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Accomplishment Spotlight: AmeriCorps VISTA Member with Give an Hour Educates Virginians on Veterans Issues in Community Blueprint Network Assignment September 11, 2012

Posted by servicecorpsnews in Accomplishment Spotlight.
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Rachel Kersaint is an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving with Give an Hour, a national nonprofit mental health and volunteer service organization. Kersaint has been hard at work for more than ten months implementing the Community Blueprint in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. The Community Blueprint is a nationally developed set of practices and tools to assist communities in serving their veterans, servicemembers and families. Give an Hour has been a leader organization in the Community Blueprint Network and one of the first organizations to stimulate Blueprint activities in a local community. Kersaint is a vital human resource to Blueprint implementation.

One strategy that local military, veteran and civilian organizations identified as imperative to the Blueprint’s success was raising general public awareness of the needs and assets of the military and veteran population. With that in mind, Rachel organized a community screening of Hell and Back Again. In the spirit of collaboration, which undergirds the Community Blueprint, Rachel collaborated with the student veterans’ chapters of Old Dominion University and Tidewater Community College to screen and host the panel discussion.

Nominated for an Academy Award for 2012 Best Documentary Feature, Hell and Back Again is a film that asks and answers what it means to be in war and what it means to come back home. Masterfully contrasting the intensity of the frontline with the unsettling normalcy of home, the film depicts the physical and emotional difficulties of re-adjusting to civilian life. In the midst of preparing for the film screening, this tragic story was very familiar to the Hampton Roads community. In April 2012, Jonathan Bartlett, a well-known local Iraq war veteran and double amputee, took his own life at the age of 27.

This powerful film was followed by a panel discussion. The panel discussed the resiliency of the military community, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, prescription drug dependency and the importance of community collaboration to support the military-affiliated population.

The screening and the panel discussion visibly moved those that attended the event. This powerful interaction between panelists, community members, volunteers and military families highlights the need for replication in other military-impacted areas. The film screening proved successful because it provided an awareness of the unique military culture, the impact of war on families and communities and the current needs of the military. Having veterans participate and interact with the audience is what made this event particularly powerful.

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