Jessica and Ryan McCauley: Making a Difference, Together

Ryan and Jessica McCauley

Ryan and Jessica McCauley

By Whitney Hensler

Jessica McCauley, a first grade teacher at The Fay School, found a renewed passion for volunteering when she met her husband, Ryan, a Commercial Bank Relationship Manager at JPMorgan Chase. “Ryan has always been really passionate about volunteering and works with a lot of not for profit groups through his job,” Jessica said. “He renewed that in me. My parents would always tell us, ‘to those whom much is given, much is expected.’ Ryan really leads the way for both of us to do that.”

The McCauleys, who married in 2012, volunteer with a family of Congolese refugees through Catholic Charities and earned an Honorable Mention at the Catholic Charities’ National Awards for their efforts. Ryan called getting involved with the family a happy “twist of fate.”

“I was trying to get more involved with the refugee community, because I had been reading up a lot on where these poor people had been coming from,” Ryan said. “Things aren’t any easier when they get here. The opportunities for people without GEDs aren’t what they thought it would be. I talked to a few organizations, and at a World Refugee Day, I introduced myself to someone who was in charge of refugee resettlement at Catholic Charities. It was a match made in heaven.”

As volunteers, Jessica and Ryan help the family with things Ryan says most people would find “routine,” including filling out job applications, managing bank accounts and going apartment hunting. “This is a family who is trying to learn English and trying to hold down minimum wage jobs to pay the rent,” he said. “They’re fleeing a war torn country; they’re never going to be able to go back home. They have no belongings. They’re in a sea of chaos. Things we take for granted are more complicated for them.”

Jessica’s best memory of the family centers around something routine: making them their first grilled cheese sandwich. “It was the neatest moment. It was a life-changing experience for them,” she said. “It’s something you don’t give any thought to, but it was a huge moment for them. They thought it was a delicacy.”

Although they both acknowledged that helping the family is gratifying, Jessica said the perspective she and Ryan gain through working with the family is their real reward. “It’s what they give to us. They give way more to us as far as shifting our perspective and showing us how to appreciate things we take for granted,” she said.

“If you can imagine what they’ve been through to get here, uprooted from their village, they had to literally walk to a different country. They found their now five-year-old in the bushes while they were walking to Uganda and decided to bring her up as their own daughter,” said Ryan. “They do it all with a smile on their faces. They started fresh with a smile, not begrudgingly. That’s what we get the most out of. It’s a humbling experience being around them.”

Ryan said their involvement with the family had “no end game” and is a “long term thing.”

“Our goal is to help them get to a place where we hang out as friends instead of because they need help translating something or need help finding a job,” he said. “We’re really friends already. We’re just looking forward to the time when they tell us to come over to watch TV or have a barbeque.”

At the McCauley’s wedding in March, the family attended as guests. “We had no idea one of them was an awesome break-dancer,” said Ryan. “Sharing those moments really just as friends means so much to us.”

For more information regarding Catholic Charities, visit, or call 281-202-6200. For additional volunteer opportunities in Fort Bend County, call Volunteer Fort Bend at 713-965-0031 or visit