Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Getting Started

Three weeks ago I arrived to my site and I have learned so much in such a short amount of time. Working at non-profit that specializes in helping disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) was not something I envisioned myself doing, mostly because I have no business background. I definitely viewed this lack of formal education in this field as a hindrance and barrier to the value of work I would be able to contribute. However, the staff, particularly my immediate supervisor, has been more than happy to teach me how to navigate this field. I have learned that the business sector in New Orleans, especially the small business world, is very relationship-based. In other words, people will not even start to discuss business with each other unless they get to know each other first. Creating and sustaining these relationships, therefore, is essential to my job, an aspect I was certainly not anticipating. So far, I have been able to attend several meetings and even helped facilitate a business exchange. This event consisted of small business owners meeting with facility directors of major hospitals as a means to procure their services. I felt extremely proud of the fact that one of the businesses who attended was able to secure a contract with one of the major hospitals.

Coming from pre-service orientation, I felt that I was equipped to enter my organization and immediately start making a huge difference in fighting poverty. However, I quickly realized that it is critical to first lay the foundation in order for things to progress smoothly and efficiently. An example of this lesson is illustrated in an ongoing project I am in charge of. It includes populating a database to make finding information about small businesses more accessible. Hopefully, we will be able to track relationships between DBEs that we serve with larger businesses and organizations who are in need of services they provide. While filling in the information in this database is not the most glamorous work, understanding how it can help our clients, specifically how its implementation can pull the business owners themselves out of poverty, makes it more than worthwhile.

Alexandra Hassan



This entry was posted on January 31, 2017 by in VISTA Field Reports.


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