By Mary Sherman, CCNYPA VISTA Leader
Hello! My name is Mary Sherman (she/her) and I am serving as the VISTA Leader at Campus Compact of New York and Pennsylvania. I recently had the opportunity to speak during a National AmeriCorps VISTA webinar focusing on Resiliency and Service Wellness, where I was able to share some of my insight and experiences on serving in the midst of a pandemic. The webinar was hosted by Ginlin Woo, a VISTA alum from 1968 - 1972, as well as a teacher, facilitator, curriculum designer, educational planner, mentor and coach. Daysha Humphrey, VISTA Leader at the Maroon Volunteer Center at Mississippi State, also shared her care strategies and how she was able to navigate being a VISTA in the middle of COVID-19. If you weren't able to catch the live webinar, you can find a recording here or on the VISTA Campus website!
We were asked to consider cultural protective factors that ground us as we navigate life, and immediately I thought of food and cooking. I find great comfort in creating things with my hands; growing up, my family held many traditions surrounding cooking and eating (just ask my lovely partner about the 2-day affair lovingly dubbed “Cookie Day” where my cousins and I spend hours making over 200 dozen cookies for friends and family). Thinking a bit deeper about this, I realized that this love for cooking stems from my love for sharing my passions with those around me. Not being able to share this love in the ways that I was familiar with was very difficult at the onset of the pandemic, especially living in New York City while I had friends across the Northeast. I realized I was missing my friends, my family, and colleagues, so I made the intentional effort to reach out and just set up times to chat. We had virtual happy hours, played phone games against each other, and just set time aside to chat and play with those goofy video chat filters on Facebook. This energy from them was so crucial to me being able to live in the epicenter and get through the apex of the pandemic. It was and continues to be so important for me to reach out and take that initiative to stay connected with my loved ones, and so if you’re sitting here with someone on your mind that you haven’t reached out to in a while, text or call them today. Nothing special, just a simple “hello”, and I promise it will make a world of a difference for both of you. I’ve shared a few photos of some of the best people in my life (certainly not exhaustive, but you can get a taste!)
I also spoke about my service adjustments as a VISTA member serving at Mercy College. Reflecting on the challenges that came out of the pandemic, it made me realize how resilient I am as a human being but more so thankful for the incredible support system I had around me-- both at CCNYPA and at Mercy College. To my fellow VISTAs, past and present, please know that you have done an incredible job, regardless as to whether or not every point on your VAD was checked-off. Continue to bring your passion into everything you do, but care for yourself first. What you have done is the best you could have possibly done given the circumstances, remember to always show yourself kindness and to move forth in wellness. Together through healing can we bring power to ourselves and those around us. Only then may we strive alongside our community towards success and make a positive change.
Welcome to the CCNYPA*VISTA Blog, written for VISTAs, by VISTAs!