Fighting Poverty with Passion
2020 hasn’t turned out exactly how I thought it would, which I feel like can be generalized to most of the world at this point. Had Future Haley appeared to me on January 1st, 2020, & told me that in six months, I would be living in New Orleans and doing a year of service through AmeriCorps, I would have found that very difficult to believe; in fact, I probably would have been quite concerned (without even considering the pandemic detail). What on earth would cause me to stop working a full-time job with benefits and uproot myself (again) to a new, unfamiliar city? A city with hurricanes, no less!
To be cliche, I suppose that is just life – the future is unpredictable, and we do the best with what we have and know at the time. 2020 has been a year of immense transition and managing change for me. I turned 25 in February, exiting my early twenties and entering the cusp of my late twenties. I got married in March, the day after finding out my husband was placed at Tulane’s internal medicine residency program here in New Orleans. Three months later, we hauled all our belongings and the cat from Dallas, Texas, to New Orleans. The weekend before we left Dallas was the beginning of the civil unrest, protests, and this new Civil Rights era we have entered (or, rather, that has just burst again into an unignorable spotlight, but that’s another blog post). Our last day in Dallas was spent at a peaceful vigil for Black Lives Matter and then a masked going away dinner at my in-laws. “Masked” – I would be remiss at this point to exclude the new COVID world we are trying to navigate.
I went from working with pharmaceutical companies on clinical drug trials (… again, another blog post for a later date) to my current AmeriCorps VISTA role as a Development & Volunteer Coordinator at Covenant House New Orleans, an organization that provides support, in a myriad of ways, to adolescents experiencing homelessness (check out the documentary SHELTER on YouTube). Jumping into this work wasn’t a huge leap of faith for me. I did similar work in college at a federally qualified health center (FQHC) in Cincinnati, Ohio, and had every intention of continuing working with vulnerable populations post-grad; however, I learned quickly that the post-grad world is actually really hard, and sometimes that means working jobs just to pay off student debt and put food on the table. Thankfully, I didn’t lose the spark that really fell in love with service and working on poverty-alleviating initiatives, so with the perfect storm of having to move and quit my job, including all the aforementioned 2020 chaos, it seemed like an opportune time to return to what I feel like is my true self. Serving with AmeriCorps will definitely be yet another giant transition with its kinks and awkward moments, but the first week has felt like more of a coming home than anything. Though I’m exhausted from the wildness of this year, I am honored and elated to be working with Covenant House New Orleans. I have a feeling this will be one of the pivotal experiences of my life.
Homelessness Inniative VISTA Member
Development & Volunteer Coordinator at Covenant House