March 8 - 14 is deemed "Americorps Week" as a time to honor both the programs and participants who have served since the inception of the program in 1994. While it has been eight months since I completed my service term with the Southwest Region, there remains a lasting impact from the time I spent serving our country. The most obvious comes in the form of friendships, individuals I did not know a year and a half ago I now eagerly watch for updates, as they continue doing amazing things. From my ATL [Assistant team leader] who has now become a Team Leader with in the North Central region, to fellow team members who are now serving with or about to embark on an adventure through service in the Peace Corps. There are others who have returned to "normal life" as we so call it, but I have no doubt that service still plays a role in their daily routines.
While Deming New Mexico is a place I never in a million years would have imagined I would one day end up, I’m grateful for the time I spent there. It was a challenging three months, to say the least, but it taught me a lot, lessons about life, team members, the politics of our country, immigration laws and loopholes, and most importantly humanity. Deming is one of the poorest cities in the country, but the amount of generosity, passion and love that came from the people of Deming was remarkable and something I won’t forget. The team and I began this round with hesitation, not sure what path our project would take, where we would be living or how we would be received in the community, but over time those worries were answered and we managed to discovered the beauty lying under the dusty surface of Deming.
While the teams time in New Mexico was a continual roller coaster of ups, downs, twists and turns, it also presented everyone with numerous challenges and learning curves. Towards the end of the round the pace of everything began to pick up speed with the end of our service, and return to Colorado, quickly coming into focus. Before leaving this unique spot on the map the team wanted to fit in some R&R, taking in some of the beauty, history and culture of the cities surrounding our small home of Deming. Up first was a day trip to White Sands National Monument, where we would also have the opportunity to meet up with Earth 5, another team from the Aurora campus serving in Fort Stanton, New Mexico. The trip required approval from staff, considering it was nearly a two hour drive, a possible exhorborent use of Government resources (Black Betty our trusty Ford Transit family van), and we were grateful to get that approval.
While the team and I are stationed in Deming, NM that does little to explain the variety of which our work entails. Within the city itself we have been shuffled from one location to another, helping where there is need, but beyond that we've paid visit to a few surrounding communities as well. Last weekend was our first introduction to Silver City, the home of last years "Southwest Region Sponsor of the Year, Rocky Hildebrand", and what a fun little city it is. We were brought in to assist with the coordination and running of the 2019 Tour of the Gila bike race, and were welcomed into the community with open and eager arms. After only a few hours in the city it was evident that the infamous "A" and grey t-shirts have been through this town before, we received many inquisitive questions from the community and a few invitations to serve with different organizations. Although we were still a little in the dark as to what our work at the race would entail, the warmth of the city showed us that it would be a good weekend.
While I was enjoying my second round team, the staff of Habitat for Humanity Saint Vrain, the city of Longmont, and being in Colorado, I was also ready for a change. I'm not sure what's wrong with me and routine, but they don't last. I knew half my team would have loved to stay in Longmont working on these homes until completion, that's not how the program works, we had other places to be. While I was mostly tired of the construction work, waking up and putting on my boots, I wasn't really ready to leave the new friends we had made at each site, both staff and other volunteers.
Throughout all the training we endured, lectures on leadership, diversity, team management and professionalism, there was little conversation around reward. Education award and other work related benefits, sure, but not the emotional reward we would all would receive throughout the round. Having traveled, taught and volunteered before and knowing the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment after serving a community, that was a main factor in my applying to Americorps NCCC in the first place. After weeks of training, meeting and getting to know corps members and then traveling 16+ hours to Texas, my thoughts of service and reward had fallen by the wayside. I knew the reason I was there, the work I was supposed to be doing, but I couldn't imagine how it would be received by the community. In short, it was amazing.
A Year of Service
My life, being anything but predictable, has taken another turn. Rather than moving to Jeju, South Korea - my original plan for Fall '18, I'm going to test drive Denver, CO and its surroundings, an area people just keep telling me "I'd love".