VISTAs working on activities during On-site Orientation.
Locally, On-site Orientation is the United Way of the Piedmont’s initial gathering of VISTAs under its grant on their first day of service in Spartanburg. For the Corporation for National Service – On-site Orientation (OSO) refers to a process – often taking up to a month – of the staff helping orient a VISTA to the community and organization they will be serving.
The United Way of the Piedmont’s VISTA program is unique because the volunteers serve at different sites during the year and are tackling a multitude of issues rather than all serving at one site. Our OSO helps them understand their role in the larger VISTA community and helps them build an understanding of the VISTA team.
Using the “Know, Want to Know, Learned” activity to tailor the orientation to the specific needs of the VISTAs.
This year OSO served to identify lingering questions and ways to create a sense of community both socially and professionally.The VISTAs went through an exercise to identify what they know and needed to know after visiting Atlanta for Pre-Service Orientation. VISTAs come to their service year with a range of strengths ranging from massage to public speaking. A common theme running through the responses was a deep understanding of the impact they are able to make throughout their service year and and commitment to fighting poverty in Spartanburg.
In the “need to know column” were questions relating to finances and life in Spartanburg including five questions along the lines of, “How to I apply for foodstamps” . They were also concerned with being successful and fully understanding their specific roles and responsibilities. By the end of the day, most items had moved to the “learned” category.
Included in this year’s training was a unique activity called life mapping to give the VISTAs – who are just meeting each other- a chance to learn a little bit more about each other. Life maps are a visual represenation of a person’s life to that point – literally a life map. All of the VISTAs this year were born after 1980 – so the group definitely brings a creative energy to Spartanburg.
In addition to the young professional energy – the VISTAs bring a wealth of experiences and backgrounds to the table.
VISTAs begin the tour of downtown Spartanburg near the Daniel Morgan Statue which reads, ” One People. No North. No South. No East. No West. A common Interest. One Country. One Destiny.”
The VISTAs this year come from all over the country – with an almost even split between Northerners and Southerners. Since we had a large number of non-natives, we asked Brad Steinecke from Spartanburg County’s Historical Association take take the VISTAs on a tour of downtown Spartanburg designed to help natives and newcomers alike understand how the Upstate became what it is today and downtown’s role in that story.There seemed to be a common theme in the story of downtown Spartanburg- one of destruction in anticipation of the new- the Field of Dreams story reversed.
After the tour Chris Steed, the United Way’s CEO, gave the VISTAs an overview of the United Way and more insight into the VISTA program (he was actually the reason Spartanburg has the VISTA program today)!
After we started eating lunch, a few guests-former VISTA – turned local non-profit star, Erica Shanks and the three returning VISTA rock stars – Claire Bishop, Erin Emory and Kayla Afkinich. They were able to answer specific questions about VISTA life and provide insight about living in Spartanburg
Once everyone joined the clean plate club we dragged ourselves through the post lunch slump and learned more about how the Corporation for National Service tracks our progress and started sketching a plan for the year. At 2:00 we piled into cars to visit and learn more about the United Way’s Gift in Kind Center (more on that later).
Chris Steed gives the VISTAs an overview of the United Way in his uniquely humorous style.
It was a great day and introduction to not only each other, but the wonderful ways Spartanburg could change as a result of VISTA efforts this year. Next week – we talk about poverty in Spartanburg, the history, the causes and how VISTAs will suit up for the fight.