AmeriCorps VISTA member Natalia Viveros joined the Behavioral Health Equity Corps (BHEC) in April of 2021. They are currently serving at THEARI and were kind enough to answer some questions about themselves and their service.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m all about looking for opportunities to grow and enjoying the process. I like to reflect on where I’ve been in life and where I am now. It makes it easier for me to be grateful for what I have in the present.
This past year was an important year for me. I moved away from my parents’ home to come to Colorado and became more self-reliant. I am proud of that. I also value my interpersonal relationships a lot, because my friends, family and peers have all helped me better myself in distinct ways. I like being able to support others as well. I care about community.
How did you get into volunteering?
In junior-high school, our guidance counselor told us to find extracurriculars that interested us, to expand our horizons. I started volunteering at a nursing home because at the time I thought I wanted to live to 100 years old! I thought that senior citizens probably had the best stories. Ultimately, that experience changed the way I saw ageing. I realized that volunteering two hours out of my entire week could impact someone else’s life. Following that experience, I knew that even if I had just two hours to spare in my week, that my time could still benefit another person.
What do you most enjoy in your free time?
Anything movement-oriented! Anything that will allow me to move my body. It helps me stay calm and centered. The gym gives me so much joy. I also enjoy cooking. Moving my hands is a way I like to express myself creatively.
What advice would you give people considering going into service?
Be ready for challenges, but don’t be discouraged by them. See challenges as an opportunity to learn. There were challenges in my year of service that I could not have anticipated, like having to create my own structure. I still think that challenges are a positive thing. Having that mindset will help you cope with the emotions that obstacles bring.
If you could visit one place, anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I have wanted to go to Vietnam for very a long time. I’ve been interested in its colonial history ever since I studied French in middle school and high school. I want to see for myself how that impacted Vietnam today.
What is one item you cannot live without?
Headphones. Plugging them in and listening to music gets me in the zone. I use them all the time when I go to the gym.
What is your favorite hobby?
Swimming. I swam for seven years competitively as a kid, but I didn’t like the competitive aspect of it. Now I do it leisurely. I love being in the water and doing laps. It’s such a peaceful feeling.
What would you like the world to know about you and your work?
The work I’ve done in this year of service has helped me see what I am passionate about. I needed this experience to see where my heart lies. The behavioral health realm is not it for me. My future is in nutrition. This year of service has given me clarity. I have always cared about wellness and now I have the confidence to pursue what I enjoy doing.
Tell us about your host site. How do you, as a BHEC member, fit into their vision of supporting communities?
As a THEARI VISTA member, I branched out and started serving with the foodbank. Conversations about behavioral health ought to include nutrition and its impact on neurochemistry. Hopefully, the relationship I built with Care and Share will encourage future VISTA members to explore the field of nutrition and how it relates to behavioral health.
What attracted you most to work with BHEC?
Its focus on mental and emotional wellness. I could relate to it on a personal level, so I thought the program would be a good fit for me.
What programs/projects are you currently working on? Please describe.
I’ve been working on a medical provider directory for LGBTQ+ youth in El Paso County with Susan Garrett, THEARI Regional Health Connector. We are currently getting other stakeholders involved so we can increase our bandwidth on this project.
The resource list will soon be public on the THEARI website. We’ve been working on this for some time now.
I’ve provided translation services at the food bank as well. I’ve been at their evening cooking classes (called Cooking Matters) to translate English to Spanish. I’ve translated recipes for them, too. That’s been fun. We’re also trying to find ways of gauging how much our participants are learning from these classes.
Highlight a specific project you are currently working on or completed.
I appreciate being a class assistant with Jessie Henderson from Cooking Matters, the food bank cooking class. I have been able to translate her class from English to Spanish. It makes me feel good because I’m helping Jessie reach a new demographic of people and opening opportunities for others to participate in these classes.
What impact do you feel these projects/programs will have on the community?
The medical provider list I’m working on with Susan is making information readily available to people that might be in crisis. We’re removing a huge barrier and minimizing the work people need to do to find help.
Tell us about the support you receive from your host site.
I’m so happy to answer this question. I would like to give a big shout out to Jack Patterson, Development Officer with THEARI. Through the difficulties I had in this service year, Jack had faith in my ability to overcome them. He believes that my peers and I can achieve positive outcomes for ourselves, not just for the sake of our program. His support has meant a lot to me.
What would you like to gain from service at this host site?
I would like to emphasize that it gave me clarity on what my true passions are.
What is the most rewarding aspect/proudest accomplishment of your work/position?
I did not lose faith in that my circumstances could always change. For a while, I didn’t know where to look for opportunities in service. I felt discouraged at times, but I kept my hope.