My name is Pepe Esteso. I am 29 years old. and I am a Lasallian. And I am Lasallian not by chance but by vocation.
My story as a LV may be a bit atypical. I am not American, nor did I study at a Lasallian college or university in the United States. I was born in Valencia, Spain, and went to La Salle Paterna, junior, middle and high school. I grew up in the Lasallian family. I made my friends. I discovered many things thanks to my teachers, and I knew myself, thanks to the Lasallian spirituality and interiority. I met the Brothers and lived with them. I learned a lot and, in short, I made my life around Saint John Baptist de La Salle.
I grew up, and I found a job in the same school where I studied as a child, but it was not enough. I had my house, my friends, my community, a job… but I needed something more. And I found it. I was accepted to serve as a Lasallian Volunteer, and I left everything—my country, my friends, my job—for a different country and language, a job I had never done before, a new community and a new adventure. An adventure I will never forget.
For many it was crazy, to leave my life, my tranquility, my comfort to live some new life, which could go well or badly, but, at the end of the day, Saint John Baptist de La Salle taught us that very thing. He left everything. He left his riches, his comfortable life and a promising future to dedicate himself to those most in need and, humbly, it is something I would like to compare my experience in Racine to.
During my time in Racine, I lived in the Casa Benedicta community, a small, austere and quiet community, with Brother Mike Kadow and two other volunteers, Evan and Nic.
There is one thing that unites us Lasallians all over the world. It is that spirit, that character of our own, that ease with which, without knowing each other at all, we can make a home for each other. In my different adventures in Peru, India, or Wisconsin, I have experienced that feeling from the first moment, that affection and closeness of the communities that accepted us as part of it, even temporarily, and allowed us to develop within them, to nourish myself from these communities and to be able to leave my small grain of sand.
I served at the John 23 Educational Center, for students with few resources and with desire to continue their studies, and in some public schools in Racine County, giving courses of growth, self-improvement and improvement of self-esteem.
Life in Racine was relaxed and calm, as was my time with Sr. Lois Aceto, from whom I learned a lot from her experiences. Miss Bodi and Miss Marisol who I worked with, helped me to understand the new reality in which to work, but above all, my time in Racine marked my life with the students. Boys and girls between 14 and 18 years old, eager to be heard, to have a place to meet, to express themselves, to have fun and to learn. Many times, my job was simply to accompany them, listen to them and make them the protagonists. And that very personalized service, where I could reach their hearts, get to know them, and it lives with lights and shadows. The best gift I take with me.
And on the other hand, there are the LVs with who I was able to live with and get to know better. I am very proud of them that they decided to choose this path, for their courage, their character and their service. Nic, without a doubt, and especially the Chicago community, who always accepted us as one of their own. Martin Montoya, an expat like me, who always supported me in this adventure.
No doubt that fear and giddiness at first turned into gratitude. I can say nothing but THANK YOU. I encourage all Lasallians to live an experience like this, to live in the community, to discover the limits of each one and to grow as a person.
I want to thank all the staff. They always supported us and trusted us.
There are no more words to express my gratitude and thanksgiving to ALL those who accompanied us during this year in Racine. Neither the pandemic, nor my plans to finish, nor a month of confinement, nor anything else, will erase that smile on my face every time I remember my experience as a Lasallian Volunteer.