I work at Family Care Health Center, which is a health clinic that provides family medicine, women's health, dentistry, optometry, health education and counseling services to uninsured and under-insured members of the St. Louis community.While my official title is "wellness coordinator," a more descriptive title might be "literacy, nutrition, and preventative medicine promoter." I am responsible for a variety of ongoing projects at the clinic. The literacy promotion aspect of the job involves encouraging parents to actively seek out opportunities to read with their children and assist them in developing literacy skills. I do this by giving books to pediatric patients when they come in for a checkup, explaining to parents how early exposure to books benefits their children, and sometimes demonstrating how to read in a way that allows the child to be an active participant. Another task for which I am responsible is reviewing patient files for one of the primary physicians and making note of what vaccines, cancer screening tests, and health education programs are indicated for each individual. I have also been assisting in a nutrition and healthy lifestyle class the clinic offers to patients and will soon begin teaching some health education sessions on my own. I have also become a personal health coach for one patient with whom I meet privately to discuss eating habits and develop strategies for improving them. Finally, I have been planning and promoting a diabetes fair, an event at which the clinic's diabetic patients and their families will learn about managing and living well with the disease, enjoy healthy snacks, and get a chance to win prizes. Having so many projects has been keeping me on my toes, but that is what has made the work fun and interesting thus far!
It is a wonderful thing to be able to come home at the end of the day to people whom I can count on to support me in the challenges and frustrations of my daily work and who share in a commitment to developing their spirituality and simple lifestyle. Being a part of a community is a constant comfort and a challenge that has already allowed me to better understand myself, my world, and how I relate to others. They provide laughter, energy, and relief on days that are otherwise wearing.
What has been one surprise, challenge or learning this year?
I have discovered that I really struggle to slow down and take time to be quiet and still. I have become very accustomed to keeping myself busy with work and play at virtually all hours of the day (and sometimes night). I have been making an effort to devote some time every day to prayer and introspection so that I might be more mindful of my blessings and attentive to my faults. During this time, however, I have often found my mind spiraling into a to-do list or an impatience to get to my work, phone a friend, cook, clean, or exercise. It is my hope that through my continued effort to immerse myself in true quiet I will eventually become comfortable with the absence of noise and motion and make room in my life for deeper thought.
What do you value about your relationship with the Loretto Community?
Living a stone's throw from the Loretto's St. Louis center has been a tremendous blessing. The sisters and co-members immediately embraced us as part of the community and offered us a place to worship, to relax, to share our stories and feel that they are heard, and to be dazzled by the collective wisdom and experience of the community. Their constant support, energy, and interest in our work and personal development has opened my eyes to what is meant by the term intergenerational friendship.
What advice do you have for someone considering doing a year of service?
Take plenty of time thinking through what you want from your year and talk through your plans and options with someone, or someones, who know you well. Like every day of service and community living of which it is comprised, the year of service must be embarked on with intentionality fueled by passion for personal growth and common good. Only in the absence of passivity, apathy, and indifference toward one's choices and actions is the volunteer year beneficial to both servant and served.
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.