Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Coming Full Circle

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to hop on here and update everyone about what I’ve been up to. I have a lot to go over, but I’ll try to be brief! Following my return from Germany I hit the ground running to get everything caught up at work. I have continued my work with the Alpha Omega dental program and we have helped a total of 19 low-income Holocaust Survivors access free dental services. Some survivors haven’t been to a dentist in decades, and others simply can’t afford to pay for the expensive crowns, dentures, and bridgework that is required when you reach a certain age. Overall this program has been successful in helping these Survivors gain access to dental services, and regain function and eliminate their pain.

Following my trip and lecture in Germany I was invited to work on a PhD at the University of Giessen! I can work on the bulk of the dissertation here in the U.S. while I’m working at JFS. I am very excited to start this next phase of my life. I am currently working on narrowing down my topic, but I do know it will be based in some way on Metro-Detroit Survivor testimony and remembrance. Along with this I have one more big announcement. I have agreed to stay on at JFS for a second year as the AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer for Holocaust Survivor Services. I officially started my 2nd term of service at the beginning of September and I am already working on new projects.

Following my return from Germany I presented a lecture on the Nazi Death Camps, which I had just visited and was able to include information I learned while visiting these sites. I also held a training on the fate of the Hungarian Jews, and next week I will hold the final booster, which will focus on the hidden children and rescuers during the Holocaust.    

In the next year I am working on several exciting projects. In addition to continuing the dental program I am working on creating programs modeled off of the dental program that will provide glasses and hearing aids for low-income Survivors. These are the next two most expensive items for low-income Survivors and they are very expensive for JFS to cover with emergency financial assistance. In addition to this I am also working on a 6 hour training on genocide that I have been asked to present for social workers, home care givers, etc. in the community. Finally, within the next week I am hoping to mail out the second ever Holocaust Survivor Newsletter. As soon as some final tweaks are made it will be on its way to almost 600 people, making it our largest newsletter distribution/ outreach effort to date.

At the end of my first year as VISTA I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Philadelphia to meet with staff from AJFCA, and JFCS Philly. We had a great meeting that allowed us to talk about challenges we face at our organizations, innovative ways each organization has found to reach out to the community, and we were able to have a chance to realize that some problems are universal and we may be able to work together to find a comprehensive solution. Following this meeting I had a chance to meet with some of the new VISTAs serving this specific project around the U.S. It was great to see a new batch of VISTAs ready to get to work to help some of the most vulnerable in our country. I look forward to collaborating with them on future projects, and seeing what unique perspectives they bring to the table.

I will try to be better about posting more regularly now that I’m not trying to play catch up every couple of weeks! Until next time…

Year 2 VISTAs with AJFCA staff