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AmeriCorps Adventures: Kelly Bandman on Making a Difference

What does it mean to make a difference? What does spending a year in service mean? These were both questions I pondered as I began my year with AmeriCorps and Rebuilding Together. Now, a mere month later, I am humbled by the largeness of our world. I have only begun to discover the answers to my questions, but my greatest realization comes from this newfound recognition; despite the seemingly huge task Rebuilding Together has taken on, I plainly see these comparatively small gestures making a remarkable difference on the whole.

I used to think of the singular person as insignificant. In a world of billions of people, how could one person even matter? Well, my first project as a CapacityCorps member has opened my eyes to how one person can indeed make that difference.

On my first home preview with Rebuilding Together Twin Cities, I met a young woman named Natoya. Sitting down with this stranger, I quickly began to realize the truly inspirational person I was meeting. This hard working young mother is the first person in her family to own her own home; a goal she set for herself at the age of 15, and accomplished at the age of 24. I was blown away by her determination and courage.

Listed on Natoya’s application were a number of home repairs she was unable to complete on her own, but the one item she clearly held above the rest was the need for a privacy fence. As a mother with three young children, she was overjoyed with the idea that we could do anything for her, but the fence was the one thing she felt was most necessary.

Heading back to the Rebuilding Together Twin Cities office, I had the feeling that we needed to find the resources for her project. For the first time I felt, as a single person, I could affect change, but I wouldn’t be able to do it alone.

I am happy to say that we have found resources for Natoya’s project. In addition to installing a privacy fence, we are planning to improve a few other areas of Natoya’s home to help her family stay safe and healthy. On top of that, through a referral from our organization, the old windows in her home are being replaced by ClearCorps at no cost to Natoya.

I know that with this story, the one person making a difference is not me, but the homeowner I am working with. As much as we worked together to help her, she alone has made the biggest difference. Without her initiation, I wouldn’t be able to be a part of her story. Without her perseverance, her children couldn’t play safely outside. She has taught me that through serving each other, every person has the ability to make a difference. I couldn’t wait to share her story and my new outlook on service with the volunteers when work on Natoya’s project began on Tuesday, September 18. As only my first project of many, I’m looking forward to the multitude of opportunities to assist others on their journey to change the world through listening, sharing, encouragement, and most of all working together.

By Kelly Bandman, AmeriCorps Project Coordinator