I Am AmeriCorps
According to the countdown on our team’s google site, this weekend will mark the halfway point in my AmeriCorps term here in Washington. That means it’s only been six months since the day when I sent an e-mail confirming the fact that this year I would be an AmeriCorps member. As is stated in our AmriCorps contracts, we are volunteers who serve for 1700 hours during the 11 months for which our contract is valid. We’re not employees who work; rather, we are public servants. I’m probably not the most patriotic person in AmeriCorps,but I do believe in public service, and I wanted a year where I could have a different life than the one I’ve always known.
In a sense, I definitely got what I asked for. I wanted something besides the professional career that was the logical next step based on my educational background and the sense of stability that life as an upper middle-class Caucasian female offered. I completed a degree, working and volunteering my way through college. I got my teaching certification last June, but I knew that I couldn’t enter a classroom. I saw that the experiences my students had in their own lives were practically unrelatable. My supervising teacher told me that I was “like Barbie”, and that my life was too far removed from theirs for me to appear human to their turbulent teenage lives. Several applications and interviews later, I landed here, with all of the challenges to my cultural norms that I could desire.
First off, there was the whole ordeal of moving to Olympia. It’s one part human rights plus two parts granola, garnished with anti-oppression sentiments and vegan lifestyles. That was an adjustment, though I’m sure the year in Davis mitigated some of the culture shock of transitioning to this place. However, I had to adjust to a second culture shock for my service site – that of rural life and politics. I think I’ve mentioned before that the agency I work for is the main provider of community services in our area of the county, and that people come to us for any and every request. We serve young and old, largely White and Hispanic population groups.
This week alone my tasks have been to distribute and restock food in the food bank, sort Panera donations and re-bag their bread for distribution, unload a delivery of food, confirm the receipt of a grant fro our MLK project, lead small and large group activities with the kids in our after-school program, administer a survey on behalf of a graduate student seeking an answer to the question, “What would it mean for the Hispanic population of our county to be self-sufficient”, and answered questions about energy assistance, free tax preparation, and appointments for the reduced price dental service provider the “Smilemobile.” After all that, I stayed late tonight to sit in on a presentation in English and Spanish about resources for Spanish speaking victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. I’m sure there will be more odd jobs to complete as I finish off the rest of my week, but surely all of this can give me the perspective I sought from applying to AmeriCorps.
There will always be needs in a community. Serving them is not an illustrious position, or an enviable one. The work is not well-paying and there aren’t really a lot of material perks. But we continue on because we believe that people have a right to a better life, and a right to have their basic needs met. I don’t know if I will continue on with full time non-profit work, but I do know I will always serve others in some capacity. I maintain that I am blessed to have this opportunity, and blessed to have this year unlike any of my previous years. I stand with my fellow AmeriCorps who are serving this county and proclaim that I am Getting Things Done. 5 1/2 months in; 5 1/2 months to go.