Thank you to Raulaniesa Aranda, AmeriCorps Financial Empowerment Coach at the United Way of the Eastern Upper Peninsula for writing this post!
Last week was AmeriCorps week! Like many of you, I’ve been taking some time to reflect on what my service means to me and the community that I serve. I’m an AmeriCorps Financial Empowerment Coach serving in the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I’m one of five other coaches in the state. That’s a big deal. It means I get to beta-test this new program, I get to reach out to community members and get a feel for how well a program like this will be accepted into communities across our state. We were chosen to start promoting financial empowerment and the importance of a program like ours. It both honors and humbles me personally.
I’ve spent the past seven and half months promoting my service in a three county radius. I’ve asked community organizations to refer their clients to me, I’ve attended events to talk directly with the people who might benefit from my service and I’ve sat down one-on-one with families to talk about starting a rainy day fund and making what little money they may have start working for them. It’s been quite an experience. Those that I’ve worked with, and am currently working with, tend to start out by telling me they can’t benefit from what I have to offer with my financial service. Once we start talking about the resources I am able to find for them and the ideas I have for their specific circumstance they seem to open up a bit more. People seem to go from that stand-offish feeling to one of gratitude and hope once they realize I’m not there to scold them about their spending habits.
I think working with any individual or family, regardless of age or the program that you’re serving in, it’s important to remember we’re all human, we’re all unique and we all have feelings! I treat those that I serve with dignity and respect, in return I gain trust. With a service relationship based on these fundamental things, I am able to watch clients grown and learn as we work together to ease their financial difficulties. Success starts with a good foundation. By helping individuals and families succeed in becoming financially stable, I create a ripple effect into my community. All AmeriCorps service members have the ability to create this ripple in their own service area. It’s an astonishing feeling to think of how far that ripple could go…one small thing that I do here in the E.U.P. has the potential to travel throughout the state of the Michigan, and beyond.
As our pledge goes, as AmeriCorps service members, we ‘bring Americans together to strengthen our communities’, and we ‘get things done’. When my service year comes to an end, and I’m off on a new adventure I know that I’ll carry these things with me and continue to serve my community as best I can.