A Year Gifted Through Knowledge and Sharing

Monday, August 31, 2020

BSVM begins a new service year amidst the backdrop of a global public health pandemic and national conversations about other pandemics of racism and climate change. While many things about our community life together and service in Baltimore, MD and Richmond, VA have to be re-imagined this year due to the ongoing prevalence of the Coronavirus, we are still delighted to welcome the 20-21 cohort of Ministry Volunteers. Each year, volunteers enter the houses as strangers and then work to build an intentional community together. Read a reflection below from a BSVM alumna that was published in the Winter 2010 issue of The Bon Secours Beacon (now The Companion) as she shares about the growth between the beginning of the service year and the end, when volunteers left as family. 

Reflection from the 2008-2009 Community:
A Year Gifted through Knowledge and Sharing
By Crystal Truong, BSVM ’08-’09

As I finished scrapbooking our year as Bon Secours ministry volunteers in photos and words, I was amazed at how close we grew together. We entered the year as five very different individuals with a common passion for service, and we left as a family with many shared memories. It would be hard to pinpoint the moment we became more than just housemates; perhaps it was during the times we planned, cooked, and decorated for our Thanksgiving celebrations, or during our Chick-Fil-A campouts, or quite simply during the daily meals we shared that our friendships matured.

Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games. We had our ups and our downs with living in community, but learning from our mistakes was the best way to understand each other better. We had to be aware of not only our needs and wants, but how they affected other members in our community. We all had our different personalities that brought various elements into our group dynamic. I discovered that what I learned in community living was not separate from what I learned in my service work. It could directly translate into a learning experience that enhanced how I did direct service with the Tele-Heart Program.

Although it is the tangible results that are often most recognized in doing service, it was the relationships that I was able to form with the participants and patients of the Tele-Heart Program that truly made this such an amazing and humbling experience. Here I was, a young Vietnamese-Chinese American woman working with primarily African-American seniors. Like my housemates, I didn’t have too much in common with the people I worked with, but they enthusiastically welcomed me to their beautiful city and allowed me to be a part of their lives. I learned much more from them than I taught. Who knew that dried beans really should be boiled on high heat and not just soaked overnight? Or that people lived off $90 a month on groceries? They graciously allowed me to learn about their lives, by listening and observing. And although the actual work of blood pressure screenings and nutrition classes was important, it was the showing up on a monthly basis and really listening to the participants’ questions and concerns that developed the relationships and trust. I can only hope that one day I will use what I have learned to become the compassionate and gracious healthcare provider that my site supervisor, Joe Ann Murphy, has taught me to be.

Crystal Truong with fellow BSVM ’08-’09 Ministry Volunteers