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A New Year of Service: AmeriCorps 2017-2018

Written by Rebecca Wolfe and Samuel Massion, WithinReach AmeriCorps Outreach & Enrollment Specialists

There are eight new members of the WithinReach AmeriCorps team. We all have different stories and different histories that we bring with us into this year of service. Each of us has a particular sense of self that is now situated within the context of this place—this organization, this city, this country, this world. This year will be a year full of opportunities; a year to expand our knowledge, grow as individuals, and serve our community. WithinReach is an organization with more than 6000 resources available to the people of Washington, specializing in food access, healthcare access, immunizations, transportation, and child development. So, as the new kids on the block, we have a lot to learn. We’re here, though, and we’re really excited about it.

In our training these last few weeks we have talked a lot about the “social determinants of health”—those non-biological, non-genetic factors that affect our health. This includes things like the quality and consistency of our food, our access to medical care, whether and how we are employed, and our level of education. Recent studies have shown that a person’s zip code is as predictive of health outcomes as is their genetic code. We can’t change our genetics, but we can make healthy food and quality healthcare more accessible. One simple interaction—a conversation, an application, or a resource that informs our community and facilitates access to social services—can turn a “determinant” of health into an “influence.” We can provide a bridge to the services that can help mitigate a particular point of stress—preventing unsurmountable healthcare costs, providing travel from point A to point B, or putting dinner on the table that night. These small shifts can make a big impact, changing circumstances for the better and offering hope for a healthier future.

The AmeriCorps team members are some of the first at WithinReach to start our training with our organization’s new client intake system, called REACH. REACH is a screening tool developed by Health Leads for hospital settings, with WithinReach acting as the program’s first non-clinical setting. Using this in conjunction with our iPad technology offers us the tools to identify multiple needs, analyze trends in our area, and to address issues as needed. Now, with the new technology, we have the means to provide in depth follow ups for better client care coordination. REACH fosters a holistic approach to helping clients, leading us in a conversation that makes sure both participants are acting as and being seen as full and whole humans.

This human experience is something that all of us are excited about. We are already improving our social skills, learning new patterns of communication. We are learning not to assume things about our clients, allowing them agency and self-determination as they tell us their story. We are learning to meet people where they are at—physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. We are learning to listen, seeking first to understand. We are learning to ask questions, to rely on each other, and to grow together in this process. We are learning to take on the attributes of our organizational mission—to be friendly, informed, and responsive. This collaborative experience has already been enriching and rewarding, and we are grateful for it. 

Each of us are planning to pursue a different area of health and social service after our year here. We know that the people we meet and the things that we learn will inform each of our journeys moving forward. And we  all look forward to continuing to learn more from the people  we work with, both in and out of our office.

We know that there is much to be done in this field of work. We know that we cannot help everyone or solve everything, and sometimes that feels overwhelming. We know that we can’t change the world by helping one person, but we can help change something in that person’s world. We can make a difference for the person sitting in front of us. That matters, and we are excited about it.

If you or someone you know is interested in assistance from WithinReach or would like to look for resources in person with one of our AmeriCorps Outreach and Enrollment Specialists, call our Family Health Hotline today at 1 (800) 322-2588

Tags: AmeriCorps   AmeriCorps Outreach   Healthy Connections   Outreach   ServeWA   

Americorps Team 2013: Thank You For Your Service

For the last 6 months, I have had the privilege of supervising six incredible people: Donna Quach, Sam Lee, Samantha Novak, Francesca Murnan, Hayley Berra and Nika Gannon. These six Americorps members have dedicated 10½ months of their lives to the full-time service of our country and specifically to the residents of King and Snohomish Counties. Each member has gone above and beyond their required 1700 hours of service to the community, and they have each made a huge impact.
Our AmeriCorps members go in person to food banks, libraries and job centers and truly make the connections our families need to be healthy. A core value of our outreach model is to meet our clients where they are —whether that means standing in line at a food bank when the temperature reaches freezing, or spending a hot summer afternoon at a local library in order to ensure that a family has the resources they need to meet their nutritional needs.
Here is a story from Samantha Novak that embodies the impact of their work:
While at outreach I was referred a woman named Jenny. Jenny was actively fleeing a violent living situation, and had her ID, cell and wallet taken away from her by the person she was running away from. She was living in the streets and couch surfing after having left her abuser.
I was able to be a calm support for Jenny to help her plan next steps, including where to access food on a daily basis and where to find her closest community clinic for STI testing. I also provided her with contact information for domestic violence support. Because she did not have a computer or phone, my assistance was vital in helping her coalesce her panic into a plan. In the following days, she called me various times from different borrowed phones, and I was able to continue to assist her through the process.

I was able to intervene at a tipping point, where she was actively in crisis and didn’t know what to do. Though my assistance was mostly in providing information, I think it was the right information at the right time.
For me personally, this interaction helped me to see how important our work really can be. We have the potential to make a very measurable impact on lives that are in a delicate position. Being able to provide accurate, specific information in times of crisis is an important role that I feel lucky to be able to perform.
This work is not easy and the pay is not why folks choose to volunteer for AmeriCorps. The modest living allowance leaves very little room in the budget for things other than rent and groceries. AmeriCorps members do this work because they are dedicated to jump starting their careers in the direction of social change and social justice. Members of our team this year are pursuing Law, Social Work, Domestic Violence Advocacy, Healthcare and Nutrition careers.
This is my opportunity to publicly thank our 2012-2013 Americorps team. It has been an incredible year, they have done amazing work and WithinReach will miss each of them!

Tags: AmeriCorps   Outreach   

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