Archive for March, 2013

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My Service Experiences

March 19, 2013

By Seelypon Phanthip JFAD 1

Service is a part of who I have become. Prior to going to college, I partook in community service projects in which a few of my high school clubs participated. I would help build a house, wrap presents for the holidays, tutor kids in math, or cleanup a wash to make a walking trail. I knew it was the “right” thing to do. However, it was not until I had the opportunity to be a part of the Social Action and Justice (SAAJ) Colloquium at Pepperdine University that I began to scratch the surface of what service truly is. Within SAAJ, I got a taste of what social justice entails. It opened my eyes to the different populations that need services and the vast variety of programs that could be offered.

PVC retreat

In addition to SAAJ, I spent all four of my college years taking part in an AmeriCorps program called Jumpstart, which works with early childhood education. With Jumpstart, I had the opportunity to learn about the need for quality education from a young age and how a simple program like Jumpstart could help bridge the education gap. Through Jumpstart, I gained a position in the Pepperdine Volunteer Center (PVC) staff as a Team Leader for Jumpstart. As a staff member, I was able to dig deeper in social justice and how it relates to the service that I was doing. I led groups on service projects and exposed them to nonprofits in the Greater Los Angeles area. I lead groups of college students in preschool classrooms to try to bridge the education gap. I traveled to Costa Rica to help build a multipurpose center, rebuild habitats for animals, and work with children in an orphanage. I spent time on Skid Row to experience one night as a homeless person. I could not imagine what kind of person I would be if I did not involve myself in all these service projects.

 

Costa Rica

Service is every experience you are giving to another person. As a VISTA, living on a stipend gives me an insight of those who have to endure the struggles of everyday life, paycheck to paycheck. It provides the motivation to make any project I am a part of better than it was before. Service comes in all forms; it is all about seeing every experience in a different light.

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Four New AmeriCorps VISTA Opportunities in Southern Nevada!

March 15, 2013

Four exciting AmeriCorps VISTA opportunities have just opened in sunny Southern Nevada!  Learn about how you can give back to the community through a year of service by reading the summaries below or clicking on the link.  Have questions or want more information? Contact Jacob Murdock at 702-892-2321 or jacobm@uwsn.org.

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Children’s Advocacy Alliance

https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?id=48682

Early Childhood Education has been determined to be a key factor in the level of educational attainment of Nevada’s youth. Because of this, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has awarded a grant to organizations in Nevada who will be creating a collaborative to work to improve early childhood education to all children in Nevada, specifically those who live in poverty. The Children’s Advocacy Alliance is the organization who has been tasked with spearheading the movement to improve early childhood education in the state. The VISTA Member will work with CAA staff members to
coordinate the Early Childhood Education Workgroup. In this role, the Member will develop infrastructure and key relationships that will benefit the CAA in years to come. The Member will work towards the CAA mission by creating a structure to highlight Early Childhood Education issues and provide outreach on behalf of providers that enhance the wellbeing of children & families in need.

United Way of Southern Nevada Access to Healthcare

https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?id=48843

Clark County Nevada has one of the lowest percentages of childhood immunizations ages birth to 3 years old. Clark County Nevada also scores very low in overall health for children. The work of the VISTA member will address this be a targeted approach by engaging community members, school based health clinics and health organizations. Additionally, the VISTA Member will develop a data collection mechanism for our partner agencies and will compare those numbers to the State reported numbers in order to assess the effects of the outreach. The Member will also report these numbers and use the information to research funding opportunities that will result in better access to health care for Southern Nevadans. The VISTA Member will work with United Way of Southern Nevada staff, partner agencies and schools to make health care more readily available to those who are in need.

 

Clark County School District Community School – Partnership Office

https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?id=46141

The VISTA member will outreach to new & existing partners in the community to identify opportunities for youth to volunteer as well as to identify opportunities for community members to volunteer in activities which promote education and student success. The VISTA will develop key talking points & guidelines for conversations, coordinate trainings, place volunteers in school settings as well as develop & maintain a database of volunteer opportunities and completed activities. The VISTA will develop systems to ensure the sustainability of service initiatives beyond the VISTA program. In addition, the VISTA will maintain & enhance a social media campaign to bring community-wide awareness to education themed volunteer opportunities. The VISTA will develop volunteer opportunities that enable community members to become involved in school programs that promote economic development in southern Nevada. Volunteers will be trained and placed in school settings that will prove them with successful & engaging experiences and ones that will also enrich the lives of students. The VISTA will help enable more caring adults to be involved in and positively influence student lives with the goal of helping youth achieve success in school as well as graduate from high school.

HopeLink of Southern Nevada

https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?id=48843

The lack of financial stability among individuals is a significant factor that leads individuals and families to poverty. There is a need in the community to provide a holistic set of resources that can help empower community members with the skills and knowledge to become financially stable. HopeLink is developing a system of Integrated Service Delivery (ISD) in the creation of their Financial Stability Center. The VISTA member would work with staff from HopeLink to assist in the development and implementation of the Financial Stability Center. The VISTA member would research similar resources and best practices, develop partnerships with local agencies to integrate services where gaps currently exist and develop evaluation mechanisms based upon the established goals. Additionally, the VISTA member would be involved in other aspects of HopeLink’s current financial stability programming. The VISTA member would help HopeLink of Southern Nevada empower community members and break the poverty cycle by promoting financial education. The capacity building that the VISTA member will provide will help meet this need in southern Nevada.

AmeriCorps VISTAs in Southern Nevada will receive a modest living allowance of $1078 each month (before taxes). After the successful completion of a term, VISTAs may be eligible to receive a $5,550 education award.  If you have questions about these opportunities, contact Jacob Murdock at 702-892-2321 or jacobm@uwsn.org

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In Celebration of AmeriCorps Week

March 11, 2013

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AmeriCorps: Service, Sacrifice, and Solutions

The post was originally published on the White House Blog on March 11, 2013. Jonathan Greenblatt is Special Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation at the Domestic Policy Council.

Each generation of Americans embraces the belief that no problem is too big for a determined group of people to conquer. This challenge is central to national service, which gives thousands of Americans a chance to unite with like-minded people and work toward improving the lives of our most-vulnerable citizens.

Each year, we take time to honor this American tradition of service as we mark AmeriCorps Week.

During this week, March 9– 17, we saluteAmeriCorps members and alums for their service, thank AmeriCorps community partners, and communicate AmeriCorps’ impact on communities and on the lives of those who serve.

Since 1994, more than 800,000 AmeriCorps members have contributed more than 1 billion hours in service to others across America. Currently, more than 75,000 AmeriCorps members are touching the lives of millions as they tackle challenges that improve lives, strengthen communities, expand economic opportunity, and bolster civic and faith-based organizations.

AmeriCorps may be one of America’s best assets, with members making an impact through organizations such as the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Public Allies, and Teach for America. In addition, AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) and VISTA, the longtime anti-poverty program, are transforming communities every day.

Service is a proven solution for our nation whether national service members are providing disaster relief and recovery services in the AmeriCorps NCCC and its FEMA Corps unit; enhancing educational outcomes through teaching, tutoring, or mentoring efforts; or supporting veterans and military families with re-entry and employment services.

The following are just a few examples of how AmeriCorps members are “working for America”:

  • In the past year, I met with and witnessed the work of the more than 2,400 AmeriCorps members who participated in relief and recovery efforts for Hurricane Sandy. Disasters require an immediate response to needs in the immediate aftermath of the storm as well as longer-term recovery efforts that benefit storm survivors.
  • More than 17,000 veterans have served in AmeriCorps since its inception, helping other veterans and military families get benefits and services; obtain job training and conduct job searches; provide safe and affordable housing; and mentor and tutor children of service members.
  • The Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service recently announced the formation of the School Turnaround AmeriCorps, a new program that will support a dedicated unit of national service members who will provide additional support and resources in the nation’s persistently underachieving schools.

Service initiatives like AmeriCorps do more than move communities forward; they serve their members by creating jobs and providing pathways to opportunity for young people entering the workforce. AmeriCorps places thousands of young adults into intensive service positions where they learn valuable work skills, earn money for education, and develop an appreciation for citizenship.

AmeriCorps is a program that’s right for the times in which we live and demonstrates what happens when our nation invests in “getting things done.”

To find out about national service opportunities in Southern Nevada, contact Jacob Murdock at jacobm@uwsn.org or 702-892-2321.  For a national search of AmeriCorps opportunities, check out the National Service website.

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View from VISTA: Tarman at The Arthritis Foundation

March 7, 2013

Hometown:  Born – London, England (UK) – Moved at early age to Southern California (Anaheim)

What is your favorite aspect about your AmeriCorps VISTA position?
The chance to educate the people (including children) here in town regarding arthritis and the widespread impact of the various types of arthritis in our community. A vulnerable population with many questions and concerns about their quality of life can be directly helped daily through our efforts at the Arthritis Foundation.

What’s one reason you think people should volunteer with the organization where you’re serving? 
One reason – diversity of volunteer opportunities!!! We have so many opportunities, including leading exercise classes and walking programs, helping in our office with patient calls and product inventory, serving as a camp counselor, and working on advocacy initiatives with our local government officials. There is a task to match almost every potential volunteer’s personality and interest. We even have some grants with major hotels for those who want to help us collate and record data in our research efforts.

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What project or event are you really looking forward to this year and why?
The summer camp for kids affected by Arthritis – this is an especially vulnerable population here in Southern Nevada, as we have no full time pediatric rheumatologist here in town, relying solely on doctors with primary practices in Los Angeles. The camp not only provides a direct resource for kids and families, but also raises community awareness.

What is something that you’ve learned about the community since starting your VISTA term?
I learned about the vast network of government and non-profit agencies we have here in town. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many groups working in a collaborative and congenial way. The display of resource coordination at the recent Project Homeless Connect was truly amazing, and not the type of community event I expected in Las Vegas. A pleasant surprise!!!

What is something you want people who don’t live in Las Vegas to know about this community (cause-related or otherwise)?
We are about a lot more than casinos, buffets, and assorted nighttime debauchery here in Las Vegas. Like any other city, we have ordinary people living their lives, with the same need for social service support. People still ask me if I live in a hotel on the Strip when I tell them I am in Las Vegas – sure, it’s a joke, but the sentiment carries over into false notions in general about how we live here in town.

Does anyone in your life play a role in supporting your involvement? In providing inspiration?
I have two close family members with debilitating arthritis, so they are my inspiration.

What’s your personal philosophy on what should be done about the cause?
Empower people to take control of their own health, with a hope they can maximize their quality of life through educated and wise choices.

This is the tenth View From VISTA in a series profiling the AmeriCorps VISTAs serving in Southern Nevada during the 2012-13 year.  For more information on AmeriCorps VISTA and national service opportunities in Southern Nevada, click here.