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Story of Service – Mehdi Sina

March 9, 2011

By Jeremy Exell, AmeriCorps Alums

We asked for your Stories of Service and the response has been tremendous. Hundreds of alums and current AmeriCorps members have sent in their testimonials of how AmeriCorps has shaped their lives. We’ve read through them all and are going to highlight a few on our blog. These are the voices that speak for us all, and help show why service matters and why we need to keep AmeriCorps.

Mehdi Sina

AmeriCorps VISTA – Long Beach, CA 2010-2011

The year I was born was a turbulent time in Iran, my native country. A few months after my birth, the face of my country changed dramatically. The Shah was overthrown and the Islamic Republic of Iran was established.

A year later, Saddam Hussein launched an unprovoked war on Iran that lasted nearly a decade and cost more than a million lives. My family was fortunate enough to escape to a refugee camp in Sweden. We fled Iran with nothing, and without the help of others at the refugee camp, we would have been devastated. Living in a camp was not easy, but it was there that I learned what altruism and community are. The lessons I learned in Sweden never left me.

I knew that one day I would be in a position to give back to a community in a way similar to how the camp gave to my family and me. After three years in Sweden, we received permission to enter the United States. Despite some trying and tumultuous times abroad and in the United States, my family made it. My older brother has a master’s in Business Administration, my twin brother is in law school, my younger sister is at a university, and I am pursuing a career in medicine. With a name like Mehdi Sina, pronounced identically as the Spanish word for medicine, it might have been predestined.

However, before I committed myself to the rigors of medical education, I wanted to make a lasting contribution to a community in need. I heard about AmeriCorps VISTA from a premedical student and I searched the Internet site for volunteer opportunities. It did not take more than a few minutes for me to find the Children’s Clinic. I immediately called the clinic and spoke to the program supervisor. After hearing about the work they intended on doing in Long Beach, Calif., I was excited to join the team. Today, I am in my sixth month of service, and I could not be any happier with my choice to join the AmeriCorps VISTA team.

Joining AmeriCorps as an AmeriCorps VISTA member has enabled me to fulfill the promise that I made years ago as a child in Sweden. Back then, it was my family that was in need of support and direction. Today, I help deliver information, support, and direction to thousands of highly underserved people in Long Beach and surrounding communities. The Health Education Department of the Children’s Clinic also helps families complete applications for low cost health insurance, coordinates healthy living seminars with diet and exercise advice, and connects the community to valuable city and state resources. My work includes training community leaders to help patients fill out health insurance applications, recruiting and training volunteers to coordinate the Reach Out and Read early literacy program, and educating families on the importance of diet and exercise. The results of our office’s work are seen when patients come into the clinic with active insurance policies and their physical exams reveal them to be more fit.

As any AmeriCorps VISTA will attest, there are many sacrifices one makes when joining AmeriCorps VISTA. Money is tight and we are sometimes overworked, but the personal growth I have experienced and the gratitude and satisfaction I see in the faces of our patients make the sacrifices miniscule.

Another added benefit of becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer has been the opportunity to learn. I mentioned that I have learned a lot about myself, but I have also learned a great deal about the day-to-day operation of a nonprofit clinic and of state sponsored health insurance plans. I have become active outside of work through community organizations determined to increase the resources that are allocated by the city and state to communities that are in desperate need of money. My service thus far has given me much more than it has taken away from me. I feel infinitely more connected to the community that I serve, and I will take with me what I have learned as an AmeriCorps VISTA to my career as a physician.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Karen Carranza permalink
    March 2, 2017 4:53 am

    Hello Mehdi, I am so pleased to hear that serving made an impact for you. I will be starting Americorps this April at the Children’s Clinic in Long Beach. I’m commenting to ask you if you can provide me with any tips on how to succeed and make the best out of my service. Thank you.

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  1. Job Opportunity: Be a VISTA! | Oklahoma State University Service-Learning Volunteer Center

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