Thursday, December 27, 2012

Getting Things Done with Bon Secours

Katharine McDonald is from Arlington Heights, IL and studied biology and global health at Northwestern University. She served as the Patient Liaison in the Emergency Department at Bon Secours Hospital in Baltimore through the Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry. Her day-to-day functions included providing hospitality and support to patients and families in the ED, assisting with personal needs, comfort care, and communication with the nursing staff. 

My biggest project as an AmeriCorps Member was to bring a domestic violence program to our health system. Working with one of our ER nurses, I found the Lethality Assessment Program to help us effectively screen for domestic violence and form a relationship with a local domestic violence resource center. As a result, we were able to provide concrete help to any victims we identified.

The program is designed to assess the danger a domestic violence victim faces, specifically her/his likelihood of being killed, and it aims to reduce the number of deaths attributed to domestic violence. It has produced excellent results in other healthcare and non-healthcare settings in Maryland, and we became the first hospital in Baltimore City to implement the program. I spearheaded the efforts to construct a standard operating procedure, write and revise hospital policies, create the screening and assessment forms, select informational materials to use when educating our patients about domestic violence, get all this approved, and schedule trainings for the staff involved across many health system sites. I am handing program coordination over to the ER nurse with whom I've been collaborating this year, and the program is expected to be in full swing in the next three months. We are excited that our health system will have a good screening tool and a clear and effective way to respond to victims of domestic violence by calling on a knowledgeable, responsive resource and following a defined protocol. We hope that this program will fill a previously unmet need for our patients and help to combat domestic violence in our community.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Day in the Life of an Amigos de Jesus Volunteer: Kristin Mullen-Muhr

Kristin Mullen-Muhr is originally from Arlington Heights, IL and graduated from the University of Dayton with a degree in music education. Along with her seven other community members, she is currently serving as a volunteer with Amigos de Jesus, a home for over sixty abused and abandoned children located in rural Honduras. Read more about a typical day in her life as a volunteer. 

My day begins with a 5 minute walk from the volunteer house to the Amigos de Jesus grade school (preschool through sixth grade), where I spend most of my day.   

During the regular school day (7:15 A.M-1:15 P.M) I spend my time teaching music and art classes as well as tutoring students individually. Each of my five classes receives one art class and one music class per week. My classes are small (ranging from six students to ten) which really helps me to get to know my students well.
After school, I walk with the kids and teachers to eat lunch with the entire Amigos de Jesus family in the comedor (dining hall). The meals always begin and end with a prayer which is led by one of the kids. A typical lunch includes tortillas, rice and some type of meat (usually chicken). We also get to drink fresh fruit juice that has been prepared from some of the fruit grown on our property.
After lunch, everyone returns to the schools for two hours of after school programs. The first hour is designated for tutoring and doing homework. In the second hour, the students get to choose two talleres (workshops) which include music, dance, sports, library, and English. I teach the music taller with one of the older boys. Right now, the students are learning how to play various popular songs on the ukuleke and Honduran folk songs on the xylophone.
Two days a week, my volunteer community and I get to prepare our own meal and eat it in the volunteer house. It’s nice to be able to share stories about our day as well as talk in English for a little bit. Community dinner is always followed by some sort of community activity, whether it is a night to just play games and have fun as a community or a spirituality night. The other five dinners, we get to eat in the comedor with the kids.
One of my favorite parts of the day comes after dinner when we get to just spend time with the kids. Whether it is a heated game of capture the flag, a good conversation while looking at the stars, or an impromptu music lesson, I really love this opportunity to get to know a different side of our kids. 

Each day ends with prayer circle. It is such a peaceful and meaningful time of the day because all of the Amigos family joins hands and is given the opportunity to say their prayers and intentions out loud. It is really beautiful to not only listen to the way the kids pray, but also to listen to my fellow volunteers and co-workers offer their intentions. After saying the Our Father and Hail Mary, it’s time to give everyone a hug and say buenas noches.

Getting Things Done with YSOP

Cristina Varriale reflects on her time serving with Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP), a CVN-AmeriCorps program that encourages community participation among young people by engaging them in direct service to homeless and hungry people. As a teacher, Varriale has seen how much of an impact participating in YSOP has had on her students, her colleagues and herself.

What attracted me most to being an AmeriCorps Member with the Youth ServiceOpportunities Project (YSOP), which provides service-learning workcamps for students who are interested in learning about hunger and homelessness, was that it was a total immersion experience.  My students, colleagues and I would not only be asked to prepare and share a meal with homeless guests and serve at various work sites the following day, but we would be required to sleep on a floor and forgo some of our modern day comforts such as cell phones and fast food.  Clearly, we would not be experiencing what it feels like to be homeless, but we would be getting a small taste of what it feels like to go without- even for a little while.  They were small sacrifices that would have a deep impact on all of us.

I will never forget that first workcamp my students, colleagues and I participated in.  The students who came were not in honors classes.  They were not leaders in student government or star athletes. One of the students participating was even in a wheel chair.  But they all shared some things in common: a desire to learn about hunger and homelessness, and more importantly, to give back to their community.  The experience of working side by side with my students, listening to their thoughtful and reflective questions, was nothing short of profound.

Over the course of this AmeriCorps year, I have had the privilege of leading a vast variety of students in service-learning workcamps. I never cease to be inspired when I observe these students stretch beyond their personal boundaries and comfort levels to share themselves openly with our homeless guests.  My favorite part of these workcamps is when I’m leading the evening reflection and I hear the students share how their expectations and preconceived judgments about people who are homeless were shattered within the first five minutes of meeting our guests.  And I especially love when the student who perhaps doesn’t always shine as bright as their classmates finds a little more confidence through their service.

It is hard for me to adequately express my gratitude for this AmeriCorps year of service.  This experience allowed me to do something I love and share a greater part of myself with my students, as well with students from many other schools and youth organizations.  I believe being an AmeriCorps member has helped me grow as a teacher, counselor, mentor and, most importantly, a conscientious member of my community. I hope to continue my service with AmeriCorps and will continue to advocate for my students’ participation in the program as well.