Service in the City that Raised Me

The mission of AmeriCorps is simple in the idea that it provides a variety of opportunities to conduct service work in order to benefit a particular community. Serving with AmeriCorps will provide me and my fellow members with a full-time opportunity to further explore the different realms of service and make a real difference in the local and national community. On the other hand, the mission becomes of utmost complexity when the question becomes one of “how exactly do I make a difference?” or “What can one person do to impact another and his/her community?” These questions have not only intrigued me, but have provided the foundations of why I continue to make service a part of my life. When considering a problem that a community faces, I am fascinated in learning about the complexity that the issue takes on with its multitude of layers. Each layer represents a different facet of service including social, cultural, economic, educational, and political factors that play a role in its ability to be solved. As an AmeriCorps member, I will take an active role in solving some of the country’s most difficult problems, and as a member of the National Health Corps, I will focus specifically on health related issues.

The Pittsburgh National Health Corps consists of 20 members, but only three are actually from Pennsylvania. Being one of the three from the area, my experience thus far has already given me insight into my local Pittsburgh community in regards to its demographics and public health system, while also exposing me to many disparities and shortages in health and health care. While I am exploring the community that has been home to me, it is fascinating that my fellow corps members have traveled from all over the United States to Pittsburgh for the same goal - serving the Pittsburgh community. For the next ten months, we will certainly learn about ourselves, each other, and most importantly the needs of this community. Although the needs of Pittsburgh are likely to be uniquely complex from many others places, I am positive that the themes learned from the National Health Corps will be representative of many communities nationally and even internationally and will aid in our diverse future careers.

We spent our first two weeks together doing a variety of Pre-Service Orientation activities that proved to be exciting, informative, and engaging in a number of ways. Even though National Health Corps members are placed at a variety of different host sites, we all share the same goal of fostering an overall healthier community. For example, some members focus on food insecurity and nutrition, while others provide resources for preventative medicine or managing chronic diseases. However, the totality of our Pre-Service Orientation showed us how collaborative the entire realm of health is, from direct medical services to public health initiatives, and everything in between. In order to achieve the most positive health outcomes, it is necessary to begin to understand how inextricably intertwined these initiatives truly are. Additionally, we engaged in a variety of sensitivity trainings regarding a number of populations and how our role fits into a larger group dynamic.

One Pre-Service Orientation activity that particularly stood out to me and made an impact on how I will serve others was the interactive discussion on Motivational Interviewing. For me, it provided a foundation of how to interact and empathize with others in a way that is supportive, sincere, and constructive. No matter, the realm of service that I and my fellow corps members will be in, this becomes a useful skill to foster healthy, beneficial relationships with those we serve. Therefore, all of these trainings have run parallel to the commitment and spirit of the National Health Corps and will ultimately aid in future relationships with our clients/patients throughout the year.

This post was written by NPHC member Madison Altmyer

Madison serves at Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank as a Health Educator.