Sarah Hill is the newest member of the LASVP team, and an Americorps Volunteer in Service to America. Not quite sure what that means? You’re not alone. Here are some questions that Sarah has heard since starting her year of service.
You’re not from around here, are you, kid?
No, Sir. I’m from the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I grew up in a little town in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains called Prestonsburg.
I suppose the turnip truck tipped over on the 10 then, huh?
Well, no. I’m here as a member of the AmeriCorps VISTA program.
So… you’re a VISTA. What does that mean?
VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America. The VISTA program is part of AmeriCorps, which is basically like the domestic version of the Peace Corps. The focus of the VISTA program is alleviation of poverty in America and I’m here with LASVP to help build the capacity of the organization. When LASVP creates positive change in the lives of underserved people, I know I’ve done something to help break the cycle of poverty in America.
And they don’t even pay you?! You’re a volunteer right?
Technically, I receive a living stipend from the government that is 10% above the poverty line. So America is kind of paying me. VISTAs are a great bargain for the country–last year the program received $99 million in funding and put $187 million right back into the community. So spending a year or so living on rice and Ramen noodles is worth it.
How do you live in Los Angeles on that budget?!
[laughs] The same way other people in California and the rest of the nation do it! With difficulty. The difference for me is that at the end of my VISTA service I can use my education (double majored in English and French) and skills to help me find other work. Others aren’t so lucky.
Okay, then. What else do you do?
I can say the alphabet backwards. Laugh if you must, but I’ve found it to be a pretty handy thing to know. I also love to read and I’m just generally enjoying all this California sunshine.