Get all your questions about BSVM answered right here!
Bon Secours Volunteers live together with the other BSVMs in intentional community. The house is located in the same neighborhood where volunteers serve, only a few blocks from the hospital and Family Support Center where many of our volunteers go each day to serve.
Q: Is the neighborhood I’ll be living in safe?
Nowhere is ever always “safe”. Baltimore has its share of problems as do many U.S. cities. The southwest Baltimore neighborhood where volunteers serve obviously has challenges and people in need of help- otherwise we would not be serving there! With challenges, though, come opportunities- the opportunity to meet people you otherwise may not have come into contact with, the opportunity to live beside those you are serving as neighbors, the opportunity to understand more fully the challenges facing people who live in the neighborhood. Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry takes this step to place our volunteers in this neighborhood seriously, though, and helps equip volunteers to live there in a prudent and healthy manner. Volunteers are encouraged to get out and meet their neighbors, participate in neighborhood association meetings, and be a visible part of the neighborhood so that volunteers and others are looking out for each other’s safety. The hospital and Bon Secours are well known and appreciated in the neighborhood. Several of the Bon Secours sisters live in a house just around the block from the volunteer residence. BSVM also provides non-violence training during orientation and hosts a security officer from the hospital early in the year to offer advice about living and working in southwest Baltimore and answer any questions volunteers may have. While guarantees of safety can never be made, BSVM strives to be diligent in helping volunteers transition to their new life living and working in the inner-city and believes we provide the necessary support and education to live securely where we do.
“Dear young people, have a great heart! Do not be afraid to dream big things!” -Pope Francis
Bon Secours volunteers receive a monthly stipend of $325 before taxes. Volunteers receive free lodging and utilities, and other program expenses are paid for by the program (upkeep and maintenance of the volunteer residence and vehicles, for example). Volunteers as a community are responsible for purchasing their own food and putting gas in the car. The remainder of the volunteer’s stipend is expected to be used for all other personal expenses, including travel home during the year, outside activities, cell phone bill (if applicable), student loan payments (if not deferred), etc. Every year volunteers are surprised how little money they really need to meet their needs!
Q: Will I receive health insurance as a Bon Secours Volunteer?
Yes! Although many volunteers can now stay on their parents health insurance plans, health insurance is provided at no cost to the volunteer for any who need it.
Q: Can I get loan forbearance?
Loan forbearance (when loans are collecting interest, but debtor is not actively paying off loans) or loan deferment (temporary delay of payment of interest and principal on a loan) are usually possible while volunteers are involved in a year of service. The ultimate decision to put a loan in deferment or forbearance lies with the loan provider, although most federal loans can be deferred while serving in an AmeriCorps program such as BSVM. The program is able to provide proof of volunteer service and economic hardship to the volunteer if required by the loan provider.
Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry is affiliated with AmeriCorps through the Catholic Volunteer Network. Together with other CVN programs, BSVM applies to receive AmeriCorps Education Awards on behalf of our volunteers. AmeriCorps Education Awards are awarded to AmeriCorps Members who complete 1700 hours of service in a year and complete the requirements of their service program, in this case Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry. When funding is available, those who complete their required service hours and successfully complete the Bon Secours program are qualified to receive the education award ($5350, subject to change every year). An education award can be used towards repaying qualified student loans or towards the future cost of attending a qualified institution of higher education. While Bon Secours volunteers are bound by the policies of Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry, as an AmeriCorps Member they are also bound by the policies of the Catholic Volunteer Network and AmeriCorps program.
To learn more about the AmeriCorps program in general, you can visit their website: americorps.gov
Our volunteers are:
- Unmarried men or women
- Between the ages of 21 and 30
- With a college degree or equivalent life experience
- Who are in good physical and psychological health
- And are committed to the programs’ 5 pillars: Living Simply, Developing Community, Growing Spiritually, Learning Through Service, and Practicing God’s Justice.
Q: How many people are in the program in one year?
Our volunteer community usually consists of about 4-6 people a year, per location.
Q: How do I apply?
Please see our application page for full details on the application process.
Q: What should I bring with me to BSVM?
Great question! There are many things to think about when deciding what to bring with you for your year of service. While BSVM does not prohibit volunteers from bringing certain items, we ask that you take this opportunity to examine your possessions and your needs before coming to Baltimore. The program pillar of simple living, the closer confines of sharing a bedroom and common space, the atmosphere of service, witness to poverty, and opportunities for community building, all encourage volunteers to be mindful in their decisions of how to pack for their year of service with BSVM. Perhaps this year will be a time to learn to live without the smart phone, laptop, iPod, extra pairs of shoes, jewelry, favorite DVDs, etc. DO bring things that will help you build community with other volunteers (although we have basics like board games, something like a guitar for those who know how to play would be fine). Most of the things you should bring are pretty obvious (clothes, etc), but we hope that the opportunity to think about what NOT to bring will prove fruitful for you as a first step on this journey!
“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Q: Can I bring a car?
BSVM provides the volunteers with adequate transportation and we ask that volunteers not bring their own cars under normal circumstances.
Sample day in the life of a BSVM volunteer:
7:00 Wake up, get ready for the day, short community prayer
8:30 Start work at placement site
5:00 Finish work, head home
6:00 Community meeting
7:30 Other activities- free time, participate in other volunteer opportunities, get involved with community sports league, time for personal reflection, etc.
10:00 Go to bed
Q: What are the community obligations of living with BSVM volunteers?
Bon Secours Volunteers commit to spend at least 2 nights a week with their community- Formation Nights and Community Nights. Formation Nights are led by staff or someone else outside the community and focus on discussions around the 5 program pillars and contemporary issues. Community Nights involve a prayer service, dinner, and a community meeting where issues of community life can be addressed. There is also a bi-weekly Morning Reflection time set aside for more personal reflection.
“I’m starting to think that maybe this world is just a place for us to learn that we need each other more than we want to admit. ” -Richelle E. Goodrich
Growing spiritually is one of the BSVM program pillars and is very important to our volunteers throughout their service experience. The weekly community commitments all involve prayer, and volunteers are encouraged to engage in personal and community prayer throughout the week. There are also 3 retreats built into the service year- in the fall, winter and spring. Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry also offers the opportunity for volunteers to participate in spiritual direction throughout the year, meeting with a spiritual adviser for guidance through their time of service.
Q: Can I have a job while in the program?
No. Our volunteers have full schedules with their work schedules, commitments to the program for things like Formation nights, and an obligation to be present to the community. We provide the monthly stipend and other financial support to allow volunteers to be able to support themselves on those funds and reduce the necessity for an outside job.
“You have been shown, O mortal, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: only to do justice, love goodness, and walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8
Q: Will I be able to apply to graduate or medical school while serving my year?
Yes! Every year we have volunteers applying to school during their time of service. Volunteers get an allotted number of vacation days to use at their discretion throughout the year, and those who are travelling to school interviews are free to use their vacation days travelling if needed.
BSVM encourages volunteers to participate in at least one activity outside the volunteer community to make friends in the wider Baltimore community and provide something to do outside work and the program. Over the years, volunteers have found many great things to do with their free time. Many have participated in sport-related activities, including community kickball leagues and running groups. Several volunteers have found outside volunteer activities to participate in, such as after-school mentoring and tutoring programs for local students. Some volunteers also become active in their church, participating in Bible studies or social activities in their church communities. There are a huge number of possibilities to find fruitful ways of participating in the wider community during your time of service.
Q: How long is the Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry program? When does it start and end?
The Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry program usually lasts about 11 months. Official start and end dates vary from year to year, but are usually around the first of September to the end of July. Volunteers commit to serve for the entire 11 month period when they join the program.
Q: Can I choose the location or service site where I will work?
Bon Secours Volunteers are committed to the 5 program pillars and serving the needs of the southwest Baltimore community. We accept volunteers who are open to serving the needs of the community in a variety of ways. During the application and interview process, we ask volunteers which of the three service areas we work in- healthcare, education, or social services- they would be most interested in serving in, and we commit to finding them a placement in that field. After committing to the program, we work together with the volunteer and the Baltimore community to find a placement site that serves the needs of the volunteer and the receiving community. We want volunteers to be happy and fulfilled in their service placement, but also ask that volunteers be flexible about the specific ways in which they will be called to serve.
“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire!”- St Catherine of Siena