On August 14, I hopped on a plane and flew to a new state by myself for the first time. I wasn’t just moving a couple of hours away, I was moving from the West Coast all the way to the East Coast to the Bronx, New York. I had been filled with so much excitement months before when I found out I had gotten accepted into the program and that I was going to be placed at Part of the Solution (POTS), a non-profit organization that acts as a “one-stop-shop” to provide multiple services to their clients such as case management, assistance with food stamps, a legal team to help with rental assistance, self-sufficiency and workforce mentors, a food pantry, mail program, clinic and more, all in one building. I was ready to start a new chapter of my life that I knew would help me grow tremendously and gain experience in case management, which I am very interested in and have come to really love and be proud of the work that I am doing. Of course, I was a bit nervous and sad to be moving 2,550 miles away because I knew that meant saying goodbye to family and friends for a while. I knew that due to the pandemic, this LV year would be different than previous years, but I was ready to take a leap and step out of my comfort zone so I could learn, gain experience, serve and grow.
In the first few weeks, I would say it was a bit challenging: adjusting to the time zone, being in and present in community, building relationships with other LVs virtually, getting adjusted to my position as a case manager, finding my way around New York (and it’s true when they say, “it’s the city that never sleeps”). At first it did feel a bit lonely not knowing anyone. I was feeling homesick since I’ve always been very close with my family and friends. But what helped was being in community and knowing I had support from my community members, other LVs that I had grown close with and my supervisor, who were all very understanding and there to listen and remind me that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. And, of course, I also had very supportive friends and family who reminded me that I would be okay, and I was!
It took maybe a month or two to really adjust and be comfortable living in community, finding my way through the city and knowing how to do my job as a case manager to help my clients in the best way possible. Everything finally started to flow once I set my routine and got used to the daily schedule. Waking up for prayer, going to work, coming home, having time to rest before dinner unless it was my day to cook and then spending time with community watching movies or shows after dinner or using that time for myself. One thing that I really learned while living in New York is how to balance my time, which is important in general but also when living in a community of people, to make sure you’re present with the people you live with, and also making sure at the same time that you recognize when you need to be present to yourself and take care of yourself. I’m a person who likes to be there for other people and a huge part of my service is reaching out to my clients at POTS and really listening to what they need or are asking for to make sure they get the help and resources that they need. So, I learned that in order to best be there for my clients, other LVs, family and friends my community members, I had to make sure I was also setting time for some self-care. Some practices of self-care I utilize are reading a book, playing my guitar, exercising or meditating, so I don’t get burnt out. I also started taking advantage of all of the beauty and nature New York has to offer by going on weekend hikes with my coworkers and community, which were great bonding experiences and good for one’s mental health!
Overall, I have really enjoyed this experience as an LV. Right away, I felt comfortable in my position at POTS with everyone being so helpful and welcoming. Seeing how everyone cares so much about their coworkers and community truly makes it feel like POTS is a huge family. I’ve built such strong relationships with my coworkers, and the work that I’ve done at POTS has been such a wonderful learning experience. Even though most of the work we have done has been remote, I’ve still been able to build trusting relationships with my clients in the Bronx community to help provide them with the resources and essentials of life that they need to move from crisis to achieving stability and ultimately self-sufficiency, because that is what we believe and strive for.
Kimberly Fernandez is a first-year LV serving at Part of the Solution (POTS) in the Bronx, New York. She is a 2020 graduate of Dominican University of California with a major in psychology and minors in leadership studies and cognitive and experimental science.