St Innocent Service Works Internship Residency

The SISW Gap Year Residency offers a 3 month to a 24-month extended practicum where residents 18 years and older participate in a service-learning leadership course practicing local ministry and volunteer outreach. Participants will live in a community and learn how to see and serve Christ in the Other. 

The SISW Gap Year Residency combines 3 areas to develop service learning leadership.  

  1. Our curriculum of service-learning education prepares you for fieldwork and guides you throughout your entire time in the field.  
  2. Our residential living community connected to the church allows you to apply the leadership lessons throughout your life and nurtures your prayer life
  3. Our philanthropic service sites allow a variety of opportunities to serve in humanitarian, recovery, and community-building efforts.

Building homes for the unhoused, aiding in recovery from natural disasters, or supporting a community project such as a school, monastery, or working at a local community-based organization, your service will be Christ-centered and focused on the human element.

We also offer opportunities for full-time positions to seminary graduates! 

The SISW leadership intern program combines 3 main areas to develop service learning leadership.  

  • Our Curriculum is in service learning education and prepares you for field work, and guides you throughout your entire time in the field, whether 3 months, 6 months, a year, or longer.  
  • Our community of service includes a residential living community. Living together in community, connected to the church, creates a true residential learning program that allows you to apply the leadership lessons throughout your life and nurtures your prayer life, so that you can live, work, and pray in community.
  • Our philanthropic service sites allow a variety of opportunities to serve in humanitarian, recovery, and community building efforts. Whether building a house for a homeless family, helping a family recover from natural disaster, or building up a community project such as a school, monastery, or working at a local community based organization, your service will be Christ-centered and focused on the human element. We partner with a variety of local organizations and international organizations to bring volunteers to the field.

Parish Priest Referral Letter Template


Our program focuses on Service Learning Leadership in a variety of environments. Trainings are lead by our skilled coordinators at the outset of the season and throughout to ensure resilience, readiness and prayerful connection.


As Christians, we help others because we see Christ in the Other. To serve in Christ is a faithful commitment to humanity. We believe a commitment to serve others provides an abundance of giving and lifts the world.


You will lead group building projects through the season. Being flexible and a self-starter is a must. Your service learning will continue throughout this time and mentorship will also be provided. We will be with you every step of the way.

In a world full of people suffering from alienation and estrangement from their own selves, from others and from God. Hospitality is needed. It means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. It is not to change people but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring others to our side but offer freedom. It is not an invitation to adopt the lifestyle of the host but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own” – Henri Nouwen.

Frequently Asked Questions


Why serve with us?  
We all find many opportunities to serve in our local community, but often these opportunities offer a singular experience of service without context. SISW offers leadership, service, and humanitarian assistance components that you can take and apply at home and in your everyday life. You will gain a mental framework to reaffirm your desire to serve others and understand practically how to apply this framework in your everyday life so that you may live a life of service. This is what Christ mandated in the gospel and we are here to help you to put the Gospel into action. Truly loving our neighbor as ourself. First, you must be able to see your neighbor before you can properly help them. SISW curriculum flows from the orthodox theological ontology of the human person as expressed by St. Silouan.

Who will you serve?
St. Innocent Service Works provides volunteers an active, engaged, and reflective experience in helping their fellow human in need. In joining a trip you can volunteer as an individual or as a group to assist service organizations to do their good works. Your group can be a force multiplier and simultaneously receive a component of the St. Innocent Service Leadership Program’s core components of loving Christ in the Other.

What will I do?
As an SISW Intern, you will have leadership and site specific, skill-based training, as well as learn the theology of seeing Christ in the other. You will live and work and pray in community. You will be assigned a site location, mentor to assist throughout your internship and will be expected to lead group trips to this location when they are scheduled.  You will also have the opportunity to work in incredible locations including Tijuana, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Canada and other domestic locations that could include locations such as Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas and other locations.

What Should I Expect as an Intern in a Foreign Country?
As in any ministry, our work in Mexico as well as other locations is tremendously challenging and often very difficult. Along with that challenge, however, comes great reward for the right person. It is an opportunity to put your faith into action and to experience God at work in and through you. The blessings are countless!

What Kind of Challenges Will an Intern Experience?
This type of work, however, is not for everyone. St Innocent Service Works minister in third-world, cross-cultural and missionary settings. Coming to serve with us is not the equivalent of a vacation, a school semester abroad or a spiritual retreat at a monastery. The hours can be long, work is hard and dirty, culture is different, accommodations are basic, and language barriers can be frustrating.

What Does Service Mean?
Serving as a SISW Intern requires tremendous sacrifice and a willingness to serve selflessly. In becoming an intern, you are becoming a missionary of the Church and a representative of the ministry of St Innocent Service Works. You are becoming a role model to all Orthodox Christians who come to volunteer at SISW. You will be in a position to affect many other people’s lives. Because of this, you will be expected to maintain certain standards, not only in your work, but also in your spiritual life and personal conduct. Spending a week on a SISW Building Trip can be a wonderful experience and for many, it is a milestone in their Christian life. It provides an opportunity to be immersed in the faith with other Orthodox Christians while experiencing a different culture and serving Christ and His church in a very tangible way. As an intern, you will continue to experience these things, but in the context of a more normal, daily schedule with all its ups and downs.

How Does Serving as an Intern Compare to a Week as a Homebuilding Volunteer?
Serving as a volunteer for a week is often a powerfully positive experience where it is easy to overlook the difficult things – because you know you’ll be going home in a few days. Serving as an intern for a longer period of time is a different kind of experience. Suddenly, things that you viewed as quaint or interesting (like dirt roads and eating beans) become frustrating. Acceptance, patience and flexibility become key to endure some of the challenges you will face. Immersed in a different cultural environment you will have to adapt to challenges within a cultural context that might be unfamiliar to you and this will require you to adapt your expectations. All of these experiences can be very positive and lead to tremendous personal growth, but
they will not be easy.

Will There Be Other Orthodox at the Mission Site(s)?
You will be serving as an intern in a mission setting. Most week-long groups are composed of Orthodox people, many of whom have been Orthodox their entire lives and come from families that have been Orthodox for generations. They have had the incredible blessing of growing up in an Orthodox church with a full-time priest, Sunday School programs, youth activities, etc. Many week-long groups also are blessed to have a priest come along as a member of their group and minister to the spiritual needs of the group on a daily basis.

However, St. Innocent Orphanage is a mission parish. Until 20 years ago, an Orthodox
parish never existed in this part of the world and none of the Mexicans in the area were Orthodox. The Mexican Orthodox community at St. Innocent Orphanage is growing in its faith and practice. However, it is always necessary to remember that it is a mission setting and some adjustments must be made accordingly.

As an Intern Will I Need to Culturally Sensitive?
Yes. Likewise, in other building locations, you may be working with people who are of different Christian faith, or perhaps with those who are not religious entirely. These locations may also be very different culturally to what you are used to. In all instances, it’ll be your responsibility to be a faithful servant of God and a sound representative for the Church. Thus, interns are called upon to maintain an attitude of service and humility. As guests in foreign locations and ambassadors for Christ, it is essential that you conduct yourself with the attitude of a servant – that of regarding others’ needs as more important than your own. It is often said, “Even the best-laid plans go awry.” This is never truer than when one is in an impoverished area. In these areas, often times things do not run as smoothly as we expect or hope.

Therefore, throughout your internship, interns will need to maintain:
● a positive attitude
● a desire to serve in whatever way is needed
● an ongoing willingness to be flexible
● a desire to grow in Christ-like love

As an intern, you will leave St Innocent Service Works with strong leadership skills, an
enhanced work ethic, a greater appreciation for life, a better understanding of the faith and perhaps most importantly, make lifelong friends in the process.

What Does the Intern Role Include?
The intern role is, first and foremost, a leadership role. Each intern will be in charge of leading volunteers through the entirety of the building process. The scope of an intern’s role is diverse. Depending on ability, personal preference, and need, each intern will find themselves filling an important role in facilitating all that goes on at SISW. This ranges from socializing with group members to cleaning up dirty bathrooms to plastering a home with stucco. Each intern will be required to fulfill any and all tasks that come up throughout the summer.

What are Some Other Responsibilities Expected of Interns?
● Leading morning and evening prayers
● Chanting
● Serving meals
● Providing one-on-one mentorship to volunteers
● Providing one-on-one mentorship to other interns
● Interacting with the volunteers
● Facilitating the build site & clean up
● Delivering tools to work sites
● Liaising with partner organizations and being our point person in your location
● Leading caravans to and from the border or arranging transportation from local
● Be a team player and easy to work with
● Take on leadership duties such as organizing operations, delegating duties and
holding briefings and any other duties assigned to you…

What Can an Intern Expect After the Internship?
An intern will leave SISW with strong leadership skills, an enhanced work ethic, a greater appreciation for life, a better understanding of the faith and perhaps most importantly, be a representative of Orthodox leadership.

Does an Intern Need to Know Spanish?
Location dependent Spanish fluency – Your range of fluency will be taken into consideration during placement to a location. For our Mexico & Puerto Rico builds, Spanish will be a definite plus. If accepted to these locations, interns will be expected to work on their Spanish skills prior to the internship start.

What About Dress Code, Socializing and Dating?
Personal Conduct – As an intern, you will be required to sign a document agreeing to strict regulations regarding curfew, smoking, alcohol and drug use, weapons, dress code, and dating. Failure to follow these regulations is ground for immediate dismissal.

Who Does the Intern Report to?
Supervision – If accepted as our Build Intern, Build Medic Intern or Work Trip Intern, our Intern Coordinator will provide both remote and onsite training prior to you leading your first group. During this time, you will learn to be comfortable with leading briefings, small groups, prayers and one-on-one mentoring.

For our Work Trip Interns, you will also learn important skills in organization, how to communicate professionally, project management, process management and time management. Once deployed, you will report to both our Intern Coordinator and our Volunteer Coordinator, specifically with regard to groups and communicating between our partner organizations and us.

For Pastoral Build Interns, you will report duly to our Intern Coordinator, as well as, to our Executive Director.

As a Media Intern, you will report remotely to our Marketing Director. Support and mentorship will be provided throughout your internship, but you will also learn to lean on each other for support.

Each person’s full participation is required to maintain a spiritually healthy environment within the intern community. Our hope is that each person matures in their faith during their tenure.

Does an Intern Have to be Warm and Welcoming?
Yes! You are a representative of St Innocent Service Works and an Orthodox Leader. One of the most important roles as an intern is to host volunteer groups of all ages that travel from across the country to participate in our building program. Doing this every week can get tiresome. There can be a tendency on the build site to focus on getting the job done as quickly and as efficiently as possible. This expectation can often lead to frustration when things do not go according to plan. When you are tired, it is easy to retreat from volunteers feeling like your work is done. In all such instances we should never lose sight of our mission to offer a hospitable environment for people to encounter the love and compassion of Christ. We must approach each person as we would approach Christ Himself. The more we can model His patience, His gentleness, His love and humility, the more we can truly bring His presence in our encounters with others. This is only possible by the grace of God as we strive to recenter ourselves and each other spiritually throughout the day and persist in our daily quiet time with God, in prayer and meditation of Him.

Each of our volunteers will be going through their own challenges and struggles in life and SISW should provide a space to experience the love of Christ through His living presence in each other.

As interns you are an important part of this experience and this responsibility should not be underestimated. Your interactions with our guests should always draw them closer to God as you offer grace in the midst of challenging interactions and demands. You should look for opportunities to engage those who seem alone, or who might need some support in getting involved socially with others. For young and old, the volunteer experience with SISW can be spiritually life-changing and it is a wonderful blessing to work in synergy with God in touching the lives of others.

Please take the necessary time to reflect on the issues mentioned above, talk with your family, and receive the counsel of your priest. Your decision to apply for an internship is an important one and should be made prayerfully with the input of those who love you and know you best.

Make a positive impact!

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