As I have mentioned before, I currently am an AmeriCorps VISTA. Most people do not know/understand what that is, so I figured a summary of what I do and why would be beneficial.
AmeriCorps VISTA was first introduced as VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) by John F. Kennedy in 1965 as a national program designed to alleviate poverty. During the Clinton Administration, VISTA was brought under the newly created AmeriCorps program, a division of the Corporation for National and Community Service, and was renamed “AmeriCorps*VISTA.” In return for their service, members are provided with orientation and training, a living stipend calculated at no less than 105% of the poverty line, settling in and transportation costs, child care benefits, and a basic health care plan. Upon completion of their one-year term, VISTA members have the option of receiving a cash award or the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. Currently, I have chosen the Education Award to help pay off some of my student loans.
The purpose of VISTA is to supplement efforts to fight poverty in low-income communities by engaging Americans a year of full-time service. VISTA members support the program’s purpose through three primary objectives: 1) encouraging volunteer service at the local level, 2) generating the commitment of private sector resources, and 3) strengthening local agencies and organizations that serve low-income communities. There are currently over 5,000 VISTA members serving in over 1,000 projects throughout the nation. VISTA’s serve full time 24/7 for for one full year, 365 days. First, you will attend a pre-service orientation which is based on your host sites region (Mine was in Charlotte, NC) and then you will proceed to your host site. Your host site is the non-profit organization you serve with. There are many organizations that participate in Americorps VISTA including Habitat for Humanity, Girl Scouts, and United Way, to name a few. Similar to Peace Corps, you can relocate to another city in America. I optioned to stay where I live because my husband is still in school, but many people relocate to experience a new community. Unlike direct service, VISTA’s focus on indirect service, a ‘behind the scenes’ approach to fighting poverty.
I not going to lie, being a VISTA is not easy. It’s hard knowing I’m doing a full time job that will most likely pay more than twice of what I’m making. However, many people have loved being a VISTA and the experiences and opportunities that came with being one. As I see it, I am a currently a VISTA for 3 main reasons.
- Learning more about my community
- The experience – I want to work in the non-profit field
- Creating a positive impact on those I serve
So that’s a quick summary of AmeriCorps VISTA! I’ve only been a VISTA for 3 months so I’m still learning the ropes, but if you have any more questions on VISTA I would be happy to answer them!
If you want more information or are interested in serving as a VISTA, here is the website.