Fighting Poverty with Passion
It’s bittersweet to have to report that my time with La Cooperative has come to its end. After a long fight against an unrelenting ex-Executive Director and dealing with the stresses of helping hundreds of Latino immigrants per month on a limited budget, La Cooperativa closed its doors on 31 May of this year. The Board is still active, trying to settle debts; my coworkers are off to new and (hopefully) better things; and our members have hopefully found new sites that can help them out with their applications for social services.
As for myself, I am now the “Cultural Attaché” of CPS. Quite a fancy title, right? I think that is. Title aside, my main role as the Cultural Attaché is to work on developing a welcome packet for incoming Tulane AmeriCorps VISTAs. Even though some of the incoming Tulane VISTAs will already have some knowledge of New Orleans, because they have either lived here before or have been involved in the city in some way or another, there are still things that a lot of incoming Tulane VISTAs are often unaware of. For instance, where can they park their cars if they live in the Central Business District? Where are the best places to eat and take it easy on a VISTA budget? Answering questions like these is necessary because it avoids certain problems past VISTAs have encountered. Furthermore, my welcome packet is meant to serve as a general reference guide for how to survive your site. It is one thing to hear at your Pre-Service Orientation (the mandatory three-day orientation all VISTAs have to do before they can become VISTAs) that you will do this and that, but here in New Orleans things can be a little different at times. For instance, no one tells you that planning a community meeting the day after Mardi Gras is considered gauche. It is also ill-advised to plan functions during festivals like French Quarter Fest or Jazz Fest. It is the reality that we must endure if we are to live and serve in New Orleans, and the sooner a Tulane VISTA realizes this and accepts it, the more smoothly things will go for them.
Another thing that I am in charge of now is supervising our summer Upward Bound interns. This time around we got three high school students. While they are nice kids, I have become aware a week into this that I have become accustomed to interacting mostly with college students. For one, I now realize that I have to be clearer about what work they are supposed to be doing and how and when I want it done. However, one of my biggest personal challenges is that I am not the best authority figure out there. I have always been very amicable and diplomatic. It is just the way that I was raised to be. Nonetheless, if these kids are to have a worthwhile internship then I have to be a little sterner with my interns. Easier said than done, though. The good thing is that I have a ton of support here at the CPS, so if I need advice, I know that I can get it here.
In a month my term of service as a Tulane AmeriCorps VISTA will come to its end. And now that I am working here at CPS, it feels like a whole new world. For one, things are actually calm around here. It makes me miss the bedlam of La Cooperativa in a way. On the other hand, I feel like I can do more now because there isn’t some lawsuit or deranged ex-Executive Director trying to derail my workplace’s operations. In a way, I definitely needed this quite time. And I definitely am enjoying it.