What is the Meaning of Brave? A year in the Life of a VISTA.
For the past year, I have been an AmeriCorps VISTA at River Bend Foodbank in Davenport, IA. VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America and for one year you pledge to help bring individuals and communities out of poverty. During my year of service I did marketing and public relations for the Food Bank. I was in charge of our Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as updating our website. I also organized our photo library and kept it updated as new photos are taken, wrote stories and press releases, and assisted with grants and our newsletters.
Before I became an AmeriCorps VISTA member, I was very involved in hunger organizations. When my professor at my college made me aware of this opportunity, I immediately applied, knowing this was the perfect fit for me. During my first few weeks as a VISTA I helped with the Hunger Study. I had volunteered at a food pantry before, but going to all different kinds of pantries (large, small, client choice, etc.) really opened my eyes to hunger. People would willingly tell me their story. As I sat there, stunned and in disbelief of the obstacles these people face, I came to realize my struggles were minimal compared to the ones put in front of these individuals. Yes, life had not always treated me fair, but I never went without food, clothing, and shelter. I was blessed to never have to worry if I would get dinner one night or if we would be sleeping in our car.
I had many tasks as a VISTA, but I feel that my greatest accomplishment was increasing the Food Bank’s presence on social media (Facebook, Twitter). River Bend already had a Facebook and Twitter but were not very active on either account. I began posting 2 to 3 times a week when my year of service started and am now posting every day of the week (Monday-Friday). Our Facebook likes have increased by over 180 and our Twitter followers have increased by over 120. I have discovered what posts make our followers most engaged. This is also the part of the job that I love the most! I find it very enjoyable and I get to explore my creative side.
This past year has taught me many lessons, but the most important I learned was the meaning of brave. There are so many stigmas about people that use food pantries. The people I have met are in a very dark place in their lives and it pains them to ask for assistance. A brave person is someone who walks into a food pantry and asks for assistance or goes to a meal site. Asking for help can be scary and nerve-wracking and I look up to these individuals.
Many of you are probably wondering what a VISTA does after their year of service has ended. Some choose to go to graduate school, others decide to serve another year, and many look for employment. I won’t have to say goodbye to the River Bend Food Bank after my service year is over, because I will become the newly created Marketing Assistant. I am extremely lucky to be staying at the Food Bank and am thrilled to continue working on the fight against hunger!
Volunteering and living on a stipend for one year is the best thing I ever could have done immediately after receiving my Bachelor of Arts degree. I learned more than I ever dreamed of and met some incredible/inspiring people along the way.
River Bend Food Bank