As I write this my future as an AmeriCorps Volunteer in Elkins, West Virginia is in question. As part of the National Corporation for National and Community Service my funding is in jeopardy under the new proposed national budget. So I just wanted to share what the future of West Virginia will look like with out programs like AmeriCorps. How we contribute to communities and are a value to the State and Country.
With Appalachian Forest Heritage Area being my supervising program, I have greater knowledge of the services that we supply. Yet, I have information and direct experience with the impact that other programs have within my the state and it is for all the members of AmeriCorps across the country that I write this.
AmeriCorps members do not choose to be a service members for wealth, social statues or fame. We choose to live and work under the hardest of conditions, in places of poverty, economic distress and devastation. With little more than minimum wage we choose to take our education ( most have at least a 4 year college degree and some more then that) and use it for the good of a community . We work in places far from our homes and often times in rural locations where most would not want to work. We take on projects that are for the betterment of everyone from the preservation of a historic site, to removing evasiveness species of plants from our public lands to providing summer reading programs to communities who have the highest drop out rates and drug addiction issues in our country.
West Virginia is my home and I work with 883 other West Virginia AmeriCorps to support small non-profits and state-run programs that help families know their children are safe in after school programs, so they can finish their days work. We work day in and day out with out rest to help victims of floods, fires, and other natural disasters. Making the job that FEMA and other federal government programs run smoother. We save our culture and history for another generation to learn from with hours of cataloging, researching and displaying our states rich past. We develop programs to bring more jobs and more economic opportunities to areas where finding a job at a living wage job can be difficult. We work to help the poorest of our communities get health care in areas where they may have to travel over an hour to just get a prescription refilled let alone emergency care. We work with veterans in the tough transition from service to civilian work. We work to bring more tourist to our beautiful locations and historical places.We replant forests, maintain trails and fight forest fires to protect our communities.We motivate thousands of other volunteers to do the same in all of our locations, towns, and cities.
If we remove the 883 volunteer members that serve my state we are removing 1,836,640.00 work hours from our states economy.That is a million hours of services that we are not going to be provided to all the counties of this state. It is going to take away compassionate educated people who work for the lowest of wages away from our children, our poor, our sick and our suffering.My calculation is based on a 40 hour work week over a year and many AmeriCorps are working more than 40 hours a week to expand the services that they provide for no extra money every week.
Volunteers get no over time, they cost no extra benefits to state or federal governments. We collect no retirement,sick or vacation time. We as Americorps ask for very little to work for you. We ask that you fund us enough to feed ourselves and house ourselves for the year that we sign up to work for you the people of this country and the great state of West Virginia.
Yet, some how my work is not seem as a profitable, worth while or important to the well-being of my state or country. How is that possible, how is it that we do not need all of us working together to bring our country forward to be the best place for all of us.
I have not resigned my future to a place of darkness yet, I have not tossed in the towel on all of the projects that I work on. I have only begun to see that if I do not speak out for the thousands of AmeriCorps that I represent that my state and my county will lose a valuable service that is given to our people. Let the work that I do change the state that I live in for the better and may it change the world that I liven for a better future for all of us. “I am Americorps and I get things done.”
The people in Washington making these decisions are so far removed from the economic conditions that demand these services, that they are incapable of making a good choice. You have people who have not wanted for anything, for a very long time (some of them have never wanted for anything) that I don’t think they are capable of understanding the situation, let alone the real need that exists.