to, so the work environment is somewhat relaxed but everyone remains diligent in their work. Each day of work can be very different. Yesterday, I was randomly assigned to prepare both lunch and dinner (it normally doesn’t fall on the same day, but that’s just how it worked out!). I spent a good part of the day in the kitchen, made several trips back and forth for laundry, but still had a great day. People are in and out of the main house all day and there is always lots going on. It’s rare to find a dull moment here. For our other jobs, the volunteers are generally assigned to chores/tasks that various partners are in charge of. For instance, every Tuesday morning I help one of the partners, Al, clean and prepare the guest houses for when visitors come, and on Wednesday mornings I am in charge of doing all the laundry from the guest houses and making lunch for the community. Most Friday afternoons I will be assigned to help Don, one of the founding partners of Jubilee and a founder of Habitat for Humanity, as his correspondence assistant. So there is a variety of work and plenty to keep busy with.
Another unique quality of Jubilee is that people are constantly moving through here, whether it is refugees, volunteers, college groups on spring break, or just weekend visitors of family, friends, or even strangers who have just heard of the place and want to check it out. So that an open INVITATION to anyone interested to see what life is like here. The more the merrier 🙂 It’s a community after all and people are welcome all the time. Don’t let the fact that it is in Georgia scare you away! I promise we are not rednecks here, far from it! You might just get put to work, but since that’s how the community functions, that just helps to give visitors a real sense of what the place is like.
The Jubilee property is about 250 acres. I must admit, that just like I thought I’d never find myself living in Georgia, I also never thought I’d be living on a farm. The property here is really beautiful though; there are lots of woods to run around in, three ponds with swimming and fishing, a large organic garden, canoes to take out, and bikes (that sort of feel like they’re going to fall apart) to ride on the dirt roads. All the volunteers live in the same area and each of the partners have their own houses or apartment style accommodations. I have probably the greatest room, with, yes, my very own sleeping loft! I am slightly obsessed with it and couldn’t be happier with my little nook. The refugees live in their own homes in what is called the “Welcome Center.” The Welcome Center is located about half a mile from the main community house. The members of the Jubilee community do not live separate from the refugees to cause segregation, but instead the refugees are able to have their own living space (just like they will in Atlanta), they can make their own meals that they are used to, and get into a rhythm of life somewhat normal to what they will experience once they move.
Just this morning we said our first goodbyes to a refugee family headed to Atlanta. This Karen (pronounced Ka-rin, not like the woman’s name Karen) family, from Burma, has completed their two months here at Jubilee and will now be more permanently resettled. Many of the volunteers hardly knew the family because we have recently arrived and have not had much of a chance to bond with them, but already it was sad to see them go. I think many of us were nervous for them as they embarked on the beginning of their American lives without the help of the Jubilee community. Still after two months, they know very little English and they have the very difficult task ahead of them of settling into American life. It is especially poignant to recognize that, though they have the daunting tasks ahead of them of getting jobs, paying rent, grocery shopping on their own, getting the kids in school, etc., they have significantly more hope for a future than they did if they were still in Thailand in a refugee camp. Before they left, we gathered in a circle at the school this morning and those who knew them could say a few remarks about their time here, which was translated by Ehk Kaw, one of the former refugees who lived here and now acts as a translator to the families. We then sang them a song as a blessing for them to go on their way. On this rainy, gray morning (what is this Seattle?!) we all followed them outside as they loaded up in the van and waved goodbye as they drove down the driveway.
But two new refugee families are on their way! One family arrived this afternoon and next Thursday another family will come. They are both Karen families with four children! When the van rolled up the driveway today, we stood outside with a “welcome” sign and waved. We opened the doors of the van to peek in our heads and say hi. They looked exhausted. Understandable considering many are picked up straight at the airport after a journey of over 24 hours. It will be fun to see a family progress in their time here from day one.
Through many conversations here with the partners and reading the book “With Our Own Eyes” written by Don Mosley, one of the founders of Jubilee, as well as Habitat for Humanity, I have learned about the incredible history of this place. Compared to the work that Jubilee has done and participated in in the last thirty years, the work here seems very tame and subdued. For example, Jubilee has helped to house tons of illegal immigrants as they make their way to Canada, they have been sought out by the IRS for withholding their tax money because they do not support military action, they have built this place from the ground up never using construction companies, asking for help, both financial and physical, from friends. The philosophies and radical thinking behind and within this community are eye opening and inspiring. We had some visitors from Columbia Seminary in Atlanta yesterday and once I described to her a little about the volunteer program here she asked me, “So did you come here as a sort of self-discovery?” I kind of wanted to laugh because that sounded a little ridiculous, as well as pretty selfish considering Jubilee calls themselves a “Christian service community.” We don’t play new age music and burn incense here ok? But I think my response to her was accurate, I said, “Well, I don’t think that was the main purpose. But I don’t know how you could spend time here and not learn more about yourself or discover new insights about how to live your life.” So yes, on some level I’m sure my time at Jubilee will be a “self-discovery,” although that phrase leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But I’ll keep you posted as to what I discover . . . about myself or otherwise 🙂
So do I have a job? You tell me.