This week (March 10 through March 16) is AmeriCorps Week, which is a “celebration of all things AmeriCorps – from the programs and organizations that make this national service initiative possible in thousands of locations, to the members who have pledged to ‘Get Things Done’ since the program’s inception in 1994.”
Here at USES, we work with AmeriCorps VISTA members who commit a year of service to our work in disrupting the cycle of poverty for children and their families. This year, Riley Burfeind (USES’s Community Engagement Coordinator) and Christina Harris (USES’s Family Mobility Coordinator) are part of the United South End Settlements community serving as AmeriCorps VISTA members. We sat down with them to learn more about they work they do:
What have you learned about yourself and others from being an AmeriCorps VISTA?
From being an AmeriCorps VISTA, I have learned that although I love collaborating and working in teams, I also have the capabilities to excel on independent projects. Being exposed to work that intentionally impacts people’s livelihood motivates me to deliver the most effective programs and events. I’m also able to appreciate the mutual impact and learning that occurs between myself and the families in our community. Lastly, I have learned from supervising volunteers and managing projects that with more experience and opportunities I have the potential to grow into a leader.
While I graduated college ready and excited to pursue a career in social change and community action, I think I lacked the experience and perspective to fully understand the meaningful impact that non-profits and purpose-driven organization can have on their communities. These past four months as an AmeriCorps VISTA have reaffirmed my belief that a strong community is a powerful and effective catalyst for change, and the support of an organization or connection can enable a family to achieve their personal, financial, and professional goals.
In an effort to build such connections, I am in the process of planning and implementing a monthly engagement series, where families can come together to participate in fun and educational activities while forming new relationships. Having been actively involved in the development of the last two events, I have learned that seeing how my work directly impacts our families by interacting and listening to them is important to me, and it is something I will seek out in future opportunities.
What is your favorite aspect about serving at USES?
My favorite part about serving at USES is the universal dedication and commitment to achieve our mission, which is to disrupt the cycle of poverty through a two generational approach. As many people know who have worked in nonprofits, the work can consist of long hours and a lot of trial and error, but the staff here at USES always maintain a positive and can-do attitude. Furthermore, I have also always felt included and been treated as a full time staff member despite the VISTA status. From day one, everyone was very welcoming and it is very exciting to see the professional relationships and friendships I have built so far and continue to develop.
Every day, I learn more about the rich history and legacy that USES has cultivated since its start as a settlement house in1892, and it is exciting and empowering to know that I am contributing to the story and mission of an organization that has been a pillar of the South End for so long.