By Tamaria Kelly, LSA AmeriCorps VISTA Community Resilience-Building Program Leader
No metro. No car. No Uber. I walked. For my first two weeks, in the blazing, DC summer heat, I chose to walk the 30 minutes from my temporary place of residency to the headquarters of Lutheran Services in America (LSA). Aside from collecting rare Pokémon along the way, I walked to get a feel for DC, a place that I would be calling home for the next year. As I walked, I was captivated by the scenery. I marveled at the ambitious people: locals waiting for the bus, little children walking to day camp, joggers, Hill interns, White House staffers, tourists, and government officials. My daily walk to LSA confirmed that the road to resilience for this Buffalonian would be one full of growth and adventure.
Resilient is a word that many of my friends and family members often use to describe me. So, it is surreal that I am LSA's first VISTA Leader for the Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA program. AmeriCorps VISTA defines resilience as, "the ability to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of stresses and shocks. It means being able to bounce back after something bad happens." AmeriCorps VISTA knows this is a concept that applies to individuals, communities, the economy, and the environment – and I have learned that it is a journey; a thoughtful process that requires time, effort, and dedication.
The LSA network understands this process. In all of my introductory calls with the six LSA member organizations participating in the VISTA program, they passionately spoke about the variety of resiliency-related activities they're working on to support their communities including assessment, risk mitigation, preparedness, volunteer training, and disaster services improvement. I am eager to serve beside LSA's first Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA cohort, dedicated to helping low-income communities better withstand and recover from a continuum of adverse events.
This October, LSA VISTA members and their supervisors will convene for the Resilience Academy in Washington DC, where we will participate in generative discussions, assessments, and relationship building to design resilience strategies for low-income communities across the United States. For the LSA VISTA cohort, preparation is key and our new teams aim to set the bar high at their respective sites: Austin, TX (Upbring); Columbia, SC (Lutheran Services Carolinas); Fargo, ND (Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota); St. Louis, MO (Lutheran Family and Children's Services of Missouri); St. Paul, MN (Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota); and Fort Thompson, SD (Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota).
I am honored to work with these incredible LSA member organizations and am looking forward to leading the Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA cohort to spread awareness of disaster preparation in support of community resilience.