Love the work that you do…
For the coming year, I will be serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA Fellow at the Homeless and Travelers Aid Society (HATAS). HATAS is located on the border of the Washington Square and West Hill neighborhoods, near the southernmost point of Central Ave. I am serving as their Development Coordinator, which basically means that I help plan fundraising events, coordinate volunteers, research and write grants, and whatever else my supervisor needs me to do. I will play an integral role in the expanding of the Albany Backpack Food Program, and getting the Capital Region Furniture Bank up and running; these are programs that are both sponsored by HATAS.
As someone who has grown up with the city of Albany in their backyard, I certainly wasn’t unaware of the growing impoverished population and the homelessness problem in Albany. That is most of the reason why I decided to stay in the area to serve. I was however surprised to see just how large the homeless and hungry population is in the Albany area.
What I like most about the work so far is just learning the ropes of a nonprofit agency. It has been interesting to watch just how many hats everyone in this organization wears. Everyone is doing everything in their power to make this organization work, no matter how big or small. It isn’t very glamorous and very rarely does anyone get a pat on the back for the amazing work that they do on a daily basis, but the feeling of making one person in need’s life a little easier makes it all worth it.
A challenge I quickly overcame was my reliance on my VAD. The VAD is intended to provide some background about your tasks, a timeline of when they should be completed and an idea what the VISTA should be getting out of this experience. My VAD doesn’t list half of the things that I’ve already been working on these past few weeks. I am here in service to this organization firstly, and it is clear to me that what I am getting out of these experience is directly related to what I put into it. No VAD can wholly encompass that dynamic entirely. I have to remember to step outside of myself and my needs and focus that energy towards the needs of the organization.
The main piece of advice I would give to a future VISTA or anyone who is about to explore public service is this: Remember to be compassionate and empathetic every step of the way. It is very easy to get disillusioned with the people who are using the services your site provides and the choices that they may make. I find myself regularly needing to take a few steps back to remind myself that I have no idea what it is like to be in their position and that any judgmental feelings I have are unwarranted. Always keep working hard and do good by others. Love the work that you do.
AmeriCorps VISTA Fellow