Meet Jada! Advocate Program Coordinator at CEF’s Durham Office
Your Role: In your own words, how would you describe the work you do at the CEF and why is it important?
I am the Advocate Program Coordinator for the Durham Office. My role revolves around Advocate recruitment, selection, training, and support. Advocates are essential to the work we do at CEF given that they handle much of the day-to-day work of supporting members in reaching their goals. Our cohort of Advocates must be committed to learning and growth and well equipped to work with members in order to serve the community well.
Your Background: What experiences, strengths, and skills do you bring to this work at CEF?
I was an Advocate at the Chapel Hill office for a few years before joining the Durham office staff, so I know what it’s like to be in their shoes. I can easily empathize with Advocates’ experiences which makes me well suited to support people in navigating this role. Another major strength of mine is my curiosity. I am eager to learn about other people’s experiences, identities, and approaches to how they show up in this space. I’m committed to breaking down my own biases and harmful ways of thinking. I’m always looking for ways to expand my understanding of the world around me.
Connecting to CEF: What led you to working with CEF generally, and also to this particular role?
CEF’s focus on relationship-building is what initially attracted me to the organization. I’ve worked with several nonprofits and CEF is so unique in its emphasis on authentically building supportive communities. It was important to me to continue being a part of that. Being an Advocate at CEF was such a transformative experience for me. As an Advocate, I went through so much learning and growth that significantly shaped my worldview, especially concerning racial equity and other social justice issues. I am excited to help guide other people through that process in my new role.
Energy: When you think about your work in this role at CEF (and/or in general at CEF) where do you find energy and renewal?
I find energy by remembering to make room for joy and excitement in my work. Doing direct service with people who are experiencing the violence of systemic oppression can quickly become a heavy burden to bear. My passion for this work is renewed when I expand my perspective and hold space to celebrate everyday victories. Whether it’s a member finding housing, getting a new job, or just feeling extra supported by Advocates and staff, those moments keep me grounded and give me a renewed sense of purpose. I love all the light-hearted moments that happen in the office where we get to laugh and joke with one another. These moments remind me that although our work can be challenging, it doesn’t always have to be oriented around struggle and suffering.
Challenge: When you think about your work in this role at CEF (and/or in general at CEF) where do you find challenges and how do you seek to find the best way forward?
I think the biggest challenge is coming to terms with the realization that regardless of how supportive of a space we try to create for Members, once they walk out the door they’re still dealing with systemic racism and other forms of trauma, oppression, and violence. It’s tough knowing that there are some barriers that we just can’t solve. I think this challenge is further escalated when you consider the sense of urgency that we experience as many Members come to us in crises. To move forward, I’ve had to learn that the work we do is about so much more than the tangible steps we take toward supporting Members in reaching their goals. There is real power in making someone feel heard and validated in their experience. We can’t solve every problem, but at the very least, we can show people that they have a community that loves and supports them in their corner. Having a supportive community that sticks with you long-term makes all the difference in someone feeling empowered to move forward and keep fighting for their needs despite the barriers they face.