Cecilie Kern graduated in 2012 from Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA, where she majored in Diplomacy and World Affairs and Spanish Literary Studies and minored in Cognitive Science. She is originally from Palo Alto, CA. Last year Cecilie served as a Loretto Volunteer at CARECEN in Washington DC, where she worked as an immigration paralegal. This year she is doing a second year of service with the Loretto Volunteer program.
What have you been doing at your placement?
This year I am serving as the as the Loretto Community's assistant NGO representative to the United Nations. As the international community finalizes its post-2015 development agenda, Loretto and other values-based civil society organizations play an important advocacy role, ensuring that the voices and the rights of the people at the grassroots are included and protected in global policies. We do this by organizing and actively participating in events to draw attention to important issues, and creating documents and other resources that can be shared with policy-makers. I really enjoy the atmosphere of partnership that exists between the different NGOs as we work together to tackle issues relating to international migration, the rights of girls, mining (which combines sustainable development and human rights) and financing for development. I also love sharing our work at the UN with the broader Loretto community, whether it's inviting students and community members to come to New York for the annual Commission on the Status of Women in March, or by managing our website and social media.
What is one thing you love about community living?
I'm lucky enough to have two communities! Even though I'm the only Loretto Volunteer in New York, I connect regularly with current and former volunteers and other members of the Loretto community, and I still get to live in intentional community with other volunteers (I'm living with four lovely Mercy Volunteer Corps members). It is wonderful to live with people who are not just supportive of the values that are the foundation of our program, but who are actually enthusiastic and committed to community and social justice. I'm very grateful for my various communities as they challenge and support me every day, whether it's through deep discussions about social issues, weekly simplicity challenges, reflections and explorations of spirituality or just laughing and hanging out at the dinner table.
What has been one surprise, challenge or learning this year?
Living in New York on a stipend is no easy task! Budgeting for food and household items and finding fun things to do in the city can be quite difficult in such an expensive area. This challenge helps me to focus on the value of simplicity, and while this requires some sacrifices (for example eating less meat, or walking or biking instead of using public transportation), it has also helped me to explore the city in ways that I might not have done otherwise. Walking to farmer’s markets, finding the free days to go to museums and botanical gardens, looking at the intricate window displays at Christmas time, or just hanging out at a park or by the river are just some of the low-cost ways I have been able to enjoy this energetic city that has so much to offer.
What do you value about your relationship with the Loretto Community?
Whether it's listening to a story at the Motherhouse, standing together at the picket line or working at the United Nations, I am constantly energized and inspired by the passion and commitment of this community. I feel very fortunate to work with the Loretto Community every day, working on issues of human rights peace and justice. Since my work this year is so deeply infused with the mission and spirit of Loretto, I have a great appreciation of the hard work, forward thinking and determination that have helped to nourish this community and those they serve over the years. I value the support and mentorship that I have received from the co-members here at the UN, who have encouraged me to pursue my interests and explore areas that I think I need to work on.
What advice do you have for someone considering doing a year of service?
Come in to this experience with an open heart and an open mind. Throughout the year, there are so many chances to expand your horizons and learn from your housemates, the people you work with, the community. A year of service will also hold many challenges and opportunities for personal development: living with new people, adjusting to a new city, learning the intricacies of a new job, living in an intentional community and many more. A year of service, just like any other experience in life, will have bumps along the way, but it will also have moments of joy and growth. Things might not always go as planned, but patience, flexibility, determination, a little faith and a sense of humor go a long way in getting through the rough patches with grace and emerging stronger than before.
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