Frequently Asked Questions
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It is easy to think that our world is too busy, too secular and too rough for the power of the “little virtues” and for the positive attitude of DeSales. The Oblates firmly believe that this world is exactly the place for Christianity. We believe the rough city of Camden is one place where we need to share Salesian spirituality. We have witnessed the life-changing impact of engaging in direct, face-to-face service with others. We have seen the results of treating people with the gentleness, honest humility, patience, kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity that Francis taught. DSW is a concrete way to manifest these teachings and make deliberate contribution to today’s world, one person at a time.
Camden, NJ, has been listed among the poorest of US cities for 40 years. It is a modest sized city across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. Like many US cities, industry and jobs left, property values dropped, buildings aged, and drugs entered the picture. Perhaps the surest indicator that Camden is at a low point is that an almost universal goal that residents aspire to is to “get out” of Camden. Despite all this, the city continues to be an entryway for new immigrants trying to make a home in the US.
Perhaps ironically, but definitely thankfully, there are many service groups here who are committed to this community—to help people advance —or at least to cope and to survive. The Oblates’ DeSales Service Works program has joined this effort to bring the clear power of Salesian spirituality and an organized outreach program to the good work going on here.
The volunteer house is a large, well-maintained house. It originally was two large row houses that are now connected by a “bridge” over the narrow alley that used to separate the two buildings.
The simplest answer is “yes”. People know who we are and respect our work here. In addition, our immediate block is home to five other service agencies. So we are in a very positive environment. Naturally it is important to be prudent when you visit any urban area.
Camden is a very poor city with so much need and there is a wide range of opportunities to address the needs aand to help people in concert with efforts of other service groups.
On the same block as the DSW House, there are five ministries: a medical center, a legal help center, a family center that particularly aids families who have been victims of violent crime, an amazing computer/web training center and a small Catholic grade school. No too far away there is a great soup kitchen/homeless outreach, a homeless shelter, an urban gardening project, a nursing home, a clothing center and various parish outreach efforts. Year-long Volunteers and participants in Salesian service retreats have the opportunity to work with these ministries and to learn about them, their people, and their work.