AmeriCorps VISTA member Binjil Mupo joined the Behavioral Health Equity Corps (BHEC) in April of 2021. They are currently serving at THEARI. They were kind enough to answer some questions about themselves and their service.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Binjil Mupo, I’m turning 21 in August, and I have my Master’s in Public Health. I’ve always been drawn to community health and ways to improve health outcomes for underserved populations, which is why I decided to serve. A fun fact about me is that I adopted my cat Kali while I was here in Denver, and when I’m not spending time with her, I’m typically either serving or working at my second job.
How did you get into volunteering?
I initially started volunteering to better connect to my community when I was in Florida. Volunteer hours were a requirement of my high school for graduation, and I truly enjoyed being able to serve my community. In addition to that, volunteer hours are a requirement for medical school applications, and since that’s my long-term goal, I’ve racked up quite a lot of hours throughout my undergraduate experience.
What do you most enjoy in your free time?
I typically don’t have much free time. Service is very demanding and because of the lower stipends that members receive, when I’m not engaging in service, I’m spending a lot of my time at my second job. Besides that, I’m either trying my best to catch up on sleep, hanging out with coworkers and friends, and taking care of my kitten.
What advice would you give people considering going into service?
Be aware of the financial strain that can be put on you from the minute you step into service. Also, be ready for challenging scenarios, like worst-case scenarios, even. Things usually won’t become your worst-case scenario, but if you can think it, there’s a chance it could happen, so always have a plan!
If you could visit one place, anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Before I started my Master’s degree, I had planned to go to India with my mom so that we could visit her family now that I’m older. Then the pandemic hit, and all travel was put on a hold. The minute I’m able to, I’d love to be able to take that trip with my mom and finally make use of the visa that I hold.
What is one item you cannot live without?
I’d say an item I can’t live without would have to be my laptop. It was a gift from my parents, and it still runs good as new despite being nearly 8 years old. It’s a beast, and I would hate to live without it.
What is your favorite hobby?
My favorite hobby would be writing of some sort, either fiction or daily journaling. That, and talking to my friends. I’m excited about a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with them that we’ve been planning for a little bit now!
What would you like the world to know about you and your work?
Coming into AmeriCorps, I think I expected a different experience than what I’ve had. There’s been a lot of unforeseen situations and things I’ve had to learn how to adapt to, and the last thing I would want to do is give up on the commitment I made to serve. As a result, I’ve had to really learn how to adjust to unexpected stressors. I think the biggest thing though is that it’s really taught me a lesson about adaptability, and my own capacity. I’ve had to learn how to take any situation, regardless of what it is, and somehow make the most I possibly can out of it despite any challenges that had arose.
Tell us about your host site. How do you, as a BHEC member, fit into their vision of supporting communities?
My host site since I started service has been THEARI. Initially, I acted as an additional reference for THEARI and as a means to connect THEARI with more of their community partners, but this role changed a bit during my service. Now I’ve been working more internally on projects with THEARI. I’d like to believe that I fit into their vision of supporting communities by supporting their organization. As the saying goes, you can’t serve from an empty cup – most of my work focuses on ensuring that THEARI’s cup isn’t empty.
What attracted you most to work with BHEC?
I was looking for AmeriCorps positions that fit into the realm of public health and community healthcare so that I could gain more experience. BHEC had fit within my goals of this, and I was especially interested by the support network and partners BHEC has across the state.
What programs/projects are you currently working on? Please describe.
There have been a few different programs and projects I’ve worked on. Early in my year, I developed an outreach database and funders list for one of the partner’s THEARI collaborates with, which helped them better fund an event they had in the summer.
Then my focus shifted more toward identifying and applying for funding with THEARI. I’ve written a few grants with THEARI, and also helped structure some of the data collection and processes for programs offered. One main program I’m working on to tie up my end of service is the creation of a database spreadsheet which will contain language THEARI commonly uses within grants – a resource that will allow for the organization of data sources and program descriptions to exist in one singular location.
Highlight a specific project you are currently working on or completed.
Oh, the first one that comes to mind would have to be the “resource list.” It’s massive. It’s a catalog of past and current partners and goes in depth to the services they currently provide to the community. It’s interactive with symbols labeling the many different types of programs that are offered by the community facing organizations we know. The goal is to turn it into an interactive and accessible webpage for community partners and individuals alike.
What impact do you feel these projects/programs will have on the community?
My hope is that the resources I’m creating will allow for THEARI to better serve the community and their partners.
Tell us about the support you receive from your host site.
I think one of the best things about THEARI is that they are flexible and find ways to make space for support.
What have you gained from service at this host site?
I think I gained valuable experience with juggling multiple commitments at once, and also adapting to any situation that could possibly be thrown at me. One of the biggest things I’ve taken away from this experience is that I learned that I also enjoy serving the community indirectly rather than directly as I had done in the past. It was an experience that I hadn’t had prior to THEARI, so working on internal projects to better support the organization was something that taught me more about myself and my interests. Service, as a whole, also required me to learn how to live on my own and take care of myself, though that’s more a general thing I’ve gained.
What is the most rewarding aspect/proudest accomplishment of your work/position?
The proudest accomplishment will be the resource list when it’s completed and accessible to the public, solely because of how large it is and how much potential it has in acting as a database for the future. It is such a mammoth of a project.