AmeriCorps Week March 8-14, 2020 (Victoria Gaines)

My name is Victoria Gaines and I am the Volunteer Education and Systems Compliance Specialist for Catholic Charities Atlanta (CCA) Refugee Services (RS). I wear a lot of hats in this role, though I mainly act as an (1) education specialist, (2) volunteer/intern coordinator and outreach associate, and (3) compliance officer.

As an education specialist, I provide education on current refugee social issues for the RS department in general and the Refugee Youth After-School Program (ASP) specifically. As such, I have revised Refugee 101 outreach presentations as well as training materials for the ASP to include up-to-date statistics on refugee affairs. For the latter, I incorporated a detailed section on trauma-informed care and a resilience-oriented approach to working with students in the ASP. I also facilitate Safe Environments training, a program instituted by the Catholic Archdiocese and meant to educate people on how to recognize and prevent sexual abuse, to CCA and Atlanta archdiocesan personnel.

As a volunteer/intern coordinator and general outreach associate, I have recruited, educated/trained, and coordinated 32 volunteers and four interns to work with the ASP. Currently, I am mentoring one intern and I manage the professional duties of two. I have also developed one partnership with a local organization to provide regular Art Enrichment programming to the ASP, and I am an RS liaison for existing partnerships.

As a compliance officer, I streamline forms for reviewing files within the agency’s client database. This includes evaluating documentation practices for each program within RS to ensure a) that we successfully capture the impact of services and b) that documentation complies with federal program grants and the standards of our agency’s accreditation.

Additionally, I organized an agency-wide training wherein 19 staff and interns received certification in Youth Mental Health First Aid. I am particularly proud to have made this contribution as a VISTA member as I have a background in Sociology and my MA research was focused on mental health.

Ultimately, I am so grateful that I became an AmeriCorps VISTA member. I have received invaluable training and encouragement from a supportive team that strives for growth and excellence. Further, I believe that the work I have done during my time as a VISTA has been of use to the CCA RS department and the refugee and migrant populations that we serve, Catholic Charities Atlanta as an agency, the Catholic Charities USA network, and the U.S. overall as I am contributing to a much larger humanitarian effort that supersedes each individual part. I cannot imagine a greater experience.

Victoria Gaines
Volunteer Education and Systems Compliance Specialist
AmeriCorps VISTA
Catholic Charities Atlanta Refugee Services