Siobhan Billings Pearce ’15 took a moment out of her busy summer as a Summer Community Service Fellow to reflect on her experience working at St. Ambrose family shelter.
My name is Siobhan and I have spent the last month working as a Community Service Fellow at the St. Ambrose Family Shelter in Dorchester. The shelter houses nineteen families which can be two parents, single parents or pregnant moms. Combining my interest in nonprofit work with my joy for food, I have been involved with the nutrition and cooking program. I go shopping and plan menus with a supervisor and twice a week I work an evening shift so I can be involved in the meal making process. I also get to work with volunteer groups and have been helping my supervisor develop a goal setting program for residents. Twice a week, a pair of regular volunteers and I play with the children for two hours to give the moms a break. I have found myself doing all kinds of crazy things from carving whole roasted turkeys to rolling around on the floor with a bunch babies and I have loved every moment of it.
I have been a volunteer at St. Ambrose before, but I did not anticipate how different the switch from volunteer to staff member would be. The façade of smooth management disappeared the moment I was handed an employee handbook. Suddenly, I was responsible for shelter programs and daily events, but I have never been afraid I would fail because the staff has been there to support me. My ideas are valid and the staff listens to what I have to say. Working with the mothers has also been fiercely inspiring. They are incredibly proud of their children, whether a child has just said a new word or been hired at a part-time job. I have also encountered a network of support. Some moms make cupcakes for each other’s children or offer to babysit to give each other a break. A little apprehensive, I put up a bulletin board encouraging the moms to leave nice notes for each other. Nervous it might become an issue; I was delighted to come back the next week to find it covered with supportive notes. While I frequently am frustrated by the bureaucracy and the hoops the mothers must constantly get through to get their lives back on track, in the end, I am inspired by their resilience and firmly believe that if everyone faced their life problems with such vigor, the world would be a much happier place.