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VISTA to VISTA is a recurring feature where our VISTAs interview each other about their perspectives, experiences, and challenges. This February, Nicole Maldonado (Heartland Alliance) asked Phillip Moore (Claretian Associates) about relocating to Chicago for school, why he became a VISTA, and what he’s been reading lately.

NICOLE: Are you from Chicago, or did you relocate?

PHILLIP: I moved here from St Louis, which is very small compared to Chicago. Because of this, we often get shade from Chicagoans. I was recently reading Devil in the White City, which discusses St Louis and Chicago competing to host the World’s Fair. So at least at one point they were neck and neck. I like Chicago, there are more opportunities. I moved here to attend the University of Chicago where I majored in philosophy and political science. So now I have been here for five years, and I am enjoying it.

NICOLE: Why did you decide to become a VISTA?

PHILLIP: Well, same as you, I needed experience and I needed a job. At the time I was doing a one year fellowship with Cook County government. That was ending soon, so I looked into VISTA. The fellowship itself was very isolated. I didn’t find it meaningful, and was disappointed I didn’t interact with the people we were serving. I wanted to see the impact. I liked that VISTA offers that, with an emphasis on capacity building.

NICOLE: What are some challenges you see in your position?

PHILLIP: Planning around needs and not funding is a big one…One example is that some group came to us wanting to start a soccer program. We had to ask ourselves, are we the ones that should be doing this? The answer was, I guess not. We are trying to avoid chasing funds that don’t reinforce our mission. We are in the process of doing a strategic planning, and actually hired the Social IMPACT team from Heartland Alliance to help with that.

NICOLE: Do you interact with residents regularly? What is their relationship like with the organization?

PHILLIP: I work with residents occasionally. I have been hosting budgeting classes to help residents cut costs. I work more with the surrounding South Chicago community than I do the residents. I talk to the community about housing, and help them apply to the Large Lots program. This is a program by the city that allows residents to buy vacant lots for $1.

NICOLE: What are you reading these days?

PHILLIP: I graduated in 2015, but I’ve continued that student mentality and keep reading multiple books at a time. I enjoy philosophy, modernity, history. I am reading about the meaning of modernity and if we are going against modernity with Trump’s campaign. It is somewhat postmodern because it is anti-fact. I also just finished reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I read a bunch of Russian novels so it wasn’t that foreign to me. It did take a while, because in Russia there are many different ways to say someone’s name, so I kept having to go back and figure out who they were talking about. The book is a 1200-page dense argument for why we don’t have free will. It focuses on trying to determine the impact of the Napoleonic wars on Russian society. But he criticizes the focus on “great men” and how you can’t understand the goal of history without understanding how it impacts people.

I am also reading Americana by Chimamanda Adichie. It is about two Nigerian students falling in love and realizing they are Black in the US.