Hi, One Southwest Michigan community. My name is Paula Adams. I am a new AmeriCorps VISTA with the Poverty Reduction Initiative based in Kalamazoo County. This means I am volunteering to live with a poverty level income allowance for 12 months while I work for PRI. (With the exception of the executive director, Jeff Brown, PRI is staffed by VISTA volunteers.)
During my VISTA year I will be doing PRI's communications and public relations. Our organizational mission is to reduce poverty by collaboration, education and economic activity. My goal is to build and strengthen relationships between PRI and our local, state and national partners. Please visit haltpoverty.org for more information about the Kalamazoo PRI.
I am grateful to have this opportunity, both personally and professionally. If any of you have seen the movie "Inception" written and directed by Christopher Nolan, one way to know you're not dreaming is by asking "How did I get here?" It's probably something many of the 43+ million Americans who live in poverty ask themselves every day. Unfortunately, they are not dreaming.
Here's the short version of my own answer:
Three months ago I had no idea that AmeriCorps existed. (AmeriCorps is the "stay-at-home" domestic sister of the global more "popular" Peace Corps.) In September the contract for my temporary workforce development position was ending and my own future was uncertain. I wanted to go back to marketing and communications work, but jobs are scarce and competition is tight. One lucky email from a colleague with this job posting changed my future, opening the AmeriCorps door, so to speak. Here I am today, my first week in the office, sworn into national service and just beginning to learn about poverty related issues.
Choosing AmeriCorps service was an easy decision and a difficult one. Is the work needed? Yes. Poverty rates have been increasing, not decreasing, up to 14.3% in 2009, according to the Census Bureau. We want to change that. But after all, who chooses to live in poverty? This is a big question on many levels. Do people actually choose poverty? Is our society choosing poverty? If so, why? What exactly is poverty, anyway? Is poverty merely living on a small income or is it something else?
These are some of the questions I have starting out. Maybe you share some of these questions. I'd like to hear from you. I see this blog as a forum to discuss the questions, answers, and explore potential solutions to the very real problems that result from poverty - hunger, homelessness, difficulty getting and/or keeping a job, the inability to provide opportunities for our children.
I believe we can only solve these problems together, as a community - local, national, global. I'd love to hear what solutions work in your area, in your household, in your state, in your nation. How can we help and empower each other to be prosperous and successful, whatever that means to us as individuals? I invite you to share your successes and your lessons learned. If you'd like to contribute a post, let me know.
Thank you for allowing me my voice as a "temporary" resident here. I am honored to do this work, and have a lot to learn. I will be challenged into new ways of thinking, of relating, and of strategizing in this job. As I learn, I will share with you whatever insights I gain, whether they be wise or foolish. I hope that you, my reader, will comment, contribute, and teach me in return. I am grateful to have you as a reader and a teacher.
Happy Thanksgiving. May you experience bounty and abundance for the day and the upcoming year.