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AmeriCorps Spotlight: Carmen Lyons

AmeriCorps VISTA member Carmen Lyons joined the Behavioral Health Equity Corps (BHEC) in February of 2021. They are currently serving at THEARI, focusing their efforts on building capacity for two non-profits in Boulder County, Out Boulder County and Medicine Horse. They were kind enough to answer some questions about themselves and the work they have done as part of the program.

 

General Questions:

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I come from a small town in Vermont. I’ve always enjoyed spending time in nature. I fell in love with the Rocky Mountains when I visited family in Utah. I moved out to Colorado to pursue studies and I’ve never left! My healing journey has been the guiding force in life. A big part of this is developing positive habits and behaviors, so of course the Behavioral Health Equity Corps spoke to me. I’ve always enjoyed lifting people up and supporting them on their health and wellness journeys.

How did you get into volunteering?

I’ve always liked sharing what I know and lifting other people up. That’s a lot of what drew me into service. In 2020 there was a lot of people hurting, people suffering with substance misuse and mental health challenges, and I wanted to do something to help. The Community Opioid Response Program called to me because of my interest in learning more about treatment and helping those with substance misuse disorders. The BHEC program opens the lens to support behavioral health-related nonprofits which is a big passion of mine. Additionally, the opportunity to work in the nonprofit space and build professional skills was appealing.

What do you most enjoy in your free time?

I enjoy yoga, meditation, working out, just spending time outside in the sunshine, cultivating my garden when it’s gardening season, and snowboarding!

What advice would you give people considering going into service?

I would say the most important thing is to find a program that you’re passionate about. Come in with the desire to serve and an open mind.

If you could visit one place, anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I would love to go to Ireland. A lot of my ancestors are from Ireland. It’s beautiful from what I have seen in pictures.

What is one item you cannot live without? 

My noise cancelling Bluetooth headphones, they’re so convenient, whether for the gym or cancelling out noise in my house when I mediate.

What is your favorite hobby? 

My hobbies are all so important to me. Meditation is extremely valuable and making and eating food is equally as important.

What would you like the world to know about you and your work?

I would like the world to know that I am just a small piece of a larger puzzle. I’ve provided support for amazing non-profits that do really great work. I want people to know that anyone can serve - look at your community and what they are asking for. It’s equally as important to take care of yourself and if you do, it’s easy to serve.

 

Program questions: 

Tell us about your host site.  How do you, as a BHEC member, fit into their vision of supporting communities? 

My host site THEARI works to support the healthcare workforce, and that’s a lot of what I have focused on with my partner organizations. Inclusive Care Colorado with Out Boulder County helps to connect LGBTQ+ community members to health care providers who are qualified to treat them. I’ve also worked to expand Speaking Out which hosts panels of LGBTQ+ individuals at schools to help people feel less alone which has been so important during the pandemic. Another partner, Medicine Horse has a mission to recruit BIPOC therapists and help them get their equine therapy certifications to increase diversity in the workforce.

What attracted you most to work with BHEC/CORP? 

The work I have done to improve my own behavioral health has transformed my life in a positive way. I know not everyone has access to these modalities and the ability to pursue them or even the knowledge that they exist. If we can heal ourselves and help others heal, we can heal the world.

What programs/projects are you currently working on?  Please describe. 

I’m closing out my service, so I am working on making things sustainable on my way out. I am providing support for Speaking Out, Out Boulder County’s signature program, and connecting people with scholarships through our partnership with The Cielo Foundation. With Medicine Horse I am finishing up grant research efforts and foundation tracking.

Highlight a specific project you are currently working on or completed.

The Cielo Scholarships, working with the Cielo Foundation is great example of how the nonprofit organizations can collaborate to expand their reach. I’ve gotten to meet with people who are interested in scholarships and hear more about their stories and goals. Being able to connect people to such a great resource so easily is very validating.

What impact do you feel these projects/programs will have on the community?

Most of the work I have been doing is supporting projects and building the capacity of technology systems. The impact I have had is making behavioral health resources available to more people.

Tell us about the support you receive from your host site.

THEARI is such a supportive host site. My supervisor goes above and beyond in supporting me by offering suggestions for projects and advice for relationships with partners. He is really open and friendly and makes time for free-flowing ideas and sharing what’s on your mind. The support is a lot more than I would have expected.

What would you like to gain from service at this host site?

I have gained skills around grant research and writing, navigating customer relationship management (CRM) systems, meeting facilitation skills, creating language for communications, and working on different fundraising campaigns. I have also gained confidence in myself and own abilities, and my ability to learn new things and take everything in stride.

What is the most rewarding aspect/proudest accomplishment of your work/position?

Hearing people that I’ve supported say that I have helped build capacity for their programs feels good. That’s what we’re here to do, and to know that I have helped the community is the most rewarding part.

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