By Melissa Wharton
Northeast Alliance Together (NEAT) at Mattie Rhodes Center has a new AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) representative helping their team alleviate poverty in the Northeast.
Ana Ramirez started her partnership with NEAT this month. In the AmeriCorps VISTA program, VISTA members sign up with an organization for one year of service. Mary Cyr, director of NEAT, said their organization is very pleased to be working with Ramirez.
“We did quite a big search,” Cyr said. “We did thousands of emails, emailed thousands of people. That’s how we recruited Ana, and she was our first pick.”
Cyr said Ramirez’s qualifications and past experiences are what drew NEAT to her. She graduated from Brown University, where she studied anthropology and Latin American studies, and she’s spent time in Guatemala working with low-income communities. Not only was Ramirez what NEAT was looking for, but the organization was also a fit for Ramirez.
“The exact qualifications for an organization that I wanted to be a part of was entailed in Mary’s email,” Ramirez said. “It was challenging, reading what the job description entailed. So I wanted that challenge, and also bringing the skills I have acquired through my other experiences seemed like the right fit.”
Ramirez will be using those skills to work with NEAT towards their goals of increasing community involvement and alleviating poverty.
“What we’ve got our VISTA working off of is a document called the VISTA Assignment Description,” said Cyr. “There are four activities Ana has been assigned to and will work on.”
The first item on the list is working closely with the Indian Mound and Lykins neighborhoods. Ramirez will work to help residents care for the area, encourage them to attend neighborhood association meetings, and find people who will get involved in the community.
Ramirez will also help Cyr in developing NEAT’s Financial Mobility and Resiliency Program. This takes up items two and three on the list: first Ramirez will help with the planning and development of the program, and she’ll then help with fundraising and implementing the plan.
“The program is three-pronged,” Cyr said. “It will encompass providing income support, workforce development, and finance coaching. We’ll do fundraising, and then hopefully in about a year we’ll have staff that will be able to provide these services.”
Lastly, Ramirez will work on developing a Community Development Corporation (CDC) in the Northeast.
“The CDC will largely feature property redevelopment for affordable housing in the Northeast,” Cyr said. “Good quality affordable housing, unlike a lot of what’s available.”
Over the year that Ramirez works with NEAT and Mattie Rhodes, Cyr hopes the organizations will increase their presence in the community.
“Our services are open to anyone that lives in the neighborhood,” Cyr said. “We want to be relevant to the immigrants, but we also want to be available to everyone else.”
Ramirez looks forward to increasing that relevancy and availability by getting to know the people and the issues they face, and by working to solve those issues.
“I’m going to have to go out into the community and really know who they are,” Ramirez said. “Coming from a community where there are similar problems, there has never been a financial opportunity center, there has never been a solution. So being part of that solution is something that is going to stay with me even after my year of service here.”