Archive for the 'Staff' Category

Bridging Areas of Difference: Linking Through Language and Technology

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby ’14

JC and I are different in almost every way you can think of. He is a man, and I am a woman. His first language is French, and mine is English. He came to Richmond from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and I from Rhode Island. He is my student, and I am his teacher.

Despite these areas of difference between us, however, JC and I are also remarkably similar. During our weekly English as a Second Language tutoring sessions we have uncovered many shared interests. We both, for instance, love to travel. As an International Studies major, I enjoy hearing JC’s stories about his trips to England to visit family, and about his life in the DRC. We are both also interested in politics, and JC is always eager to discuss his opinions on what is going on in the U.S. government. Our most passionate conversations, however, are about football. JC is a huge New England Patriots fan, and I root for the New Orleans Saints, so we always inevitably end up debating which team performed better that week, and who will make it to the Super Bowl.

JC and I were brought together by the Linking Through Language and Technology (LTLT) program, an on-campus student group I lead that connects UR students with UR staff members who wish to improve their English skills. These pairs of student volunteers and staff participants meet weekly at the International Center to practice English, to develop computer skills, and, perhaps most importantly, to build supportive relationships. As an International Studies and Spanish double major, my academic interests have been focused on immigration throughout college, but it was through my tutoring experience with LTLT that I truly developed an understanding of the challenges that come with immigrating to the United States. After having to leave their home countries, which can be an immense challenge in itself, immigrants must quickly learn to adapt to an entirely new environment once they arrive in the United States. Though each immigrant’s experience is different, common struggles include culture shock, language barriers, difficulties finding housing and employment, unfamiliarity with the education system, and discrimination. It is my hope that the LTLT program, which provides free ESL tutoring and support to any interested UR staff members in a convenient on-campus location, helps to make this very difficult transition just a little bit easier for members of our UR community.

While the goal of the LTLT program is ultimately to improve our staff participants’ English skills, I have found that I have probably learned just as much from JC as he has learned from me. Not only have I developed skills as a tutor, but also have been introduced to another individual’s unique perception of the world. As a student living on campus, it can be all too easy sometimes to get caught up in the “Richmond bubble.” My weekly sessions with JC help to break that bubble by reminding me of the vast diversity of human experiences in the world, and by reinforcing my passion for supporting the immigrant experience in the United States. As JC and I debate whether or not Tom Brady is a better quarterback than Drew Brees, I am reminded that we are all more similar than we think, and in the future I hope to help others find such similarities to bridge the differences that divide them.

It is a Juggling Act!

Kathy C.
UR Staff, Human Resources
Serves regularly with the Gay Community Center of Richmond, among other organizations!

April is National Volunteer month and as I write this blog post, I am struck by the fact that I have been serving in volunteer capacities for all of my professional life, which equates to 37 years!  The agencies and non-profits have changed over the decades, everything from Girl Scouting to Hospice, United Way, Susan G. Komen Foundation,  crisis lines  and now the Gay Community Center of Richmond but the motivation remains the same- the desire to give back to the community I reside in and to have an impact on that community.  My assignments have ranged from troop leader to board chair and from a local council to national and international committees and assignments.

Most definitely, there are challenges to juggling full time work, personal life and volunteer commitments but the outcomes outweigh the occasional €˜dropped ball'.  Thankfully many non-profit organizations have adapted to the changing demographics of volunteerism.  There are more short term assignments as opposed to a year long, weekly time commitment as a troop leader.  Creative scheduling for meetings and training sessions find those occurring online, at local coffee cafes in early morning hours and late afternoons so that it is possible to chair a board meeting and still have the meeting adjourned in time for folks to have dinner with their family.

Another aspect of successful juggling of priorities and commitments is knowing your own limits and time management.  There are times, I've politely declined to serve additional terms on a board, or take on another assignment beyond the initial commitments I've made to an organization.  While an organization may express disappointment initially when you decline, ultimately you are respected for knowing your own limitations and not taking on more than you can deliver.

My own somewhat self serving reason for serving in volunteer capacities is the change of pace and break from my daily job tasks.  I also am able to meet and interact with folks beyond my own neighborhood or professional affiliations.  The variety of experiences helps build my skill set and expands my network of colleagues.  I have maintained contact with previous camp staff members, guest speakers I've transported to or from airports and even an impromptu putting lesson from a LPGA golfer after volunteering at a charity tournament.  In short, volunteering gives me opportunities I would not necessarily have any other way.

When we open our minds and our hearts to the possibilities of what we can do for others, we are surprised by how easy it is to make great things happen. But it all starts with you and what you'd like to do. Are you passionate about working with people, communities, wildlife, the environment or preserving national parks? On the local level, you can find out about needs in your own backyard through the Points of Light Institute (www.pointsoflight.org). Volunteering can also be spontaneous. Whenever I arrive in a new locale, the first thing I do is go to a community bulletin board, in front of the post office, town hall or library.  Whether planned or spontaneous, volunteers are people who give and receive.  My experience is I ALWAYS receive far more than what I give and so I keep on trying out those juggling skills.

These Scars Would Last A Lifetime

Carolyn F.
UR Staff, Office of Admissions

I remember the moment I decided I would volunteer for the YWCA working with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.  I was back in school as a newly divorced woman with 3 children and a full time job at the University of Richmond. I was within a few credits of attaining my goal of completing my Bachelor's degree.  A coworker and friend of mine here at the University had asked me to volunteer at the YWCA when I finished school. I was interested but not seriously considering it. I was struggling with my new life as a single parent while working and trying to be there for my children.  My friend was a YWCA volunteer and because I had shared some past experiences with both sexual assault and domestic violence, she thought I could help support women and children with these issues.

Soon after our conversation, I began a course titled Deviant Behavior taught by Dr. Jean Moorefield.  I gave a presentation on the topic of domestic violence one night. After class a young student approached me for advice on how to handle her Mom's abusive relationship with a man she was currently dating.  She was very angry and couldn't understand how her Mom could allow herself to be treated like that.  I stressed to her the process by which a partner can devalue a person so much that they believe this is what they deserve.  I told her to be supportive to her Mom and help her see how important and valuable she was to their family.  One day her Mom would get the courage to leave her abusive relationship with her support.  I knew then as that student walked away, that I needed to get involved with the program at the YWCA.  I needed to help others who were in these destructive relationships.

Immediately after my graduation in 2002, I entered the training program and began volunteering in one of the safe houses for women and children and as a hospital advocate responding to victims at VCU Medical Center's emergency room. I responded to rape victims and domestic violence victims who had been brought to the hospital following an attack.  I was helping clients in the house and on the hotline, but soon realized that the hospital calls were my most rewarding and challenging times.

I saw several college age students away from home for the first time who were suddenly placed in harm's way because others took advantage of their trust.  They came in sexually assaulted by young men they had met at parties or abused by their boyfriends who they had been dating.  I saw women from the community who were also raped or assaulted by partners or sometimes strangers. I gave them all information, our hotline number and held their hands during forensic exams.  I prepared them for the PERK (physical evidence recovery kit) and told them how brave they were. I wiped tears away while I reassured them that we would help them get through this with counseling and time.  I told them that this crisis would not define who they were and they would be able to move on with their lives.

I saw many women from the community and I watched as doctors stitched up knife wounds in their faces, arms and bodies from violent boyfriends or husbands who had anger issues.  I watched the forensic nurses take photographs of bruises and swollen eyes and broken noses. These were physical injuries but they cut deeply into their self worth and emotional well being.  These scars would last a lifetime.

My volunteer hours, usually on the weekends, were something I looked forward to in my life. I felt so fulfilled walking out of the hospital with a patient and her friend or family member knowing I had helped someone who desperately needed support during a crisis.

I was offered a staff position at Safe Harbor Shelter, Henrico County's domestic violence shelter a few years later.  I work in their shelter 2 nights a week in an undisclosed location, helping women and children survive the upheaval caused by violence.  I also serve as on-call staff for a community based hospital accompaniment program formed by three local non-profit agencies. RHART or Regional Hospital Accompaniment Response Team is the first such community team effort and is highly successful in its outreach.  It's composed of volunteers from the Richmond YWCA, Henrico County's Safe Harbor Shelter, and Hanover County's Safe Place.   As of January 31, 2011 RHART volunteers have provided 11,602 hours of on-call coverage and have responded to 395 calls since the program's inception a little over a year ago.  They respond to VCU Medical Center as well as the four Bon Secours Hospitals in the Richmond area.  The hospital staff who work with these victims are grateful to have these trained volunteers to support the emotional needs of these patients.

Since my training at the YWCA during the summer of 2002, I have provided support to friends and coworkers as well as students.  I have been able to participate in programs on campus and have trained students in responding to sexual assaults among their peers.  I have spoken to groups on campus about these issues and love providing support and advice to anyone questioning relationship issues.  I can't imagine my life without these volunteer opportunities that I can provide to both the University of Richmond and to the community surrounding it.   Volunteering helps make my life complete.