My name is Boi-Baindu Robin, and I am originally from Freetown, Sierra Leone. I am married and blessed with two kids – a boy and girl, ages 10 and 2 respectively. I have postgraduate degrees in International Development and Development studies. My background in development and, of course, having come from a country ranked low on the Human Poverty Index, both increase my desire and passion to help vulnerable populations. This is my way of showing gratitude for the opportunity I had to become educated even in the midst of poverty.
Relocating to the United States, I found myself starting all over again with my career; however the one thing I held on to was my passion to work with organizations that focus on improving the lives of challenged populations and communities. A lot of my friends and family members who relocated to the United States ended up changing their career path for economic reasons, but I decided to do a year of service – despite the low allowance and health benefits – so that I could be part of the change that the community needs.
I am serving in West Baltimore at Project PLASE, a nonprofit organization that provides transitional and permanent housing for vulnerable homeless citizens. We target people with HIV, AIDS, mental health ailments, substance abuse, and those who have been incarcerated. As the Community Development Coordinator, I do outreach and networking with other organizations in order to identify and cultivate partnerships and secure resources for Project PLASE. I support fundraising efforts and work with our residents to assist them gain stability by functioning well within the organization and the community.
My year of service has really been exciting but not without challenges. The most challenging part of my job is working with a mentally and emotionally challenged group of people, and trying to empower them with a sense of focus, commitment, responsibility and leadership. At the start of my year, it was difficult to get the residents to commit to attending Resident Advisory Board meetings, a venue for them to express concerns, make recommendations, and connect. Undaunted, I explored methods to ensure they stayed connected with the group and events and am proud to say the group has grown from 5 members to over 15 members at every meeting. They now plan and organize events on their own which has largely helped them in attaining the stability that they so needed.
By the end of my service year, I am hopeful that my efforts will be sustained and am exploring grant opportunities to hire a staff person who would continue this VISTA legacy. Being a VISTA is really intriguing; it is a feeling of giving to the most needed and there is so much to gain while at it. VISTA gave me a feeling of fulfillment by being that person who contributes towards bettering the lives of others in need.