RUPCO, NYS Rural Housing Coalition welcome VISTA member

Tara Collins, Monique Tranchina, Colin McKnightRUPCO welcomes AmeriCorps VISTA Member Monique Tranchina to its communications department this week. Volunteers In Service To America, or VISTA, is a 52-week program that focuses on “building capacity in nonprofit organizations to help bring individuals and communities out of poverty.” RUPCO secured its VISTA as part of the New York State Rural Housing Coalition (RHC)’s acceptance of 10 service members to support the work of rural preservation companies statewide.

Pictured here: Tara Collins (RUPCO Communications Director), Monique Tranchina (AmeriCorps VISTA Member), Colin McKnight (Executive Director, NYS Rural Housing Coalition).

VISTA members execute a national mission to “…promote literacy, improve health services, create businesses, increase housing opportunities, and bridge the digital divide.” As measured in 2015, about 13.5 percent of the population was in poverty: roughly 43.1 million people in the United States alone, according to government statistics, and Monique is determined to fight the war on poverty.

“I’m ready to serve those who deserve equal access to housing, and I wholeheartedly believe that even as a volunteer who works behind the scenes of RUPCO, I can effect change,” says Monique Tranchina, VISTA Member. “Through small efforts that ripple out in complex webs of support, intercommunication, and relationships, my service revolves around building a better  community. I hope to convey those messages through my editorial work, storytelling, and social media promotion this year.”

“We’re thrilled to have Monique on the team for the upcoming year. Not only does the VISTA experience offer her the personal opportunity to learn about work at hand in the housing sector and through nonprofit partnerships,” adds Kevin O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer at RUPCO. “Her presence also provides us the opportunity to increase our organizational impact, help more people, and improve our delivery of programs and services here in the Hudson Valley. As Editorial Assistant, Monique will work in RUPCO’s communication department on storytelling, social media channels, and behind-the-scenes support.”

Colin McKnight, Acting Executive Director of NYS RHC, adds in the affirmative that Monique will lend more awareness of the program, increasing the scope of people reached. “The Rural Housing Coalition is thrilled to welcome Monique to our statewide team of VISTA members working to address housing needs for rural New Yorkers. While gaining valuable work experience, these VISTAs will improve the quality of life for residents of our communities.” Founded in 1979, the New York State Rural Housing Coalition supports New York-based nonprofit housing and community development agencies to preserve affordable housing, develop new affordable housing units, and promote community revitalization. RHC further addresses the issue of homelessness or inability to afford housing without financial assistance, and works to secure local individuals or families with homes that suite their needs and income levels. RUPCO is one of 200 member organizations working in partnership with RHC to bring aid to Hudson Valley residents and homeowners.

On a smaller scale, Americorps VISTA members work within the United States to aid those within the nation who are underprivileged. Their sister program, Peace Corps, works more broadly to serve those internationally, and assists foreigners with professional training in their area of need while bridging the economic and social gap between other countries and the United States. While there are over 7,000 volunteers serving with Peace Corps, about 3,000 volunteers serve with the VISTA program this year. However, the impact of smaller organizations that designate smaller areas of assistance is equally as valuable as global outreach.

Building Blocks of Change

Colorful Building blocks of change blogI grew up privileged. I always had ample food, clothing, resources and quality education from prestigious grade schools as well as colleges. I never had to worry if my parents could afford an unexpected expense, such as a doctor’s visit or replace a new electronic item that my brother, sister or I might have broken.

However, my father and both grandparents grew up in poverty. They experienced firsthand what the throes of destitution without familial support. Fortunately, they were able to work to where they are now, which includes having a steady income and being able to raise a family in comfortable means. However, this does not mean that people who can’t climb out of the cycle of poverty are lazy or undetermined to make a change for the better. Maybe they are missing the opportunity of a new job promotion because they have children to take care of during those hours of interview or work. Or maybe they don’t have a strong support system to fall back on for help. Maybe motivation just isn’t in the picture because circumstances have depressed their efforts to look for alternative solutions to save money or to search for better-paying jobs.

I haven’t experienced this type of traumatic situation, but I do know how it feels to live on a smaller budget that easily runs out if I spend a few dollars more on laundry for this week. Going to college, I made a personal goal to only spend the money I earned on rent, food, gas, and travel. This new habit cost me much more than I would have imagined—not just my finite cash source, but the emotional energy to hold back from spending money on needed expenses, such as healthy food for breakfast, versus spending money on fast food trips and unhealthy options. Being prudent for the first time in my life definitely robbed me of pleasures that I now consider luxuries. This spend-thrift habit enlightened me on what it means to work hard for money and not being able to save or spend. This lack created an endless worry over finances and fear of the black vortex of indebtedness.

Coming out of my senior year of college, I was determined to help others and make a difference in the world, but I wasn’t sure which career path to take in order to do so. The VISTA program was my opportunity to see other’s lifestyles and gain a humbling perspective of what it means to live in poverty without the fallback of family or savings. As I am making my way up into the economic and business world, I am doing so alongside the people I am served. It’s is amazing to hear about the challenges and milestones that are now a part of RUPCO’s family history, such as Give Housing a Voice community response to Woodstock Commons resistance. During my time here, I hope my writing offers you a peak through into the gems of what would otherwise remain undiscovered in RUPCO’s large network, and to give a voice to individuals with incredible stories to tell. Though I can’t provide the homes or make sweeping decisions that determines program eligibility, I can write our people’s narratives to promote awareness. That is often enough to set in place building blocks of change.

Monique Tranchina is an AmeriCorps VISTA member and RUPCO’s editorial assistant. A SUNY New Paltz graduate, Monique holds a Bachelors in English, a concentration in Creative Writing and minor in Theater. Look for more storytelling from her in the coming year.