So, What Do You Do?”

You know that moment when you meet someone new and then that inevitable, somewhat dreaded question comes up?

So, what do you do?

It’s a simple, fairly standard question that everyone gets asked, but it always bring up the internal process of asking yourself:

How much do they really want to know?

How much detail should I give?

Is there any way to explain what I do in less than 2 minutes that makes any sense?

Maybe, for you, this question is not that bad and you have a prepared answer that just rolls off your tongue without having to think. However, for an introvert like me, sometimes it feels like the most daunting question. Writing down my thoughts beforehand usually helps, so maybe I will try that and see if I can write an answer that I can fall back on when I get asked that dreaded question. So, here it goes. . .


So, what do you do?

I serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA at El Rio Community Health Center in Tucson, Arizona. VISTA’s work on capacity building for organizations within the community, which often looks like program development, volunteer coordinating and recruitment, grant writing, or other work that creates structures and programs that will continue after the VISTA has left.

The organization I work for is El Rio Community Health Center. El Rio has 18 clinics at 12 different locations throughout Tucson. They serve 1 in 10 Tucsonans, which adds up to over 95,000 patients. Of these patients, 64% live below 150% of the Federal Poverty, which is one of the reasons why El Rio is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). In order to care for its large patient population, El Rio employs over 1,300 employees.

I work in the Health and Wellness Department. My department is tasked with improving the wellness of all El Rio patients and employees. The Health Builders promote wellness by providing free exercise and education classes, employee wellness challenges and incentives, and other services. The options range from Enhanced Fitness classes and Yoga to our Diabetes Empowerment and Weight Management for Optimal Health classes to our Family Cooking Classes to free biometric screening for employees.

The Health and Wellness Department is only made up of 9 people, which creates a daunting task to serve close to 100,000 patients and employees. In order to serve such a large number, the Health and Wellness Department is aided by the help of multiple interns and volunteers each semester.

My job as a VISTA is to improve the intern and volunteer program, so that more interns and volunteers can be used in the department each semester. I am working to improve the orientation and trainings that the interns and volunteers attend, which increases their knowledge about El Rio and public health education, improving their ability to help serve El Rio patients and employees. I also help coordinate the interns and volunteers, by maintaining their schedules, working within my department and other El Rio departments to find projects for them to work on, and finding learning and volunteering opportunities for the interns and volunteers to participate in.

However, that is not my only focus. My other focus is to research and partner with other organizations in Tucson to increase the family programming offered by the Health and Wellness Department. Right now, the family programming is limited, due to the small number of employees in the department, so I have been working to build partnerships with other organizations who already provide family programming. I am working to bring these organizations to facilitate family programming classes, like parenting classes, at El Rio locations for El Rio patients and employees.

With so much going on in my department and being part of such a large organization, there is always something to be involved in and it can get very hectic at times. However, it is amazing to be part of an organization that provides so much for its patients and employees and I enjoy my work every day.


. . . Well, that answer might be too long for a short conversation, but at least now, I have a better idea of what I would like to say. So, hopefully the next time I get asked that dreaded question, an answer won’t be so hard to give.