Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Self Directed Service

Indirect service can seem monotonous at times, and is often difficult to see the "fruits of the labor". This makes staying motivated a challenge at times.

CHALLENGING THE SYSTEMS: I've learned how hard it can be to make change, even when you know it is necessary. My goal has been to help leaders create systems in the offices that will provide more room for student leadership through service. I respect the leadership model of EV! and want to create similar models where they fit in at many of the campuses I work with. This seems like a feasible goal however there are so many factors that often prevent progress. Because of how distant I am from the actual offices, it is difficult for me to make change. This has been discouraging at times but a good lesson on the various levels that go into making a successful service-learning program. I have been experiencing a side of service-learning that I did not get to see as a student leader, and it has been an essential learning experience. It has made me push myself to decide if I would rather be in a more hands on position or if I enjoy having influence on the bigger picture of the program.

ONE LEADER DOWN: Last week was difficult from a programming stand point because I had one team leader who quit Americorps. She called me first to let me know, which reflected her respect for our office. However, it is hard to lose a leader because it feels as though it reflects on me. It does prove that some Americorps postions are not for everyone, and so it is good to know what the job description is before signing up. This leader wanted to be more hands on, and less self directed. It also showed me that my support can only go so far before the college campus coordinators have to take over. Unfortunely not all offices have staff members as committed to personal development like those at Elon. It was difficult but i've used it as motivation to make sure that the remaining leaders are supported locally in addition to our office's support.

STRUCTURAL CHANGE: The highlight of last week though is that i've been working with my boss to make some structural changes in the program. I am worried that perhaps i'm too ambitious with change, but we are going to try to incorporate VISTAs into the campus offices to see how they can build capacity and sustainable programs. Once again going off the North Carolina model, we will be experimenting with VISTAs in offices next year who want to develop their programs further. IT is exciting to know that i've been able to assist with the vision of Campus Corps, and it makes me feel as though my contributions will pay off. It is a sign that my hard work is working towards something, even if I can't always see the result.

BACK TO THE OFFICE WORK: Next week will be our final site visits for the semester, meaning that I will finally be grounded for a while in Missoula. My next tasks will be planning a winter retreat / training for leaders which really excites me. I am also responsible for planning the spring member training, and we will be working with members to present to their peers. In addition to these major events I am putting together a writing contest for members to submit creative peices about the service they have been doing. The office work gets to be a lot and there are certainly days where I would rather be outside educating children but i've gotten the hang of the work and appreciate the lessons I am getting. I have really enjoyed the freedom to choose projects that I feel will enhance the program. It is nice to have a self-directed job with support from my supervisor. Turns out this kind of office work isn't too bad and I always remind myself where the work ends up - college students directly serving in their community.

FOOTBALL WITH A 6 and 3/4 YEAR OLD: Unfortunately I have not been able to volunteer with boys and girls club because they do not have teens coming to the center. I waited it out and helped them as much as possible but there is not much to be done in terms of direct service. I spent the last week or two contacting agencies in search of a direct project with kids, which sounds easy, but was actually quite difficult. FInally i stumbled upon a YMCA article so I jumped on the opportunity and went to the Y on Monday. the facility is by the old fairground so there are a few buildings that kids can do homework in, and a huge field. I spent the afternoon playing football with a "6 and 3/4" year old which was extremely refreshing. He was a fast one, and at one point asked me to stop going easy on him, which was embarrassing b/c I was pretty much running as fast as I could. Needless to say it was a great time and I look forward to going there weekly. IT is surprising how hard it was to find a site that needed me and could give me somthing to do, so it's nice to now have a project to do after work.

I guess the moral of this post is that i've learned to really believe in what I do, what many of us do, which is promote active citizens. So yes, the indirect office work is challenging at times but when I hear college students talk about how meaningful their experience has been it doesnt seem so monotonous anymore. Ive been lucky enough to gain the hands on service i've been craving at the YMCA where I volunteer weekly playing with kids. The rest of the time I spend doing behind the scenes work, but it's no less important.

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