Neighborhood Services News
A lasting transformation.
Often times we talk about challenges and lack of opportunity, or the difficulty and distress our communities face. Although that may be the reality and it can be overwhelming, I am humbled and amazed not just at the wisdom of our residents, but at their willingness and perseverance despite many challenges and limitations.
While we continue to build capacity and develop leadership skills of community members our vision and understanding of what defines an effective leader are constantly expanded and altered. One of our recent Spanish L.A.S.T. participants came to me before the day’s session began and whispered she did not know how to read or write in Spanish, and she does not know how to speak English either. This revelation blew me away, but at that point I was only able to think of doing one thing and that was to make sure she could still access the information and participate fully in the training. We paused during videos to tell the story so she could be fully engaged in the conversation, read out loud the ideas her group had brought forward during their discussions, and just asked her questions so she could tell her own stories. Fortunately the entire group of participants was gracious enough to allow us to work with her without questioning or demanding anything.
L.A.S.T. was created to build capacity, to equip residents, and to sharpen their leadership skills. It was designed to create a “lasting transformation” to make our communities better. To our surprise it is most rewarding to see the transformation take place right there in the room.
During last week’s session, we started day two asking participants to share how the first day of training had affected them. Stories started to spring forth. Luis shared about how he helps raise money for kids with special needs in Guatemala and how the day of training had encouraged him to keep on with his work despite the challenges. Fiorly shared about her dream to return to her country of birth, The Dominican Republic, to give out school supplies and teach summer classes. Jose talked about how he has been organizing "Latinos Unidos" soccer league for the past 6 years and at the same time helping to raise money for people who have accidents and don't have family support in this country. Delfina talked about organizing the Oaxacan community--putting on events and raising money for people in hard situations. Margarita was so inspired by the training that she went and talked with 3 neighbors.
It is great to see the transformation in people that are eager and willing to make a difference regardless of their challenges. Even language barriers do not keep them from being active in their church, their kids’ school, or their community. I am glad we are here to help, to learn and to walk the walk alongside our community.