I have been a full time volunteer at Lydia’s House through Mercy Volunteer Corps since…
I am a born and raised California girl, and I sure am thankful. It’s the land of 118 beach cities, a melting pot of diverse culture, and Disneyland. My whole family still lives there, and both sets of grandparents raised their children in historic Los Angeles neighborhoods. Our ties are deep. Still, there’s something to be said for leaving the place where you grew up, even when it’s somewhere as great as Southern California. It was Nelson Mandela who said, “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” But here’s the thing: I’ll wager it’s pretty difficult to alter your ways if you stay in the same place your whole life, so I didn’t want to. Enter Mercy Volunteer Corps.
When deciding on my placement for MVC, I didn’t actually have too many options. I applied late and most positions were filled, but luckily Cincinnati was still open and it stuck out to me for a couple of reasons. I did a lot of research on the city, and if you’re considering a placement with MVC I’d encourage you to do to the same. I looked up what Cincinnati is famous for, landmarks, fun events, the weather, trendy neighborhoods, public transport, you name it. I saw a lot that I liked. I love that the city is on a river, I love the number of parks it has (over 100 and 5,000 acres), I love its German heritage and architecture, and I love that there are over 50 breweries to visit. It’s been a whirlwind of a move, but I’m hoping to get around to more of these places in the New Year.
I’ve been in Cincinnati for about three months now, and one of the most common questions I still get from the people I meet is, “Why did you leave Southern California for here?” and there are a few reasons. Aside from the service and social justice aspect, I wanted to grow, I wanted to be challenged, I wanted to make new friends, and I wanted to experience a city different from any other place I’ve lived before. I honestly believe I hit a gold mine in the Queen City. Before coming here, I always thought about Ohio as, well, –scratch that, I didn’t even think of it. But now that I’m here, I’m finding that I made one of the best decisions of my life.
So there are two takeaways from my adventure so far: first, if you want a life-changing experience and a chance to grow into the best version of yourself, consider moving to a new city (maybe as a Mercy Volunteer?!). It’s scary, it’s difficult, it’s hard work, but it’s worth it. Second, come hang out in the Queen City. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed, no matter where you call home or what you’re used to now, you’ll find so much to love here! I’ve discovered that if you’re open and willing to take risks, the benefits always outweigh the costs.
Melissa Velez: Cincinnati, Ohio