For Laura Mack ’15, it was an alternative break trip to Quito, Ecuador, that sparked a passion for social justice. Mack volunteered at The Working Boys Center, an organization that provides education, health and job-training programs, among other services, for members of the local community. Her education and psychology professors at Le Moyne further inspired her to give back as they impressed upon her the importance of caring for those who live with cognitive and physical disabilities.
“During classes we would break stigmas and try to understand how to give these individuals the right support so they can best succeed.,” she recalled. “I believe in equal opportunity for everyone, and many need not a ‘hand out’ but a ‘hand up’ due to many ongoing factors in their lives.”
Today Mack is dedicating a year of service to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, which places young people in service in areas where they are urgently needed. She works as a program services assistant for the Raleigh, N.C.-based Green Chair Project, which reuses donated household items to renew the lives of individuals recovering from homelessness, crisis or natural disaster. She was drawn to the opportunity to spend a year living in solidarity with the people she now works with day in and day out.
“The most rewarding part of my job is the responses we get from the participants at the beginning, middle and end of their shopping appointment,” she said. “These families and individuals have lost everything that was familiar to them. When I can be there to help them find things they love, that make them feel good and secure, that's when the job becomes rewarding. To have a stable household and your basic needs met is one thing, but we want our participants to be able to make their house a home.”
Mack has also seen up close many of the underlying issues – many out of an individual’s control – that often to lead to crisis and homelessness. She has also witnessed how hard the people the Green Chair Project serves work to transition out of their previous situation. Along with obtaining stable housing, they must have a steady job, income, or support system that allows them to maintain that housing.
“That is why it is so important to have places like the Green Chair,” she said. “This organization creates a space of dignity and respect for those who walk through the doors. They have choice when they come here and a sense of accomplishment that they have earned enough money to provide beautiful items for their home.”
Mack is still considering a variety of career options, including nonprofit management, school counseling and teaching. However, she knows that whatever path she chooses, her time at Le Moyne will continue to guide her.
“During my time at Le Moyne, I was continuously overwhelmed by the goodness and generosity of the community,” she said. “As an individual I felt included and valued by reaching out to those communities when needed … That passion and care from the community to Le Moyne represents much of what I do in the JVC. At The Green Chair Project I come in contact with a wide variety of the Raleigh community. We are only able to serve as many people as we can and carrying on our mission because of [them].”
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