Meet a Volunteer: Cecilie Kern
Cecilie is serving as an immigration paralegal at CARECEN, the Central American Resource Center, one of our Washington, DC placements. Originally from Palo Alto, CA, she is a recent graduate of Occidental College.
What have you been doing at your placement?
As an immigration paralegal, I help clients to apply for a wide range of immigration benefits, from temporary status to citizenship. I am involved in the process from beginning to end – from intake screenings, to collecting information for immigration forms and translating documents, to finally sending applications to the relevant government agencies. I love that I get to interact with clients every day and use my Spanish skills to help the community.
What is one thing you love about community living?
I love the support and love that comes from being part of a program that is so driven and centered around community. I feel so humbled that my Junia House community has been there for me during all the challenges and joys of adjusting to life in a new city. Living in such an intentional space with such talented, caring and mature people has taught me a lot about myself, and how I approach my year of service. Also, after a long and sometimes exhausting day of work, there is nothing better than coming home to a house full of friends, and sharing a thoughtful conversation over a homemade and lovingly-prepared dinner and a glass of wine.
What has been one surprise, challenge or learning this year?
So far, I have learned a LOT about immigration law. I have no academic background in law or immigration issues, but it has been very fun and rewarding to learn new skills and gain new knowledge, and to be able to use my (very limited) expertise to help others. I have also been surprised (and delighted) at how quickly the relationships between the members of Junia House have blossomed and thrived. While we have shouldered challenges as well as celebrations, we have done it with grace and character. For people who had never met each other only a few short months ago, you would never know it looking at us now!
What do you value about your relationship with the Loretto Community?
From day one, the Loretto community has been so supportive of the volunteers. The sisters of the Motherhouse, as well as the sisters and co-members in Washington DC, have welcomed us into their community so swiftly and so lovingly, and they have all been very generous in sharing their stories and experiences with us. It has been so invigorating to spend so much time with such passionate people!
What advice to you have for someone considering doing a year of service?
In the words of one of my favorite teachers, "Know why you're doing what you're doing." Nothing about a year of service is apathetic. I am constantly inspired by the great effort and purpose that infuses the work of the Sisters of Loretto and the wonderful people I live and work with. This is not to say you need to know exactly where you're going in life. I know I personally have a lot of learning and discernment to do before I have the confidence to articulate what direction I'm headed in. It has been very important for me, though, to identify a base ambition or desire that can center me amid the twists and turns. Having this fundamental purpose to reflect on has been a useful guide during the overwhelming times during my service.
The Loretto Volunteer Program pairs young adults with social justice organizations for a formative year of service. Through meaningful work and communal living, volunteers live out the Loretto Community's mission to work for justice and act for peace - guided by the core values of social justice, community, simplicity and spirituality. Winner of the 2013 Call To Action Leadership Award, the Loretto Volunteer Program proudly prepares young adults to begin lives of public service.
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