“Investing in Your Future” or “Why Volunteer?”

by Tim Deveney, Director of Precious Blood Volunteers
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being part of a panel discussion hosted by Avila University’s Campus Ministry. The discussion centered around serving after graduation from college. It was a good discussion about our experiences as individuals and what we have learned from former volunteers. I was inspired by the stories and reflections I heard from the good people who were part of the panel.

Former Precious Blood Volunteer, Nate Balmert, made an investment in his future

As part of the panel we took questions from Avila students and Avila’s Campus Ministry staff. They were great questions about why people should volunteer after graduation, what benefits they will receive and the impact they will make on the lives of the people they serve.
One of the questions that came up during the discussion was about how to explain serving after graduation to parental units. I translated the question as “How in the world do you justify to your parents working for little to nothing after spending four years racking up massive student loans?” It’s a great question and a responsible young adult (and parent) should probably wrestle with this question. I jumped right in and offered three of my thoughts on the question.
The first part of my response was about what we offer to our volunteers. We help out with loan deferrals. Additionally, at the end of a full year of service we provide an education award payable to either a loan provider or institution of higher learning. These get our volunteers on a path towards paying off the loans and having freedom from some of that debt earlier in their adult lives.
The second part of my response was that the students discerning a volunteer experience are adults. At some point they have to make decisions on their own. We accept only people who are over 18 and generally accept people who have completed a college degree or advanced technical training. Basically we want young adults to serve with us and we are going to treat them as adults.
As an adult they are ultimately responsible for the eventual repayment of those loans. We encourage our potential volunteers to include the people they love and trust (that hopefully includes parents!) in discerning whether or not to volunteer after graduation. In the end the person has to make the covenant as a volunteer willingly.
After I said all of this I told the students in attendance to not worry too much about the first two and focus on what I’m about to say next.

Former Precious Blood Volunteers, Kara McNamara (left) and Leah Yeo (right), made investments in the type of people they became.

Here’s why: By serving as a volunteer after graduation the person is making an investment in their future. It’s an investment in their future as a human being. It’s a great time to invest their time in learning how to be a better follower of Christ, to be challenged and supported by others in community. It’s a wonderful time to walk with and develop relationships with people who are struggling on the margins of our society.
What a person does when they enter the “real” world informs how they live their lives afterwards so why not do it now?
Learn more about becoming a Precious Blood Volunteer at www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org.
To apply to invest in your future as a Precious Blood Volunteer go to www.preciousbloodkc.org/pbv-apply/.

KC CARE Health Center

Current Precious Blood Volunteer, Koby Buth, taking a patient’s blood pressure at KC CARE Health Center

The Kansas City (KC) CARE Health Center is an integral part of the health care delivery system in the Kansas City community. As it was formed to do in 1971, the Health Center provides basic health care services to people who cannot afford them and to those challenged with access to care. KC CARE helps keep the uninsured and underinsured healthy!
The KC CARE Health Center promotes health and wellness by providing quality Care, Access, Research and Education to the underserved and all people in our community.
As a Precious Blood Volunteer serving at KC CARE Health Center you will be working at their clinic located in Midtown Kansas City. You will have the opportunity to work alongside doctors, nurses and a dedicated staff taking care of individuals regardless of their ability to pay.  This is a placement for you if you are looking for a career in medicine or are interested in public health.
You can learn more about KC CARE Health Center by going to their website.
Read a reflection by former Precious Blood Volunteer, Lota Ofodile, about her experience at KC CARE here.
Read a reflection by former Precious Blood Volunteer, Jade Bowman, about her experience at KC CARE here.
You can apply to serve as a Precious Blood Volunteer at KC CARE Health Center by going to our “Apply” page.

How God Sees Us

by Kara McNamara, Precious Blood Volunteers Alumna
In my work for the past two years at an afterschool program for at-risk teenage boys, I got to see my students at their very best, at their screaming, fighting worst, and at every emotional stop in between. They certainly saw my full range of days too! I saw them go through hard times, saw them achieve great honors, saw them demonstrate resilience and ownership over their lives, saw them hurl ugly words at other children when they were hurting too badly to control themselves. I also, every so often, would have a luminous moment with a student in which I thought, This moment, right now, is exactly how God sees this child all of the time. I can think of an example in which one of the boys (who had been in foster care from a very young age and generally held himself apart from other people) celebrated his 18th birthday with us. We got him a cake with his name on it and sang to him and cheered his name (some of the students also tried to give birthday punches when I wasn’t looking). He was such a reserved, quiet young man, but in that moment, he couldn’t bite back his smile any longer, he couldn’t hold in the bright light inside him, and he let us see love and joy in his eyes. He quietly thanked everyone and mumbled something that sounded an awful lot like, “Love you guys.”
In looking at the transformation of this young man for those fleeting moments, I can remember thinking, This is why it’s so easy for God to love us. He must see us like this all of the time, with all of the potential for such good on full display.
In considering that moment, I was brought to thinking about all of the times that I’ve seen people at their best. Those moments are so inspiring, when you can see the purpose and joy living in a person. And I also thought about all the times I didn’t allow people to be their best or didn’t try to find their Creator in them. I missed so much beauty and joy in those missed opportunities!

Kara McNamara with some of the kids she worked with as a Precious Blood Volunteer

In times of lack of unity and tension as we are seeing now on a large scale, we as Precious Blood people know that we must seek reconciliation, and as an initial step towards this, I am recommitting to seek Christ in those I meet, to encourage those around me to be the best version of themselves, and to recognize my own identity as God’s creation when I’m not at my best. If we could even begin to see each other as God sees us, our world could be a place of such healing and love, not division and hopelessness. If we can find that commonality, we can then begin to do the hard work that must come to address pain and inequality: standing in the margins, holding steadfast as peacemakers in the midst of tension, and starting the work of realizing God’s vision for the human family and environment.
After all, as Mother Teresa shared, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.” I hope you’ll join me in working and praying for reconciliation and recognition of God’s presence in those around us.
Kara McNamara served as a Precious Blood Volunteer in Crownpoint, New Mexico in 2013. She is a graduate of the University of Dayton. 
To learn more about Precious Blood Volunteers go to www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org or contact us at volunteers@preciousbloodkc.org
To apply to become a Precious Blood Volunteer go to https://preciousbloodkc.org/pbv-apply/ 

Prepared for Impact

By Former Precious Blood Volunteer Ryan Cornelissen
One of the most identifiable themes of Advent is preparation. But preparation for what? The birth of Jesus? The Catholic tradition of Christmas includes the season of Advent, because we are to understand how the radical truth of Jesus’ message provokes conversion and change of behavior. In the readings for the First Week of Advent-Year A, both St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans and Matthew’s Gospel point to the urgency and necessity to prepare ourselves to best interact with the body of Christ in the world as Jesus did. Of course, it is important to be mindful of the actions and behaviors we should avoid—as Paul mentions in the second reading—as an effort to condone proper conduct. But, in my opinion, the Gospel reading from Matthew better points us to a lifestyle of being awake! Instead of merely avoiding attitudes and practices, the conscious choice to be awake promotes a proactive searching and preparation for the truth that we are to live out.
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Ryan Cornelissen in front of a Habitat for Humanity home

Ryan Cornelissen in front of a Habitat for Humanity home

As a Construction Site Supervisor for Habitat for Humanity in Boston, I lead volunteer groups through the process of building homes for those in need in the greater Boston area. In addition to working with volunteers, I have the pleasure of working alongside the families who are selected for each home to complete their 300 hours of “sweat-equity” on their future home (the equivalent of a down-payment on their house). Working alongside the mothers and fathers, I have the privilege of hearing stories of the reality of life before Habitat for these families.
This month, two new families were selected for the final duplex of a three duplex development in Roslindale, a Boston suburb. Felipe, one of the selected fathers, continues to share with me different pieces of the complex puzzle that is his life. Living in a 700 square foot apartment with his wife and two daughters (ages 3 and 8) was not exactly his dream. Felipe’s family is originally from the Dominican Republic, but he grew up in the United States. He works as a maintenance supervisor for a homeless shelter and rehabilitation support center in the Boston area, and when describing his job speaks of the importance of allowing people to share their stories and be listened to. Sitting there with my jaw wide open, I wished Felipe knew that his story is also worth listening to.
Earlier this week, up on the scaffold with Felipe installing siding on the gable wall of his future home, I decided to ask some simple questions to get to know him a bit better.
I asked him jokingly, “So, do you have any hobbies that you used to enjoy before having kids?” Felipe responded, “Can I be completely honest with you?” “Sure!” I said. “Well, my hobby has been preparing my family for where we are today,” Felipe stated.
Every minute that he has, Felipe is working at his job, and on-site with Habitat, to obtain a better life for his family. Before Habitat, every waking moment Felipe had outside of work he spent trying to learn about the daunting world of home ownership and financial responsibility. Felipe uses his time, effort and gifts for the benefit of his family; most days he doesn’t even eat lunch, so that his children can. Being connected to Habitat for Humanity is like a dream come true for Felipe and his wife. When they complete their hours, they will be the first members of their families to own a home.
The sense of urgency and attentiveness Felipe embodies as he puts the futures of his wife and daughters above his own is the type of preparation God has in mind for Advent. Christ is coming into the world as a human being, prepare! Each day God is coming to you in human form, will you be prepared? Will you give your best self no matter who is sent and what the circumstance? Felipe’s desire to give and serve his family is lived out each day as he works towards the goal of home ownership and a better future for his two daughters. The same goes for us that each day we are called to endlessly pursue a deeper relationship with God to better adjust our vision to Jesus’ vision and humbly expose our wounds and flaws in hopes of being held and healed by our loving God.
Just as Felipe gives of his life daily for his wife and daughters, we come to find that this journey is not about us, but instead the bringing about of God’s glory in the world. As you reflect this Advent, know that now is the time to prepare yourself and respond to God’s call for you to humbly carry the message out into the world.
To learn more about Precious Blood Volunteers go to www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org or contact us at volunteers@preciousbloodkc.org
To apply to become a Precious Blood Volunteer go to https://preciousbloodkc.org/pbv-apply/
You can also read another one of Ryan’s reflections at https://preciousbloodkc.org/thanks-and-giving/