Rejoice Asomugha recently completed the 2016-17 AmeriCorps term with the National Health Corps Florida program, an initiative of the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition. She served 1700 hours and 10 ½ months at the Coalition, working with pregnant moms and prenatal care providers to improve birth outcomes. She shares her personal and professional growth and what she learned during her time in the program.
It is hard to believe that July 21st marked the end of my chapter as both a National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps member and outreach coordinator for the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition. Fortunately for me, the culmination of my experiences have left me with invaluable lessons that I will carry with me beyond the walls of Healthy Start. Throughout my 10 ½ months with the Coalition I have experienced exponential growth, both personally and professionally, while having forged meaningful relationships along the way.
We all know that a full-length pregnancy lasts nine months, separated into three equally important and distinct trimesters, but for the purpose of this post I will stretch each trimester to cover the 10 1/2 month experience I had. With each trimester showcasing my own growth and development.
When I first started, I have to admit that I was a bit nervous, confused, and overwhelmed by the amount I did not know how to do yet. As with many people who find themselves in new situations, I was quiet and kept to myself. One of my biggest fears was being asked questions that I did not know how to answer and I found that happening a lot. I was meeting with moms, talking with them about Healthy Start, enrolling them into the program, helping them apply for Medicaid and more. My little shy self-was trying to learn as much as I could as quickly as I could. One thing I really learned from this period of growth was that most people are willing to help, especially all the Healthy Start people I had at my disposal. All I had to do was ask.
After getting used to the changes that came with the “first trimester” of my service term, I found myself more confident and comfortable. I became more aware of the challenges that not only those in Jacksonville were facing, but others in our community at large. Serving the underserved and hearing their stories increased what I already believed to be a pretty decent sense of life’s inequities. It became apparent to me that what I was doing probably would not create a major dent in society’s problems, but for those I encountered, could make a noticeable difference. It was during this stage that I truly began to see the importance of all the education, resources and support that Healthy Start aimed to provide to mothers and their families. I began to attach more of an importance to my role as an outreach coordinator, health educator and conduit to assistance that a woman and her family might need.
Now, the end to anything is always about the strong finish and the same can be said for the last few months of my time as an AmeriCorps member. However, even though finishing strong and meeting goals are important, it is also good to reflect on one’s journey. I did a lot of reflection in this “trimester.” Mostly because I was envisioning what I felt was next for me. I thought back to my different moments interacting with clients, serving the community, and even talking with others about their own aspirations, trying to pinpoint defining moments that would give me reassurance of the revamped life goals I had for myself. And I did.
Each of the struggle moments I had, the conversations, the community service, the exposures to places and people I otherwise would not have known, they all contributed to giving me a well-rounded experience. I am truly grateful that I was led to join this specific program and to have been a part of the Coalition. It was there, just like many of the families that they serve, that I was given the tools to flourish, grow and develop. It was there that I was given the tools to have a Healthy Start.