I hope you enjoy reading about these ten things I have come to learn while working at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
And if you are serving now or are planning on serving with SERVE Philadelphia, I hope you find comfort in these words.
1 Start your day with positive thoughts
Wake up and be thankful for where you’re at. Be thankful for the roof over your head, the extra money you may have laying around, and the milk in your fridge. Working in the public service field you learn to be humble. Be optimistic that you are here to have a good day. Whether you drive, ride the train or bike to work, try to make the best of your morning commutes. Starting your days with a clear mindset will do wonders to your work ethic.
2 Get creative with your (packed) lunches
This is something I have become a pro at. Living on a stipend, unfortunately does not allowed me to eat out for lunch every day. However, through watching cooking shows I have become an amateur MasterChef. I incorporate a lot of veggies, fruits, and high protein foods into my lunches, as well as a dessert for a little treat. Get yourself a chic lunch box, bag or water bottle. Make a lunch that will make you excited. If I pack myself a good lunch, I know I’m going to have a good day.
However, remember to treat yourself every once in a while!
3 Root for each other and watch each other grow
I am a big fan of being around people that make me feel loved. The members in your cohort will become some of your greatest friends and closest supporters as we are all experiencing this year of service. Now, as our year is quickly coming to an end, the support I have felt within my cohort is warm. I know that I am surrounded by supporters and everything is okay. These strangers that you first met at the Pre-Service Orientation will teach you how great it is to work alongside a group of warmhearted individuals. What an adventure it has been.
4 Make your workspace, YOU
Besides going to meetings, many in my case, this is where you will spend most of your time. Make your desk or cubicle area a representation of yourself. Although you will be at that workspace for a year, create a homely space. Add some plants to your workspace and bring in portraits of your loved ones. Add little reminders such as “Drink More Water” and “Good Posture.” Make it a space that benefits your mind even on your busiest days.
5 Finesse your way through the discounts
Coupons and Groupons are easy ways to find discounts and have become my new best friends. You can literally find discounts for everything. From gym memberships, to groceries, and even some neat lunch deals. Pick up the coupon book when you walk into the grocery store. Follow some of the Philadelphian run blogs like Uwishunu; this is where you can find out about all the free, public events happening in the city. Book a BoltBus ticket in advance and take a day trip to NYC. Discount it until you make it.
6 Be patient with your progress
You are growing from this. This VISTA position will allow you to branch out and meet an array of individuals and opportunities. Take every opportunity this job may throw at you and learn from it. Every day you are growing more and more into the person you are meant to be. So if right now your overall self is one of uncertainty and ambiguity, worry not, for you are only just beginning to meet yourself.
7 Learn to make yourself a priority
I’m at my most powerful when my wrists smell like lavender and my hair is slightly curled at my forehead. Working in this field alleviating poverty can be overwhelming and hard yet amazing and rewarding, so remember to make yourself a priority. Learn healthy ways to cope with yourself. Learn what makes you feel good. Be you, do you, for you.
8 Kindness is underrated
Keep an open mind towards things and people you do not understand. Wow, did I come to learn this. As the Fatherhood Services Coordinator I work hand-in-hand coordinating services to low-income fathers and their families. At the beginning of my service year, I was afraid of being rejected into this community of fathers since I am a woman. I was afraid of the fathers not being so kind to me. Yet these fathers are the most inspiring and kind-hearted individuals I have come to meet. This position has cut through the stereotypes and misconceptions of fathers, ultimately giving me the most insightful treatment of fatherhood in the inner city.
9 Advocate for where your beliefs and morals stand
As the world becomes more globalized and interconnected, the urgency to give the necessary tools for people who have been marginalized needs to be addressed. Communities have been overlooked because of societal barriers they are confined with. These systemic barriers have created a stagnant inequality for marginalized communities, at times these barriers inflected through generations, affecting the accessibility of opportunities. Advocate for these members of our society that have become underrepresented. Stand up for what you believe. Be loving and kind, but don’t let people walk all over you.
10 Just enjoy where you are now
Sometimes we get caught up in everything that is around us that we forget to enjoy our time. Enjoy each day as it comes by you. And when you feel dark on the sunniest days, remember how the world used to feel on your best days, expansive and bright.
Jennyfer Osuna is the Fatherhood Services Resource Coordinator with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health
Are you interested in being a part of next year's SERVE Philadelphia VISTA Corps? Apply now!