Stories from the Field

Jun 2, 2011

by Erin Gannon, Training Associate, National Service Inclusion Project

“Before AmeriCorps I was in the background a lot, but now I’m a person who likes to talk, who likes to share my experiences… with this job with AmeriCorps I can’t go back to being in the background.” – Lisa Severino, AmeriCorps Alum

Stories from the Field: Members and Volunteers with Disabilities Sharing Their Experiences,” a session at NCVS will offer participants an opportunity to join a dialogue with AmeriCorps members, volunteers and alumni about their individual service successes and challenges.

The stories of volunteers, members and alumni can provide insight into successful approaches to recruiting, selecting, and fully utilizing the gifts of talented community members who are interested in service.

When members and volunteers with disabilities share their stories, it becomes clear that people with disabilities volunteer for the same reasons that anyone else does- to give back to communities, improve their surroundings and to be active and engaged in life.

I think one way AmeriCorps helped me was it helped me to become more at ease with myself, to become more at ease with my identity as a person with a disability… throughout my life I guess I always felt like I had to apologize because I was different, because I had a disability I was an inconvenience, and I was a burden. And I think being in AmeriCorps and being around people that saw me for me and I learned from them, I think it made me feel like… for one of the first times in my life that who I was, was okay. – Avery Olmstead, AmeriCorps Alum

Join this session to learn from the stories of volunteers, members and alumni and apply what you have learned to create concrete strategies to meaningfully engage people with disabilities in your service program.

I really believe that people with disabilities should not be excluded from opportunities…. It’s time to show America that America needs us and we need America. – Ted Garland, AmeriCorps Alum

In addition to “Stories from the Field: Members and Volunteers with Disabilities Sharing Their Experiences”, the National Conference on Volunteering and Service provides wide variety of opportunities to learn more about disability inclusion in national and community service.

Join in the dialogue about how to engage all Americans, including Americans with disabilities, in service during one of the following sessions:

Monday, June 6

1:00pm “Pioneering Efforts in Developing Inclusion Brokers”

Tuesday, June 7

8:30am “Targeted Recruitment and Retention Strategies for Non-traditional Volunteers and Service Members”

4:00pm “Engaging Veterans with Disabilities and Wounded Warriors in National and Community Service

Wednesday, June 8

7:00am “AmeriCorps Disability Affinity Group”

8:30am “Stories from the Field: Members and Volunteers with Disabilities Sharing their Experiences”

10:30 “Inclusion 101: Creating a Welcoming Service Environment”

For more information about including people with disabilities in national service visit the National Service Inclusion Project, “like” us on Facebook and visit our virtual office in Second Life.

Erin Gannon served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa (2007-2009) and China (2009-2010) where she worked as a trainer and community resource in areas including disability inclusion.

Prior to her Peace Corps service Erin taught in a variety of settings including public schools, experiential education programs and university classrooms. She earned her Masters in Art Education from Kent State University where she studied the intersections between Art Education practice and the disability rights movement.

Erin currently volunteers with AIDS Action Committee.

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