The Soft Landing Community by Kathleen Lovett

March 29, 2024
Kathleen Lovett is an AmeriCorps College Coach serving at Soft Landing Missoula.

Prior to beginning my service as an AmeriCorps volunteer at Soft Landing Missoula, a non-profit organization that supports refugee and immigrant families in the local community, my work experiences were largely clinical in nature. I came to Montana with a very specific idea of what direct care and service looked like, and I had strong skills in adhering to HIPAA laws, maintaining therapeutic boundaries, and preserving a healthy work/life balance. Though these skills have been helpful while working in the Youth Program at Soft Landing, I have realized that clinically-oriented work and community-oriented work have radical differences. 

In one of my previous work roles as a residential counselor, I viewed myself as just that, a counselor. I was there to ensure group safety, provide skills coaching to adolescents who were struggling, and develop and implement treatment plans. During these years, I honed the skill of separating my work and my personal life because this was essential to maintaining my health and avoiding burnout. Similarly, in my role as a clinical research assistant, I viewed myself as just that, a research assistant. I assessed patient symptoms, administered assessments, and strictly followed protocols. 

Now, in my role as a youth program staff, I view myself beyond just my daily responsibilities. I am a part of the community. When I mentor middle school and high school refugee students, I do not feel like a youth program staff, but rather a community mentor and supporter. Instead of complete separation from work and personal life, I “work” with my community. They are my neighbors and friends. We eat meals together, share coffee together, play soccer together, etc. It is a way of life. 

I felt this same sense of community in my first term of service as an AmeriCorps member in 2017. In this placement, we had a theme: “ubuntu”. “Ubuntu” is an African philosophy that roughly translates to “I am because we are.” This philosophy highlights the interconnectedness of human beings; humanity is found in relationships with others, in community. I feel this philosophy so strongly at Soft Landing Missoula. We are a community because of everyone here, and this brings me an overwhelming sense of peace and belonging. 

My time at Soft Landing Missoula has strengthened my understanding and desire for community. I find that it is easy to get swept up in individual responsibilities and goals, and to take a step back and prioritize connecting with others is one of the greatest opportunities that AmeriCorps has given me.