Week 7: Beginning of the End

Hi, everyone! Week 7 is done and all I can say is, “When did life start moving so fast?”

One of my projects is creating a quick sheet explaining all of the services Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS) provides, so this week I’ve been meeting with someone from each department in CRIS.  I’ve loved this job because I get to learn about all of the amazing work the 70+ employees do each day.  Besides resettlement, CRIS has services for seniors to help them feel more included in the community, immigrant and refugee youth mentorship programs, legal services, assistance for victims of crime, and more.

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A picture of my laptop during the power outage at work.

In somewhat entertaining news, on Friday the power went out due to huge storms in the late morning.  When the power goes out, so does the Internet, which is inconvenient because most of us use the Internet for our jobs.  Some people stayed, but I went to the library to work.

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to meet with some Bhutanese Nepali high school girls at the Bhutanese Nepali Community of Columbus (BNCC).  I loved talking with them because as I asked them questions about their culture, I saw the numerous similarities to the culture of the United States.  Of course, they grew up in refugee camps in Nepal and had unique experiences there, but once they came to the United States, they adapted and added American values to the ones they already had.  I asked the four girls what they wanted to do as careers.  One said she wants to be a model, two said they want to be nurses, and the last girl was not sure yet.   The girls have the same aspirations as any other teen in the United States, perhaps even working harder toward their dreams to make their journeys worth it.

If you are wondering why the refugee group is called Bhutanese Nepali when they speak or even used to live in Nepal, I can give you some background information.  Side note: This background information is actually part of my job at CRIS, so check out crisohio.org in the coming weeks to see background information about other refugee groups in Columbus!

The Bhutanese Nepali people originally came from Nepal.  Starting in the 1800s, the rulers in Bhutan invited farmers from Nepal to come live on unused land in Bhutan.  Over the years, the group from Nepal kept speaking the Nepali language and taught it to their descendants growing up in Bhutan.  In 1958, the government of Bhutan finally gave citizenship to the Nepali speaking population living in Bhutan with the Citizenship Act of 1958.  Unfortunately, in the 1980s, a new group came into power in Bhutan and began ethnically cleansing the population, imprisoning and killing thousands of Nepali speaking Bhutanese.  The rest of the Bhutanese Nepali people fled to Nepal or parts of India, such as West Bengal.

Sadly, most of the Bhutanese Nepali people have spent decades living in refugee camps in Nepal and West Bengal, unable to attain citizenship from the governments of those nations.  Additionally, the refugees are unable to return home to Bhutan.  Therefore, many of the Bhutanese Nepali population is seeking resettlement in a third country, such as the United States.  Many of the children and even adults spent their lives in refugee camps.  This is why there are about 20,000 Bhutanese Nepali living in Columbus.

A parting word – if you have a friend, schoolmate, coworker, etc. that is Bhutanese Nepali, you can say “namaste (nah-mah-stay)” to them and it means “hello” or “goodbye.”

Namaste!

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Week 7: the future (?)

Working at DSC has taught me a lot about what I want for my future career. I started asking myself a lot of questions: Does my office need a window? Do I want an office? Do I want to freelance? Do I want one job? Or two? How far do I want to commute? Do I want to go back to school? What am I even really passionate about?

I graduate in December from The – cannot forget “The” – Ohio State University with a bachelors in English and a minor in Religious Studies. On Wednesday, I dropped off a deposit for a studio apartment. Whoa. Good things are happening and good things are ahead. But there are so many decisions, big decisions, that it can be overwhelming.

Being a Summer Fellow at DSC has given me the opportunity to have a sneak peak of the young professional world in Columbus. Let me tell ya, scheduling doctors appointments around office hours is its own part time job. I have experienced steady full-time business hours; I have scheduled meetings; I have spent way too much time writing emails; I have canceled plans because I am exhausted; I have learned what a CRM is; I have forgotten my lunch at home; I have gotten stuck in traffic for hours – yes, plural hours. It all has taught me about life after college. It also has taught me not to look too far ahead.

I have pouted to my co-workers every week about the time I have left. It is sad. I will miss working here. BUT, I had no idea I would get this opportunity six months ago. It happened with a random email asking me to apply for the Columbus Foundation’s Summer Fellowship Program (which I didn’t know existed) and submitting an application on whim. Well, I got it and here I am.

Who knows where I will be in six more months. Probably asking myself the same questions. Probably approaching, always approaching, a better understanding of the answers. Definitely missing the people and the cause of DSC.

We shall see,

Karlee H.

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IGNITE-ing the spark of Youth Leadership!

Hello, hi, welcome back to your favorite weekly blog post by none other than yours truly! I have just completed my SEVENTH week with LeaderSpark, and it’s hard to believe that my time with the organization will be coming to a close in just a few more weeks.

But there is certainly no time to dwell on that now because there is still SO much to do! Our IGNITE: Back to School Retreat is on August 4-5, and there is still so much preparation that needs to be done. The retreat itself has been coming together nicely– we’ve secured two speakers for the event, and our program lineup is solid. We’re covering a lot of topics that will prepare the youth we are working with to get excited for the upcoming school year and help them conquer it with confidence.

Throughout the process of getting ready for IGNITE, I’ve done a lot of promotional work– making flyers, making the program for the event, reaching out to other organizations to help spread the word of our event… but no matter how much work I and my bosses do, it seems that we just aren’t getting enough people to register for the event. We want 20 youth to sign up for the overnight portion of the event, which doesn’t seem like an outrageous number, but the event fee might be prohibiting people from signing up. It’s been both enlightening and frustrating this week, as I’ve come to see firsthand how directly a low-income lifestyle can affect our community’s youth. These kids deserve more. They deserve to go to this retreat, have fun, meet new people, and learn about how to be better students and members of the community. Thankfully, we’re offering some scholarships to the retreat for students, so hopefully we are able to apply those to help some youth attend who otherwise would not have been able to.

 

SO IF YOU KNOW ANY COLUMBUS YOUTH AGES 14-17… Send them LeaderSpark’s way for IGNITE! 🙂 Here is the link to the event page in case you’re feeling extra supportive and want to donate or register now:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1372997726148639/?acontext=%7B%22action_history%22%3A%22%5B%7B%5C%22surface%5C%22%3A%5C%22page%5C%22%2C%5C%22mechanism%5C%22%3A%5C%22page_upcoming_events_card%5C%22%2C%5C%22extra_data%5C%22%3A%5B%5D%7D%5D%22%2C%22has_source%22%3Atrue%7D

 

Until next time, my friends,

Sam

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What does Homelessness look like?

We’ve all seen it. We’ve all walked past someone on the street asking for money. When we picture homelessness, this image is likely what comes to mind. The image probably consists of an older man on the streets of a big city, with ragged clothes and a cardboard sign saying something along the lines of “Homeless, anything helps”. A Google search of “homeless” turns up hundreds of different versions of this very image. The photographs are almost exclusively of men—but how does homelessness impact women?

We don’t picture women when we picture homelessness because we don’t see how it impacts them. Living on the streets comes with many risks, including poorer health and mental instability. If a woman lives on the streets, she is also more likely to become a victim of sexual assault or to be forced into prostitution. This is one of the primary reasons why we often don’t see women living on the streets like we see men. But just because we don’t see homeless women first hand doesn’t mean that women don’t experience it. In fact, African American women are the most likely to be evicted. It can be argued that eviction is to African American women what incarceration is to African American men (Desmond, 2014). An eviction can often prevent someone from attaining a home, as many landlords will not rent to someone with a record of eviction. Women are more likely to be evicted, making them fall victim to this vicious cycle and forcing them into homelessness. Dr. Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted and countless other studies on the matter, has found that there are a variety of factors that lead to women experiencing higher rates of eviction than men. Simply having children can lead to evictions as they often cause more damage to a property or may be a nuisance to neighbors. Lower wages for women can also make it harder to pay rent, leading to a non-payment eviction. Women’s non-confrontational approach to predominately male landlords also poses a greater risk of eviction.

I am seeing this gender divide play out in the work I do at Homeport. As I go through the data of each resident who received a Gifts of Kindness award to prevent an eviction, I’ve noticed that recipients are overwhelmingly female.  Desmond’s research appears to hold true in this case—since women are more likely to be evicted, it can be inferred that they have been more likely to apply for and receive Gifts of Kindness. It is important to recognize that homelessness is a tragedy that affects nearly all demographics, and that it can happen for a variety of reasons. There is not one single image of homelessness.

 

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A Lifelong Commitment

With every new job or responsibility that I take on I make a personal vow to fully commit myself to that one experience.  During the school year the challenges that I have faced trying to balance all of my obligations has likely influenced this now habitual behavior of intention setting. However, when reflecting on my experiences over the past 7 weeks of this summer fellowship I think goal setting is important for another reason.

The excitement that taking on a new role brings me is unmatched. Sitting in the Carriage House with the other fellows for orientation the first day I was energized, impassioned and ready to go. Before, my fear of losing this “steam” was what motivated me to make those additional personal commitments.  Now, looking back on this summer I know that a steady sense of drive and a growing commitment to the work that I am now a part of at NSI is what has kept me going. But I have to be honest. I would be boldface lying if I said that I have never left work this summer feeling physically or emotionally drained. Take last Tuesday for example, after NSI’s monthly Produce Market–I had to swallow my pride and accept the $15 cancelation fee for a yoga class because I couldn’t bear the thought of getting off of the couch let alone getting into a downward dog.

I have never before fully understood why it is that every time a public servant speaks on a panel to a group of student leaders who aspire to join them in the trenches in the fight for social justice they warn us: this work we do, it’s hard work. I do know that these leaders have not been imparting knowledge about the dangers of signing up for binding yoga memberships while in this line of work (though that advice would have been nice too 🙂  Truly, I have such deep appreciation for mentors who exhibit this candor because it has given me the validation I need after hard days. Like the day when a mother came into the pantry after receiving custody of her nieces and nephews to learn that only a week prior her SNAP benefits would be cut, or the day when more neighbors than we could count inquired about utility assistance–all fearful that they would loose power or have to choose between paying the bills or paying for food later that month when the 7 day supply we provide them ran out–only for us to learn that all of our usual agency contacts had gone through their funds as well, and lastly, the day I began doing the analysis for survey respondents’ demographics–to only relearn what I knew: both race and geography matter for access to opportunity is not equally distributed.

Unfortunately, I have learned that in this work I will be reminded at every turn that our systems are failing our neighbors.  Surely, that’s one reason why this work we do is hard.  Fighting systemic inequality in the hopes of creating a more just and equitable society is not going to be easy and it cannot be done alone.  I used to make personal commitments when assuming a new role or responsibility.  I thought about things as though they had an expiration date or a fixed amount of time for which I would be able to make meaningful contributions.  It’s week 7 and I honestly am only now beginning to fully grasp the true interconnections between the work I am doing this summer as a summer fellow with NSI, the work I will do as a 2018 Teach For America Core Member in Chicago, Illinois and the work I will choose do after that for years to come.  I can now see clearly that those personal commitments are collectively my call to action–a continual reminder of why I feel compelled to do this work.

 

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Week Seven

This week I was afforded the opportunity to attend one of the training sessions in the YMCA Global Leader Certification program. The program consists of an online orientation, three in-person classes, and a service project that allows you to apply what you’ve learned from the trainings. The goal is to provide Y employees with the cultural competency necessary to effectively engage and serve all people in our rapidly changing and globalizing communities.

The class I attended covered building relationships through cultural lenses. The workshop was designed to enhance cross-cultural understanding, relationships, and engagement among all YMCA staff and volunteers. We were introduced to an analytical framework through which we could explore, recognize, and honor the influence of cultural background on patterns of human behavior. The tools presented foster personal reflection on the impact of culture—our own and others. Rather than exhaustively describing selected cultural groups, we were encouraged to cultivate knowledge, dialogue, and interaction about culture in general.

I was very grateful that my supervisor encouraged me to attend the Cultural Lenses training because I met some really incredible and motivated individuals who are associated with the YMCA of Central Ohio. I enjoyed hearing about the work they do both within the Y and outside of it. I was impressed by the existence of the Global Leader Certification program and even more impressed by how committed the folks who attended and who ran the class are to making the Y an inclusive and comfortable space for everyone. The YMCA’s primary goal as an organization is to build and strengthen community, which cannot be effectively done without adapting to and accommodating the communities it serves. The Global Leader Certification program directly addresses this necessity, and quite aptly from my experience.

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Week 7: Nearing the end

by Kelsie Fields, Westerville Symphony

As we go into the 7th week of the fellowship, many of us are nearing the end of our projects. This holds true for me as well with the Beethoven 5k taking place this coming Sunday!

We are in the long-stretch of finishing up our swag bags, ramping up our marketing efforts, and pushing to reach out registration goal! I have been leading our marketing plan and developing our email campaigns and social media posts to help get the word out.

The race will take place around Westerville and kicks off at the Westerville Sports Complex. We are still working out the final behind-the-scenes logistics details, and organizing this 5k has given me even greater insight into all the workings of an event. Organizing 5ks is slightly different from planning other types of fundraisers because most of the time (if not always), the 5k is outside, and this leads to the need for permits, insurance, and other clearances with the local government. These are all things I hadn’t thought of before but something I will definitely keep in mind for future events.

One of the reasons I really enjoy development work is the opportunity it provides to interact with different kinds of people. Events make it even easier to meet new people because the audience always changes with the type of event!

Summer in Columbus is one of the best things in the world, so I’m sad to see it waning. There’s so much to do and see, even in the suburbs! I’ve really enjoyed getting to experience more of what the Greater Columbus area has to offer. Between farmers markets, free concerts (such as the one at the Columbus Commons we all attended last week!), and local 5ks, there are so many ways to engage with others, support local businesses, and have fun!

 

 

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