Where Are They Now? Former volunteers working in healthcare

By Cassie Kienbaum, Catholic Volunteer Network

We are delighted to bring you this new Staying Connected feature. “Where Are They Now?” articles will highlight volunteer alumni carrying out the spirit of service in different professions and ministries. This month we are getting to know some alumni who have dedicated their lives to work in healthcare.

Hi, my name is Jackie Harris I served in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with Cap Corps Midwest from 1998-2000.

What inspired you to serve?  I was involved with service as a college student at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. I knew service was not just good for me and the people I served, but also necessary for us. I also thought it was a great time in my life to be a full-time volunteer - after graduating from college but before graduate school, a career and having a family. My best friend (now also my husband) was volunteering with the Capuchin Franciscan Volunteer Corps (Cap Corps) in Milwaukee, and when I went to visit him I knew this was where I was called to be!

Where did you serve and what did a typical day at your service site look like?  The other volunteers and I would get up and sometimes attend prayers with the Capuchin monks in the morning. Then I would go to one of my volunteer sites. My time was split between St. Ben’s Community Meal and St. Ben’s Clinic for the Homeless. I worked as a volunteer coordinator with the meal site, so I would answer the phone, greet visitors, schedule community volunteers to help with the evening meal. Then I would assist the volunteers at the meal. I worked as an office manager at St. Ben’s Clinic for the Homeless, where I was the receptionist at the front desk.  I also managed supplies and worked as a phlebotomist at the clinic. After work at our service site, my community would have dinner and fellowship. We often shared meals with the Capuchins or other people associated with our ministry sites.

What is one memory from your time of service that has stuck with you? Why has it stayed with you? I had a conversation with a man at the meal one evening that changed my life. He told me that the two of us were not any different; we both have made mistakes and that I was fortunate enough to have people help me when I have made those mistakes. I became aware there was no longer any division between me and the people I served, and this helped me concretely realize we are all made in God’s image.

How has your service experience impacted your career path? I worked with some awesome nurse practitioners when I was at the health clinic and was inspired to go to graduate school in nursing because of them. I have worked with marginalized populations my entire career and currently work at a safety net/free clinic in rural Kansas. I also teach nursing students and service is something I emphasize in class.  I was fortunate enough to take some students on a medical mission trip to the Philippines last year with Family Missions Company and have co-taught a class called Mission and Encounter about service at the college.

What is your current profession and why did you choose to go into that practice? I am currently a nurse practitioner at the Atchison Community Health Clinic (a safety-net/free clinic) and a nursing professor at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. Nursing and teaching is a service, but working with the underserved population is something that will always be important to me, as I feel I am doing more service by working with the population at a free health clinic. I still get more out of helping others than I put in to my work. 

How did your time of service prepare you for your job? There are many ways that my time with Cap Corps prepared me for my job! I feel very comfortable working with vulnerable populations and feel that I can connect with almost any one. A service “way of life” was developed and nurtured during my time volunteering. This approach has improved my communication and relationship with my patients and my colleagues. Receiving more than you give has improved my job satisfaction and the meaning I get out of every interaction. 

My work brings me joy because … I get to help others and I feel that I am doing what God is calling me to do with my life right now. I also see Jesus in each one of my students and patients, especially when they are suffering.

Do you have any advice for volunteers who are wrapping up their year and transitioning out of their time of service? I remember this time being difficult. Try to stay connected to your program and service site and those people who are committed to service. Find new people who are service orientated and look for ways to bring your service “way of life” into whatever you are doing. Realize there are so many ways to serve outside of your volunteer program.

How do you stay connected to your program or service site? I stay in contact with some of my former colleagues, fellow volunteers and even a few guests from the meal.  My family makes regular visits back to Milwaukee and we try to see as many people from our volunteer days as possible; it has been incredible to take my children to volunteer at the meal site.    We also financially contribute to our service sites and Cap Corps and keep these people and places in our prayers.

Questions for fun:

What is your favorite color?  Blue

If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?  Greek salad with chicken

Would you rather be a bird or an aquatic animal? What specifically would you be and why?  A dolphin - they swim and are smart and have great communication skills.

 

Hi, my name is Nate Kittle I served in Chicago, Illinois with Amate House (Marjorie Kovler Center) from 2007-2008.

What inspired you to serve? Attending a Jesuit University (Creighton University) I was inspired by the social mission of the Gospel.  I knew that ultimately I wanted to go to medical school, but I was taught the value of spending a year working with and learning from an organization like the Marjorie Kovler Center.  I also wanted to gain experience living in community and growing with a group of other young adults who have a similar mission in life to myself.

Where did you serve and what did a typical day at your service site look like? I served at the Marjorie Kovler Center. As a case manager my day was varied.  I sat with clients helping them look through resources for housing, food, ESL, medical care and more importantly psychological care.  I did intake interviews which was the most heart-wrenching and eye-opening part of my job.  Most importantly I helped create a light and fun environment in a place where we were dealing with survivors of torture who were seeking a community and place to feel safe and secure.

What is one memory from your time of service that has stuck with you? Why has it stayed with you? At the Kovler Cooking Group, once a month staff members and clients would gather to cook a meal.  The "chef" of the night was tasked with organizing the group to help them prepare a meal from their country.  I ate amazing food from Haiti, DRC, Somalia, Ethiopia and Guatemala.  The most memorable parts of the night was the socializing that took place.  These evenings were a chance to get a glimpse of the clients in a social environment away from the desk and away from the trauma they have experienced.

How has your service experience impacted your career path? Since I was a child I knew I wanted to be a physician.  My time at Amate House and at the Kovler Center taught me the value of community.  It taught me how important other viewpoints are and how to respect cultures and beliefs different from my own.  My time in service gave me an opportunity to learn how important this community work is to my life and is a big reason I have become a Family Medicine Physician.

What is your current profession and why did you choose to go into that practice? Family Medicine resident physician in Seattle, WA.  I chose to go into family medicine because I really value community and the intimate relationships that I am able to develop with patients.  My goal as a family medicine physician is to learn about my patient's values and experiences and use this knowledge to improve overall health looking beyond physiological health.

Do you have any advice for volunteers who are wrapping up their year and transitioning out of their time of service? Please, please, please don't feel pressure to dive into a career.  I am so thankful that I have taken time to enjoy life and have experiences like what I had at Amate House.  I actually took another year to do service during medical school because life is way too short to start work and feel the pressure of a career in your early/mid-20s. 

How do you stay connected to your program or service site? I still went to Kovler cooking groups when I was in Chicago and stayed involved in the local Amate community.  Since leaving Chicago it has been a bit difficult, but I read the newsletters when they come out and most importantly I donate money when I am able!

Questions for fun:

What is your favorite color? Orange

If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be? French Fries

Would you rather be a bird or an aquatic animal? What specifically would you be and why? Bird - An eagle, soaring and going with the wind taking in the world below is a dream, and why I love flying so much!

 

Next up: Former volunteers in ministry to the homeless! Do you know a former volunteer working with people experiencing homelessness? We would like to interview them for our next edition of "Where Are They Now?"  Please send recommendations to Cassie Kienbaum at ckienbaum@catholicvolunteernetwork.org.

 

Staying Connected is a collaborative effort of Catholic Volunteer Network and the Catholic Apostolate Center.