Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Learning the ropes & hitting the ground running

Welcome to my new blog! As those who already know me are aware I have started a new position with Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit in Holocaust Survivor Services as an AmeriCorps VISTA through a new national initiative started by Vice President Biden. I am very excited to have this amazing opportunity to not only put my degree to use in a relevant field, but to also have the opportunity to work in the Jewish community, helping the approximately 25% of Holocaust Survivors that live in poverty. My job at JFS is to locate survivors who are currently not engaged with JFS, let them know they are eligible for a variety of social services, meet with current clients as well as future clients to discuss what new services they would need in the future, and ultimately develop a sustainability plan so JFS can continue to support its services for survivors.

My goal for this blog is to post about once a week to let my friends, family, fellow VISTAs, and most importantly, the community I'm here to serve see what I'm learning, planning, and doing. I first got into blogging after I graduated in May as part of my funding for my trip to Rwanda. During my trip I blogged for each day I was there, and was surprised at how many people came to read what I had to write! The response was truly overwhelming. If you're interested in that trip here is a link: http://wcurwandatrip2014.blogspot.com/ This experience is what got me thinking about how I could integrate a blog into my year of service at JFS, through AmeriCorps. There are a lot of exciting things that I will get to do over the next year, and I'm sure many more things that I will learn. For AmeriCorps it is an exciting year as they are about to celebrate their 20th anniversary, and VISTA will celebrate its 50th anniversary in the coming year. I've joined at a very exciting, and historic, period in the long legacy of AmeriCorps service.

Last week was a whirlwind! I went to training the week before in Philadelphia, and started at my job site after the holiday weekend. I got to do some initial training, orientation, and all the normal paperwork associated with a new job. After the formalities were out of the way I jumped right in. I was able to shadow one of my supervisors at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Oak Park where my JFS was working with the community for flood assistance. For those of you that don't know, the Detroit area was hit hard about 3 weeks ago with heavy rains that caused a lot of flood damage. In some communities, such as Oak Park, the sewer system backed up and flooded residents basements with sewage. This has put a strain on the community at large, and an even bigger one on those that already live in low income households. JFS has partnered with many organizations to provide assistance with clean-up and recovery. This shadowing opportunity allowed me to interact directly with the community I will be serving, and really drove home a lot of the core principles I learned at my VISTA training. I had the opportunity to shadow both Tuesday and Thursday and both experiences were unique, and indispensable for learning about the community. Beyond this shadowing, I also had the opportunity to learn about the community I'm serving through a variety of meetings, manuals, and other training content that further expanded my understanding of those I am serving. I've also already started planning and development for the first in a series of town hall meetings and focus groups to allow me to better assess the needs of the survivor community, while finding more survivors and providing information about our services.

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