Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vista Memories - Raina Ooten Fulks

Don't tell me you've forgotten about the big VISTA Celebration coming up September 26th? Of course you haven't, there will be VISTAs past and present from all over gathering to celebrate the end of a great program in the region. In the spirit of the event we continue to feature the stories of VISTAs in their own words. Today we hear from Raina Ooten Fulks, VISTA from November 2003 until November 2004 with the Monday Creek Restoration Project.

"If I had to pick my best memory from my service, I would say the tree planting day on old mine lands near Murray City. It was such a successful event! Volunteers from all over showed up - local families, college students, staff from partner agencies, etc. It was the largest volunteer event while I was with Monday Creek. Everyone was so happy to be there planting trees on this barren, expansive grassland. A local coal company donated the trees and other businesses donated refreshments for the volunteers. It was great how it all came together! One day I hope I can see the area again, because by now it is a young, blooming forest.

I got to know a lot of people as a VISTA volunteer, especially the children in the community. A few of the children that lived nearby in New Straitsville would stop by the Monday Creek office occasionally after school and visit. They would ask about upcoming camps, read our newsletters, or just sit and color pictures. Two of the little girls came in near the end of my VISTA term. I had only a few days left to work, and I was finishing up things in the office. The girls came in and gave me a good bye card they had made me all by themselves. It was difficult not to cry as I hugged them for the last time. They were such sweet kids, and I really had gotten to know them during that year. I still have that card.

I had some frustrating moments, though, too. I remember trying to work with a few landowners that did not have any interest whatsoever in conservation and did not mind telling you. They didn’t even want me on their land. With them, it was hard not to be seen as someone from ‘the government’ or as a ‘tree hugger.’ But, I learned that when people are set in their ways and have done the same things for generations, it can be difficult to influence views and actions.

My service with VISTA really did help me progress in my career. I learned so much about watershed management and community organization. I still partner with many of the organizations I worked with as a VISTA.

The VISTA program is a great way to learn and grow as a person and serve a community that needs assistance. I am now working as the Leading Creek Watershed Coordinator with the Meigs Soil & Water Conservation District."

Come reacquaint yourself with Raina and everyone else on September 26th and stay tuned for more VISTA memories!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really like the VISTA program. Everywhere I go, it seems, and I mention that I'm a Rural Action volunteer, people say, "I was a Rural Action VISTA."