Emmanuel “Eli” Gemora (front row, second from left) graduated from WWU in 2016 and is spending this year with Episcopal Service Corps.
Hello, everyone! I can be pretty bad about keeping in touch, so I figured I would update everyone in one go on how my time in North Carolina is going. But first, here is a summary of what exactly it is I’m doing out here.
Along with nine other people, I am doing a year of living in an intentional community in North Carolina’s Johnson Service Corps. We will be working for local nonprofits, exploring our spiritual lives, nurturing our emotional well-being, and learning how to be effective servant leaders. We are split between two cities (Chapel Hill and Durham) that are about 30 minutes apart from each other, and we are housed to live in or near the communities we will be serving. We are also encouraged to develop a spiritual practice. I entered the program with the intention to try journaling and meditating each day.
I am living in Carrboro (a small town right next to Chapel Hill) with four other people in a fully furnished duplex. I will be working at Compass Center. My work will entail connecting people to domestic violence- and crisis-related resources.
As for what I’ve been up to so far, well, the first two weeks were packed enough as it is, so this email will just cover that (tune in next time for an update on JSC in general).
On Friday, August 18th, I arrived in North Carolina. We housemates met, picked bedrooms, and began unpacking. We also met some administrators and mentors of JSC, as well as our program director, at a potluck lunch. Afterwards, we headed out for opening retreat. At the retreat both houses stayed in one cabin, meditated frequently, talked about the upcoming year, had excellent meals made from locally sourced food, and learned about listening from the heart.
On Sunday, August 20th, we returned to our houses and began settling into our lives together. Over the past month we’ve settled into a routine of planning meals, cooking and eating together each night, working out on the weekdays, playing games, and watching The Office. With the help of the two members this year who have lived in Chapel Hill before, we have also begun to explore Carrboro/Chapel Hill and Durham, attending festivals and going to local restaurants.
We have also learned more about the area by going on formal, historical tours. We toured Durham by way of the Pauli Murray Project. There we learned about the Murray family, the rise of Durham as an important town and black community, and the impact race relations have had on Durham. We toured Chapel Hill by way of the historic, black neighborhood, Northside. There we learned about the tight-knit community that lives there, the ways gentrification has changed the neighborhood, and what the civil rights movement looked like in Chapel Hill. We also toured Stagville Plantation, where we learned about the impacts of slavery and plantations on the development of the surrounding area. We also learned about how the descendants of slaves are working to reclaim their families’ stories.
Over a three-day period, we also toured all of the programs where JSC members had been placed. This was not only to show us where we would be interning, but also to help us understand what our fellow JSC members would be doing at their jobs. Understanding the other programs also has the added benefit of helping different nonprofit organizations connect to each other through JSC interns. (We were also given the option to volunteer at most of the other placements in our free time if we were interested.)
Lastly, we spent two Fridays working on our community covenants and training for the challenges of the upcoming year. We learned about non-violent communication, conflict resolution, and how to recognize and voice our needs.
A Community Covenant is a document written by the members of a house in which we lay out our intentions and rules. They include things like how we will handle conflict, when we will have weekly business meeting, etc. It can help us preemptively to handle the smaller details and stressors of living with a bunch of strangers away from home.
Deciding to do a year of service in an unfamiliar place immediately after graduating was a pretty wild choice, but I’ve been incredibly pleased with that choice and already feel that I’ve become a stronger, more informed person.
Feel free to call, text, or email me if you want to know more or have any questions!