When I began as an AmeriCorps VISTA in 2008, I had little exposure to the true realities of what poverty was. Being raised in a middle class family where all my basic needs were taken care of, I never had to worry about finding food, shelter or clothing. The years of 2008 and 2009 provided me a jolt of experience that shook the foundations of my core and gave me an new outlook on life.
In this time period, I not only learned about poverty through the experiences of others, but I also had several life crises of my own. For the first time in my life, I struggled to support myself through periods of unemployment and then learned what exactly a minimal spending budget was when I joined the AmeriCorps. To support myself, I also applied for and used Electronic Benefits to pay for my food.
In addition, I saw my first serious relationship of over 4 years come to an end, and watched a friend struggle through a health crisis because they didn't have medical insurance. I also became a Big Brother volunteer for an African American boy who lived on the Eastside Neighborhood in Kalamazoo and began a wonderful friendship.
You could say that while working at the Poverty Reduction Initiative, my experiences built me into the adult that I am today. Through all of my hard times, I had the support of friends, family and coworkers who went all the way to make sure I was comfortable, happy and able to pick myself up again.
Not all of us are so fortunate to have these kind of supports in our lives. Though what I went through during these years felt very hard, it pales in comparison to those who don't have shelter, food, clothing, transportation, or medical insurance. It compares little to those who struggle with mental and physical disabilities, mental health crises or those who simply cannot afford their prescriptions.
I hope that while working at the PRI that I was able to lay the foundation for years to come. The organization looks little like it did when I arrived in 2008; we have innovated so many new programs and initiatives that will have a real impact on the lives of residents in our communities.
The is one of the few organizations in Kalamazoo that truly innovates new strategies to actually reduce poverty. Through projects such as Project Connect and the Kalamazoo Bank On Initiative, the PRI will continue to provide support to families struggling to meet their basic needs. Through the Poverty Simulations Workshops, more Michigan residents will be aware of the realities of what it is like to endure the plight of poverty. Through the Voices for Action work, the PRI will continue to tell the story of those in poverty and what can be done to better serve them.
It's been a pleasure working with everyone and I am thankful for all the beneficial experiences I have had while working here. If you would like to stay in touch, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for all of the support you have given me.