Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: Women with a Vision – Julia Turkevich

Hi from WWAV! I have been attending events all month representing WWAV on topics ranging from International Women’s Day to health care access for the formerly incarcerated. However, the two events I would like to showcase in this blog post are the VISTA 50th anniversary event and the Power Coalition Issues Conference.

Leading up to the Issues Conference on September 12, I attended two all-day trainings to learn useful facilitation skills. I learned about active, attentive listening and how to step back as a facilitator in order for participants to express their own thoughts. My other preparation for the Issues Conference included producing a fact sheet on Reproductive Justice for us to distribute at the event.

The day before the Issues Conference I attended the VISTA 50th anniversary event at the Tulane City Center! I was so happy to reconnect with some VISTAs I met at PSO, as well as listen to AmeriCorps alumni about how their year of service impacted their future career path.

Above is a photo from the New Orleans VISTA 50th Anniversary event at the Tulane City Center.

Above is a photo from the New Orleans VISTA 50th Anniversary event at the Tulane City Center.

The following day I attended the all-day Conference event with my fellow staff members at WWWAV.

Above is a group photo of WWAV staff members at the Issues Conference. From left to right is Christine, Program Manager; Julia, Program Assistant; Desiree, Director of Programs & Communications; Michelle, Case Manager; Deon, Executive Director; Shaquita, Director of Research & Evaluation; Dimitre, volunteer; and Laura, Board Member.

Above is a group photo of WWAV staff members at the Issues Conference. From left to right is Christine, Program Manager; Julia, Program Assistant; Desiree, Director of Programs & Communications; Michelle, Case Manager; Deon, Executive Director; Shaquita, Director of Research & Evaluation; Dimitre, volunteer; and Laura, Board Member.

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Above is a photo of our table from the conference. WWAV is proud to say that all of our materials are made in-house! We had fact sheets on topics covered at the conference, including LGBTQ liberation, criminalization and our re-entry program, and reproductive justice; additionally we gave out male and female condoms and were selling WWAV tshirts!

At the Issues Conference, I facilitated a focus group on Reproductive Justice to identify what issues we specifically find in our community. Reproductive Justice (RJ) is the interconnectedness of socioeconomic factors that impact a person’s access to reproductive health services or engaging in reproductive rights. RJ goes beyond the pro-life/pro-choice debate, and instead focuses on obstacles that prevent people from making their own decisions about if, how, and when to have children. 
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Above are examples of the RJ focus group brainstorming. Overall, the focus group declared the vital need for a space to talk about these issues openly with each other, for women to be the decision makers of their own bodies (and not politicians), and for working women to have paid sick and family leave.

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For the LGBTQ focus group, I wrote down the group’s thoughts and ideas to keep the discussion flowing.

After our focus group, the conference re-convened for lunch and one facilitator from each group presented our findings to all 200 participants. I was the lucky facilitator to talk about RJ, which was a huge accomplishment for me because public speaking is not my favorite thing to do, ever.

Identifying these issues was the first step in developing the People’s Agenda, which will include summaries of issues in New Orleans, including: housing, workers’ rights/job access, criminalization and juvenile justice, health care access, LGBTQ liberation, immigrant rights, transportation, environmental justice, and education. The next step is for the Power Coalition to bring all the information together from the conference and find common linkages between all the issues. Based on those trends, the Power Coalition will brainstorm and write a document that addresses these issues and proposes policy changes to alleviate them. From there, the Power Coalition will present this document to campaigning politicians, who will hopefully adopt some of these systemic changes into their platforms.

To get regular updates about the Power Coalition, check out their Facebook page.

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At the Issues Conference, participants signed their names and responded to the questions, “why power,” “why now,” and “why political power?”

Tune in next month to see where else WWAV’s work has taken me! 🙂

And just a heads up: national voter registration day is September 22 (next Tuesday) and the last day to register as a Louisiana voter is September 23 (next Wednesday!). After identifying all the issues from the conference, I’ve decided that you are not allowed to complain about the problems in this city unless you participate in voting. Remember: vote as you please, but please vote!

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This entry was posted on September 21, 2015 by in VISTA Field Reports.

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