Graduates who have the passion to serve as Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) have the opportunity to help the poorest in society by helping to strengthen communities and address the needs of those less fortunate. It isn’t about going into communities to physically help but to share “skills and experience to address issues such as homelessness, illiteracy, economic development and neighborhood revitalization.” New graduates have the chance to build and develop their own skills whilst volunteering, before they settle into careers.
VISTA was founded in 1965 and is now affiliated with AmeriCorps. It has an impressive alumni of 170,000 volunteers which new volunteers gain access to which could offer rich opportunities connection wise. A searchable data base allows volunteers to choose a state and specific program to apply to, whether local or way across the country.
VISTA’s aim is to fight against poverty in America and approximately 6,500 placements are made each year. Volunteers receive orientation training in advance of placement and their focus is then on “building organization, administrative and financial capacity of organizations (non-profit based) that fight illiteracy, improve health services, foster economic development, and otherwise assist low income communities.”
The benefits which volunteers receive are many. A low annual living allowance of just over $7000 is given, plus relocation expenses of $500 to those moving more than 50 miles from home to take a placement. Student loans can be deferred whilst serving. Volunteers must sign up for one year of service and on completion of this will be awarded $4725 to pay off student loans. The loan repayment award is the Segal AmeriCorps award and more information about the details can be found here: http://www.helium.com/items/1864242-reduce-student-loans-with-the-americorps-nccc-education-award
Volunteers will gain far more in skills by serving in VISTA than entering straight into a graduate level job and service will reflect well on resumes. There is the opportunity to learn new skills and face new challenges, belong to a community and make new friends. Above all volunteers have the chance to help in a positive way which will have long term benefits to the community they serve in as the ultimate aim is to “strengthen an organization so it can continue to serve the needs of the community once VISTA’s support has ended.”
Volunteers enable communities to improve their own lives and the principals of teaching skills rather than giving handouts is an excellent way to allow communities to fight their way out of poverty. Those who are accepted into the program have everything to gain skills wise, have the chance to help and make a real difference, whilst knowing a large chunk of student loan debt will be taken care of at the end of the year.
Source: AmeriCorps gov.