Archive by Author

Kick-Off and New Beginnings

26 Mar

After some unexpected set-backs, my service project with my fellow Allies is finally coming together. My group co-hosted a community event with our partner organization, the Iraqi Mutual Aid Society (IMAS) on the North Side of Chicago. The organization’s mission is “to foster the well-being and self-sufficiency of Iraqi refugees and immigrants in the Chicago-metro area: easing their transition to life in the United States, forging connections between Iraqi and American society, and facilitating the preservation and exchange of Iraqi culture”. With the Iraqi community in Chicago growing, IMAS  is eager to expand its programming and our project focuses on helping the staff build the infrastructure for new youth programs.

My service project team.

Our kick-off event was a great opportunity for interface with the community. Personally, I had very little knowledge of or experience with refugee groups from any background before partnering with IMAS. The opportunity to learn more about Iraqi culture and the refugee experience makes this project even more exciting. The journey began for me at the event, where I had an enlightening conversation with a community member. She approached me to ask for more information about Public Allies and my personal background. After a 40 minute conversation, I walked away feeling like I’d just met one of the most courageous women in the world. She has only lived in Chicago (and the US in general) for about 5 months, but has managed to find a new home and family here after losing her entire family in Syria. IMAS, she said, helped her come back to life. The people she has met are her new brothers and sisters. Of everything she said, one quote will probably stay with me forever:

“When people ask me how old I am, I say 5 months because when I came here 5 months ago I was reborn. It was a new beginning.”

Her attitude towards her experiences is inspiring. Personally, it reminds me to believe in the power of hope and the strength it can give you to start over.

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A Lesson in Teamwork

7 Feb

As the Robert Burns poem, To a Mouse,  famously warns,  “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.” (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry).  While I’d like to claim full acceptance and understanding of this, it’s a pretty difficult reality to digest.

We go through our lives being taught the importance of time management and planning ahead. Consequently, failures and problems are often blamed on poor planning or scheduling. As an avid planner, I was excited to begin working on a team service project with some of my fellow Allies. In my mind, as long as we ironed everything out from the start, the project would unfold beautifully.

Unfortunately, life is a bit more unpredictable than that and I experienced the value of something more powerful than any agenda or time task plan: teamwork.

As the Chicago site prepared for the launch of team service projects, my team was having communication difficulties with the organization we planned to work with. Eventually we received news that our project was no longer needed by the organization. After months of work, we found ourselves worried and discouraged.

This was a critical point in our team service project experience because the situation could’ve gone in multiple directions. The worst-case nightmare scenario involved unproductive meetings, bickering, and finger-pointing, but our reality was the complete opposite. Within a week we were contacting new possible partners and arranging capacity assessment meetings, while maintaining the lighthearted optimism I love about my team. Now, we are on our way to finalizing a new project plan.

This experience is a perfect example of why I have no doubts about completing a service year with Public Allies. Serving with amazing individuals on my team service project and within my class in general is changing my perspective on how things get done in an unpredictable, dynamic world. So, I challenge Robert Burns: The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry…Unless you trust the power of teamwork and collaboration.

Opportunity is Passion

21 Dec

 

 

For me, opportunity is a chance to pursue your passions and use your talents without pressure to mold or conform.