Written by David Demanget, an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at United Crescent Hill Ministries
I started working when I was 15 years old and worked all the way through college at different fast food stores back home. Work for me was a nuisance in every way, though I knew that I had to work in order to go out and have a social life let alone survive. After graduating from college, I knew I wanted to do something meaningful that has direct impact. I then found AmeriCorps and thought that this would be a great way to start my journey towards helping others.
When I first got to my site, I was taught the basics of our programs and told what I would
be doing over the course of service. Most of it sounded pretty straightforward and before you know it I was sitting in my office all week. Even though I knew what I was doing was helpful and impacting those in our community by helping my organization grow in various ways, I felt like I didn’t find the feeling I was looking for. I spoke to my supervisor and told her a little about how I felt, and we came to the conclusion that even though I couldn’t directly serve clients of my organization I can still interact with them. Even though I was managing the volunteers I could still communicate and understand how they see things. I could still experience all of the things I wanted to on top of my VISTA work by interacting and learning about our clients and volunteers and their stories.
The following week I decided to go around and talk to clients and volunteers as I
shadowed their work. This not only gave me a better understanding of how the program works but I was able to learn more about the actual people we serve and who is serving them. I learned from clients the issues that have occurred in their lives that led them to their difficult times and needs for help which is humbling. I have learned the past stories of my organization through dedicated volunteers who have been here for over 8 years, and how much this place has grown. Doing these things really made me feel more involved in what was going on in the organization and community rather than me just feeling like I am behind the scenes all the time.
Working in a nonprofit that focuses on nothing other than helping those in our community and trying to build a better community sounds extremely fulfilling going into it. Though what I have learned from my supervisor is that the best way to really feel and
comprehend what you are doing is to interact with clients and volunteers. By doing that you will unlock the true fulfillment of what you will be doing during your service year. I have almost finished the first quarter of my service and have made so many connections and know the stories of many folks in our community just by doing this. That way when you get that grant, that big fundraiser, that new volunteer, or whatever you do for your organization during your service year you know exactly who you will be helping and understand the true impact of your service.
Treating your service like another job or thinking of the clients you see daily as
customers is not going to give you the full experience of what being a VISTA is all about. Get out their and really see what you’re doing and who you are doing it for. Make sure your service will give you long lasting memories and stories you will never forget.