By Jen Hellow, SOAR Statewide VISTA Member
One of my oldest friends came to town a month or so before I was scheduled to begin my year of service last January and told me a phrase that would resonate through my term. We were sitting together over pizza, talking about her near-future MBA (she works in corporate philanthropy) and my impending AmeriCorps term. Annie served a VISTA year in Kansas City a few years back. She says to me, “Jen, it’s hard.”
This has stayed with me because of it emerging as a deep, sincere truth. For me, it brings to the surface a person’s motivation for doing work — not just this work, but work at all. I believe working in service to others is more important and fulfilling, in part because I’m not one to chase money up a ladder, but largely because helping people matters and that’s the focus around where I need my work. This work, an AmeriCorps term, is literally choosing to live in poverty to develop systems that help eradicate poverty. The other this work, homeless services, matters for us as a society, because people living and dying in the streets is not okay. Thankfully, those of you reading this know that, live that, and spend your time working toward solutions to this endemic issue.
This is the some of the most important work I’ve done in my life. It’s been challenging, stimulating, complicated, difficult, enriching, and solidifying. It has answered a lot of questions and created even more. I’ve connected with people nationwide about SOAR and I’ve tracked the outcomes to see the number of people statewide that SOAR helps. I walk away from my year of service with a project in my hand, starting a volunteer SOAR disability application program in a small homeless navigation center housed in a South Austin church. I’m very lucky to have been given this opportunity. It’s helped me find my way.
I’m endlessly thankful to THN for this opportunity, for taking me in and letting me explore how to make this work. To me, a big part of being an AmeriCorps member is being able to see through the haze and find the right path to answer what you’re doing. SOAR has such huge potential to make a difference in the lives of people living through homelessness and I’m grateful I’ve been able to be involved at all.
To all current and future AmeriCorps members reading this, I wish you fortitude to stay the course because you know what you’re doing and you’re doing it on purpose. It’s good work so keep on keeping on. Remember, we can do hard things (together!).