It feels right to be here

30 Apr

I’m Narinda Heng, second-generation Khmer American, compulsive writer, and Los Angeles nomad. Since 2007, I’ve lived in at least 5 different parts of LA County and had nearly a dozen different occupations. (Thank goodness I’m not the only wanderer in PA.) In 2011, I found myself applying to be a Public Ally in Los Angeles.

What brought me here? I’ve worked at an archives, an Asian American theatre company, an art+community space, and I have known for a long time that employment in the nonprofit sector is where I feel most comfortable. I worried that perhaps I had too much experience to enter the program, but I was irresistibly drawn to the 5 core values of Collaboration, Continuous Learning, Diversity & Inclusion, Focus on Assets, and Integrity, and PA Los Angeles’s particular emphasis on critical self reflection. And the truth is that while I had much experience in helping to create space for artistic expression and discussion around social justice, I had never held a direct service position. Public Allies offered a way to explore what I knew to be challenging work with the support of dedicated staff and peers. It’s an incredibly fortunate position to be in.

And now, here I am, just over six months into my time serving as a Public Ally and Case Manager at SRO Housing. I had been interested in Los Angeles’ Skid Row community for a long time, but it was not until the opportunity arose through Public Allies that I was able to feel I had the capacity to do the work. What I’ve found is that I had more capacity than I realized and that there is more potential in the neighborhood than generally discussed. I had the opportunity to share my experience in PA’s February eUpdate, and I’m glad to be able to continue to share my experiences at PALA here in addition to the Public Allies Los Angeles Insider blog.

(I’d like to note that I’m writing this on the anniversary of the 1992 LA Uprising. The civil unrest that took place when I was seven years old shaped the Los Angeles that I live and work in today, and it would be remiss not to mention that.)

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6 Responses to “It feels right to be here”

  1. Kaleena April 30, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    Welcome Narinda! I look forward to reading your experiences at PA Los Angeles. I actually grew up in Southern California up until the age of 8 or 9 in Apple Valley. California is a great place and I am sure you have a lot of exciting experiences to share. Can’t wait to hear more!

    • Narinda May 1, 2012 at 12:43 am #

      Thanks, Kaleena! I’ve enjoyed taking a peek into your time at PA Chicago– was totally infatuated with the city in the 48 hours I spent there back in 2009.

      • Kaleena May 1, 2012 at 10:13 am #

        Yeah, Chicago is a great place. It is certainly a place that grows on you the longer that you are here. LA is great too though. There is a lot of opportunity, arts, and diverse cultures there as well.

  2. pemadb May 1, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    Narinda, also looking forward to hearing more about your experiences. And yes we are both definitely wanderers! Also the Tuesday Night Project sounds fabulous, we need one of those in NYC.

    • Narinda May 8, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

      Thanks, Pema! Tuesday Night Project IS fabulous. If you ever wander over to LA, let me know and I’d love to connect you with people here, and maybe there might even be a Tuesday Night Cafe to go to, if you visit Spring-Fall. And if there indeed isn’t something like TNP already in NYC, maybe you can start it. ;n)

  3. Dara May 8, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

    What a great post! I love the way you write about your journey to Public Allies especially the draw of the core values. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

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