Story last updated at 9/2/2009 - 2:39 pm
Why did I do something like take an oath of poverty, go on food stamps, give up my car, quit my secure job, and move to Alaska? Why, to join AmeriCorps! Why else?
If you ever meet me, I will most likely say, "Hello, would you like a condom?" That is how you greet everyone you meet, right? Well that is how I greet people while I am out doing outreach. I am the condom lady of Juneau, Alaska! I pretty much have one of the best AmeriCorps positions. I get to enter the prison, Rainforest Recovery, Montana Creek, Glory Hole, Gastineau Human Services, Cornerstone, UAS, Polaris House, the streets, and all the bars in town. I teach classes about HIV/AIDS, and hand out condoms along the way. I am also certified to test people for HIV/AIDS with an oral swab. The test is called the Oraquick and it takes a mere 20 minutes to complete.
I was able to get a full ride scholarship to L.A. for training in Minority AIDS education from Charles Drew University, where I was able to see the disease on a larger scale, and simply learn more about it. I sat through lectures, and job-shadowed in clinics for a whole week in Compton and Wells. The trip came in the middle of my term, and gave me the kick start I needed to get out of the "what am I doing here" slump.
Through my AmeriCorps experience I have learned how to live off of little, and make do with what you have. I came up here to Alaska on a ferry with only what I could carry. I live at poverty level, and I have made the decision to not get a second job. It has been interesting, but I have had a great support system at SAGA and from the town of Juneau.
Okay, here is where I put in my pitch: AmeriCorps will help with your student loans, give you job experience, and make you a better person.
Whether you choose to do AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, become a Jesuit Volunteer, or volunteer in your own community, thank you! Thank you for volunteering your time.
Heather Bayless is an AmeriCorps volunteer in Juneau.