Parfait Ouedraogo, Engaged Citizen Corps member
As an Engaged Citizen Corps member, I’m working with the Des Moines Area Religious Council. DMARC is an interfaith organization that manages a Food Pantry Network consisting of 14 separate partnering food pantry sites. Currently, my role at DMARC is working with the mobile food pantry and our interfaith program. We travel to different communities, educating people on food insecurity while providing services to those in need. Through DMARC, I have been able to learn about the crisis of food insecurity in Des Moines. Many people are not able to make ends meet with the Iowa minimum wage. Some of these individuals apply for SNAP benefits but it is not guaranteed for those individuals to receive these benefits. Recently, the Iowa legislature passed a law for people applying for SNAP benefits to apply at least 5 times in the year. DMARC strives to serve as many communities as possible but they try to provide the healthiest choices of food to the communities. Many engaged citizens have the right intentions for donating food, but some of the food donated does not meet DMARC’s food guidelines, therefore they are not good to distribute to the families in need. Due to these factors, DMARC tries to educate citizens on food insecurity through their Hunger Simulation.
This year, working with DMARC has helped me understand the importance of taking on an active citizen role. Initially, I believed that an active citizen is one that volunteers and gives back to the community, but it’s more than that. Sure, it’s about the service, but personally, it’s about the connection we make with the community we serve. Being an active citizen is more than the service hours we try to accomplish, it’s more about the long-term difference that we advocate for the benefit of those that are not able to advocate for themselves.
Being in the ECC program has taught me communication skills, but most importantly, ECC has helped me focus on the skills that I’m good at rather than trying to acquire new skills. In other words, though it is important to learn various new skills, it is also important to be aware of the skills that we are good at and contribute those skills to our communities. For example, the Engaged Citizen Corps has helped me develop integrity and communication skills. It has helped me understand the importance of my service and how my community depends on me as an engaged citizen and other members to do our part in any way to help our communities/non-profits. In learning to contribute these skills to my community, my skills and the skills of other individuals will form this diversity of skills that will serve as a benefit to the community we serve. I was also able to learn more about my identity, which helped better the way I interacted with everyone. Through the various trainings and service, I’ve done with the ECC program, it has enriched my knowledge and helped me grow as an individual. I feel very confident in myself and the skills that I have acquired and how I can utilize these skills to not only help myself but the communities that I serve.
I believe that DMARC’s interfaith engagement serves as a complement to my International business major. I’ve always had a passion for working with diverse nations. In going to different communities and learning about their cultures and the people, it has shown me that relationships can be developed through effort. By putting in the effort to learn about these communities, it has helped DMARC and I form this relationship with the people in these communities, therefore DMARC can provide the resources these communities need to thrive. In connection to my career, inputting effort to learn about the different counties, it will contribute to a successful business world. My biggest takeaways are the people. Meeting new people and learning about different religions/cultures is by far the best experience I’ve ever had. Back in Chicago, I’ve never really taken the time to appreciate the different cultures that were around me, but through DMARC, I have been able to experience and appreciate these different cultures.