Americorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) is a nationwide program that began in 1960 as part of the War on Poverty. Through the Goodwill VISTA partnership, I was placed at Kennebec Valley Community Action Program.

Though I take pride in my work, every day is a challenge. For a minimal monthly stipend, I serve an anti-poverty organization full-time. The irony of that does not escape me, but coordinating the Community Investors Initiative has shown me why VISTA is structured the way it is. Ultimately, my service is an opportunity to walk in the shoes of millions of impoverished people in the United States.

Community Investors is a community-powered donation program that helps low-income people overcome challenges to stability. In one case, we helped a woman whose insurance covered her eye exam, but not her glasses. As someone who cannot leave the house without corrective lenses, I understood what a challenge that could be. One hundred and ten dollars stood between this woman and her ability to see the world. My proximity to the poverty line could land me in the same situation, so I was relieved to see a number of generous donations come in for her.

The requests that get the most attention seem to be the ones that people connect to personally. One donor told me she struggled as a single mother after her divorce, so now that she’s stable she wants to help others who face the same challenges.

Though VISTA service is hard, humbling work, I appreciate the ways it has deepened my empathy and given me a platform to inspire it in others.

If you are interested in learning more about Community Investors, please send an email to [email protected]

Paige Barker


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