On more than one occasion, my supervisor at my volunteer placement has pointed out the irony; we spend so much time bringing clients to the county Department of Human Services office in order to help them apply for their welfare benefits when we could genuinely qualify for them ourselves. Working for a non-profit—and especially volunteering for one—does not readily raise you over the poverty line.
The phrase ‘simple living’ can carry a lot of different ambiguous connotations along with it. It became very obvious very quickly at the start of my service year that budgeting was going to play a big role in my conceptualization of what it meant to live simply. My community has never resorted to eating ramen noodles in order to last until the end of the month, but we are acutely conscious of the importance of buying off-brand and shopping at discounted grocery stores.
More significant, however, was the role that quality time has in my community’s interpretation of simple living. We spend a lot of our free time together, and doing activities that we can all engage in; simple things like playing a card game, or making a puzzle. On weekends, we go on hiking excursions and explore the gorgeous forests that surround Pittsburgh. Lately, as often as possible, we try to go on runs together in order to train for a relay marathon that we entered in as a team.
It definitely doesn’t present as the most flashy or exciting lifestyle, but it helps me feel a sense of solidarity with the clients that I am serving, who have limited access to the resources that I sometimes still take for granted. Additionally, adapting this simplistic outlook has helped my community be more interdependent. I have grown very close to my community members during my past six months as an MVC volunteer. My community has been the best aspect of my service year.
Allison Klimesh: Pittsburgh