Rachelle's Blog From Helena: An AmeriCorps Whirlwind!

     A few weeks ago, 250 AmeriCorps members gathered in Helena for Montana's 8th Annual Serve Symposium. This is a three-day event where the members perform service projects, attend workshops, listen to guest speakers, and execute a disaster simulation to top off the week.  Although the week was long and action-packed, I found it to be quite valuable. My workshops ranged in topic, including concepts like community organizing, creating a collective impact, working in the non-profit sector, the psychological stages of the AmeriCorps service experience, and measuring poverty. I felt particularly inspired by my peers. The energy in the room was tangible, and each program had its own unique vigor. Many members shared stories about their service and what they are hoping to accomplish, and I was encouraged by their enthusiasm, grit, and passion. I feel reinvigorated to take on the second half of my term, and am excited for all of the upcoming events and programs!

     One of my main priorities right now is Fight Childhood Hunger Week. Fight Childhood Hunger Week takes place from April 17 – April 23, and it is a time set aside to raise awareness regarding hunger in our Montana communities. I hope to engage students specifically by conducting poverty simulations in classrooms, during which students are given an alternative identity to role-play. The individual that the student is pretending to be will be going through precarious circumstances, that are often real and true for people in our society, such as being injured without health insurance, being a single parent, or working multiple low-paying jobs. They have to navigate the social safety net by visiting food pantries, SNAP offices, and finally using the money and resources they have to create three healthy meals for each one of their family members for one day. Students will hopefully learn that it is sometimes more difficult to make ends meet than they may think, and that living in poverty does not mean being lazy, but perhaps means being subject to low wages or circumstantial inequity. Additionally, students will hopefully open their minds to what it means to be hungry; hunger is not always obvious or something that is physically observable; rather, even the most unexpected of people can find themselves hungry and in need of public assistance.

      Other projects in the works are beginning preparations for the summer meal program, planning summer kick off events, finalizing implementation of Helena’s food trailer, and starting up a Healthy Kids Club at Rossiter, with the leadership and guidance of the Physical Education teacher, Jen Loomis. Stay tuned for more updates!