Alexandra Kolker never imagined at this point in her life that she would have the opportunity to interact with an international population and teach life skills to new immigrants. Thanks to a partnership between Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas and AmeriCorps VISTA, she and others like her, are gaining more than professional experience – they’re impacting the community.
That desire to make a difference coupled with a need for work experience is often what draws people to the nationally recognized AmeriCorps service program. After graduating from college, Emily Wildhaber knew she was interested in social justice and nonprofit organizations. What she didn’t know was how to translate that into a career.
“As an AmeriCorps member at Catholic Charities, I’ve been able to strengthen existing programs as well as build new programs fighting food insecurity in Kansas. Coming from a rural background myself, being able to work so directly to help our rural populations and serve in areas that are so often overlooked has been a cause close to my heart,” Emily says.
The experience has gotten Joel Graham out of his comfort zone. “It has allowed me to experience new cultures,” explains Joel, who helps prepare homes for newly arriving refugees, as well as secure monetary and in-kind donations for future refugees.
Above all, the experience has been educational, according to Jacob Loel. “I learned so much about the inner workings of charitable organizations and also about how international affairs directly affect refugee resettlement,” he says.
For Catholic Charities, AmeriCorps VISTA members give the agency the extra bandwidth needed to take a critical look at existing systems and make recommendations for improvement. “Our members have helped us create new programs, engage new volunteers and serve clients,” says Rachel Pollock, Director, Refugee and Immigration programs.
Most importantly, she adds, “They have brought positive attitudes, energy, and a willingness to serve that has impacted all of our clients, our overall office culture, and me personally.”