Yearlong Volunteer FAQs

What is BSC?
How is BSC different from other volunteer programs?
How is BSC affiliated with the Lutheran church?
Are volunteers required to be Lutheran and/or Christian?
How is BSC affiliated with AmeriCorps?
How do I qualify to become a volunteer?
Are volunteers required to be United States citizens?
Do volunteers need to speak English and/or Spanish?
Does BSC accept couples?
Does BSC accept applicants with dependent children?
How and when do volunteers apply?
Is there an application fee?
What is the time commitment to the volunteer service year?
How are volunteers compensated during their year of service?
Do volunteers receive insurance?
Do volunteers receive vacation time?
Do volunteers receive assistance with student loans?
Where do volunteers serve?
What kind of hours do volunteers spend at their service site?
Where do volunteers live?
Are the communities safe?
What do volunteers use for transportation purposes?
Are volunteers allowed to bring animals?
What is intentional community?
How do volunteers express simplicity?
How do volunteers practice social justice?
How do volunteers express spirituality?
What is a Community Night?
What is a Community Day?
What is a Community Retreat?
What do most volunteers do after their year of service?
I have more questions. Who should I contact?

What is BSC?

Border Servant Corps (BSC) hosts full-time volunteers that live in intentional community, learn about living simply, work for social justice, and explore spirituality on the U.S. / México border. Volunteers work with issues such as poverty, immigration, domestic violence, education, and health care with opportunities to work in churches, shelters, legal centers, after-school programs, clinics, and more!

BSC was founded in 1997 by Dot Quaintance, a retiree and member of Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces, NM. Since its inception, more than 100 volunteers have participated in the Border Servant Corps experience. For more complete information, see BSC History.

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How is BSC different from other volunteer programs?

BSC serves along the U.S. / México border in organizations that strive to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly in the region. BSC provides volunteers the opportunity to participate in a unique cultural experience, including both an international boundary and the American Southwest, while serving in the domestic United States. In addition, volunteers are afforded the opportunity to speak, or learn to speak, Spanish in their placement site and/or community.

BSC offers programming surrounding four tenets that help shape a volunteer’s year of service. Community events (community nights, community days, and community retreats) offer programming to provide specific assistance (trainings workshops, processing), as well as an overall context for the service year.

The community aspect of BSC allows volunteers to both give and receive support during their daily lives. In addition, volunteers are supported by BSC staff members, board members, and support committees in each city.

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How is BSC affiliated with the Lutheran church?

BSC was established as a ministry of Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces, NM (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) in 1997. Through the years, BSC has been blessed by the generous support of the congregation and community. In recent years, the support base for the program has expanded exponentially to include church and community support from organizations that support the mission in Las Cruces, NM and El Paso, TX.

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Are volunteers required to be Lutheran and/or Christian?

Although BSC is a ministry of Peace Lutheran Church, volunteers are not required to be Lutheran and/or Christian. Spirituality is a tenet that is explored as a community and enriched by diversity. For more complete information, see “How do volunteers express spirituality?”

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How is BSC affiliated with AmeriCorps?

Each year, BSC applies for an education grant for eligible volunteer positions. The AmeriCorps Education Awards Program allows volunteers to receive an education grant at the end of one year of service to be used to pay off previously obtained student loans or to be used for further education.

AmeriCorps Education Awards are contingent upon funding on a national level and are not guaranteed until approved on a yearly basis.

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How do I qualify to become a volunteer?

BSC welcomes applications from persons who are 18 years of ages or older and are interested in growing in the areas of community, simplicity, social justice and spirituality.

Because of the nature of the work and community life, applicants are requested to be in good physical and emotional health.

BSC does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, race, creed, age, culture, disability, economic class, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.

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Are volunteers required to be United States citizens?

Volunteers are not required to be United States citizens, but non-U.S. citizens must secure their own visa.

International students currently studying in the United States are welcome to apply, but must take the necessary steps to secure their visa extension. For more information, see http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1268.html#15.

International applicants are ineligible to receive an AmeriCorps Education Award. They will, however, receive equal programming accommodations (including stipends, living arrangements, etc.).

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Do volunteers need to speak English and/or Spanish?

Some placements have language requirements of varying levels, others do not. Fluency in Spanish and/or English will allow opportunities for volunteers to serve in different placements.

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Does BSC accept couples?

BSC accepts married couples and couples in committed relationships. Each partner in the relationship must be accepted individually and have a placement with BSC in order to participate in the program together. Each couple will be given one room within the house to which they are assigned.

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Does BSC accept applicants with dependent children?

BSC strongly encourages applicants to consider all of the commitments required from participants in a year of service.

While the traditional applicant participates in BSC before or after caring for dependent children, BSC is open to considering applicants that currently have dependent children. Each parent in the relationship must be accepted individually and have a placement with BSC in order to participate in the program together. Each family will be given one room within the house to which they are assigned.

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How and when do volunteers apply?

Applicants may complete an application and submit it, along with three references, to Border Servant Corps. Applications are accepted beginning in October for the upcoming service year beginning in August.  The first deadline is in January and the second is in the Spring.  Applications close after all placements have been filled (typically prior to May).

For more complete information, see BSC Yearlong Volunteer Application Process.

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Is there an application fee?

BSC does not have an application fee, but strongly encourages applicants to consider the commitment before applying.

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What is the time commitment to the volunteer service year?

BSC requires a one-year commitment from August to August each year. Volunteers begin with a mandatory week-long orientation each year and complete their service year one week prior to the beginning of the next service year.

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How are volunteers compensated during their year of service?

Each volunteer receives a monthly stipend to cover basic personal needs. Monthly food stipends are provided to each house, based on the number of volunteers. Housing, health care and transportation for community activities are provided through BSC. During the year of service, volunteers typically qualify to declare economic hardship to have loans deferred until the completion of the service year.  At the completion of each service year, volunteers typically receive a relocation stipend.

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Do volunteers receive insurance?

BSC requires all volunteers to have health insurance and covers health insurance premiums for volunteers that request this benefit. Oftentimes, volunteers choose to remain with their current carriers or volunteers under the age of 26 choose to remain on their parent’s plan, at their own cost.

In addition, BSC allows volunteers to apply for funding for medical purposes (co-pays, medications, etc.), up to a certain amount per year.

BSC also provides Worker’s Compensation to all volunteers. Professional Liability Insurance for volunteers is covered by each organization under their existing policy.

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Do volunteers receive vacation time?

Each volunteer receives a minimum of two weeks’ vacation. Volunteers participate in Community Nights, Community Days, and Community Retreats throughout the year in order to build community and provide further educational opportunities. Community activities do not count against a volunteer’s two weeks’ vacation.

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Do volunteers receive assistance with student loans?

Volunteers have the possibility of deferring or requesting forbearance for their loans during their year of service. Typically, federally guaranteed student loans can be deferred; deferment of private loans varies by lender. Volunteers must inquire with their university and/or lending institution to confirm eligibility and obtain the necessary forms.  For more information, see https://www.catholicvolunteernetwork.org/student-loan-information.

BSC is unable to assist with any financial support for student loans.

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Where do volunteers serve?

Our partnerships with local social service organizations provide integrity to the work we seek to do to promote social justice in the community.

Each placement allows the volunteer to provide hands-on direct service to clients through a variety of programs.

See Placements for more information.

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What kind of hours do volunteers spend at their service site?

Schedules vary depending upon each placement. Typically, offices and clinics have their primary working hours during the daytime with weekends off; however, some placements such as after school programs and churches may require evening and weekend hours.

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Where do volunteers live?

Volunteers live in houses in safe neighborhoods, with four to five fellow volunteers. Houses are located in areas that are within a sensible proximity to each placement site for transportation purposes.

Each volunteer is provided with their own bedroom. Houses are fitted as move-in ready for volunteers in a simple manner that will meet their basic needs for the year (furniture, linens, kitchen supplies, etc.).

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Are the communities safe?

BSC has been fortunate to live and work in cities where there is little crime and volunteers generally feel safe. As in any city, petty crimes do occur; however, volunteers are instructed during orientation as to how to take precautions to keep themselves and their belongings the safest possible.

Volunteers are encouraged to acknowledge their strong community resources through placement sites, support committees and friends of the BSC. Community living also adds safety through accountability practices and the sheer number of volunteers looking out for one another.

In 2011, El Paso was named the safest city of its size (500,000 or more population). Las Cruces, decidedly smaller (less than 100,000 population), also reports a low crime rate.

For more complete information, see Border Region.

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What do volunteers use for transportation purposes?

Each volunteer is provided a bicycle with which to travel to and from work sites, grocery stores, etc. All BSC placements are within walking or biking distance from the houses.

Volunteers who bring cars are eligible for mileage reimbursement when requested to provide transportation by BSC staff for community purposes (not to and from work). Those who choose to bring their cars are encouraged to use them sparingly and with intentionality.

All volunteers, with or without cars, are encouraged to use this year to live simply and take advantage of the weather in the Southwest!

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Are volunteers allowed to bring animals?

Animals, other than service animals, are not allowed to accompany volunteers during their year of service. In order to make the living spaces hospitable for persons of all personal and medical sensibilities, animals are not allowed. In addition, the living stipends and simple lifestyle of volunteers make animal maintenance difficult.

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What is intentional community?

Communities are acknowledged as both internal and external. BSC volunteers live within the realm of many communities, but find their most intentional community within each household. One evening each week, volunteers join together for a meal and programming reflective of the community’s needs.

Decisions within the community are made using a consensus model, where each voice is heard, respected and assists in the decision-making. Together, volunteers make financial decisions about the household, decide upon chore schedules, hold one another accountable to their community covenant and lead community events within and without their individual house community.

The second level of intentional community resides within the various volunteer houses in each city. All BSC volunteers gather together twice a month to share in Community Nights. In addition, all volunteers participate in a Community Day once a month that allows the volunteers to interact and learn more about themselves and the area. Four retreats per year, each reflective of one tenet, provide additional opportunity to practice intentional community.

Through this process, volunteers are able to rely upon one another and become a strong support system during the daily joys and struggles of volunteer service.

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How do volunteers express simplicity?

BSC volunteers express simplicity by intentionally examining their time and resources. Volunteers seek to respect and challenge one another as they practice decision-making about financial decisions, energy use, and sustainability. Volunteers are encouraged to live within their stipends each month in order to practice simplicity and solidarity.

Oftentimes, volunteers come to BSC having lived lives full of time commitments with work, school, family, and friends. During this year of service, volunteers are encouraged to examine their activities; determining the difference between being “busy”and value-filled activities. In this respect, volunteers are asked not to hold additional jobs or enroll in classes for credit.

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How do volunteers practice social justice?

Volunteers work in established organizations that provide assistance to the economically disadvantaged, develop long-term projects to sustain the community, and seek to empower marginalized populations. Our placement sites focus on issues such as immigration, education, homelessness, health care, and domestic violence. Volunteers learn about these issues as they work in the community.

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How do volunteers express spirituality?

BSC welcomes volunteers of all faiths, and those of no particular faith background, to explore this tenet together in community. During this year of service, volunteers support and encourage one another in their spiritual growth through reading, reflection, spiritual practices, and discussion. Spirituality grounds and centers volunteers in their work and interaction with others.

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What is a Community Night?

Community nights are scheduled one designated evening per week. Generally, the first Monday of each month will be a joint community night held at a service site (hosted by a BSC volunteer); the third Monday will be a joint community night in El Paso or Las Cruces (hosted by the home community). The second, third, and fifth Mondays will be individual house community nights. BSC staff will attend joint community nights, and additional nights, if requested.

The hosting community provides a Call to Focus (poem, prayer, song, short activity, etc.) to begin the intentional time together. The hosts also cook the meal and plan the evening activity, according to the tenet assigned to that evening. This evening also serves as an opportunity for BSC staff to discuss business items and for community members to express any items they wish with the entire community.

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What is a Community Day?

Community days are typically scheduled for the third Friday of each month. These days provide a time for the community to join together and participate in a variety of events. Community days reflect the needs/wishes of the community. Activities may include learning experiences (issues-based training), fun activities (hiking, swimming), reflection opportunities, down-time, etc.

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What is a Community Retreat?

Living in intentional community is among the most challenging and rewarding aspects of any service year. Retreats are held throughout the year to facilitate the success of this portion of your time with BSC.

Re-Orientation Retreat (Tenet: Community): From the time you arrive until your first retreat, you will be involved in the process of orientation to community life, border issues, BSC policies, and your service sites. It is vital to the rest of the year that each volunteer be present (physically and mentally) for this time. Exercises in this process include, but are not limited to: introductions to El Paso, Las Cruces, and each other; exploring border issues and visiting service sites; BSC orientation; community building; and sharing spiritual journeys.

Fall Retreat (Tenet: Simplicity): Life during your first week on the border will be a whirlwind. Everything you see and hear may make sense to you at the time, but due to the amount of information there is to share, oftentimes important details are forgotten. The fall retreat will revisit the details of orientation within the context of two months of living the experience. This retreat focuses on simplicity, self-healing, and relaxation techniques.

Winter/Spring Retreat (Tenet: Spirituality): Urban Servant Corps, sister organization to BSC, is based in Denver, CO. These two alternative retreats will allow each organization to visit the other and learn about serving in each location. This retreat is a busy one no matter if you are the hosts or the visitors; it is meant to help our different groups to see what spirituality means in our different contexts and to foster positive relationships between the two communities.

Mini Retreat: As the year speeds ahead, it becomes increasingly important for volunteers to practice self-care. This retreat is a community check-in to assess the care of community members and provide an opportunity for brief reflection and relaxation.

Closing Retreat (Tenet: Social Justice): As your time with the BSC comes to a close, volunteers spend time processing their year and looking ahead to the future. This retreat allows the community to process their time together, and experience and learn about closure. A reverence to the year’s growth and learning is emphasized along with reflection about what all of this means in the context of each person’s journey with social justice.

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What do most volunteers do after their year of service?

On the border, volunteers are inspired, humbled, challenged, and changed…some may even say volunteers are “ruined for life.” Now, in all parts of the world, BSC alumni continue to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly in a myriad of capacities; doctors, lawyers, ministers, social workers, educators (just to name a few).

In recent years, about twenty percent of volunteers have chosen to stay for a second year of service with BSC; some participate in additional years of service through other volunteer programs, both nationally and internationally. At times, volunteers are hired at their placement site or offered other positions within the community. Others continue in their education through graduate school.

For qualifying volunteers, AmeriCorps Alums gets alumni connected, equipped, and engaged in order to foster their natural leadership drive and potential. The alumni network helps make connections with fellow alumni across the United States and hosts a database for Career Development that includes a Career Survey, a Career Center, and Professional Development opportunities.

No matter their course of action after a year of service, volunteers find themselves more informed about themselves and the world around them in order to continue in their pursuit of doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with their God.

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I have more questions. Who should I contact?

Please feel free to contact us; we are happy to hear of your interest! For more complete information, see Contact BSC.

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