IOCC Develops Youth Service Leadership

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC).

Leadership 100 grants of $108,621 over 2015 and 2016 have supported the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) national Youth Service Leadership development gatherings—Serv- X-treme!  The Serv-X-treme! gatherings are a part of a broader framework developed by IOCC to develop a national Orthodox Community Action Network (Orthodox CAN!) to nurture and activate the Orthodox Christian value of philanthropy by promoting volunteerism across all age groups of Orthodox Christians in this country.

Serv-X-treme! – Christ-centered service gatherings – builds youth leaders by developing and strengthening their individual understanding of Christ-centered service and by gaining a greater awareness of Orthodox Christian philanthropy through participation in theoretical and practical hands-on service activities. The week-long Serv-X-treme! gatherings are designed with sensitivity to the current work being done in the US by the Orthodox Hierarchs, dioceses, parishes, and faithful, and equip the participating youth  to  support,  and  even  help  lead,  these  current  efforts  of  Orthopraxy.     The gatherings  also  expose  the  youth  to  new  collaborative  possibilities  that  might  be realized in their own dioceses and parishes.

The inaugural “Serv-X-treme!”  Youth Leadership Conference convened in Minneapolis, MN in August 2014, with 25 youths participating from 23 dioceses or Metropolises of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA, including representation of 8 of the 9 Greek Orthodox Metropolises in the US.  This project builds upon the success of that pilot effort, and the backbone of Orthodox volunteerism in the United States, by creating and nurturing a culture of service/diakonia among Orthodox youth and providing opportunities for service among Orthodox Christian faithful.

The first objective was to prepare Orthodox Christian Youth for meaningful opportunities to serve others through a better understanding of Orthodox philanthropy and hands-on service opportunities.  This was met in two ways. First, from Saturday Aug. 1, through Saturday August 8, 2015 twenty eight Orthodox high school students, representing 27 different dioceses under the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States, gathered in Minneapolis, Minnesota for the second annual conference.   They were joined the first three days by thirteen of the twenty-five participants from the inaugural 2014 conference bringing the total of participants to forty-one. During the  course  of the  week the  youth  volunteered  for  20 hours  of service  with:  Simpson House; Camp Noah; Salvation Army Harbor Light Center; FOCUS Minnesota;  Boys and Girls Club; and Habitat for Humanity.

Second, was to provide an annual OCF RealBreak opportunity with IOCC in the United States and continued participation in IOCC’s Volunteer in America initiative. The  annual OCF/IOCC  RealBreak  occurred  from  March 7  –  12,  2016 with 12  OCF students  participating  in a week-long  home build  in Mandeville,  Louisiana.  Additionally,  in response to flooding in the St. Louis area that occurred in December 2015, two “Saturdays  of Service”  and  one “Sunday  of Service”  were conducted  in the  St. Louis  area  with Orthodox Christians participating in cleaning  up homes affected by flooding.   OCF students participated in these clean-up opportunities with fellow parishioners. Students registered for the six home build opportunities that took place in Mandeville, Louisiana, Columbia, SC and Oklahoma City.

Third, for the summer of 2016 IOCC offered three intern positions, one in Baltimore at our international headquarters, one in Minneapolis at our US field office, and one in Athens, Greece. Many OCF students applied for the openings that were chosen early in April.

The second objective was to identify parish-based service opportunities for young Orthodox Christians to more effectively engage in social action within their local communities. This was met first by providing parishes with parish-based service opportunities such as the IOCC Emergency Kit program and the utilization of the IOCC Children’s Prayer Journal, and a Serv-X-treme!  service module for youth groups and Orthodox camps; and, second, by providing material resources through the  IOCC GIK  program for community-based and volunteer initiatives. GIK items were distributed for flooding in Columbia, SC and St. Louis, although it was paid for out of emergency funding. Third, was the creation of teams to participate in IOCC Volunteer initiatives and possible emergency response initiatives.

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