By Jennifer Meshanko for The Island Connection
Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach volunteer, Eliana Ibanez-Burnham, shares her expertise in social work to help those in need on James, Johns and Wadmalaw Islands. Eliana was born and lived most of her life in the Washington, D.C. area. Her parents were from Chile, and her family travelled there every two years during her childhood. Eliana attended the University of Maryland, where she obtained degrees in art history and early childhood education. She taught for five years at various levels ranging from preschool to first grade. She worked as a substitute teacher, tutor and as the manager of a family daycare. Eliana entered the field of social work when she worked for Catholic University on an Early Head Start Research Project assisting Latin American families. The university staff was so impressed with Eliana’s work, they helped pay for a portion of her Master’s degree in Social Work.
Eliana and her husband moved to Charleston two and a half years ago, after her husband retired. She started working full-time with Charleston-Dorchester Mental Health Center’s mobile crisis unit. After a year, Eliana decided to work part-time, which gave her more time to volunteer. She found Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach’s website and completed the online volunteer application. Eliana enjoys volunteering at OLMCO, because of the different opportunities available. She has volunteered with several programs at the Johns Island site that include childcare, summer camp, direct services, and the Christmas toy distribution. Eliana is able to make a positive change in people’s lives by “connecting with them, gaining their trust and listening to what their needs are.”
Eliana encourages people to volunteer. “There are so many opportunities,” she says. “New things pop up all the time!”
Volunteer Spotlight is a column in the Island Connection highlighting members of the community who give their time to help others. If you know of a volunteer who deserves the spotlight email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’ d like to get involved with Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach email email@example.com.