Fighting Poverty with Passion
The end of the semester is drawing near, and we have begun to wrap up our semester programs. For the volunteer team at Outreach, one of the most important components of this process is volunteer appreciation. It’s very important that we show our wonderful volunteers how much their dedication and commitment means to our students, our programs, and our schools.
A few weeks ago, our volunteer team sat down together to determine the end-of-year plans for volunteer appreciation. We were forced to cancel our large annual appreciation event due to inclement weather, however, we chose to use the resources we had originally allocated for the event to distribute some much-deserved appreciation gifts instead. We like to be sure to recognize individual volunteers who have truly gone beyond the call of duty with their commitment to our program. I have always known that we have an extraordinary number of outstanding volunteers, but it really became evident when we had to select just a few of them to recognize with awards. There were too many to choose from! While their wonderful hard work made my job a bit more difficult (because it was too difficult to choose which ones to recognize), these volunteers ultimately make my job much easier. I am so thankful for all of the wonderful work they do in our partner schools every day. We couldn’t ask for a better, more dedicated group of individuals, and I am so honored to be able to work with them.
As I witness the bustling families running around New Orleans celebrating the college graduations of their loved ones, I can’t help but think back to a year ago when I was celebrating my own graduation from Tulane. I remember answering the dreaded “What’s next?” question with an uncertain response over and over again to anyone who asked. I was halfway through my Peace Corps application, halfway through my AmeriCorps*VISTA application, and halfway sure that all I really wanted to do was move back to Tulsa, work at the first job I could find, and hang out with my friends back home until I really decided what I wanted to do with myself. By early June, I had finished both of the aforementioned applications, but was well on my way to following through with Plan C.
However, I was soon offered the position that I currently have as an AmeriCorps*VISTA working with New Orleans Outreach. I was to move back to New Orleans in mid-July to begin my yearlong position, and I was very excited about the opportunity (and also to have a definite answer when asked, “What’s next?”). Still, I finished my Peace Corps application and completed the interview process, maintaining the possibility and the hope of becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer in the future. I told my recruiter that I would need to push my earliest possible departure date back to August 2011 because I had just accepted the VISTA position. So I continued with my journey back to New Orleans and into my new position, putting my Peace Corps plans temporarily on hold.
While I love my current VISTA position and I love being in New Orleans, I always knew that, one way or another, I would return to Latin America for a good portion of my young-adulthood. I am happy to say that after much anticipation, I have finally received my Peace Corps invitation in the mail. Assuming that all goes according to plan, this time next year I will be eight months into Peace Corps service as an English teacher and trainer in Nicaragua. I couldn’t be more excited! I have done a few semester-long stints as a volunteer ESL instructor here in New Orleans, but I can only imagine how different my experience will be with this as my full-time role in a Nicaraguan community for more than two years. I am eager to finish strong in these last two months of VISTA and then continue my service internationally for another two years.
-Allison Bakamjian, AmeriCorps VISTA Visit New Orleans Outreach, to learn more about the Outreach program and volunteer opportunities in your area.