Monthly Archives: May 2006

Blasts from the past

I’ve been looking around and dug up the mini-journal I kept during a Build-A-Thon event from my first Americorps service with Habitat for Humanity. I also found a handful of timesheets monthly reports (which have notes on the back) from that term of service, as well.

I think I’ll add them to this blog, both to have another copy somewhere and to add to what I’ll be writing about the current year. I’ll create another category for them, to set them apart for easy location.

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The Big Question

One of the things I’d really like to do is collect as many answers as possible to the question, “What do I know now that I wish I’d known going into my Americorps service?”

If you would like to share, just leave your answer in the comments. All branches and varieties of Americorps service are welcome, as are comments from the service orgs that use Americorps and their staff. (Optional: let me know what branch of Americorps and/or what organization/project you served with.)

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Paperwork by the pound

Got my paperwork packet in late last week, a big honking manila folder of tax stuff, waivers, random forms, maps, info and (for all I know) a map of the last known location of Jimmy Hoffa done in ASCII art. I’ll probably set aside some time to whip through that tonight. Been putting it off, but that never gets me anywhere and I need the desk space.

One thing anyone should know about joining Americorps is that it is a government-funded setup, so you have to be prepared for literally reams of paperwork, especially if you’re a VISTA member. This time around, at least I know it’s coming. I thought I’d drown in the stuff my first tour.

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The saga so far

Up until now, I’ve been posting about my Americorps adventure over on my personal blog, The Divinely Guided Boot of Upward Inspiration. To catch you up to the present state of affairs, here are the links:

My Next Great Adventure – Shaping Young Minds
Shaping Young Minds, update
I GOT THE JOB!!!!!!!

Note: These links do go to my personal blog so if you wander off the permalink, there’s no telling what you might find. Just so you know.

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Why it’s worth it

Wandering Sparkle writes about her time in Americorps and how it changed her life. I have to say that I agree with her assessment of the life-changing aspect of Americorps, and I share some of her experiences (the shift from service as an activity to service as a lifestyle), and although I didn’t have the ethnicity paradigm shift she did the changes I experienced were just as profound and deeply affecting.

She writes:

To quote Gloria Anzaldua, “In attempting to work out a synthesis, the self has added a third element which is greater than the sum of its severed parts.” That experience took me apart, changed me around, and put me back together again, so that I will never be the same.

Amen to that.

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Some other new ‘corps members revving their engines

Went out searching Technorati for Americorps hits and came across Magpie’s MySpace page. She’s a new member in Fla getting things set up for the year’s service. Her blog posts (overwhelmed, going to have to settle) illustrate one of the biggest stumbling blocks to new ‘corps members – trying to make an Americorps stipend stretch to cover the cost of living. It can be done, and the organizations that use Americorps members usually bend over backward to help, but it can also be tough, especially if you’re used to living on substantially more money.

Most members will tell you that the spare-change juggling act is well worth it in the long run, but it does pay to know about it and plan for dealing with it ahead of time. (It’ll be easier for me – I have ongoing work outside of the ‘corps and hubs brings in a goodly check as well).

As a counterbalance, Magpie also shares the excitement that comes with landing a gig with the core (as does Like The Rain). That’s the upside. It’s a whole new adventure for most people, and even us repeat offenders still get excited about the prospect.

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Why a service journal?

Along with being a life coach and an Americorps member, I am also a working professeional writer. One of the things I wanted to do when I got this gig was to keep a journal of my experience.

Why?

Well, for starters, because I’m a writer and that’s what writers do. We write. It makes us itchy if we don’t.

Secondly, I didn’t keep one of my last Americorps experience and I regret it. It would have been nice to have more than the few back-of-time-sheet notes I saved and a handful of pages written during a Build-A-Thon campout to look back on now. (I may try to go back and reconstruct at least a summary of my prior experiences in essay form as part of this blogging exercise.)

Thirdly, I wanted to create a resource for people who were considering joining Americorps to learn what really goes on in the course of a year of service – the good, the bad and the ugly – so that they can make an informed decision and get a head start on preparing for their tour. Plus, I figured it’d also be nice to have a resource for other Americorps members to get ideas, share experiences and see how others are doing things. (If you know of anyone else keeping a blog of their Americorps experience, let me know! Send to my email on the sidebar and I’ll post the links.)

Finally, after it’s all said and done, I hope to be able to write a book about my experiences and the experiences of others in the ‘corps, as a way of sharing this “insider knowlege” with potential members, other organizations who have or are considering using Americorps members and the general public (along the lines of these Peace Corps books).

Dunno if that’ll ever happen, but at the least I should be able to get a ton of articles out of it, share my experiences and the experiences of others and have something to look back on when it’s all over. And it’ll be fun. And keep me from getting itchy. A good deal all around.

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