Local children’s shelter place of haven and opportunity
St. Peters St. Joseph’s Children’s Home, or St. PJ’s, is located on the city’s South Side. It’s purpose is to house children who have been through serious abuse, neglect and abandonment.
The organization not only helps children but could assist with future careers for students interested in volunteer opportunities and internships. Opportunities are available through this shelter whether directly or indirectly working with children.
Belinda Cox, development associate at St. PJ’s said students are encouraged to call her for spot availability in the summer.
“There’s all kinds of volunteer opportunities,” Cox said. “There’s opportunities to do campus beautifying projects. There’s opportunities to help with events and bring events to our children.”
“I would love for somebody to come in to volunteer and do some regular volunteer data entry things,” Cox said. “I’m the catch-all here and I do a little bit of everything here at St.PJ’s,” she added, chuckling. “And I could really use some help with that.”
Christina Higgs, development coordinator at Catholic Charities Archdiocese of San Antonio Inc., said there are different types of internships available depending on interested field and available spaces.
“In the past, we’ve had interns for graphic design, we’ve used them for grant writing and special events. We’ve had people who have just said, ‘I want to learn about non-profits’. Higgs said. “And after talking to them, we found a really great fit!”
They are currently looking for a finance intern.
Volunteer opportunities range from a single day to monthly visits.
Cox said volunteers can teach children how to paint or play an instrument.
The shelter seeks the help of musicians and artist volunteers to teach the students art. While the shelter appreciates donations Cox said interaction with the children matters just as much.
Cox said the shelter is also looking for hourly tutors in math and science on Saturdays.
“We always have volunteer opportunities and are looking for someone who has a heart for our mission and our children,” Cox said.
For children who are not from the U.S, volunteers need to also have a fingerprint check at the volunteer’s expense.
The shelter houses children for a maximum of 90 days and serves children from the age of two weeks until 17 years.
St.PJ’s not only houses children from families in San Antonio and the surrounding areas but also assists in housing unaccompanied minors from the U.S-Mexico border as well as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in Central America. These children stay at the shelter anywhere from 14-21 days.
Higgs said some of the children brought from neighboring countries lack basic living skills such as cooking. They are learning how to live in America and practice speaking English.
“It’s because of where they are from,”Cox said. “It’s basically just trying to survive.”
The refugee department for Catholic Charities took in a family from Africa and placed them in an apartment. After a caseworker visited the next day,, they quickly realized the family didn’t know the culture in America.
“They knocked on the door and nothing. The lights are all off and [asked] ‘is anyone even in there?’ So they tried calling and no one answered, and kept knocking.” Higgs said. “Finally, twenty minutes later, a knock from the inside came back and [the family] simply didn’t know to answer the door when you knocked on it.”
For volunteers coming more than once and interacting with the children, volunteers are required to have a background and a Tuberculosis test. Background tests are provided by St.PJ’s but TB tests are not.
Volunteers should fill out required documents and background checks in advance because the process takes a few weeks.
Higgs explained that even though it may be frustrating for prospective volunteers because the process takes a while, it’s for the safety and best interest of the children.
“It’s worth everything you have to go through in order to spend your time here,” she said.
Clarissa Tejeda, career advisor at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, said internships are important for juniors and seniors because it allows a student to know if that field is what they would like to do.
“It’s where you can confirm if you want to do that major, but it’s also where you can confirm if you do not want to do it,” Tejeda said. “A lot of employers are using that as a gateway, as a potential hire.”
Volunteering is important to show diversity in a skill set and perhaps allow one to establish a portfolio, such as creating a newsletter for an organization.
“It allows you to give back,” she said. “Education isn’t just about you, it’s also about helping the community in some way.”
Tejeda, a marketing major, said she found her career through volunteering.
She interned at multiple agencies but didn’t quite feel right so she started volunteering.
“I was actually volunteering at a youth center and I was working with at risk youth and I just fell in love with it,” she said. “I was talking to them about job readiness and I stumbled upon a career I didn’t know existed.”
Tejeda and the Career Center are located on the 2nd floor of CAB in room 211F. For more information on internships and career readiness call 210-784-1339.
For volunteer opportunities and internship information at St.PJ’s, contact Belinda Cox at 210-533-1203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.