My faith. My career goals. Two totally different things, right? It seems impossible that religion and the workplace would have anything in common. Religion is what makes someone who they are and work is just what they do. In Spain, it’s a different story. In Spain, there’s Cáritas. Cáritas is the Spanish version of Catholic Charities, an organization that develops all the charity activities of the church. María Vivancos is the manager of this great treasure here in León. As the manager and member of a strong community María says, “when you see somebody having a bad time or suffering right next to you, you do not pass”. Most of the individuals involved are volunteers, around 95-97%, leaving María in the other 3-5%. María does a lot of the behind the scenes work, while the volunteers get to be out in the field.
She has worked for Cáritas for eight years in León, where they only have 20 official workers. At nearly every parish in the city there are groups of people that help make it all happen. People gather in the parishes every day and have helped almost 2,000 families this year alone. Volunteers are a huge part of the organization with over 700 steady volunteers. María is a humble helper and acknowledges, “We can do what we do because the community is engaged”. The idea of people helping people is at the root of María’s work and that’s why she loves doing what she does. There’s no one problem that the organization helps with, according to María it’s a little bit of everything.
People go to Cáritas when they need help and then Cáritas decides how to get them the best aid. There are programs for the homeless, immigrants, and those imprisoned; along with assistance for drug addicts, families, adolescents, and seniors. In addition, they have formed a network with the other charities in León to create the best opportunities to get people the help they need. These implementation programs all help people make their own living and more. Making people feel valuable is at the core of the work, and Cáritas always tries to give help in a dignifying way.
Truly unique to work in this field, “Our [Cáritas’s] main objective is that people stop coming here and they don’t need us anymore, that’s our main happiness.” It’s a rarity to have someone say that their main happiness is when they have no clients. It’s less about the work and more about building a stronger community. According to María, “People who are here working, are so engaged in what they do, and they believe in it so much that it’s your work but it’s also part of your lifestyle”. Imagine if we all saw our jobs in the way María see’s hers, not work but a lifestyle. A lifestyle built around helping others and sending the message of love. Faith, life, and career goals all united. Turns out it is possible, it is happening, and it’s inspiring.