AmeriCorps Encore Member Tamaara Weil Reflects on Her Impact

I think of serving in AmeriCorps Encore as my very own superpower. It evens comes with a uniform, the ubiquitous ‘A’ that I always wear when serving, either as a small, elegant pin or a big, bold patch on a t-shirt or vest that announces: I am an AmeriCorps member and I am here to help.

And while I use my superpower to help my clients, my AmeriCorps Encore service has given me back so much more than I have given; I serve with a great team and the emotional satisfaction is huge. I know the goal is to fill unmet needs in the community. As a surprising side benefit, I have found that my AmeriCorps Encore service has been incredibly rewarding and has made me a much happier and healthier person.

I am just winding down my second (but not last) AmeriCorps Encore term with Boomers Leading Change in Health, serving at Jewish Family Service (JFS) in the Refugee Mental Health Department. I collaborate as part of a team of Refugee Mental Health therapists to provide services to our refugee clients. The goal is to fill in the gap between what the therapists provide and other services the clients need to successfully adjust to their new home and culture.

Our clients come from many places, including Iraq, Somalia, Burma, Ethiopia and Bhutan. And while they come from very different cultures and backgrounds, they all have one thing in common: they are all refugees, forced to flee their homes due to war or persecution, and they cannot return, ever. Many of our clients have suffered trauma and long stretches of time in refugee camps before coming to the United States. And most did not know anyone in Colorado when they arrived. As if this were not tough enough, when they are referred to JFS’s Refugee Mental Health Department, they are also suffering from serious mental health issues, which makes adjustment to their new home even harder.