Whether she's helping someone spell their name for the first time or teaching the different ways to string a guitar, Erin Carey '16 is impacting lives every day.
In September 2016, the elementary education major from Ankeny, Iowa, traveled to Erie, Pennsylvania, to serve in two different ministry capacities through the Benedictine Women Service Corps (BWSC).
"I split my day between Saint Benedict's Education Center (SBEC) and the Neighborhood Art House," she says. "I've gotten to know adults and children from all parts of the world, sisters who have committed their lives to an ancient rule and children who are experiencing empowerment for the first time."
At the education center, Erin works with adult refugees from Bhutan, Nepal, the Congo, Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan. Through conversation, she teaches basic English skills to help prepare them for jobs in the United States.
"One of the greatest challenges working with refugee populations is the language barrier," she says. "At times it is conversational English, getting to know the person, and other times it is identifying letters and numbers or vocabulary."
With the challenge faced to simply communicate, Erin works to create an environment where refugees feel welcomed and accepted.
"I've learned the importance of non-verbal communications," she says. "Celebrating seemingly little things like being able to identify the letter ‘g' becomes so rewarding for me and for the refugee."
At the Neighborhood Art House, a free afterschool program for children ages 7-14, Erin teaches a general music class, piano lessons and guitar lessons.
"It has been overwhelming to watch the students feel empowered while playing an instrument, drawing with a pencil or sculpting clay," she says. "Singing and playing along with them is a privilege that leaves me reminded of how empowering music and art can be."
Through BWSC, Erin has been able to act on the Benedictine values she learned during her four years at CSB.
"At CSB, people often say we are steeped in Benedictine tradition," she say. "In Erie, I see how steeping ourselves in these Benedictine values helps me to welcome the refugee, encourage the child and live with the sisters."
After Erin's volunteer work ends in May 2017, she plans to pursue a career in elementary education.
"I enjoy working with fourth and fifth graders," Erin says. "But I would also like to look at the possibility of continuing teaching English as a second language to refugee populations."
To follow Erin and others in their BWSC journeys, visit stbenssisters.blogspot.com.