So, this is definitely going to be one of my longer posts, but nonetheless I feel like the details of today’s events are what makes it so awesome.
I woke up at 8am today pretty much feeling like any college student would feel waking up at 8am on a Sunday morning. Ticked off! I struggled getting out of bed, but knew that I had to be at the Train station by 8:30am to go to the Second Annual LIFT Regional Summit. I had no idea what it was or what to expect at this Summit, but I was mostly just concerned about it being 7 hours out of my Sunday. Upon arrival, I was immediately drawn to the breakfast table, but that is not really relevant. I began seeing so many different LIFT volunteers trickle in from different offices around Chicago. It was neat to see that there were so many other volunteers than just the ones I usually see from Loyola at the Uptown LIFT office. After breakfast, we got separated into different rooms to listen to speakers talk about all sorts of important topics about the volunteer community and ways to get more involved. It was all very informative, but I somewhat hoped that things would be different. I was hoping to have more personal in-depth discussions with other volunteers so as to connect with the different branches, as well as learn different methods to working with clients around the office. Luckily that is exactly what we did after lunch!
My favorite part of the whole summit happened right after lunch. We first made topics that we would prefer to talk about, then people got to choose which topics they wanted to discuss while in groups. I decided that I wanted to make a topic concerning the limitations of LIFT. I thought that it would be important to talk about how LIFT isn’t perfect and what volunteers would like to see improved in the LIFT program. I was happy to see that many people chose to talk about my topic! I had a whole two table’s worth of volunteers from the Pilsen, Evanston, and Uptown offices exchanging ideas on how LIFT could be improved. One of the main topics discussed in my group was on the connectivity between our clients and us. We wanted to find a better way to stay in touch with our clients and also find better ways to receive feedback from them. We wanted to show our clients that their opinions our important to us. We are there to help them, so it makes sense that we listen to their thoughts and, if it is within our grasp, try to implement their ideas into our LIFT program. In our Uptown office, we held a client/volunteer meeting called CAB (Community Advisory Board). It consisted of us inviting some of our clients to discuss concerns or thoughts that they wanted to talk to us about. I really enjoyed that, and I feel that similar events should be held in an effort to receive more input from our clients.
The second discussion that I participated in centered around the misconceptions that people have concerning the poor population. We debated the myth that was the “culture of poverty” and how people seem to have the misunderstanding that poor people actually choose to live that way! I guess it has to do with the Fundamental Attribution error that I learned about in one of my psych classes. People want to believe that the world is fair; therefore all people get what they deserve. It’s a shame that certain people think that way, but it was one of the many things our table discussed. I enjoyed discussing how we each individually felt about stereotypes and how, because of LIFT, many of our own misconceptions were clarified. LIFT had allowed us to understand our clients on a very real level.
The final discussion that I participated in was on the topic of the American Dream. We defined the American Dream as: the ability to make money. We discussed how citizens are striving to always acquire more. It’s a very capitalistic and individualistic dream; one that perfectly represented America. I argued cynically that people were selfish, quoting Thomas Hobbes when I got the chance. Most of the table disagreed with me and believed that people instinctively strive for unity, but I still see evidence to contradict that. I could argue about this all day, but I feel like this blog isn’t really the appropriate place for it. The conversation ended up being really fun and I enjoyed listening to everyone’s opinions and views on the world.
The summit ended soon after these talks and I feel as though we all left with a larger sense of connectedness. The ability to meet LIFTers from all over Chicago made our combat against poverty feel less…lonely? I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but perhaps it was because I got used to seeing all of the Loyola LIFT volunteers all the time, that I just sort of assumed that that was all of us. Upon learning that there were definitely more of us out there (and not just in Chicago), the concept of how many students are out there are willing to volunteer to help their community just became a lot more real. I met great people from different places who all have their reasons why they LIFT, and I’m always impressed by what they all have to say, even if it contradicts my own beliefs. Overall, I am really glad I woke up at 8am this morning to attend this summit, but I think a summit starting at 12pm would work just as great.
On a quick side note: I hope to be posting picture of this event soon, so keep your eyes open for that! Or if you just can’t wait to learn/see more, you can visit LIFT’s official blog at http://blog.liftcommunities.org