Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Mercy Volunteer Corps Volunteer: Stacy Konow

Stacy Konow grew up in Tinley Park, IL before attending Saint Xavier University.  She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing and graduated Magna Cum Laude. She participated in various service activities on Saint Xavier’s campus.  Now, Stacy is a Mercy Volunteer in St. Michael's, Arizona working at St. Michaels Association for Special Education.

Ya’ at’ eeh!! Greetings from the Navajo Nation! I hope you enjoy a “Day in the Life” Rez Style! I am currently living in Window Rock, AZ with 3 other Mercy Volunteers (our community actually totals 7, but we live in separate homes). My days usually start at about 6 or 6:15. I wake up, get myself together, and munch on some breakfast. Most mornings are spent with my housemate 
Jake (pictured below!). He teaches 6th grade at the local Catholic school, which is a different work site than me, so we like to chat in the morning. Since we are a decently large community, we do a lot of car-pooling amongst ourselves. As a result, I drive Jake to work and then pick up a fellow co-worker/Mercy Volunteer!

Before I dive into my work, please meet my wonderful housemates who I spend most of time my with. NaShia (top) is both a community member and fellow worker at SMASE! Mary Rose (bottom left) works with me in the Nursing Office at SMASE, too. And, like I said, Jake (bottom right) works at the Catholic school in St. Michaels. He also teaches 4th and 5th grade science. I spend a majority of my free time with my community members. They are a truly great group of people. I am blessed to have had such awesome community members. Although community living is challenging at times, every time we face struggle, we grow stronger as individuals and as a community. 

Here I am at work. My position at St. Michaels Association for Special Education (SMASE) is a Registered Nurse. SMASE is the only school on the Reservation specifically designed for Special Needs. A majority of my time is spent managing care for my clients. We schedule and take our clients to appointments, complete health assessments, draw blood, distribute medication, and are constantly on our toes! Our clients’ disabilities range from high-functioning to complete-care. I included a picture here of just our noon dose of medications for our clients to give you an idea of how many medications our clients take on a daily basis!

My day at SMASE ends at 4:00. From there, I head over to St. Michaels Indian School to coach the high school Track and Field team. There are 5 coaches total (4 of which are Mercy Volunteers!!). Our team has about twenty athletes; they are a joy to be around. Track and Field meets can be anywhere from thirty minutes to 3 hours way. Therefore, when we have meets they are usually all-day affairs. Here is a picture of a few of my athletes at our first meet. The athletes have already progressed so much. I cannot wait to see what they can do by the end of the season!

 On Thursdays, my day wraps up with a visit to St. Michaels Mission for Bible study. Attending these classes (with Mary Rose and NaShia) has been a lot fun. We always leave slightly exhausted, but full of energy. I think one of the most interesting aspects of the class is hearing how many of the Native people combine their traditional Navajo practices with their Catholic ones. Everyone comes with an open heart willing to listen to each other and share their own stories. Some of the best sessions have ended up in discussions about current events or beliefs we have.

Finally, here is a photo of all the Mercy Volunteers working in St. Michaels this year! There are 7 total, starting from the left (Diane, myself, Allison, Jake, Jamie, NaShia, Mary Rose). As a group of 7, we share in dinner and spirituality twice a month. We also have been able to do a lot of fun things together—like visit the local jail on Thanksgiving and serve a meal to the inmates there.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fully Possess Oneself to Fully Give Oneself

By Jen Coe, Lasallian Volunteer 12-13
Place of Service: Martin De Porres, Queens, NY

Jen Coe is from Monte Sereno, CA. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2012 with a B.A. in Psychology.   

I try to make it to weekday mass before work. One day recently, father spoke of self-possession. “We must fully possess ourselves to fully give ourselves.” For me, these words could not ring more true.
My service year thus far has been one of immense growth, complete with intense growing pains (I went from 5’4” to nearly 5’9” in middle school and I remember complaining to my father how much my knees and legs were hurting).  Until mass that day, I didn’t connect that I’ve been learning, trial-by-fire, the important relationship between self-possession and self-gift.

With my job as case manager at a residential high school for emotionally disturbed teenage boys, I can’t afford to live a life of extremes. I know what it’s like to go to work with little sleep (awful), I know what it’s like to go to work unprepared (stressful) and I know what it’s like to go to work in a bad mood (disastrous). This year is a crash-course in how to be an adult – I cannot get away with the disorganization that characterized my life for three-and-a-half of my four years of college. Then, I lived only for myself. Now, I have a duty to my community and to my students. I live for nineteen wild teenage boys, and whether or not they see or appreciate it, I need to be at my best every minute that I am at work. Self-possession, or self-discipline, is an important skill I am trying to acquire for the sake of myself and those I serve.

Social service is a field that demands one to continually give of oneself. You give your time and attention to students with issues like, “I have a toothache and my mom’s insurance card isn’t working, can you make me an appointment?” to “I feel abandoned by my family and don’t want to be in this place” to irate calls from parents, to surprise visits from state agencies.. One is constantly giving time and attention to all types of people and situations.

Self-discipline may have too much of an ascetic, medieval tone to it, but it is so very important for good work. I need to sleep. I need to smile and listen to others even when I don’t feel like smiling or listening. I need to do my paperwork in a timely manner. I need to read my work email instead of browsing the internet. I need to make sure I have time with friends so that I can be in a place of peace and happiness for my work. I need to model how to live a good life, so that when I give my students a hard time for playing 18 hours of video games over the weekend or for not communicating respectfully with their parents, I am not picking out their splinter in their eyes while the plank is in my own.

We learn more from what people do than what they say. Our world is inundated with words, most of them pretty useless. Actions are more powerful, and someone who does what he or she preaches is the kind of person I might stop and listen to.

Our faith has the most beautiful image of love: Jesus on the cross. That example of pure love, of most unselfish self-gift, moves me to action more profoundly than any words of a thoughtful hallmark card, any viewing of the Notebook, any poem of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (and I enjoy EBB!). Love in our faith is a dying to oneself for the sake of others and God. If I fully possess myself, I have grown in my ability to die constantly to myself. And if I have created that habit within, then I can more freely love and give to those around me.

Friday, March 15, 2013

CVN AmeriGear Day

AmeriCorps Week ends in a couple of days, but it's ending in style! Our staff is rockin' their AmeriGear today for CVN Wide AmeriGear Day.

CVN AmeriCorps Story Contest Winner: Siobhan Maloney

By Siobhan Maloney, Boys Hope Girls Hope

AmeriCorps Position: Academic Support Coordinator
As an AmeriCorps Member, my service at a non-profit in Southern California is sometimes a 24/7 situation. For nine months, I have been at Boys Hope Girls Hope; an organization that provides family-like homes to academically motivated and capable young people, along with scholarships to the most prestigious high schools in the area.

The scholars apply to our program and their families have to show a financial need. As a result, their circumstances are very different than the kids at their school. A handful of the children come from abusive homes while others are just from less than ideal situations. Some have been bounced from home to home, so needless to say, attempting to build a relationship with them was not the easiest task in the world.

They were apprehensive of adult authority, but by showing my loving nature and genuine interest, the walls were soon let down after a few weeks of being with them. In a way, we have been growing together, and although just children, they know that I was put into their lives – if only for a short time – for a reason.

Regardless of the scholars’ situation, or the struggles that they have experienced before the program, it cannot be easy for any child to leave their parents and enter a house of strangers. Truth be told, it was difficult for me to leave my parents as a young adult. This makes their lives so different from the very traditional upbringing that I was lucky enough to have in Buffalo, New York.

As the Academic Support Coordinator, I am officially involved in their academics.  But, as a live-in member of the home, I am involved in so much more. My experience of living in the community with the students is a unique opportunity, and one that I cherish as an AmeriCorps Member.

I have fallen into many different roles during my nine months at the program.  During homework time, I am an AmeriCorps tutor.  During meal time, I am a cook.  After meals, I am a maid; although the boys can be very helpful when they want to be! Once in a while, we will cook together and talk about school and what’s going on in their lives. To me, that is one of my favorite parts of my position.

However, one of the hardest parts of my role is when I have to discipline the boys for bad behavior or not keeping up with their homework assignments. As one of the only parent roles for them in Santa Ana, I get to see the good, the bad and the ugly.

At 23-years-old, I never would have thought I would be responsible for the wellbeing of all these kids, but at the same time, it gives me so much respect for my own parents. Sure, I was provided with an ideal upbringing, but I owe them so much more for the little things that they had done for me; lending an ear, teaching me lessons without me realizing it and shaping me to be a woman who genuinely cares about others. Living with six boys aged 12 to 18 years old, in addition to two other staff members, is a unique situation where I learn every day.

I am able to see the transformation in the lives of the youth, but I am also able to see a transformation within myself; I can take on the role of nurturing mother, trusting older sister and fierce video game competitor within the same hour. I am whoever they need me to be at that moment, while always keeping the mentor aspect in mind. Adolescence is such an important time in the development of humans.  So much of what one experiences at the time shapes and mold them, and in turn, will shape and mold the people around them.

Being part of AmeriCorps is like being part of a family. I feel that I always have someone to turn to and that makes this experience much more worthwhile. Sure, I can call up my friends or send an email, but at the end of the day, it really makes a difference when you chat with a fellow, or former, AmeriCorps member and it feels like they just “get” you. It’s an amazing feeling and helps me produce better results for the children and Boys Hope Girls Hope as a whole.

I am not only honored, but also blessed to be in the lives of these children; they needed a person to look out for them, to discipline them in a loving manner, and to just be there for them. I’ve found a place where I belong, but more importantly, so have the children.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

CVN AmeriCorps Photo Contest Winners!

Photo Contest Winner #1: Tiffany Tubby

Tiffany Tubby, an AmeriCorps Member with the Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Services, reads to a young child at a local Children's Book drive she helped organize for the East Harlem Community.

"The most rewarding parts of this year includes interacting with people who remember my name on the streets after I had spoken with them for only minutes, teaching and tutoring the children who gave me a big hug when they saw me, and communicating with a family using body gestures when words would not suffice. It was a blessing to see love inside such painful and dark circumstances." 

-Tiffany Tubby


Photo Contest Winner #2: Casey Sharp

Casey Sharp is an AmeriCorps Member with Colorado Vincentian Volunteers. As an Employment Aid at Lutheran Family Services, Casey assists refugees seeking and obtaining employment in order to attain early self-sufficiency. In this picture, Casey meets with Gheorghi, a refugee from Moldova.

"The most rewarding part of my AmeriCorps experience has been the opportunity to learn about our common humanity through my work with refugees from all over the world." 

-Casey Sharp 


Catholic Volunteer Network would like to thank all who participated in our photo contest. Your service is truly inspiring. We are grateful for the work all our AmeriCorps Members do to "get things done" for our nation.