Today is my last day at DNDA and as I finish cleaning and organizing my desk area I can't help but feel sad to be leaving. Of course I knew this day would come. That's the thing with Americorps, you only get 10.5 months. But therein lies the inherent flaw with Americorps. It's a great program that gives people the opportunity to spend a year serving a community, working in public service and growing as an individual. It's also a great resource for communities and individuals that deal with oppression and injustice everyday. But 10.5 months. Come on.
In my time at DNDA I have just recently begun really solidifying key relationships with members of the community. I have only just started truly strengthening those connections into something functional and positive. And while there is a chance that I was just slow, that I am the only Corps member that took so long to build a strong foundation, I highly doubt that. It takes time to gain someones trust, to begin to be vulnerable with a person and let them in a little bit. Especially when you're coming from two different worlds. To bring people in from all over the country to engage in "community service" only to have the leave once they have established themselves enough to really be of service...it seems kind of like a cruel joke.
I feel that Americorps should take a page out of the Peace Corps' book and have people commit to two year terms. Then they'd be getting more bang for their buck (and believe me, it's a small buck). Having one person in a position for two years, getting to know the community and really getting comfortable in their position, is of far more benefit then taking that person away after a year and putting someone brand new in to start from ground zero. Sure, the first person laid down a framework in terms of projects and programs, but the newbie has to start from scratch building trust, openness, and collaboration. That loss of productivity is unfortunate.
But, with that rant out the way, I will truly miss many of the people I have met this year, especially the people who I had the opportunity to work with in the gardens. I have learned so much from them and value every nugget of wisdom they were kind enough to share with me. I can't imagine how much I would learn if I were here for two years. Just another reason, Americorps, to change your system. But of course, as I write this, I'm not entirely sad. Because I know that many of the relationships I have built will continue beyond my position here. People have promised to stay in touch via e-mail, to send me pictures of the gardens throughout the season. Others I am friends with on that life-consuming network called Facebook. I may be leaving this desk in a few minutes, and walking out of this office for the last time, but the 10.5 months I've spent as the Family Gardening Coordinator will certainly stick with me, and I wouldn't have it any other way.