Vulnerability, Dignity, and Dedication

2019-2020 Precious Blood Volunteer, Keven Cheung

by Keven Cheung, Precious Blood Volunteer at KC CARE Health Center

“So, what brings you in today?” is usually the first question I ask patients once I have brought them back to an exam room at KC CARE Health Care Center. Replies will range from a simple follow-up appointment to a long list of health concerns. Patients will reveal personal and intimate details of their lives within a short period of time. Perhaps it is the natural expectation of vulnerability that comes with seeing a healthcare professional or that being strangers makes the information less personal. Whatever the case, people come through the doors seeking help and willingly expose themselves physically and emotionally.

Many of the individuals that come to KC CARE are those that are most vulnerable in our society: uninsured, undocumented, underserved, or homeless. One of the questions I often ponder is how to uphold the dignity of those that I serve. It can be hard at times to balance the desire to sit and talk to patients with the responsibilities I am tasked with. Given the limited time and fixed schedules, upholding a patient’s dignity is often found in small actions. One example of this centers around women’s health. Women who come in for breast and cervical examinations will often be told to undress before the provider comes in so that less time is wasted waiting for the patient to undress. One provider, however, will always go into the room to talk with the patient before allowing them time to undress. After all, sitting there unclothed on the cold examination table with paper thin drapes over your body waiting for the doctor can be uncomfortable for anyone. This seemingly small decision is one way that I see the personalization of dignity in the clinic.

It is understandably hard to work in an environment that addresses suffering. There is only so much that I can do for a patient. Part of my work as a volunteer is to send referrals on behalf of patients to different specialities. Unfortunately, those without insurance are left with the option to either pay out of pocket or to be put on a waitlist for programs that could take up to a year, both of which only negatively exacerbate financial and physical burdens. The best I can offer sometimes feels vastly inadequate to the circumstances patients face. A phone call, fax, or phone number that patients can follow up with is usually only the first step in a long line of hoops they have to jump through. The best part of my day at times is when a patient finally picks up the phone after weeks of trying to contact them. I never expected to learn so much about the healthcare process through referrals.

A few months ago, I remember calling a patient about his referrals. His friend picked up the phone and told me that she and her husband were the ones that took care of and arranged for his health needs. In the few interactions we had, I was encouraged by her consistent responses over the phone and dedication to helping her friend. Many patients do not know how to, are unable to, or do not have someone to advocate for them. Their health issues can often be neglected in comparison to their other responsibilities. With so many fires to put out, no wonder patients miss appointments, phone calls, and medication refills. Working in the clinic has highlighted more problems than solutions, but I also recognize that the most effective way to create change will be a collective one. My hope is that my time in Kansas City will continue to prepare me to critically tackle these challenges as my role within healthcare further develops.

Keven is a current Precious Blood Volunteer serving at KC CARE Health Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
To learn more about becoming a Precious Blood Volunteer go to www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org

This article originally appeared in the March 2020 edition of the New Wine Press.

What I Learned as a Precious Blood Volunteer

Leah Landry with Sr. Donna Liette at PBMR

Leah Landry with Sr. Donna Liette, C.PP.S. at PBMR

by Leah Landry, Precious Blood Volunteer Alumna 2017-2018

I think about my year as a Precious Blood Volunteer at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation every day. Maybe it’s because I have only been gone for 16 months, but I have a feeling that my volunteer year will continue to influence the life I create for myself. I can already see its effect on my life in D.C.

My experiences as a Precious Blood Volunteer have also made me more intentional about being a part of a community. Knowing so many folks in the Back of the Yards neighborhood during my volunteer year and seeing them when I went to the grocery store or drove down the block was a wonderful feeling. My experiences as a volunteer have made me see myself not as just an individual; I constantly try to build more community around me because I realize that’s where I am happiest.

Another impactful change from my volunteer year that I have brought with me to my life in D.C. is my new understanding of systemic racism and privilege and the role I play in that system. This new lens spurred me to go to the Texas-Mexico border in June and support the migrant families that were being released from immigration prisons to the Catholic Charities of Laredo Shelter. Racism is not something I can witness or hear about and just feel bad about anymore. I saw the effects of this widespread, insidious system in Chicago and I feel compelled to work with others to dismantle that system.

My life looks different than it did 16 months ago. I have a new home, a new city, a new community, and a new job. But every part of my life has been and will continue to be shaped by the people, experiences, and lessons I had as a Precious Blood Volunteer. And while it might be less challenging to live in ignorant bliss, I am grateful that my experiences as a Precious Blood Volunteer are sticking with me and helping me live a life that is more authentically in line with who I want to be.

[Leah Landry served as a Precious Blood Volunteer during the 2017-2018 year. She is a graduate of Notre Dame University and a recipient of the Yarrow Award from the Kroc Institute at Notre Dame for her commitment to service in peace and justice. She currently works for Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C.]

3 Legs of Restorative Justice 

student surrounded by question marksSo, you’re interested in volunteering for a year? You’ve heard about Precious Blood Volunteers and their involvement in restorative justice, but you’re not really sure what that means. 

If you Google “restorative justice, you’ll find it defined as, “a system of criminal justice that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.”  

Okay, wow. What does that mean? Well, here are the three things that need to happen in restorative justice.  

  1. Empathy on all sidesThere must be an awareness that while harm was done to a victimthere may also have been past harm done to the accused as well and that harm may be a factor in his or her behavior. 
  2. Obligation to put rightThere must be a moderated process, which helps the accused somehow right the wrong that was committed.  
  3. Everyone is involved in the healing processThere must include a dialogue with all parties – victim, offender, and even community – in order to genuinely move on and have an impact.

Precious Blood Volunteers involved with restorative justice are trained and take part in restorative justice through an activity called a “restorative justice circle,” where all parties affected by the actions of the accused to work through the three steps.  

Simply, restorative justice helps an offender to acknowledge what she/he did, make it right for those hurt or affected and involves the community in helping both the victim and the offender.   

To apply to volunteer in restorative justice ministries visit preciousbloodkc.org/volunteers/apply/. 

Sixteen Months Later

by Leah Landry, Precious Blood Volunteers Alumna

volunteerMy life is dramatically different now than when I was a Precious Blood volunteer. I moved from my hometown of Chicago to Washington, D.C. I have two roommates who are in their 20s, instead of three Precious Blood sisters who were…not. I am saving money instead of trying (and failing) to live on a stipend. And I work at Catholic Charities as a Volunteer Coordinator, a role that requires many hours behind a computer, instead of the days at PBMR running from one person (and crisis) to the next.

Despite these dramatic differences, I think about my year as a Precious Blood Volunteer at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation every day. Maybe it’s because I have only been gone for 16 months, but I have a feeling that my volunteer year will continue to influence the life I create for myself. I can already see its effect on my life in D.C.

Potentially the most annoying impact of my volunteer year is that I overthink everything. I can’t do simple things without analyzing the social justice implications of the decision. For example, when I walk down the streets of the Georgetown neighborhood, I don’t just enjoy the adorable row houses and beautiful gardens. No, instead the beauty of the neighborhood makes me think about the racist and classist tactics that have gentrified and insulated the neighborhood and made it unaffordable for middle- and low-income folks. Precious Blood Volunteers and PBMR woke me up to the injustices that I had been complicit in for 23 years. Now, I see these everywhere I go.

My experiences as a Precious Blood Volunteer have also made me more intentional about being a part of a community. Knowing so many folks in the Back of the Yards neighborhood during my volunteer year and seeing them when I went to the grocery store or drove down the block was a wonderful feeling. I’ve been working to create that here, but with mixed results. I started by aggressively saying hi to people in the elevator in my building, even when they awkwardly smiled and looked down at their phones—East Coast people are weird—and trying to make friends with the cashiers at the grocery store. When those tactics didn’t work, my roommates and I started a book club to get to know more of our neighbors, and now we have seven members! My friend and I are determined to keep open the new local bookstore by giving everyone we know books for Christmas. I’ve also joined the Silver Spring Candid Conversations group to talk about race and racism with other community members. My experiences as a volunteer have made it impossible to see myself as just an individual; I am constantly trying to build more community around me because I realize that’s where I am happiest.

Another impactful change from my volunteer year that I have brought with me to my life in D.C. is my new understanding of racism and white supremacy and the role I play in that system. I learned about this and wrote about as a Precious Blood Volunteer, and I knew I needed to try to continue to learn about it, even as I moved away. I joined Showing Up for Racial Justice DC (SURJ), a group of predominately white people who are organizing for anti-racist communities by educating other white people and supporting people of color-led movements like Black Lives Matter. SURJ continues to push me to be more anti-racist and to more fully live out my values. I’ve also been a part of a group at work that is pushing for an equity and inclusion initiative to make sure all people’s voices are heard, respected, and valued in our workplace, particularly those that have been historically marginalized. This new lens spurred me to go to the Texas-Mexico border in June and support the migrant families that were being released from immigration prisons to the Catholic Charities of Laredo Shelter. Racism is not something I can witness or hear about and just feel bad about anymore. I saw the effects of this widespread, insidious system on the young women I worked with and befriended in Chicago and I feel compelled to work with others to dismantle that system.

My life looks different than it did 16 months ago. I have a new home, a new city, a new community, and a new job. But every part of my life has been and will continue to be shaped by the people, experiences, and lessons I had as a Precious Blood Volunteer. And while it might be less annoying to live in ignorant bliss, I am grateful that my experiences in Chicago are sticking with me and helping me live a life that is more authentically in line with who I want to be.

Faith in Action

2019-2020 Precious Blood Volunteer, Caitlin Caminade

by Caitlin Caminade, Precious Blood Volunteer at KC CARE Health Center

Two months in, it seems I have found a new rhythm. Whereas in the first few days
at KC CARE Health Center, it felt like I was stepping onto a treadmill that is already set at a sprinting pace, now I feel as though I am in sync with the rest of the team. I am extremely grateful for the patience of my coworkers, as they trained me on how to use the electronic records system, taught me the lingo, and showed me how to care for our patients. Throughout all this, they have kindly reminded me that making mistakes is part of the process.

I was recently reminded of the purpose of this process by some readings at Mass. In the gospel of Luke, the disciples ask the Lord to increase their faith. A simple enough request, I thought, and one that I have pleaded before in the moments when I felt guilty for faltering so easily. I think it is an instinct to think that more of something will always fix the issue at hand. How often I have wished to be more steadfast, more consistent in prayer, and how rarely I have truly appreciated the gift of faith. Because through faith, no matter how small, God can still reveal the truth and work through me.

And what if you don’t have more? At the clinic, this question is asked every day, figuratively speaking. After all, people come there in their hour of need, often quite aware of the socioeconomic systems that have made them vulnerable. This is where I must meet them.

However brief my encounter with the patient may be, I am right there beside them to face that with them. It’s a moment of rawness and realness that never leaves me unaffected. And while it does take a toll, I hope I never get used to it or take it for granted. My experience volunteering at the clinic has so far motivated me to think of healthcare as a ministry.

On October 4th, St. Francis of Assisi’s feast day, I was reminded of the Peace Prayer (an old favorite of mine) that is often attributed to him, and I have taken a lot of strength from it. To be an instrument of peace in the face of so much hatred, injury, doubt, despair, darkness, sadness—a goal for the rest of my service year and be- yond. And I have still so much to learn! About providing healthcare as a profession and as a business, about how to put my faith into action, about how to be a bold Christian witness. I ask for your continued prayers for us volunteers as we continue our year of service.

Caitlin is a current Precious Blood Volunteer serving at KC CARE Health Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
To learn more about becoming a Precious Blood Volunteer go to www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org

Charism to Charism: Precious Blood Community Collaborates with Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth

Voices of Charity, a publication of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (SCL) featured collaborative efforts between the sisters’ community and Missionaries of the Precious Blood. Since 2014, Precious Blood Volunteers have had placements at Cristo Rey Kansas City High School, an SCL ministry. Most recently, Precious Blood Volunteer Brooke Buth led the campus ministry program at the school.

Additionally, the magazine featured collaborative efforts between the two communities with Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S. leading, and Fr. Dennis Schaab, C.PP.S. providing sacramental ministry at the SCL motherhouse in Leavenworth, Kansas.

To enlarge the text from the magazine, click on the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of the page. The magazine can also be accessed at https://www.scls.org/voices-of-charity/2019-2/2019-archives-summer/#dflip-df_4455/29/