A Volunteer’s Perspective from (Close to) the Beginning

October 31, 2012

As I enter my 3rd month as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer at Tubman, I am pausing to take stock of what has brought me here, to look forward, and to explore how what MAVA is teaching me can help Tubman grow.

Tubman is known as a leader in providing shelter and supportive services to women and families facing the crisis of domestic violence.  I chose to apply to volunteer at Tubman because its mission closely matches my concern for the difficulties women face in a world of discrimination so entrenched that it is often invisible.

I was selected to volunteer as a Community Advocate answering phones and providing resources to women exploring their options, including emergency shelter, legal, housing, parenting, mental and chemical health, safety, and a wide range of services.  Sometimes, all I did was listen supportively, yet these seemed to be the most meaningful calls. I soon discovered that being able to help out women in a wide variety of situations made me feel good too and I realized I wanted more.

Imagine my good fortune to discover that Tubman had been selected by MAVA to take an AmeriCorps VISTA position.  The goal of this position is to help grow capacity in the newly renovated Tubman East facility in Maplewood.  I felt even more fortunate to be selected for the position!  The renovation is finally close to completion and we preparing to move from our older, smaller shelter into this newly renovated facility.

Being at a new facility and starting up a new program has had its own challenges.  I have had to work hard to turn vision into reality and create structure from thin air.  Luckily I have had some great support and helpful ideas from the talented and experienced Tubman staff.

My supervisor, Director of Sustainability Services, Janet Golden, has been helping me complete an analysis of services we could provide our clients.  This project has required lots of time researching on the internet and sorting through the data I found.  Luckily I’ve had Janet’s advice on how to make sense of all of the data! I hope to soon have made some choices of what we would like to offer.

I am so excited that we will have the shelter community at the new location and the classes can start to be implemented.  I am currently wrestling with how to motivate the community to attend the classes we are shaping for them.  I just finished reading Daniel Pink’s “Drive” and am hoping I can figure out ways to harness the intrinsic motivations of learning.  I believe the community as a whole benefits any time anyone grows and learns.  I would love to figure out a system to highlight the fact that class attendees are helping more than just themselves.  Maybe we could decide as a team to send half of the registration fee to a charity of their choice?  If any of MAVA’s blogs readers have ideas, please send ’em my way!

I just came back from meeting with the first program we might partner with.  I can start to see what services we hope to bring in for our clients and the community and am overwhelmed with gratitude that I have had this opportunity to participate in bringing in these services.

Having seen both sides of the volunteer equation, I am so excited to be recruiting and managing volunteers to participate in such a wonderfully supportive environment.

Patricia Zetelumen, AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer at Tubman