As I mentioned in my very first blog post, I moved to Baltimore in August of 2008 without having been to Maryland or or really knowing anything about it Have you ever googled an employer or a first date? Well, I quite literally googled the neighborhood where I would be working and living for a year. I may have also used the need to learn about my new city as an excuse to re-watch several John Waters films. Either way, I came to what would be come my new home with an open and curious mind. Being new to the mid-Atlantic, I was fascinated by the mix of North and South and the fact that so many of the places I learned about in American History are in the area. I never visited any battlefield, forts or national monuments growing up, and suddenly they were right at my fingertips!
As I started meeting friends a short distance away in metro DC, I fell in love. I suddenly found it much easier to socialize on an extreme budget, because if you can just get yourself to National Mall there are free museums and ample people watching opportunities abound. You can’t go a block without running into a national headquarters or huge government agency, which appeals to my arguably geeky side. About a year ago, I was walking around with a friend and my sister while she was in town, and as we turned a corner I heard “Oh, look. NASA!”. Pretty cool. My goal in moving for my first year of service with Volunteer Maryland VISTA was to survive a year in a new place, and it turns out I’ve found an area which I’m truly proud to call home.
Working in this area has great benefits professionally as well, especially working with community organizations. Between Baltimore and DC, countless international and national nonprofits and human service agencies are headquartered within an hour’s drive. When working with kids, you can can take them to the famous Smithsonian museums or on a white house tour on a quick day trip whereas students across the country only have the opportunity maybe once in their lifetime as part of a week-long excursion. All of this national-level buzz going on right around us definitely creates some unbelievable networking opportunities.
At Camp Fire, we believe strongly in service learning and one of my projects is to put together a two-day training on service learning for teachers who will be using it in the day camp setting. While I was looking up the basics online, my amazing cohort set up a meeting with Youth Service America, a huge national player in research support and education in the service learning field. Of course. My host supervisor is a strong believer in taking advantage of the resources we have by living here and invited me to the meeting so I can start building my own network. I was intimidated to be meeting with a woman who has over a decade of experience in service learning, but I walked out of the room completely energized and stoked for my project and the possibilities for projects to come. It turns out that people with a passion are people with a passion, regardless of position or experience and that anyone committed to community service already has a great starting point for personal and professional conversation.