Anniversaries are a time when people set off fireworks, buy flowers, and buy chocolate too if the year before they forgot the flowers. Anniversaries are a time to remember, to reflect, to celebrate. This past weekend three AmeriCorps VISTAs in the Hartford Thrive! project celebrated their 6 month VISTAversary. I’m not going to light off fireworks, but I am going to reflect and celebrate.
Just six months ago, they packed up their cars and left the mountains of New Hampshire, crabs of Maryland, and shoo fly pies of Pennsylvania to dedicate a year of service to fighting poverty in the city that Mark Twain once called home. While they were driving out, I was freaking out, not really sure of what it meant to really lead a team of VISTA members and to orient them well. I had the same feeling that I get when I’m asked to hold really small babies. I get nervous, afraid that I’m going to break them or sneeze on them the wrong way.
But now that sensation has subsided and I feel more like a proud parent. I’ve learned that it’s not really up to me to make the project fully successful. All of the VISTAs have strengths they can use to figure things out for themselves and leave behind a trail for future AmeriCorps members to follow. In these six months I have seen them forge trails by giving Faces of Homelessness presentations to 500 high schoolers in Hebron and use their deep passion for housing justice to move towards a sustainable speakers’ bureau. I have seen them form connections with local churches to start community gardens to support our pantry. And I have seen them draw from their deep wells of creativity and engagement to receive funding from the Hartford Wolfpack to make our back packs healthier for the elementary schoolers who receive them.
And as a proud parent I’ve gotten to see our family grow, to 10 VISTA members at five non-profits all working tirelessly so that members of our community have access to food, housing, and economic security. They are helping create job pipelines for people who are homeless, increasing the financial literacy of 500 youth, and helping women of our community break beyond living paycheck to paycheck through savings matching programs. At Hartford Thrive! we really do have a lot to be proud of and celebrate. Maybe I should get those fireworks out after all…
Americorps VISTA Leader | Hartford Thrive!
Hands On Hartford