I spent three years in VISTA and it was the perfect fit for me. I don't like working for someone else, but VISTA was an added-value proposition. You could only please the people you worked with, because someone else was paying your small allowance and insurance. I'm glad they took me, and I tried to do my best to help them.
One year I was in Los Angeles, setting up a mentoring program for at-risk youth in Highland Park. Highland Park is not as dangerous as other parts of Los Angeles, but there was plenty of gang activity, pregnant teens, drug abuse, and so on. Each of the three years I was somewhere else.
I was with a low-income credit union in Roxbury, Boston, the first year, writing grants and setting up a nonprofit corporation to go along with the credit union. During my second year, I served with a low-income credit union targeting people from El Salvador, in Los Angeles. Then on to Highland Park.
I was ready to make my (second) career as a VISTA volunteer. I was about 50 when I started VISTA. I had been around the block, mostly in the nonprofit world and in the field of public school teaching. Yet I seemed to have personal ideas that conflicted with those of the employer when it came to following rules, obeying higher-ups, and being a company person. I applied later to Peace Corps but at the time I didn't have insurance and could not pay for the dental work they insisted I have. I offered to sign liability waivers. No go.
Anyway, in my opinion, VISTA should offer more than three years. If people can afford it, and want to do it, they should open it up on an as-needed basis, to take care of work around the country that profit-making entities won't do. I believe there's enough money for that. If the U.S. can bail out the auto companies, the investment banks, the insurers like AIG, I would think the federal government can take care of some infrastructure and community service work with low-paid peons who like being peons. That's me. I did my three years and that's it. I wanted more but the rules don't permit it.