I feel the need to clarify about my own service experience. I did two terms with AmeriCorps state (Michigan), placed in a Federally Qualified Health Center. I was not part of HealthCorps, which is a National program, but part of MPCA (Michigan Primary Care Association). I helped medicaid clients understand the need for and made sure they knew they had access to preventive care (checkups, labs, vaccines, asthma proactiveness, etc). I also helped uninsured women of childbearing age find quality care. I think that my program was and is important, but I also realize many of you have had harrowing experiences.
I was married at the time to another full-time wage earner and did not experience any undue financial hardship during my term of service; but it is laid out in the beginning what you will be paid. If you don't think you can make it on the stipend, you shouldn't commit to this sort of service. My comments were meant for those feeling mid-term malaise, those whose projects had stalled or met with problems from superiors.
I had no idea the post would attract so many who had truly horrid experiences. I hope those who have shared those experiences in the comments have also taken these stories to a venue that can actually assist them - I'm just a blogger, I don't have any special powers that my readers do not also possess. I don't have a wide range of influence - this is the first post and update on this blog in over three years.
The complaints posted on the original post comments are mostly VISTA related. I don't know anything about VISTA, and my original comments were never meant to address anything but my own feelings on the subject.
I feel mandatory national service should be required of every American citizen. We are a disconnected nation. There are many ways and means to serve your country and community, from the military, to AmeriCorps, to NCCC and beyond. Serving your country should give you a sense of pride and honor, not a feeling of being taken advantage of.
If you get nothing else from reading these two posts and the comments, I would hope you take away this:
There is no change without action. Sitting on your butt and complaining doesn't solve anything. If you want change, call your congressperson. Call your senator. Better yet, stop by their local office in your district. Sit down and talk to them. Speak to your peers. Write resolutions and proposals. Do SOMETHING beyond sharing your story on a blog that gets maybe 30 hits in a week.