Northgate II Jesuit Volunteer Believes Storytelling Can Inspire Change
Published on October 26th, 2020 in Fair Share Housing Development
Hi everybody! My name is Róisín (pronounced ROW-sheen) Goebelbecker, and I’m working at Northgate II through the Jesuit Volunteer Corp (JVC). I graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2019 with a double major in Film, Television, and Theater and American Studies. Going into college, I knew I loved creating theater and believed deeply in the power of stories to create social change. I also knew that I needed to learn more about injustice and marginalized populations, and found that American Studies, the study of American culture, was the ideal way for me to do so. Through these two majors, I came to appreciate the power of popular culture to promote messages/beliefs that influence people’s lives. While I’m not sure exactly how, I want to use my arts background to elevate the stories of marginalized people in order to create empathy and break down prejudice. This may look like community organizing, journalism, community engagement, directing, theater of the oppressed, or something I haven’t even discovered yet!
After spending last year performing in plays in Chicago and working at a startup, I felt like something was missing. While I was creating art that I loved, my work wasn’t grounded in social justice. I felt like I had lost that guiding focus. So, I decided to pivot. I applied to JVC so I could work directly with vulnerable populations and see if I might want a career in social services. I also wanted to immerse myself as fully as possible in the lived experience of marginalized people, to form relationships with people from different walks of life, and to hear their stories. I wanted to be “ruined for life” so that I never lose social justice as my primary motivation again.
While I am very sad to be away from my family during this time, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement further rooted me in my decision to do JVC. With so many people out of work, isolated, and in desperate need from the pandemic and then with the stark reminder that Black and Brown people must live in constant fear for their lives, I knew I needed to do something active to address those issues. Working at Northgate II is a fantastic opportunity to spend my days with people who are both most at risk of being harmed by the pandemic and have also lived long lives impeded by racism. They are also people with incredible stories to share and wisdom to give.
The seniors at Northgate II have been incredibly welcoming and generous with their patience as I get settled here in the office. I’ve learned that they are exceptionally resilient, but they are also tired. They are tired of having to stay apart from one another and from their families and are anxious to return to normal activities. My primary role with social services is to address this social isolation as an impediment to health. While this is quite the challenge in the time of social distancing, we have begun some small, separate, and masked activities such as Bingo and Arts and Crafts. It has been an honor to share in their joy! I also have the opportunity to form individual relationships with residents through social service coordination, when I work alongside them to connect them to the support they deserve. I’m learning so much from my coworkers and the residents and am looking forward to a year filled with growth, support, creativity, and lots of stories!