Marhaba min Indianapolis zimlaa IPE! Hello from Indianapolis fellow IPErs! It seems crazy that little over a year ago I was preparing to go back to UPS, with little to no plan after Senior year, and here I am, two months after the soggy Sunday that was graduation, an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer serving in Indianapolis with the Muslim Alliance of Indiana (MAI)! For those of you who are new to AmeriCorps, or have only heard of the direct service branch NCCC, AmeriCorps*VISTA is a professional development service program that places college graduates (many recent grads) with nonprofits dedicated to eradicating poverty. VISTAs serve for a one year term, working with their hosting organization on capacity developing projects.
So far, my time with the Muslim Alliance has been amazing. My specific assignment for the next year is to create a survey that assesses the needs of this population, and then to develop programs that meet those needs. So far, ideas on the table have ranged from a refugee oriented microfinance program to the expansion of our pro bono legal clinic services. I’ve had the opportunity to work with awesome non-profits across the city, from battered women’s shelters to refugee resettlement agencies.
In addition to researching and creating programs, I’ve also had the opportunity to get to know the community I’m serving. Last month, all four VISTAs at my office accompanied one of MAI’s partner organizations and thirty Iraqi refugees to Chicago. Many of them had never seen the city (nor had I), and with Ramadan approaching, wanted to take advantage of the Arabic districts bounty of Arab grocery stores. It was a great chance to practice my (bad) Arabic and connect on a personal basis with the refugees. I also recently attended MAI’s Seventh Annual Governor’s Iftar (the breaking of the fast for Muslims during Ramadan) held at the Indiana Statehouse and mix with some of Indiana’s most respected Muslim leaders.
Had I not graduated during a recession, I might not have considered national service as an option. I’m so excited that I’m using a lot of what I learned as an IPE major, and even some of the information I gathered from my thesis. Many other recent UPS grads are also embarking on the AmeriCorps*VISTA adventure and I can’t say enough good things about it!
Photos: The top photo shows staff in Kate's group with the Executive Director on the bottom left. The Maghrib Prayer is taking place in the Indiana Statehouse at the Governor's Iftar"