Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: New River Valley Hunger Relief at Virginia Tech

VISTAly Challenge

So we all know life is challenging.  It ebbs and flows throughout its journey, but in the end life is a challenge.  Not all the challenges are bad; in fact, I would argue that all challenges are a way of making an individual stronger and life more interesting.  As most of you reading this know, some of the challenges that an everyday person faces can be more of an obstacle for a VISTA.  I won’t go through all the reasons that a VISTA’s challenges might be compounded because you all can figure them out, have experienced it, have heard about it, or will soon understand through personal experience.

On this very day, August 5, 2011, I am eight days away from being a married woman.  I know this might be a strange way for you all to become acquainted with me but at the moment my life revolves around a wedding.  Of course it also involves my VISTA duties, but right now I am not a Hunger Relief Coordinator in the New River Valley of Virginia, I am a young woman who is getting married in eight days who also has the challenge of a VISTA position and stipend.  (And the comfort of knowing that in ten days she will be on an island off the coast of Venezuela, Curacao.)

Getting married is exciting, romantic, fun, and a whirlwind of chaos.  The moment you get engaged you get swept up in all the magic of the event.  You start calling your friends and family and letting them all know it’s happening, telling them the date you think you might shoot for, where you think you might like to have it, what you think you might eat at the reception.  That is if you are like me and until you were proposed to you had no idea what type of wedding you could possibly want.  I am not a bride who had it all figured out and just needed to find the groom.  I am a bride who did not expect to get married until she was 30 or maybe never.  So I started off with a modest budget (hello, I’m a VISTA) and a small guest list (that was silly seeing as Thanksgiving is a 40+ person affair on my mom’s side of the family) and of course absolutely no idea what my dress would look like but knowing that my friend would make it for me.

My now fiancé, then boyfriend, and I talked numerous times about getting married and we both knew we wanted to, so there was no surprise, but we did not plan it out beforehand.  We thought we might do this or that and everyone would be happy and we would certainly have a short engagement: no need to drag that sucker out; “we’re in love”.  Well, we did have a short engagement, about 7 months, and we have done just about everything we wanted to do, but boy were we surprised when we heard the reactions from our family.  We were planning to do the ultimate “DIY, Green” Wedding, even down to making our own paper for the invitations (fyi, I make paper).  Our families’ first reactions were, “you don’t want to do that…it’s going to take too much of your time, let other people do it”.  To that we said “we do this stuff already, kind of, and think about how fun and awesome would it be to say ‘we made all the food, paper, and grew all the flowers for our wedding’, not to mention how much money we are saving!”

To make this a shorter story: our family won.  We still did a lot of things ourselves but a lot of things we found ways around to make it happen and still affordable, like using someone else’s handmade paper for the invitations already pressed and folded.  It was amazing how many challenges we faced in the preparation of the wedding itself and then add that on to 40, sometimes 60hr work weeks, gardening, because that food is super cheap, my fiancé working a second job to help pay for the wedding, and keeping some of our volunteer commitments.  That’s a lot!  It seemed every time we turned a new corner, a new challenge faced us, and a new expense had presented itself.

We are almost there, eight days and counting, and still we are being faced with challenges, but when all is said in done I will be a married woman, to the man of my dreams, and sitting on a beach on the Island of Curacao!   So it can’t be all that bad right?

All in all, life has challenges and really the best way to get through them is feet first, jump right on in. Whether you are serving your second term or you are a first time VISTA, or you are planning a wedding, there are going to be so many obstacles that you might think your head will explode.  These are not obstacles, they are life moments and challenges to make you stronger, wiser, and more interesting.

-Tara Milligan, TNVNet VISTA @ New River Valley Hunger Relief at Virginia Tech

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Notes from the field from the AmeriCorps VISTA team at Tulane University.

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