When I decided to accept the position as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) I really didn't know exactly what to expect. After training, orientation, and almost two weeks on the job I no longer question why president Lyndon Johnson and Sargent Shriver, the program's founders, considered the VISTA program the domestic version of the Peace Corps.
To the first group of VISTA volunteers in 1964 President Johnson had this to say:
"This is your job--to guide the young, to comfort the sick, to encourage the downtrodden, to teach the skills which may lead to a more satisfying and a more rewarding life. On your idealism and on your success rests much of our hope for the final elimination of poverty in our American life."
"VISTA volunteers stand ready to serve at the request of every community and every neighborhood, every organization and institution, which joins the war against poverty.
I believe--I know--that you will receive the support of all Americans. And I hope that all those with skills and dedication to offer will come and join with you in this most extraordinary force for good in our country. "
In just two weeks I have met some very amazing and passionate people all working in one way or another towards a similar goal: reducing and ending poverty. I am working with these leaders to organize and identify community assets and in doing so will help people and organizations to help themselves through the development of trainings, community organizing, and the development of organizational assets with an emphasis on sustainability. All of this will be aimed at showing people that the metaphorical "lifting myself up by my bootstraps" can be done. Or, if they don't have any boots to begin with, show people that there are resources in the community that will help them find a pair of boots. My small projects that I am helping to organize may not be a significant contribution to the war on poverty but add up the energy, passion, and accomplishments of over 5000 VISTA volunteers across the country who are spreading that same passion everyday and instilling it in their communities and it is a pretty good start.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
-- Margaret Mead
"We are all part of something bigger and we are all part of it together."