Friday, May 1, 2015

Can you hear me now?

Perdita Das, VISTA Leader at North Carolina Campus Compact

It’s not every day that you get to speak with the NATIONAL AmeriCorps VISTA Director. I count myself to be lucky to be among the few chosen members to have had the opportunity to chat with Director Paul Monteiro on the phone. I think it’s really cool that the head of a national program is taking the time out of his extremely busy schedule to speak personally with VISTAs across the nation. The half hour conversation I had with him was thought provoking, reflective and, most importantly, very honest. We spoke of the many rewards, some challenges and what it personally means to me to be a Volunteer in Service to America.

The conversation gave me food for thought and I hope it provided Mr. Monteiro with the insight he was looking for. We talked about why becoming a VISTA was important for me, what made me decide to be a VISTA leader, what are some of the challenges my cohort and I face as service members, and so on and so forth. I tried my best to represent my program and my VISTAs and I hope that my comments will help him as he plans for the future of the program.

As VISTA members, we fight poverty and our main focus is to build capacity of organizations that are committed to alleviating needs in a community. In addition, it is also a way for young, civic-minded professionals to gain valuable skills and experience that can be applied to future career choices. But most of all, VISTA members are able to provide support to organizations that allows them to build long term capacity and sustain projects that are important to a community in need. My conversation with Director Monteiro revolved around these ideas and he asked me some really important questions of how we can make this experience for VISTA members a positive and worthwhile one. Pretty much nothing was off the table- our topics ranged from living stipend, healthcare benefits to recruitment challenges and so forth. As a VISTA, it gave me an opportunity to voice both my praises and concerns for the program. As a VISTA Leader it allowed me to learn the critical thinking process that I will be able to use as I plan for the professional and personal development of our cohort of VISTAs.

I believe Mr. Monteiro has a vision for the program which will allow it to reach new heights. I was excited when he spoke about engaging VISTA alums more and making our alumni network a stronger one as that is something we are also trying to do with NC Campus Compact’s current members and alums. I am grateful that I was able to talk candidly about different things that can often be a challenge. The fact that he is taking the time to talk to members shows his commitment and I am looking forward to the future of this program. The conversation gave me different aspects of service to reflect upon and it made me proud to be a part of the AmeriCorps VISTA family. Thank you Mr. Monteiro!