By Joseph LaPlante, CCNYPA*VISTA serving at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County
From November 7th through the 9th, VISTA's from the CCNYPA*VISTA cohort got together for a retreat at Trout Lake. We covered plenty of topics throughout our retreat that are important to VISTAs ranging from knowing the propsectives of people in need, self-care, communicating with your supervisor, and finding your character strengths.
Discussing self-care was an important topic for me. Living in poverty hasn't been easy. Having to carefully budget money, I realized that lifestyle of being in poverty can be tough, especially when it comes to eating habits and how it impacts your social life. However, while I deal with poverty issues, I realize why I am serving as a VISTA. There are people who have been consistently in poverty, for quite some time. I am affiliated with a food hub project for my region in order to create a sustainable local food economy and help alliviate poverty with farmers in the area. I knew that this was an issue that needed to be dealt with before I joined VISTA, since I have family members who have recently lost their farms. I also learned that farmers have the highest rate of suicide in the United States. Learning about self-care not only helps myself, but also enables me to realize the ones I am helping are also dealing with this issue and that they may need help with self-care as well.
On a lighter note, Linda, a career coach, came to our retreat to talk about finding our character strengths. At first, I was excited about the career coach speaking to us becuase I have been wondering what is next for me after my year of service. Not only that, she helped put perspective on my strengths and how I can correspond this to my future career, and also how I can use these strengths to help contribute to the goals of my project.
During the time at the retreat, I found that this was a great time to reflect on my project. There have been some road bumps in my project, but I also found that I was not alone. I think the most important aspect of the retreat, for me, was sharing our experiences with each other and having the chance to talk about our project with others. Overall, I feel that the VISTA get togethers makes us a closer group.
By Guadalupe Sanchez, CCNYPA*VISTA serving at Alvernia University
It’s hard to believe we are nearly halfway through our VISTA term. It’s been great that we have evolved from awkward introductory conversations to forming a supportive community amongst ourselves but seldom have we had the chance to build upon it, with most of us living hours away from each other. The beautifully scenic Trout Lake retreat center was the perfect setting to afford us the opportunity to build upon this camaraderie and cohort solidarity during the fall retreat. Although it was freezing outside, I was personally sold the minute I saw we were given brand new towels and pillows to use for the duration of the stay. I don’t take pictures often, but waking up to see an unreal lake view complete with swans warranted a few minutes outside in the cold to document the moment.
I also don’t like to run or do much exercise for that matter, much less outside in the cold, but I ran (more like jogged, actually) and spent more time outside than I would otherwise spend during this retreat. Surprisingly, I was not the least bit bothered by it and in fact had a nice time. I recognize this was the case in large part due to planning of activities that ensured we had a fair and productive amount of professional development coupled with structured and informal bonding time, all while ensuring an appropriate amount of sleep, which I always appreciate.
In a daily life full of our VISTA work, with some having additional jobs and responsibilities, we may not allow ourselves the time necessary to think about our own development and care. From a comprehensive self-care workshop, to a career development session, to having play-dough and drawing tools available at all times, this fall retreat was a refreshing, productive, and wholesome experience. I very much look forward to the next one to learn more about my fellow VISTAs’ amazing accomplishments and spend some more much needed quality time together.