The Idaho Foodbank is lucky enough to have a group of dedicated volunteers who have taken an oath to help fight hunger in Idaho and have teamed up with the Foodbank to get that work done.
They’re called AmeriCorps VISTAs and they survive on a small living allowance while they work full time hours during 12 months of service.
As part of our expanding partnership with the AmeriCorps VISTA program, we’re introducing you to some of the Foodbank’s volunteer VISTAs.
Colleen Schowalter joined The Idaho Foodbank in January of 2014 after previously working as a VISTA for the Idaho National Guard in youth programs. Before her time as a VISTA, she worked on the Institutional Review Board for St. Luke’s.
This could be just the beginning for Colleen’s service to her community, as she says she plans on trying for another year with the VISTA program when her term is up next month.
Why did you choose to take part in the VISTA program?
“I knew that the work I was currently doing, I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life. I decided to take a year off to figure out what I would like to do and the AmeriCorps VISTA program offered me the opportunity to do something meaningful with my year off.”
What has the experience been like?
“Overall it has been wonderful. I have met great people through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. Many of the VISTAs I have met or had an opportunity to work with are inspirational people. It has been a struggle to get used to the change of lifestyle from the change of income. I had tried to prepare myself for it, but found it to be a struggle to have to think carefully through every purchase, calculate what I can buy and still afford groceries. It’s exhausting. I think knowing what it is like to live like this is one of the important outcomes of being an AmeriCorps VISTA. I struggled financially in college. I knew what it was like to have limited income when I was in my late teens and early twenties. It’s difficult to be older, at an age when you are expected to be self-reliant, and still struggling to get by. Going through this process has given me more empathy for other adults who live paycheck to paycheck and need assistance to meet their basic needs.”
What have you learned?
“I have learned many things about myself. I have discovered that I am resourceful and resilient and have learned many new skills, including ones that I thought I would never be good at.”
What has the program changed about you?
“It changed what I want to do as a career. I really enjoy all aspects of capacity building: creating and implementing education materials and classes, resource development, community outreach, and procedural and policy development. I am hoping to stay on with The Idaho Foodbank through the AmeriCorps VISTA program as a VISTA Leader. I want to use that opportunity to have more mentorship from the employees of The Idaho Foodbank, to gain experience, and to facilitate future VISTAs in having a wonderful and fulfilling year of service.”