Tuesday, November 07, 2006

So What's this AmeriCorps thing, anyway?

Since I don't have anything else to post about today (except that you should GET OUT AND VOTE!), and I got a comment from a former AmeriCorps member who found me via NaBloPoMo randomizer (stellar job I'm doing of that, huh?), I figured I'd just tell you all what I do while I'm at my service site.

So. I serve in the Michigan Primary Care Association's AmeriCorps HealthCorps. What does that mean? It means that I'm enrolled in a State level program, versus a National level program. The Michigan Community Service Commission (The Commission) admininsters to my program a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service (The Corporation). For National Level programs, the grant is adminstered directly to the program from the Corporation. Confused yet? Unless you decide to enlist, I wouldn't worry about it. There are many, many different AmeriCorps programs under three different headings. The first is the program I'm in - where I'm placed in my community to serve the underserved. The second is AmeriCorps NCCC (enn triple cee)(National Civilian Conservation Corps). They are stationed at five regional campuses, in dorms away from their original communities. They are often the first people mobilized after disasters like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. The third is AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) - VISTAs are similar to what I do, but they do behind the scenes stuff that I'm not allowed to do, like fundraising, grant development, voter registration, etc.

Members typically serve in one of these areas: enviromental/conservation, health care, housing, education, youth development, and disaster preparedness.

My service site is a FQHC, or federally qualified health center, in SW Lower Michigan. We serve medicaid, medicare, uninsured, and under-insured patients with family-practice style care. We do obstetrics. We have a dental clinic as well. As for what I do, well, I do a little bit of everything, from attending outreach events where we have a table and telling folks about our services, to inreach activities like getting kids in for immunizations and women in for well care, to serving as a DONA-trained birth doula (I'm special, not everybody is a birth doula) to moms with little or no support. I have to serve 1700 hours over 10-12 months. I do get paid, and while the Corporation thinks it's enough to live on, if I were single and trying to hack it on my own I'd be screwed. As programs renew their grants, they are able to pay more. I did get more of an increase in my living stipend this year (my second term) than I expected.

It's better than standing all day and working in retail. I've met some neat people and I love getting away for a couple days every 3 months for training sessions. It's a lot of sitting at my desk and reading charts, but I know how to use so many programs now that I could get a job at any doctor's office. I hope to doula for a living once I'm done with my second term.

Any questions, feel free to ask. This is just a basic overview.

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