Curious about what our VISTA members work on?
Each month, we’ll profile one of our VISTA members here, shining a spotlight on the amazing work that they do for the community. Check back regularly for more updates!
August: Raquel “Rachel” Echeverria
Building Bridges Across the River
This month’s VISTA Spotlight focuses on Raquel “Rachel” Echeverria. She joined VISTA because she wanted to “make a positive and meaningful impact in underserved communities”. Prior to coming to the VISTA Strong Communities cohort, Rachel served in Florida and as a Peace Corps member in Armenia. She currently serves at Skyland Workforce Center, a project of Building Bridges Across the River, to build their volunteer program.
While evaluating their existing program, she says, “I found that while volunteers have the desire to help people, there were not enough participants for them to work with, which resulted in low retention rates.” In order to resolve this, she created a weekly Job Search/Resume Help day, which boosted participation by 400%. “Now I am working to balance the equation by recruiting more volunteers to assist all the people coming in for help!”
As a second-term VISTA member, Rachel brings a broader perspective to her position. “VISTA volunteers provide a great value to organizations in the short term and long term…I have seen how the work of VISTA volunteers has been impactful and has built organizational capacity through sustainability efforts that have lasted years after VISTA volunteers complete their service.”
July: Sheila Naya
Sheila (right), one of the inaugural VISTA Strong Communities members, serves at MANNA, Inc. “I joined VISTA because I enjoy serving people,” Sheila says of her service. “Since I was a young child, I enjoyed community service.” At MANNA, Sheila works with their project management and acquisition teams, as well as expanding MANNA’s Young Professionals monthly meet-ups. “The experience I gain from each department is excellent,” she says, saying that one of the best parts of working at MANNA is the chance to work independently without distractions and micromanaging.
However, when she first started at MANNA, she was a little alarmed – the scope of her project seemed too big for her to complete, so she talked to her supervisor and he amended it to be less overwhelming. “The ability to amend my VAD alleviated most of the fear I had,” Sheila says. “I would encourage anyone who likes to serve others to join AmeriCorps VISTA because it educates you on domestic problems, allows you to network, and gives you an opportunity to experience different cultures.” Sheila is also attending an AmeriCorps-sponsored training in Illinois in August to help expand her skills.
In addition to her regular work, Sheila is also coordinating a care drive for families at the National Center for Children and Families. Families need shoes, clothes, bedding, baby items, and toiletries – you can drop off donations at MANNA’s office, 6856 Eastern Ave, Suite 100, or purchase items off of their Amazon wish list.
If you are interested in learning more about MANNA’s Young Professionals group, please visit http://www.mannadc.org/young-professionals/.