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Thursday, December 18, 2008

gray room

My desk is crazy!!! This has been such a task filled week but at least it has made the days go by faster. Since this is our last week open there have been a lot of things to get turned in, loose ends to get wrapped up, e-mails to send out, meetings to attend, volunteers to appreciate and of course making sure our clients have access to resources while we're gone.

Yesterday was our Local Adivsory Board meeting which was very successful and well attended by all of our board members. Our LAB is made up of members of the Philadelphia community who advise us on the role of our office in relation to the issues affecting the Philadelphia community. I'm consistently amazed by our student leaders and the amount of vision and tenacity they have. Sarah our Local Director from the West also attended the meeting and shared some of the work she has been doing on community resources in the West community with Dr. Harkavy at Penn.

We also had some great discussions about the issues in Philadelphia that will affect our services in our office. Case managers at local homeless shelters are being let go because of budget cuts. The Case managers are the staff members at homeless shelters that assist residents in getting their lives back togethers. Essentially we are going to see more people going into the homeless shelters with less to no people assisting them move out of them. While this is very discouraging it shows that our services are going to be even more essential in this time of need.

A similar issue resulted in some intense discourse back and forth with our leadership team. I had recently read an article about the lack of guidance counselors in Philadelphia schools and the affect this was having on college attainment for Philly high school students http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/36121124.html. We had a discussion about what if any service we could be in this time. Especially since the system that we use to sign people up for public benefits is adding a FAFSA application. One of our site coordinators didn't feel like it was really our place or the best use of our skills but at our LAB meeting a couple of our board members brought up the same issue and suggested that we provide some services. I was relieved to hear some more support for our at least developing some resource energy to it but it was a tense moment. It made me wonder, should I speak up about issues that I am passionate about and find relevant or just hold back to avoid making ripples that might cause too much discomfort. In the end, if it helps us become more effective at serving the needs of the Philadelphia community, I'd have to go for speaking up...

I had some tear jerkers of client meetings. Since we've been a little slower I've had time to sit down and really talk to my clients and learn more about the stories that brought them to our office. I always wrestle with revealing client stories even if I don't include their names but in summary I can say that the routes that bring our clients here is a maze of bad decisions, bad luck, an unforgiving system and last hope. I feel like that scene in the Grinch where his heart grows beyond its size. I feel like my ability to love and care and not judge has grown much beyond what I've been capable of. I don't think I've been surprised much by what I've seen pertaining to bureacracy and the issues of the poverty. Although my understanding has deepend greatly and I've learned much more about the human aspect. The faces behind the statistics. I've grown from that.

I've also learned so much from the wonderful organization I'm apart of. Work within our regional team has been tense at times but that's to be expected in a field where passions run high and everyone seems to come in with a mission and a vision, unprepared to compromise or collaborate. But we all have a heart for our clients and have proven that there are different ways to support the community and the work we do. I've also taken sometime to go through all of our vols feedback and learn what we can better do to support them because, well, they are the ones that do client service and its important that we reach down from our clouds of ideas and jobs to give the information to our vols so that that information will reach our clients who could care less about our disagreements.

I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world although I do miss my friends and family. I'm very excited about the Holiday and break.
I don't think I've ever made a New Years resolution but if I was to make one it would be to work more on what I found is important to me, the people in my life. To stay in touch more and learn more from them, even the ones I don't really care that much for.

Besides, does any of us really know what we're doing...

Merry Christmas!

I'll share a quote from one of my vols:

One day while looking for jobs, I was beginning to join client in his momentary discouragement, feeling as though everything was out of my hands, feeling under the full weight of the realization that there is only so much NSP and me personally as a volunteer can do. Out of nowhere, client received a call asking him to come in for an interview the next day, and he was elated. I was so, so thankful for client's upcoming opportunity and replenished enthusiasm. I feel like this experience with client has been incomparably formative to my dedication to the NSP organization.

For the Holidays please join me in supporting NSP and the work we're doing, it's becoming even more necessary. Now more than ever....http://www.nspnet.org/donate/index.htm

Song: High and Dry by Radiohead

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