Cockadoodledooo!!! At seven am we were all up and scrambling around to pack last minute and eat Rice Krispies. We hopped onto the broad street line plus a bus, and convened with another alternative spring break group from George Mason University in a community center located in way-north Philly. First the City Year organizers put in their spiel about the ten month volunteer core and then we did teamwork exercises and reflected on the week’s service. It was a little weird to accept the City Year hype and their own intense community while we were still in the “Go Campus Philly ASB” mood. The George Mason ASB group was very sociable and had spent the week following City Year employees, so they said cool stuff about the City Year rally and their fierce work ethic. After a corny video and an informative presentation I’ve decided that the core is an appealing after college opportunity. I especially like their emphasis on learning to respect people from a variety of different backgrounds. I am often intimidated and confused by conflicting messages about who to care about and who to ignore. It’s always motivating to hear that everybody has important things to share no matter how harshly they are judged.
The City Year role as workshop facilitators made a lot more sense after I realized that they didn’t sell tires. First, we paired up facing back to back to described a picture that our partner tried to draw, and then we formed four different groups according to “North, South, East, and West” characteristics — City Year’s “compass” of leadership styles. In those groups we planned an imaginary vacation. Speaking as a member of the South group (the empathetic, people-person kind of leader, it was kind of difficult to get anything done. Southerners may be easy to work with but when we were in a group all by ourselves it felt pretty dysfunctional. It was a pretty interesting experiment.
(Katie here) — I found the final reflection and discussion to be mostly valuable, although there were moments when it degenerated into self-congratulation for our “world-changing” week of community service. My sarcasm is only light — I really believe in what we did but it’s important to realize that it wasn’t much and needs to be followed with continued engagement. Especially for those of us at places like Haverford, it is all too easy to retreat back into our safe little suburban bubble and not confront these issues, but we are fortunate enough to be able to help and therefore we need to!
I liked thinking about the connections between different nonprofit experiences and trying to draw some conclusions…for example, one thing I gained from the week was an appreciation for the plurality of nonprofit groups. It’s important to realize that when you go into nonprofit work, you’re entering a network of organizations, people, foundations, etc. that have been working really hard before you got there. While innovation and creativity are vital for progress, you don’t want to reinvent the wheel. Collaborations and networking are an integral part of problem solving — for example, at Education Works we learned that they used the local church basketball leagues (which have been around forever) to model their own basketball league. One of City Year’s mottos was something to do with multiplying the power of everything they did, and recognizing the need to work with other groups and organizations with similar goals as opposed to going at it alone is definitely one way of accomplishing more.
We finished off the week with a yummy dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant. It was a wonderful experience and we are so thankful to Ian and Brittany’s fantastic planning skills leadership through, under, over and around Philadelphia. THANKS a bunch!