Prior to the phenomenon of volunteerism or “giving back” becoming a national priority in the wake of 9/11, the Washington Square Health Foundation acknowledged the significant contributions of volunteers and the importance of organizations utilizing training and management methods to maximize their impact. This recognition led to the support of strengthening the infrastructure of the Community Health Corps by providing funds for a training and technical assistance project developed and delivered by the Shanti National Training Institute. More specifically, the project intends to build the capacity among Community Health Corps’ Host Sites by improving skills of the Site Supervisors and Service Leaders in recruiting, screening, training, supervising, and retaining volunteers. As a result, the Community Health Corps strives to increase its ability to meet its goal of enhancing maternal and child health in communities of Chicago, as well as to provide opportunities for individuals to gain values, knowledge, and skills to be active citizens.
The Community Health Corps is an AmeriCorps program, a national service movement — often referred to as the “domestic” peace corps — that unites Americans of diverse backgrounds in improving communities. The mission of the Community Health Corps is to implement in a collaborative manner a focused and sustainable public health program for Chicago’s medically underserved communities that develops human resources and leaders trained to effectively address prevention and outreach issues in the area of maternal and child health and whose service has a measurable impact on women of childbearing age, infants, and/or children.
The Community Health Corps partners with approximately 6 Chicago Department of Public Health Initiatives and 6 community-based agencies. Each organization serves as a host to one or more AmeriCorps member(s), providing them with health education and/or outreach project(s). In addition, these partners mentor and support their AmeriCorps member(s) through their term of service.
In October 2002, thirteen Site Supervisors and six Service Leaders attended the Shanti training.
These participants were grateful for this opportunity. As Elizabeth Higgins of Chicago Youth Programs, Inc. wrote, “Shanti’s Training. . .was not only professional, but also motivational with regard to our work at the Chicago Youth Programs. . . Strengthening my understanding of screening, support and supervision, retention and training as integral to our manner of valuing volunteers promises both to better our program delivery to youth and our volunteer experience.”