Thursday, April 27, 2017

I Chose Service - Abigail Cerezo, Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry

When you are preparing to graduate, you have lots of options. This series highlights people who chose service, and how the volunteer experience has made an impact on their lives.

Name: Abigail Cerezo
Volunteer Program: Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry
Location: Baltimore, MD
Hometown: Barrington, RI
College: Stonehill College, 2016, Biochemistry with a concentration in the pre-med track

How did you first learn about post-graduate service? I’ve always known about the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps through people I grew up with, but I was really introduced to more opportunities in post-grad service when I went to Stonehill. I was very active in my campus ministry’s service immersion program (HOPE) for 3 years. Before students could leave on their trips we had months of education, conversation, and reflection about what Christian service is. During that time we always had one seminar about the “O” in HOPE, organizing for justice. In that space our campus minister had alumni come and talk to us about post-grad service and how we could organize for justice after our HOPE trip came to an end.

What other options were available to you, and why did you decide on Bon Secours? I only applied to one post-grad service organization, Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry.

Tell us about your service experience. I was placed as a patient liaison within the acute in-patient unit of Bon Secours Baltimore Hospital in West Baltimore. I practice a ministry of presence with my patients. I did not realize how difficult this would be. Hearing my patients’ stories of their struggles and pains pulls at my heartstrings every day. Despite the challenge of simply being a witness to their suffering, I feel God’s presence strongly when I create and nurture these relationships. My patients have taught me so many lessons about life, faith, and hope, and they make me want to come back to work every day.

Community life has been one of the most difficult parts of my year of service. Putting six people with different upbringings, cultures, and personalities sounds like a recipe for disaster. But in my experience, all the struggles are worth the laughs, smiles, and growth the community shares throughout the year. My community helps me through my difficulties at my service site, my fears for the future, and any other obstacle that may come my way. They have become my Baltimore family and I am extremely grateful for them.

What benefits have you gained from this experience that you might not have received otherwise? I believe that I have grown in my listening and interpersonal skills. The main part of my job involves meeting and interacting with new people, and to listen to my patients with compassion and understanding. Sometimes it can be difficult, but I have developed a lot of patience and understanding from difficult circumstances.

What advice do you have for someone considering post-graduate service? I think people considering post-graduate service should take the discernment process slowly and seriously. Doing a year of service has been the most difficult feat in my life thus far, but with that, I have grown volumes in the time I have been in Baltimore. You need to be okay with constantly stepping out of your comfort zone, breaking down your walls to become vulnerable with others, and allowing yourself to receive. It has been a challenging journey, but if you’re open to the experience, you won’t regret it.

To learn more about post-grad service opportunities, check out our RESPONSE directory, listing thousands of opportunities across the United States and abroad.