BY SATHIYAN SIVAKUMARAN, FORMER HUBCAP VISTA, THE HUB
As an Economics graduate from a California university, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew what I didn’t want to do: work in a role I had no passion for. I have no qualms with working hard for long hours, but it had to be doing something I wanted to do. I knew this meant coming back to WV.
I missed my home state. WV was the place I complained about when I grew up there, left for college, and inevitably missed to my core for 4 years before finding out about VISTA and joining the WV Community Development Hub. This was the kind of start I needed. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but the missions of The Hub, VISTA program, and its strong impact in WV were what I wanted to put my efforts into performing.
Being a VISTA at The Hub was where I found my sense of place. I rediscovered the love I have for WV through the innovative work that The Hub and its huge network of partners and community members are performing. I developed professional skills: project management, effective communication, and perhaps most importantly, how to not zone out in meetings. Not a single day felt like work or service to be honest, because while I may not have enjoyed literally every task I performed, the opportunity to work with engaged community members across the state was endlessly exciting and rewarding.
After completing my VISTA term and staying a few months longer at The Hub (they just couldn’t get rid of me!), I made the move to Washington D.C. to serve as the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s “Youth Program Analyst,” where I help oversee OSMRE’s AmeriCorps, VISTA, and Semester Internship programs. It’s sad to leave WV and I am sure the gravitational pull of WV will bring me back, but it was a great opportunity to stay connected to Appalachia while experiencing a new place.
My time as a VISTA has already impacted my work in my new position. I more readily ask for help, something I spent years believing was a sign of weakness. It’s not. I also am constantly seeking input from others. As a VISTA at The Hub, it was always crucial to listen and understand community members’ input. Community meetings were regular, and who knows a community better than the people living and working there? I’ve realized that I will never understand everything or everyone, but that shouldn’t stop me from trying. Now, at OSMRE, I’m expanding my listening to voices of people working and living in mining regions across the country.
Being a VISTA at The Hub helped prepare me for a full-time role at OSMRE, but more importantly, it made me appreciate all the amazing things people are doing. Serving as a VISTA in an office with people who were constantly working on ways to best serve WV communities was a privilege. I’m forever grateful.
Interested in contributing to this work happening across West Virginia? Donate to The Hub’s VISTA program so we can support West Virginians volunteering every single day to give back to the communities they love.