#GivingTuesday Series: Meet Matthew
The final story in our #GivingTuesday Series comes from Matthew, our AmeriCorps VISTA Coordinator, who believes Mercy Corps Northwest’s innovative approaches helps improve Oregon’s most disadvantaged communities.
Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Matthew has always felt a calling to help people isolated by poverty in America. With a freshly minted degree in Community Development from Portland State University and a desire to help vulnerable communities, he joined the nationwide service program, AmeriCorps VISTA. Suitcases in hand, Matthew travelled the country using his knowledge and passion to develop and execute various projects ranging from environmental policy to improving infrastructure accessibility for all ages and abilities in places such as Reno, Nevada; Austin, Texas; and Helena, Montana. Although these experiences yielded him opportunities to make an impact, something kept irking at him. Finally, devotion to his hometown coupled with a desire to give back to it led Matthew to return to where his passion for helping others began: Portland.
Having grown up admiring Mercy Corps, Matthew was excited to continue his VISTA work at Mercy Corps Northwest because of our shared mission to build better communities through innovative approaches. Whether it’s empowering would-be entrepreneurs with resources such as classes and loans to get their fledgling business off the ground or teaching incarcerated individuals vital life and job skills, Matthew believes tackling tough societal problems requires ‘innovative, community development programs’ such as ours.
Although issues plague every city—Portland being no exception— the distinct case of hyper-gentrification in neighborhoods and subsequent housing crisis has greatly exacerbated them. Housing and rent prices have reached a record high in Portland, at a time when it is already difficult for formerly incarcerated individuals to find housing. And, for many others, like the cash-strapped entrepreneurs trying to run a small business to provide for their family, this issue remains just as pertinent. Matthew says in regard, “There is a serious divergence in the Portland spirit that cultivated a mutually beneficial quality of life community-wide, with many of our neighbors being left behind.” This issue, in particular, has driven Matthew to work incessantly to give others an opportunity to have a dignified quality of life.
However, he knows he’s not alone. “I’m inspired to be working alongside colleagues on the vanguard of social innovation, dedicating their gifts to helping out fellow Oregonians” he says proudly of his co-workers. He has also been astonished by the ‘new levels of resiliency’ our clients demonstrate on a daily basis to push and strive for a better future. He knows that we simply provide the tools and resources; they are the ones who use them to become agents of their own change.
When asked about the void Mercy Corps Northwest fills in the community, Matthew was quick to respond: “We are on the forefront of dynamic and adaptable organizations implementing solutions to problems that plague Oregon. We take care of people and place at the same time.” Now, as the person directing our statewide VISTA program, Matthew is eager to extend our practices to a vast network of VISTA members so that they may implement them into their own programs and improve the communities they serve.