It is just one of those days…or week?…month?

•April 4, 2012 • Leave a Comment

            So Poverty Awareness Week was last week and it was supposed to end with LIFTopolis, but unfortunately not enough people signed up, so we had to cancel it. It’s a shame it got cancelled because although I wasn’t really that excited about it at first, the closer it got, the more I actually started looking forward to it. Oh well, maybe next time.

            On another note, I’m not sure if it is because the semester is ending soon or because I have senioritis, but I’ve been finding it tough to go into the LIFT office this past month. This whole month has been filled with papers and all-nighters and to be honest, on the list of things I want to do every morning (besides going back to bed) going into the LIFT office doesn’t really make the cut. It’s not that I don’t like going into LIFT because once I’m there and working with a client I feel glad that I showed up. It is just becoming harder and harder to get the motivation to actually leave my place, commute on the train, and then hope that my clients for the day chose to the same, otherwise I end up twiddling my thumbs for about an hour or so. Every now and then I would have an “unmotivated” day, but recently they have just been a bit more consistent. Luckily, I don’t bring the unmotivated attitude with me into the office, it’s only present prior to coming in. I really don’t have much else to say. Hopefully this funk ends soon though.

Untitled…for now

•March 21, 2012 • 1 Comment

So next week is going to be Poverty Awareness Week and I can already see many of my fellow LIFTers getting really excited about it. All week long there will be events around our campus that help others understand poverty, as well as information on how to contribute to prevent it. Along with many panel discussions, there will also be a food and toiletry drives happening every day of the week. It all ends on Saturday with LIFT’s “LIFTopolis USA.” This consists of what we call a “simulation of the Modern Social Services System.”  I had gone through something similar to this back when I was still being trained to be a LIFT volunteer. Basically we pretended that we were individuals in need of assistance and were seeking help from various well known organizations. Each organization however was not very helpful and we kept feeling ignored; also our needs weren’t being met. At some point, we were meant to find LIFT and were basically assisted in a friendly and beneficial manner. I thought it was a neat idea, but I didn’t really like it. I know the whole thing was meant to promote LIFT, but it all felt so biased. The whole scenario made these other organization seem completely useless, while making LIFT seem like the “savior” organization the people need. I’m not putting down LIFT at all, but if LIFToplis is supposed to be similar to this experiment, I don’t think we should oversell ourselves as being so much better than these other organizations. I have been in a decent amount of situations in which I felt that I could not meet my client’s needs and felt as though they should seek help from other organizations. LIFTopolis sounds very informative, but I hope that we also don’t belittle the importance of other organizations as we did in the training.

On a bit more of a happier note, I finally managed to get a few pictures from the Summit we had a few weeks back. I’m posting mostly pictures that involve me…since I don’t know how my fellow volunteers would feel about me posting pictures of them.

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Here is a picture of pretty much everyone at the Summit (You have to click on the picture to see me. I’m on the right, facing away from the camera…in a dark hoodie)

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Here are people writing discussion ideas (That’s my elbow on the right!)

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That’s me looking at all the panel discussion options. (I’m in the dark hoodie…on the right)

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Now I am deciding which panel discussions I want to participate in. (On the right)

We were asked to describe LIFT in one word; here is what some people wrote:

 

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Finally, here is the one word I used to describe LIFT

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Image(Sorry for the awkward smile)

LIFTed to a Summit (I apologize for the horrible pun)

•February 27, 2012 • Leave a Comment

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

Underestimating My Bilingual Skills

•February 22, 2012 • 1 Comment

Growing up with only Spanish speaking parents understandably granted me the ability to speak Spanish myself. I spoke it so well in fact that when I was younger, I had some trouble in school because that the only thing I spoke! I eventually learned English through peers, teachers… mostly television. As I got older, I found myself speaking more and more English, basically to the point to where my Spanish was pretty much obsolete. I still knew it, but I rarely spoke it to anyone, especially in college. It wasn’t until LIFT that I realized, “Hey, I speak Spanish!”

I have noticed that many of LIFT’s clients are Spanish speaking clients; I have also noticed that in terms of Spanish speaking volunteers, we are understaffed. It seems like such a small thing to focus on, language, but I have seen it make the biggest impact on our clients. Often times, when I begin working with a Spanish speaking client, they begin by talking to me in English (assuming I don’t speak Spanish). However, the moment I let them know that I actually speak Spanish’ a hopeful smile always appears on their face. Their struggle to communicate with another individual in a completely different language can be so difficult, but the moment they realize that I can communicate at the same level, it makes all the difference in the world.

The other day, I had a client waiting for her appointment. She honestly looked really lost and a little nervous about being there. Once our meeting began though, she was a completely different person. She suddenly appeared relaxed and comfortable while talking to me. We would occasional swap a story or two about Mexico; speaking as though we were good friends. We worked together on creating a resume and view her employment options. She walked out of the office looking much happier than when she came in. The amazing thing is that this isn’t the only time I have encountered this. It happens mostly all the time with my Spanish speaking clients. My appointments with English speakers always go well, but somehow I feel as though my appointments with Spanish speakers always feel more personal. Growing up, I had completely underestimated how being bilingual can be so beneficial to not just myself, but to others as well.

I think I should learn a third language.

Beginning my LI…

•February 3, 2012 • 3 Comments

Beginning my LIFT experience 

Volunteering at LIFT has been one of the most unique experiences in my life. I have been volunteering at LIFT for one semester so far and my only regret is that I didn’t discover this organization sooner, before I was a senior. To fully understand how LIFT has influenced my life, it’s important to know how I was before LIFT. I had never really thought of myself as the type of person who willingly volunteers. As horrible as it sounds, I was just not that into giving up my time for a no significant reward. When I heard the “LIFT pitch,” which is the speech given by LIFT volunteers to explain their mission, I felt interested in what they did. LIFT is all about helping individuals with employment, housing, finding public benefits, and other things that the client may need. I really enjoyed the way that the volunteers work together with the clients to reach the same goal. I thought about how I was raised on Chicago’s south side and grew up around individuals like the ones they helped. It is through similar individuals that helped me become who I am today, so how could I not want but give back to a similar community.

 My first day at the LIFT office was a very memorable day. I remember walking into the office and being extremely nervous. Despite having gone through the training, I still felt that I was not ready to work with any clients. I was worried that I wouldn’t know enough, or I might not be helpful to the client. Luckily my first day consisted of just shadowing a client meeting; that still didn’t mean I wasn’t nervous. The meeting I shadowed was extremely memorable. The woman in our meeting had had some of the worst things I could imagine happen to her. Without going into too much detail, she had lost her job, was losing her house, and also had some mental disabilities. Basically everything that could go wrong with this poor woman did go wrong. It was a pretty overwhelming experience for me to sit through. It was scary to think that I might have to help people with so many issues. Seeing the volunteer handle it in a relaxed manner, while working together with the client, helped me understand how if I take it one step at a time, I could be just as helpful. About a week later, I ran into the same client, who just happened to be stopping by the office, and I was surprised that she had remember my name; especially since all I did was sit there on her meeting, not really saying much. She thanked me because she had gotten a job interview and was really excited. It made me think of the impact that the volunteers had on all the people that they work with, and how even though I didn’t do anything, she just appreciated that I was willing to help her. I worked with her a few times later on, although I’m sad to say that I don’t see her around the office anymore; I’m hoping it is because her situation has improved and no longer requires our services, but we’ll be here in case does again.

 Once I began having my meetings on my own, I found that I definitely had the confidence to work with clients while not feeling overwhelmed. It becomes important to listen to what the clients say, not just for helping to find out what they need, but because sometimes all the clients need is somebody to talk to. Through listening to my clients stories, I learn to understand how other’s lives, and in turn, sometimes poverty itself. It helps to view poverty from a different perspective, a human perspective.

 
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