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5 Ways our AmeriCorps Dare to Reach

WithinReach’s Healthy Connections luncheon is this week! It’s a chance for us to celebrate the positive change we have made for Washington families, and acknowledge our supporters in the community. But our impact extends even further! Since 2009, we have hosted forty-six AmeriCorps and VISTA service members, many of whom have gone on to become incredible professionals and community leaders.

We reached out to five of our AmeriCorps alumni to see where they are now and to talk about how their year of AmeriCorps service at WithinReach helped them dare to reach!

DTR_AC_Kevin

What are you doing now?

I’m the Financial Stability Manager at United Way of Snohomish County, overseeing programs that help families save money and become more financially secure.

How did your AmeriCorps service help you dare to reach?

My AmeriCorps service at WithinReach dared me to go places most people like me never go, listen to stories that mostly go unheard, and to believe in my own ability to make a difference in the lives of others. It dared me to reach past stereotypes and barriers to serve my community with compassion and creativity.

 

DTR_AC_Mira

What are you doing now?

I’m a first year medical student at the University of Washington in the School of Medicine, investigating what makes us sick and what makes us healthy on the individual and community level.

How did your AmeriCorps service help you dare to reach?

My AmeriCorps service taught me to look at the whole person, and dare to question my assumptions of their story, their habits, and their beliefs about their health and happiness. It dared me to listen deeply and laugh often, connecting with and advocating for a patient’s goals for their wellness.

 

DTR_AC_Anisa

What are you doing now?

Alongside finishing up my Master in Health Administration (MHA) degree at the University of Washington, I am completing a multidisciplinary pediatric training program at Seattle Children’s Hospital called the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) fellowship. As a fellow, I am assessing our weight and wellness services and designing processes to improve access, care delivery, and the patient experience for adolescents and their families.

How did your AmeriCorps service help you dare to reach?

With a background in public health, I am particularly interested in using business management as a catalyst for operational and quality improvements that increase timeliness and affordability of care – especially for vulnerable communities that I worked with in the past at WithinReach. My time at WithinReach opened my eyes to many of the socioeconomic structures and institutional and individual barriers that contribute to health disparities. This experience inspired me to “dare to reach” for all children and families, as well as dare them to reach their optimal health.

 

DTR_AC_Donna

What are you doing now?

As a Program Officer for the Foster Care Initiatives team at the College Success Foundation, I work with our Governors’ Scholarship recipients who have experienced foster care. We want to ensure they are connected to and supported by campus and community resources so that they can excel and succeed in their post-secondary education aspirations.

How did your AmeriCorps service help you dare to reach?

Through my AmeriCorps service at WithinReach, I was provided the training and support I needed as I dared to reach my goal of connecting families to food and health resources that would help alleviate the vulnerabilities they face. The experience I gained while serving in the community on behalf of WithinReach continues to inspire me in my daily work and life. Today, “Dare to Reach!” describes my desire to use education and advocacy as vehicles for social justice as I support youth and young adults to become self-sufficient and change agents in helping their communities thrive.

 

DTR_AC_Travis

What are you doing now?

I have the pleasure of working at a homeless shelter for DESC, an organization that values the harm reduction approach. My position incorporates a lot of exciting roles; I help clients navigate the shelter environment, mindfully enforce rules, celebrate client successes, and try to support people who are struggling.

How did your AmeriCorps service help you dare to reach?

It was while serving as an AmeriCorps member at WithinReach that I had my first glimpse of what real need looks like. I saw, for the first time in my life, single mothers struggling to provide for their children, lonely men without food or emergency contacts and far too many young people struggling to access the assistance that they were entitled to. It was staggering to see this happening in my own country. At WithinReach, I had the privilege of helping diverse clients navigate assistance programs. I couldn’t do the work I do now if it wasn’t for what the amazing team at WithinReach taught me. There is nothing stopping us from reaching for a better world.

 

Tags: access   Advocating   AmeriCorps   Assistance   Barriers   change-agent   Community Health   Dare to Reach   DESC   Education   families   Health Disparities   homeless   United Way of Snohomish County   University of Washington   VISTA   Vulnerable populations   Wellness   WithinReach   

Obstacles to Access: Tent City

By Amber Bellazaire, WithinReach Outreach & Enrollment Specialist, AmeriCorps
The AmeriCorps team at WithinReach recently began a new outreach effort at Tent City 3, a homeless encampment temporarily located across the street from Seattle Pacific University. On a chilly evening, a few members of the team arrived, prepared to help residents connect with food and health resources. While assisting these clients, our conversations turned to some of the other challenges they faced in accessing health care and nutrition benefits.

Several residents of Tent City 3 shared that they were in need of dental care, but were having difficulty finding a dentist that would take their Apple Health insurance. We were able to use the WithinReach Resource Finder to pull up a list of providers for these clients to use; however, lack of regular internet and phone access makes finding accessible dental and health care an ongoing struggle.

Similarly, a woman enrolled in Washington Apple Health and Basic Food told us that she was unable to access her benefits because she had recently been a victim of theft. This is an issue that disproportionately affects the homeless, who often don’t have a secure place to store their belongings. Her cell phone and wallet were stolen while she was sleeping, leaving her without personal identification cards, insurance cards, Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, or a way to connect and replace these items. In this situation, simply contacting the various agencies in order to request replacement cards was a great challenge and a barrier limiting this woman’s access to health services and food.

Also that night, a 23-year-old woman we worked with was having difficulty accessing the prescription she needed to treat her bronchitis. People experiencing homelessness tend to be more susceptible to chronic illnesses, such as bronchitis, than those with stable housing. Without regular access to a mailbox, this young woman had not received her insurance card and had been denied prescriptions from her pharmacy, even though she has active coverage. We were able to offer suggestions about locations where she could receive mail in the future, and provided her with the phone numbers she needed to replace her insurance card.

Although the AmeriCorps team was able to offer short-term solutions to these clients so that they could access health and food resources, barriers to access, remain in place for the homeless population. These client interactions reminded me that simply signing a person up for benefits is often not enough; working around or removing barriers such as the lack of a mailbox or regular phone access is necessary for successfully connecting homeless clients. As we continue our outreach work with homeless communities, it is important to remember these common issues and try our best to work around them so that all of our clients can have access to health and food resources, no matter what their living situation is.

Need Shelter? Find Tent City sites here: http://www.sharewheel.org/Home/tent-cities

 

Tags: access   AmeriCrops   Basic Food   Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card   Health care   homeless communities   ParentHelp123   resource finder   Seattle   Shelter   Tent City 3   Washington Apple Health   WithinReach   

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