By: Phyllis Kyei Mensah
This year has taught me so many values, skills and experiences that I would not have had anywhere else. The most important lesson I have learned so far is to not underestimate the impact of even the most minute of injustices on individuals and their families.
As a VVC, I split my weekdays between the Liz Carter and Winton Terrace Outreach Centers. On a typical Bank Street day, my tasks include enhancing the company’s image on social media and our website through promotional materials, working on print and communication materials for our events and drives, and soliciting donations for our events. Besides the new digital and design skills that this position has taught me, I have also grown to appreciate the diversity of my day-to-day tasks and responsibilities, which give me something excited to look forward to.
On a ‘Winton Terrace’ day, you might find me waiting (quite impatiently) at the bus stop to catch the Cincinnati Metro Bus to the office. I find it both interesting and humbling to share this important ritual with people I neither know nor have any relationship with. This ritual invokes an unspoken bond between me and my neighbors who ride the bus and, through this bond, there is a refreshing and familial feeling of knowing where people get on and get off. A bond which gets me thinking about what’s going on in people’s lives when they don’t show up as they usually do at their regular bus stops, and what part of their lives are distracted and affected when the bus is late or never shows up.
A day at Winton Terrace is usually fun and full of activity. I usually get my weekly workouts going up and down those steep stairs. At this placement, I have had the opportunity get to know our neighbors better. What makes my day is when someone says “thank you so much, I really appreciate your help” after I have helped print and fax both legal and social service documents, school assignments, resumes, or helped fill out job applications or create new resumes for job interviews, or referred someone on the phone to the appropriate agency or contact person to get the help they need. I have also had the pleasure of seeing people move ahead on the social ladder – from being jobless, to having a job and a regular paycheck; from feeling too old to learn, to being regular students of our computer and GED classes; and from being hopeless and frustrated, to being happy and hopeful for the future. These tasks are very important to me because I am a firm believer of addressing poverty not only with handouts, but also structural and systemic long-term solutions.
VVC life outside the office has also been a personal journey of growth and adventure. I have had to try my hands on so many things I never used to do (well, board games are the exception because I just can’t wrap my head around them). I have evolved from being someone whose only workouts had just been frequent ‘walks in the Lord’, to a regular morning jogger. I could swim like a stone before VVC, but now, I can stay afloat for about 5 seconds with Jack’s expert help (Hey! That is a great achievement by my standards 😊). You might also find me practicing for the driver’s license test, which I’m not even planning get anytime soon (but hey, I can’t pass on another opportunity to bother other VVCs). Pulling out weeds from the VVC garden is also another ritual you might find me doing when I want to feel like the ‘TRUE’ organic farmer that I am😊. Habitually, however, you will find me reading some form of literature either on the back porch or in my room.