My Days As A VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America)
I became a literacy volunteer. I assisted the Literacy program based out of the Interfaith Consortium in Cumberland Md. I assisted in running literacy programs that were already in place and created a few new ones along the way. The people were friendly and this job did incorporate people skills and all the creativity I could muster!
One Day a long long time ago....
Actually twenty years ago, I had this idea in my head I needed more experience. I just completed my undergrad degree but wanted more practical experience with people. I had heard about the Peace Core but was not sure that is the route I wanted to take. Then I discovered VISTA. A Volunteer in Service to America works with the people who need the help, right here in the United States. Since there were opportunities no too far from my family, I decided to give it a shot.
The Volunteer in Service to America program is now referred to as AmeriCorps.
I went through a training in Baltimore Md. And then I was transferred to Cumberland Md, This is the experience I will not forget....
Above is pictured a brochure that discussed some of the reading programs that were available through the literacy program. It is funny to me how this was a good pamphlet to do for cheap and for 1992! How times have progressed! The following programs were reviewed:
I was a part of Operation X-L in Cumberland Md. There were already three established programs with the Housing Authority. Part of my responsibilities were to match prospective tutors to and individual child to assist them with their homework. As a VISTA I also did tutoring.
The Western Maryland Reading Center was a program for youth who had a difficult time reading. I had some fun coming up with different activities that would engage a child in becoming more interested in reading.
One example is "Buttons". I had found this picture and asked a child to write a story about it. It was great fun and also a challenge to the child.(and yes, I keep everything! I know the picture looks old!)
Knowledge Quest was a program I came up with myself. It was a more think outside the box type of learning experience. These events were usually held at churches or parking lots. Sometimes we would have volunteers come and give musical demonstrations or talk about their hobbies ( such as beekeeping)
Most of the time the VISTA's would come up with an idea on their own for a learning activity. Pictured below is a ten foot by twenty foot map of the United States drawn by me and a few others. It was great fun to roll it out and watch the children explore geography.
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Other ways to volunteer~Senior Corp!
Perhaps you are thinking to yourself, I am too old to be in The Americorps? There is no cap on the age limit. You just have to be over the age of 17! The Senior Corps takes people 55 and older. This program is looking for experienced people to become mentors and coaches. There are three programs offered under the Senior Corps: Foster Grandparents, RSVP and Senior companions. In a few years I may be doing this program myself! Check out the link below and go to programs to check out the Senior Corps!
To get my start in a new area I had a little help. The lady who supervised me did let me live with her for a short time. I lived in Frostburg Md in a historic home. Yes I got to stay in the round room pictured on the right of the brochure! If you have ever been to Frostburg in the winter then you are well aware why it is named so! The winter I was there it was so cold that many gas stations had their pumps freeze up!
The Volunteer in Service to America program was founded in 1965. In 1993 it became AmeriCorps VISTA program. VISTA programs serve.... I was proud to say our programs back in the day served 56 people. I am sure a few of these program still exist in Cumberland and I would bet they serve a lot more people now!
Did you know over 800,000 people have served as an Americorps Volunteer since 1994? There are around 15,000 organizations that have some type of Americorps project.
DON'T expect to be paid very much. I am not sure what the rate is now,but it has to be higher than when I was a VISTA. I can't remember what my pay was but I do remember getting my phone shut off a couple of times. DO expect to gain valuable knowledge while in this program. I have no doubt that this experience was one that encouraged me to begin my journey into social work.
The Motto of AmeriCorps VISTA is Serve Your Community,Build your Capacity and Impact our Nation.
What are the qualifications to become an Americorps Volunteer?
You have to be at least 17 years of age.
You will be offered training prior to your assignment and then will be offered training on the site
The typical length of service is 10 to 12 months. There are some opportunities that last longer.
The Interfaith Consortium
I could not do a hub about my experience as a Volunteer in Service to America without talking a little bit about the Interfaith Consortium. It was formed in 1969 when several churches got together for the good of the community. I still have the brochure that reads "The Interfaith Consortium was formed in 1969 when a priest, a rabbi, and a Minister set aside theology to work together for the common good of the community." Sounds like a joke but it is not. When I was working with them, they had 14 programs to help the needy in the area.
For more information on becoming a VISTA visit this website
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