"You're a far way from home."
As I introduce myself to participants and locals, who don't hear a Southern twang when I speak, this is the response I receive. I laugh and tell them that they're not wrong, and for a second, I feel like I'm Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz (one of my favorite movies!). The next question typically asks how I ended up here in Kentucky. Unlike Dorothy, a tornado did not swirl my house into a different world from what I knew. I chose to come here for a year of service, all the way from Seattle, Washington.
Before embarking on this journey, I was finishing the 'college' chapter of my life at the University of Portland in Oregon. I received my Bachelor's degree in Social Work with minors in Social Justice and Sociology. Studying Social Work unlocked a realm of knowledge and opportunity, and I eventually discovered my key interest areas. Throughout my years at UP, I was also exploring my faith more seriously, and I was involved with campus ministry. I started to understand that my passion for helping fight injustices is rooted in my faith. I began seeing how Jesus is the role model of compassion that I want to emulate, and that the way I work with others is informed by a call to live a life guided by compassionate love that—at the core—maintains standards of human dignity.
In cultivating this dual understanding of what I hoped to pursue as a social worker and how important my faith truly is, I realized that there was still an issue of disconnect between the two. I did my studies, and in separate time I grew in my faith. But I didn't want it to be like that. The desire I have is to incorporate my faith and belief into the work I do as a social worker.
With help from my amazing mentors at UP, I seriously considered the route of post-graduate service. There are two populations I am drawn to work with—youth and older adults—but I worried about fully committing to a career with one population without having worked with the other. It was suggested that I pursue an internship with one population and look for service programs that would allow me to focus on the other.
So, I had a few requirements for a service program: work with older adults, a faith-based component, and a location that was new for me. The more I looked, it became more important for me to go somewhere I had never been. I needed a change: I needed to see life lived differently and to interact with people that live differently. I saw value in pushing out of my Pacific Northwest comfort zone to develop a new sense of confidence in myself and the work I do.
I remember looking at CAP's website, realizing I knew absolutely NOTHING about the state of Kentucky...and I loved that. I couldn't stop thinking about it, wondering "What if I end up in Kentucky?" That 'what if' is now my reality. People thought I was crazy; people thought I was brave. I know that God was nudging me towards this state, and I am so glad to be here for a year.
Shannon Scruggs is a long-term volunteer and AmeriCorps member serving in CAP's Elderly Services program in McCreary County. If you want to learn more about volunteering with CAP, email firstname.lastname@example.org.