One of the great aspects of being an AmeriCorps member is actually working to alleviate a community need. Of the many different tasks and hats that an AmeriCorps member completes and wears, I have to say that the most rewarding (in my opinion) is the completion of Direct Service. Direct Service provides members with an opportunity to volunteer to directly serve the population whose needs their host organization is looking to meet. At Volunteer Maryland, Direct Service is a requirement for the year; members are required to dedicate at least ten percent of their time to its completion. As a Regional Coordinator, I have no actual organization where I can complete my direct service, thus I have the privilege of being able to complete my direct service with a variety of different organizations, schools, and government agencies where Volunteer Maryland Coordinators (VMCs) serve.
This week, I volunteered at the Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School with their Food and Greening Program. I can honestly say the experience was great; not only because I was doing two things that I love (cooking and hanging out with kids) but because the environment was welcoming. I walked into a large room painted a bright, robin’s egg blue with stainless steel tables lining one wall and a set of stainless steel shelving units lining two other walls. The units were stacked practically to the ceiling with cooking utensils; all labeled with pictures. My first task: make Mushroom and Faro Risotto. While I do love mushrooms and I’m wild about risotto, I had no idea how to make it!
Enter Chef Heather.
Before I knew it, I was chopping onions (with the help of two amazing assistants who stirred the onions in a sauce pan with gobs of butter), and mushrooms, and peeling and chopping sweet potatoes. Oh yes, I put Rachel Ray to shame with all my stirring and tasting! I was told afterwards by those who ate the lunch that we did a fantastic job.
It was VMC Afeke’s desire to facilitate a more streamlined program where volunteers can easily access service opportunities within the Food and Greening program at BMPCS. This allows for volunteers to be more easily engaged because they have a task to complete when they arrive to volunteer. Many of the volunteers were parents of students attending the school. Being able to actively engage parents in the day to day operations of their student’s education is a challenge for most schools. Looking at BMPCS, I’d say that opportunities for serving are in abundance. As with any school, work is never complete. The volunteers recruited, trained, and managed by the VMC and other staff members help to make the institution run more efficiently, and in turn help to provide a better quality of education to the students attending the school.
Afeke is working to create an orderly system in which volunteers effectively uphold one school’s mission of supporting individual fulfillment, compassion, self-discipline, life-long learning and a deep awareness of [an individual’s] responsibility to contribute meaningfully to our world.
Direct Service is an awesome opportunity not only to meet people but to contribute meaningfully to a cause about which you are passionate. AmeriCorps members do it every day. How do you serve?