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Category Archives: 2014 Lauren Lorge

Serving at Alameda Point Collaborative

A Few of My Favorite Things…

I want to share a few of my favorite things about my summer in the Micah Program although my list will not be as lyrical and lighthearted as Julie Andrew’s and it will not include “raindrops on roses” and “whiskers on kittens”. Despite that, these things are still awesome and will be what I remember the most from this summer.

1. Exploring another part of the Bay.
Being in Moraga, we get a different bay area experience than in other cities. I have loved being surrounded by the culture and diversity of Alameda and Oakland these past seven weeks. During the school year, I want to make a conscious effort of exploring more of this part of the bay.

2. Reading things that challenged and solidified my views.
I loved the variety of readings, and the few videos, that were part of our class assignment. I feel that having this theoretical articulation of social justice issue along with our first hand experiences created an interesting environment

3. Living with a fabulous group of people.
While the living situation was far from perfect (after all how many groups of 6 are successful at living in close quarters for an extended period of time), we all created an environment that was welcoming and open. While it was tough and awkward at times, we all respect and care about one another to address our issues to the group in order to get it resolved. Being a person that tends to brush off issues or concerns that I have with people, it was nice to learn how to create a safe environment to let those issues be voiced and to be more open and unafraid about it.

4. Learning about the inner workings of a non-profit.
While it was disheartening at times to watch the struggles that APC is going through, being able to sit in on meetings and talk to Phyllis and Doug about the running of APC made me realize how difficult and rewarding the work is. There is a lot of complexity and I understand that more so than ever.

5. Honing in on my communication skills.
I have learned a lot more about opening up to people. Even simple things like sharing my experiences and opinions on things I have come to realize is important and should be shared with others. I innately want to always listen to other people and what they have to say but I have begun to make more of a conscious effort to share more of myself with others.

6. How to Urban Farm.
Not only have I come to truly appreciate locally grow foods, but I have learned how to make that possible in an urban environment. From seeds to table I have learned a lot about producing different vegetables and fruits and have felt a sense of pride at watching things grow, nurturing them, and have them be enjoyed by others.

7. Reflection, reflection, reflection.
As an introvert, it is pretty natural for me to process, and often over-analyze, every experience that I have. This summer has given me the opportunity to work on my reflection skills so I can share my internal reflection externally. I love that I now look at and am able to reflect on myself in all my different roles: as an individual, as a social justice promoter, as a member of a community living in the same space, etc. I will continue to look at myself that way when I return to school and when I am at home.

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Posted by on July 17, 2014 in 2014 Lauren Lorge

 

Oakland

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From our afternoon at the Oakland Museum of California!

 

 

I feel like the majority of my writing about my Micah journey- whether it be through assigned papers, blog and forum posts, or personal journal entries- has been focused on my non-profit work, readings, and other things directly related to the Micah program and the communities we are in. One community that I want to focus on is the community of Oakland and my experiences I have had of Oakland. Since I work and live at APC, every adventure off of the base is for work-free, non-academic moments. These adventures have made me fall in love with Oakland. There is just an unexplained, vibrant energy that you immediately feel when you step on the streets of Oakland. While unintentially academic, these free-time adventures have taught me a lot and I have been able to make a lot of unusual connections with the Micah program.

One Monday, Emily and I were able to take the bus to Lake Merritt and have lunch in a prime spot along the lake. Seeing everyone run, bike, and walk by gave me the perfect example of just how diverse Oakland is racially, by age, socioeconomically, etc. Sitting in the few cafes we have tried and even going grocery shopping, I notice also that old and young people alike of all different ethnicities, dress, etc. walk in. I love seeing people in all these forms and I am always reminded of the Maya Angelou quote “in diversity there is beauty and there is strength”.

There are so many old buildings in Oakland like the Grand Theatre, the Fox Theatre, and the countless Victorian style homes. Some buildings are dilapidated while other are restored to maintain their old charm and glory. These buildings are nestled right in with modern and impressive buildings. Skyscrapers like the Kaiser building and Pandora headquarters, modern cafes, along with new and trendy apartments paint the skyline. Oakland is full of rich history and yet it has a very progressive, modern vibe to it and its buildings reflect that. There is a sense of pride people have toward Oakland. Pride in the city it was and in the city it is becoming. At least that is the feel that I get seeing these two architectures merge.

The creativity we have seen in Oakland has also struck me. Whenever we walk down Oakland streets, I am never dulled by the elaborate murals or even the creative graffiti. There are so many unique shops and fun restaurants that are run by people with such creative visions. Rock Paper Scissors, Show and Tell Concept Shop, Homeroom, and Oaklandish are a few that come to mind. Most of these unique shops in some way make a connection back to the Oakland community even if it is something as simple as being the space where local people can be creative and share their creativity with others. The two times we went to First Friday as well, the concept of the event and the artistry behind the jewelry, art pieces, clothing, and even the food that was there was so inspiring.

When we have returned home after going to Oakland, I always feel a renewed creativity and spark of passion. Oakland is a city with so much potential and so much going for it. It has diversity, progressive attitudes, and creative and caring people. It has a heart and soul to it.

There are plenty of issues with Oakland and I see those issues just as easily walking down the streets as I see all the good that I listed. Rather than dwell on all the issues Oakland and cities like it continually face, I choose to see Oakland’s potential because I truly believe that in this good lies some sort of solution to the bad the city faces. Call me a naïve optimist if you will, but seeing this good is the only way I can see out of the darkness of everything that is going wrong.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2014 in 2014 Lauren Lorge

 

The Value of Social Justice

One of the five values of the Micah Summer Fellowship is social justice. The aim of this value is that “through service and reflection on lived experiences, Micah Fellows will examine the causes of oppression and look for ways to bring about justice in our world”. During the program I have had the opportunity to work for a non-profit who fights for social justice and had meaningful conversations with the Stardust team about social justice. Not only that, this program has instilled a lifelong passion in me for social justice action. This is the value of the program that I feel most connected with and that I have learned the most about and that has changed the most for me.

I am incredibly grateful for my experience this summer because I have been able to learn so much and engage in social justice action and discussion more so than I ever have before. Too often my discussions with others at school about social justice issues have been brushed off as too depressing and too complicated to continue a meaningful conversation. This, in a way, limited my involvement in social justice up until this point because I didn’t have the right allies to work alongside. Our discussions during the fellowship about social justice and oppression during the fellowship become frustrating as we immerse ourselves in a topic that has no easy answer. However, our conversations contained an element that was new for me. This struggle, instead of defeating me, inspires me more to fight harder and I have become swept up in my own passion and the passion of others around me to continue the social justice fight. Immersing ourselves in the communities we are surrounded by has given an all too real face to the injustice of homelessness which makes it hard to turn away from the work no matter how much of an uphill battle we face. The combination of working with the theoretical (reading about social justice) and the actual (working with our non-profits) has given me a new perspective on social justice and how we can work towards equality for poverty and homelessness.

Our readings have been a very stimulating and thought provoking part of the fellowship for me. Being able to connect these readings to what I am experiencing everyday makes the messages of the readings more transparent. They have helped me look at other avenues of bringing social justice to the forefront of policy making and society’s mind. They have truly made me think about the root causes of injustices like poverty. The reading I connect with the most is The Rich and the Rest of Us because it really highlights how poverty is a social justice issue and highlights the complex issues that cause poverty in the United States. Not only is there the economic inequality but the social stigma of poverty that needs to be addressed in order to create permanent change. Social justice action is still a very daunting concept for me, but I no longer feel like it is out of my hands or out of the hands of anyone who has the passion for justice.

The self-reflection aspect of the fellowship has made me ponder my own role in fighting for social justice, not just during this program but in the long run. Playing a role in social justice action has become a tangible thing for me as I have worked with APC and gained new knowledge about social justice action through the readings in this program. My role may be small and the pace of change toward fixing injustice may be slow, but I fell that it is worthwhile and the transforming feeling that this action provides will continue to fuel my passion for social justice action. Having been transformed through my service and reflection during this time, I am unable to shy away from action in the future.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2014 in 2014 Lauren Lorge

 

The Halfway Point at Alameda

It is so hard to believe that we are already in our fourth week, our midway point, of the program. In some ways it feels like we have been here for a lot longer and in some ways it feels like we just moved in.

The things I have learned these past weeks are too numerous and varying to recount on this blog post so I will list a few that stand out. I have learned a lot about what the cities of Alameda and Oakland have to offer, from shops and restaurants to entertainment and diversity. I have fallen in love with the city of Oakland mainly because I have come to learn and experience just how much culture and life there is in its streets. Through working on the farm, I have learned a lot about urban farming, more than I ever expected to learn. I have learned a lot about what it takes to run a non-profit but it still feel like this is something I could learn more about in the coming weeks. Talking with Doug, Phyllis, Evan, and others who work at APC has definitely given me insight into the administrative and background work of a non-profit.

I have learned a lot from the readings we have completed for the educational aspect of the fellowship. Some ideas and concepts are new and thought provoking and others are listening to another person put into words some of my thoughts and beliefs. Through connecting the work I am doing to the readings we have been completing, I have been given a more personal view of the topics we discuss like racism and poverty. This experience of reading and then going out an experiencing the reading in the work I am doing has given me a stronger passion for working toward social justice.

I have also learned a lot about myself; specifically I have come to the realization that I need a social justice/ service role in my life. I don’t know if this means as my career or as a commitment I make in addition to a job. There is something so fulfilling and intriguing about this kind of work. It is mentally challenging and is soulfully satisfying. This program has allowed me to explore the idea of working for a non-profit and learn a lot about how the system works. I have learned a lot about self-reflection and reflecting on the environment and circumstances I am in. Being able to have a chunk of time where reflection is one of the main focuses has helped me adopt a lot of skills to properly reflect. I want to incorporate these reflection techniques in my personal life and continue to use them to reflect on the service aspects of my life and other social justice work that I do.

Within my program I feel I have made a lot of progress and still have a lot to accomplish in the short time we have left. Even working on the farm, I can see short term goals to help the program being completed on a daily basis which feels very gratifying to be a part of. Within these four weeks I have seeded plants in the greenhouse and watched them sprout. I have weeded, composted, tarped and planted several beds that I have planted the seedlings in and watched them grow further. In the office I feel like I have made some headway with establishing spreadsheets for the accounting aspect of the program and have done some work toward new marketing ideas for the farm. I feel like the work I have been doing these past weeks have made an impact on the Farm2Market program. I feel like having an established marketing and accounting procedure done will be extremely beneficial to the Farm2Market program because when I am gone others can continue to manage it.

In these next couple of weeks I would like to brainstorm ideas of ways that I can take what I have learned from the program, specifically the connections I have made with the readings and my personal experiences in the program, and translate it someway when I return home and to school. I don’t want to lose the passion I have for social justice as soon as I leave the program. Through my travels, interests on campus, and this fellowship social justice has been such an important focus for me that I don’t want to lose sight of its importance when I get caught up in the whirlwind of school. To accomplish this will take some personal reflection time and creative thinking. I also want to take more time these next weeks to ask about and listen to the stories of the people- like Phyllis, Anita, and Vincent- I have grown close to these past weeks. I don’t want to leave the program wishing I had made stronger connections with people so talking to them these next weeks is important to me.

With only four weeks left, it feels like we still have a long way to go but I know the program will be over before I want it to. However, it is still enough time to make an impact. I look forward to what this next month brings.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2014 in 2014 Lauren Lorge

 

Ideas of Justice and Common Good

In the excerpt we read from Michael Sandel’s Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do, Sandel looks at how justice can become a vital part of political discourse in order to truly work toward the common good. In this chapter, Sandel seems to be arguing that it is not the most beneficial to find the non-religious answer when it comes to political decisions because it is void of morals that should be guiding our political decisions. Instead, Sandel argues that an open discussion about each side’s morality behind their position can lead to decisions for the common good. Sandel works with the idea that justice “involves cultivating virtue and reasoning about the common good”. It is not simply finding “the greatest happiness for the greatest number” or “freedom of choice”. Sandel has four main ideas that will lead to political decisions made for the common good. Firstly, there is importance in allowing citizens to take their private notions of the good life and allow that to form civic virtue. Each individuals set of opinions and virtues, when brought together with every other citizens, has extreme value. Another important idea that Sandel discusses is the idea of market social practices beginning to govern non-market practices. To combat this corruption from the markets, Sandel argues it is important to understand what normal values we want as a collective and make sure that corrupting markets do not adulterate these norms. Sandel also stresses the importance of coming together as one unit and we all equally share in civic responsibility in order for everyone to care about public institutions and services. If everyone has a sense of obligation to the community they are in, they are more likely to devote their efforts to making the institutions and services that the community offers work and truly benefit everyone. Finally, Sandel emphasizes the importance of having civil discourse where morals and values are discussed.

I identify with Sandel’s idea that morality is an important aspect in politics. We cannot continue to make decisions that do not include what we value most. When making these decisions, deep discussions need to occur between differing opinions in order to truly come to an understanding of what opinion best represents the values and the morals of our society. Sandel says it best when he says “justice is inescapably judgmental […] justice is not only about the right way to distribute things. It is also about the right way to value things”. A strong sense of community is also something that I see as extremely important to instituting justice. I agree with Sandel that solidarity is important because if everyone is invested in services and infrastructures that promote justice then they will succeed.

One thing that didn’t resonant with me about Sandel’s argument is that he seemed to not place a high value on the government making decisions that allow citizens to exercise their freedom of choice. One thing that I feel is an important aspect of justice is personal freedom of choice. It is not that Sandal does not value personal freedom of choice, but he sees having a discourse and reaching a conclusion about what morals and values fit in our society as the best approach to justice to foster a sense of unity rather than individuality. At least in our current political state, it is hard for each individual’s voice to be heard over large corporations and organizations that seem to dictate policy for politicians more so than the voice of their constituents. While I agree with Sandel that justice needs to be incorporated into political practices through discussions of values and morals, I am struggling to figure out how to make these ideas happen in the bigger political arena where policies are decided. Yes we can educate students about their civic responsibilities to their communities but if the people in charge are not on this same page then we hit a road block.

One of the aspects of the article that I really connected my experience with is the fact that there is such a strong disconnect between the communities we are serving and the “outsiders”. While living on the base, I feel a sense of isolation from the greater Alameda community. There are beautiful neighborhoods within walking distance but there is absolutely no interaction. I really connected this with Sandel’s idea of solidarity and civic virtue. Sandel discusses that “too great a gap between rich and poor undermines the solidarity that democratic citizenship requires”. With the wealthy not having to rely on public institutions, even something simple like public transportation because they own cars, they become less willing to fund these public institutions and there is less interaction between people of various backgrounds and walks of life. With the public transportation idea, the fewer funds that people are willing to give, the less routes and times the buses offer to all citizens. I see this in the community I am in because Alameda Point Collaborative only has one bus that comes in. Furthermore, if wealthier people aren’t using public transportation, they are missing the opportunity to talk and interact with other people in the community. I agree with Sandel’s idea that a strong sense of unity is important for justice to thrive and I see a lack of this in the community I am serving.

This is a completely different community than the small community I am living with. In our living space, we have a strong sense of unity and I can definitely feel the difference. We are all investing in helping one another in any capacity and are all working to make the space comfortable and inviting physically (making sure everything is clean and dishes are done) and emotionally (being a listening ear and support). I feel this connection and mutual support has allowed us all to continue to do these jobs that are often times very stressful and taxing.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2014 in 2014 Lauren Lorge

 

Enjoying life and work in Alameda

As a Housing and Urban Development organization, the main focus at Alameda Point Collaborative is to provide housing for people who were previously homeless. Along with this basic necessity, APC offered many services to residents in hopes of providing tools and resources so residents can remain out of homelessness and poverty once they leave APC. These resources include a child and teen center, a computer lab for adults to look for jobs, mental health counseling, and on the job training. The particular program I am working with for these eight weeks is the Farm2Market program which is one APC job training program. Trainees work on the farm a certain number of hours a week and through the program they learn job skills that they can use in future jobs. Through my eight weeks, I will be spending half of my time on the farm learning about the program and work alongside the trainees. The other half of the time I will be in the office helping with accounting and marketing for the program. Since the program is so new, infrastructure has to be developed in order for the program to expand.

There hasn’t been anything that I haven’t enjoyed about my job so far. I have really loved the mix of outdoor and indoor work with the program. I love the farm work and love seeing all the produce grow and all our hard work come to fruition. With the farm work, I can see short term goals being accomplished. I also enjoy the office work because I begin to see long term goals being shaped and see ways to accomplish them. I think I would go crazy if I was in an office all day and would be completely exhausted if I spent my eight hours a day on the farm so having both options is perfect for my personality.

Since I don’t have an accounting background, that aspect of the job has been challenging. However, I have a lot of helpful people who are resources in the office so the challenge is more of a learning experience rather than a struggle. This has definitely helped me see the business side of non-profits. Because of this the challenge has become something I enjoy about my job.

I hope to learn more about the behind the scenes operation of a non-profit- how it gets funding, what guidelines does it have to follow, etc. I also hope in the coming weeks a more concrete idea of how APC wants the accounting and marketing for the Farm2Market program will appear as Evan and I collaborate more and work with others in the office like Lisa and Andrea.

As far as my contributions in the coming weeks, I want to be able to help the Farm2Market program establish an accounting system that will help them easily keep records that are necessary for the program. If the program wants to expand, they need to be able to have financial records to show how the program runs. I also want to establish a marketing strategy that works within the structure of the program and APC and is feasible for the size of the program while also being creative and impactful. For the program to expand and to get more people buying produce we have to find ways to reach larger audiences. It would be amazing to use social media to help promote the program and expand the people that buy shares.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2014 in 2014 Lauren Lorge

 

First Week of Change in Alameda

My first impressions of the space and place that I am in, specifically Alameda Point Collaborative, is that there is far more to it then I have ever imagined. I have been to APC multiple times for volunteering but each day I learn something new about how the Farm2Market program works, administrative aspects of APC, and other programs that APC offers. It is a never ending wealth of new knowledge. My first impression of the home space and place I am in is that I am learning very fast that it is not where you live but who you live with that makes a space. Our physical accommodations are modest and comfortable but we all are probably use to living with much more. This space is one of the most comfortable spaces to be in because of the ladies that occupy the space. All of the interns are so positive and we all share the values of inclusion, acceptance, and kindness. This warm atmosphere has extended to everyone we have met in Alameda. Everyone from the staff to the residents of APC have been the most friendly people. From little children saying they like Emily’s green hair to Vincent sharing his life story with me while we work on the farm, the people have been open and inviting.

Just in this half week, I have learned so much about myself and others. I have learned from others that it is extremely important to share as much as you can with others. So many of the people we have met have been so open about their experiences and open up to helping we with anything. From Vincent in the farm opening up his home to us, Marsha in the office helping us with everything that they need, the trainees sharing parts of their lives with me, and all the neighborhood kids smiling and saying hi to us. Too often I have closed up around others but more and more, and I am on my way to making this experience the perfect example, of how opening up to others is such a great assets. Within the coming weeks and as I establish stronger connections with other people I hope to learn more about others and myself. Though my short time at APC, I have learned from others that the actions individuals take can and do affect change.

I feel like I have so much to learn in these 8 weeks. I hope to learn more about my role in my organization and how I can benefit APC the best that I can. Since it is such a short amount of time that we are here, I want to make every moment that I am here count and aid ACP in anyway that I can. I have already learned so much about the structure of APC and I really want to learn all that I can about what it takes to run a non-profit which I am sure I will know plenty about in these 8 weeks. I think learning about this aspect of APC may open up my understanding of other non-profits and how they function. I also hope I can learn how to apply what I am learning through the readings and through my experience with APC and the Farm2Market program to my daily life when I return to school. I really think- and hope- that through this program I will learn a lot more about myself and the kind of role I want to play as an advocate for social change not only now and at Saint Mary’s but further into the future.

When reading the two articles about the value of simplicity, I found myself making a lot of connections with the various aspects of my life. My family has always instilled in me a questioning of my choices and how they positively and negatively affect not only me but the community and the world around me. As I have grown older, I have taken this mindset and applied it to things like taking a conscious effort to watch what I consume, what I choose to spend my time doing, how I spend my time interacting with others. The way we are living during the program I feel in a way exemplifies the ideas of simplicity and has added to this mindset that I came into the program with. When packing, we all had to contemplate what items were truly necessary for us to live comfortably. There was a lot of human interaction when planning the move in because we all had to coordinate who was bringing what. We all are spending more time, at least in my experience it is more time, actually taking the time to share details about our day, the good and the bad, instead of offering up the obligatory “good, thanks” when asked how our day was. I think this idea of simplicity also connects to APC and what I am learning about the organization. I feel that the simplicity of the organization as a whole is the fact that APC’s focus is on only providing what the residents want. They see a need or a want and they fill it. I feel like all of these organizations that we are working at go along with this idea of simplicity because they are all local programs that address unique concerns of the cities they serve in. The article discusses scaling back economic, political, and social constructions to make them more people focused and morally rather than economically centered. I will definitely keep these ideas of simplicity in mind as I continue on the eight week journey and after it is over.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2014 in 2014 Lauren Lorge