Learning on the Job
My first week of doing member-advocate meetings on my own went well, but you can’t win them all. In my time with the organization since January, I never had a truly frustrating experience. In this instance, however, I realized that my frustration stemmed from my member’s own frustrations. This week, I was tasked with getting going over the credit history of a member who I’d never met with. Going over someone’s credit can be tedious, especially if you cannot track where and when debts were bought by collection agencies, why charges seem hyper-inflated, etc. When we finished, I thought we had a decent grasp of the issues, but there’s only so much one can do in an hour.
To put some perspective, this member’s car had just broken down the week before, and they were frustrated by the timeline it would take to save for a new car. Consequently, any ‘goal’ or task that could be completed in one session was their priority in order to feel like they were moving along and not stuck. Even though we went through their credit history, this was not necessarily a goal we could mark completed. This resulted in some frustration, but we were able to talk through some possible short-term resolutions that could be done over the next week before our next meeting. This experience, while stressful, taught me to take a step back and put things into perspective in order to effectively empathize and communicate with my member.
While I did have a stressful interaction, every meeting I had this week was with members who were new to the organization or people who I’d never interacted with before. I really appreciated getting to know them and realizing just how diverse each person’s experience and needs are, no matter how similar their circumstances might sound. Consequently, I look forward to building my own skill set in order to help them and future members.
As for Latinx services, I had a great preliminary meeting regarding a potential partnership with Made in Durham, a non-profit that works toward providing teens an educational path that leads to a career in the Triangle by the time they are 24. I am excited to see what opportunities this may create for our organizations, especially as I am to meet with another in a couple weeks and hope to develop a great network our Latinx members can rely on.
Cristian Santiago is a rising senior economics major from Tampa, Florida. Cristian is committed to helping vulnerable populations, work he sees as abundant. He will be working to better understand and address urban planning and gentrification issues with Community Empowerment Fund in Durham, NC, a nonprofit organization that focuses on interrelated issues of housing, employment, and financial independence for low-income residents.