There is a power in conversation. In the spoken words shared between individuals. The passing of traditions, stories, and information over time. When we look up and into the lives of individuals around us, we are exhibiting an act of openness and a willingness to learn. We are giving power and space to the words, and lived experience of individuals. In the systems of today’s government assistance programs, many voices are lost. Therefore, it brings me much joy to be able to give space for these voices through my position as the RARE AmeriCorps Community Food Liaison with Community Connection of Northeast Oregon.
Stephen R. Covey once stated, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” One of the most powerful lessons I have learned in my position has been the setting aside of myself to elevate the voices of individuals experiencing food insecurity in Eastern Oregon. I spend many of my days traveling from county to county, holding focus groups, distributing surveys and conducting one-on-one interviews with food assistance users and stakeholders. I have seen individuals light up when they are told that their opinions and insights are not only valued, but needed.
One of the most notable observations I have made is the palpable shift that occurs when I enter the space with a willingness to learn and a value for an individual’s lived experiences. By elevating the voices of individuals, I am able to better understand the needs of a community and recommend the most effective program. I have learned that engagement sparks from offering citizens the space to play a role in the discussions and implementation of programs that affect them. The first four months of the service term taught me the crucial role and value that listening brings to community engagement.
About the Author, Carolina Negron: Carolina received her BS in Agricultural Sciences from Pennsylvania State University. Carolina is passionate about the outdoors as well as the connections between people, the land, and their food. Having worked with food banks and farms in Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. and Hawaii, she is excited to take on the Pacific Northwest.
Does community development work interest you? Are you looking for a life changing experience in rural Oregon? Learn more about serving with the RARE AmeriCorps Program via our website: https://rare.uoregon.edu/application-process/member-application-process