Isn’t it crazy that our service year started a little short of a year ago? If you ask me, I still remember those first days during Pre-Service Orientation as if it were yesterday – consisting of awkward hellos and nervous glances, but mostly excitement to be in Chicago, meet new people, and to be of service to others. Now here we are, at the home stretch like one big family. Times flies when you’re having fun huh?
There are a few things I take with me as my service year comes to a close. First and foremost, I really had an incredible year and it wouldn’t have been possible without the people at my host site, Heartland Human Care Services (HHCS). I was thrown in the midst of it all, like a fish in the water. I later came to understand that they believed in me more than I did at the time. So I thank them for making me step out of my comfort zone, take on new challenges, and to not stay complacent. If you read this, my success is only the reflection of the guidance and support you guys gave me. I alone cannot take credit.
I’ve learned the true meaning of empathy and the importance of self-care. As NHC members, we give a lot to the individuals we see. We meet hundreds of people, hear hundreds of different stories. Being able to not just acknowledge when someone is down in a hole, but to climb down and let them know you are there with them, that you understand, makes a huge difference. Sometimes all we want is to be heard. That, I learned, is a key principle of being of service to others. But we also have to learn to set our own limits. I mean, we are also human and we can’t help others if we don’t know how to help ourselves. Also, PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE!! I am stubborn and competitive by nature, so that is something I will continue to practice and learn.
My time at HHCS has also helped me grow professionally. When I decided to go into the Public Health field, the possibilities were endless, and to be honest, my interests were all over the place. I wasn’t sure what branch I wanted to go into, what public health really meant, or how I would fit into it. Having a science background, I like doing “science-y” things and such, but I have also really loved to be able to talk to teen parents and hear their stories as a Community Programs Educator with HHCS. I learned a lot about the injustices they are put through, prejudices they face because of their “background”, and the disparity of hardships between individuals of different social, ethnic, and economic circumstances (this is especially noticeable in infant mortality rates in the United States). It was then that I knew my calling was related to Maternal and Child Health, advocating for the rights of women and their stories.
What happens next is still in the works. And I am still not done with my service year, so I have a few more things to finish up. However, I am grateful for the experiences I’ve gained and individuals I’ve met. If you’ve never considered doing an AmeriCorps program, maybe this will help you decide. I’ve learned a lot about the issues and problems communities face, but also the resilience and strength they possess. At the end of the day, it’s not only a personal commitment, but a commitment to others and a community.
This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2017-18 member Cecilia Magos.
Cecilia is a Community Program Educator at Heartland Human Care Services.