Author Archive | cefleadership

Workshop on Institutional Power, Privilege, and Oppression (WIPPO)

By Nikhil Umesh and Omar Kashef

10660221_725767320828204_6081790238900184419_nFollowing two days with the Racial Equity Institute’s anti-racism workshop this past May, we left deeply moved and with a heightened sense of urgency. We feel it is necessary for CEF to not only discuss historical and ongoing racism, but begin a thorough exploration of institutional power, privilege and oppression as it relates to our communities in Durham and Chapel Hill. The initiative was Omar’s brainchild and stemmed from a project that he had been working on for the past year through his fellowship with Young People For. It was a culmination of many voices, perspectives, and ideas, and needless to say, was a long time in the making.

As CEF grows, Advocates bring a greater variety of skillsets and backgrounds to our organization. Leveraging the multiple identities and experiences we bring to our work, we posit that realizing one’s own systemic advantages and barriers will allow for a deeper understanding of the institutions that have granted and denied us access to power and resources throughout our lives.

The first Workshop on Institutional Power, Privilege, and Oppression (WIPPO) happened at Chapel Hill’s weekly general body meeting and at the last training for new Advocates. Our primary learning objective was for everyone to get acquainted with key terms (privilege, oppression, intersectionality, etc.) and frame them within commonly known systems of privilege and oppression. We touched on systems from classism to ableism to heterosexism, and discussed how they operate in everyday institutions such as housing and our healthcare system. Still, we aimed to frame our discussion not solely within the confines of CEF.

We are all implicated in these systems. There is no way around that. In discussing these issues, we try not to treat them as abstract or a sort of intellectual pursuit, which often happens in the context of a university. Rather, privilege and oppression continually manifest in our lived experience. So, we pushed beyond CEF, and incorporated tidbits on the university’s white supremacist legacy and its implication in the racialized geography of UNC’s campus. We showed a clip from a documentary by former student Laura Barrios that illuminates the “invisibilized white supremacist narrative that undergrads UNC and the wider Chapel Hill community,” calling to attention the Silent Sam monument, Saunders Hall, and Unsung Founders memorial, among others. Following the workshop, an Advocate mentioned value in highlighting the campus’ racialized geography:

“It emphasized the harm the university structure can have on perpetuating systems of oppression in this town, and that students have an obligation to mitigate or reverse those effects.”

Durham will be having their first WIPPO this upcoming Monday, Oct. 20 at their house course! The next Chapel Hill WIPPO will be held on Nov. 24 at general body, and we hope to see many folks there.

Sound awesome? Want to get involved? Have suggestions, feedback, criticisms? We would love to have you on board as we discuss and shape this workshop for Advocates in the future! Email Omar at to chime in and/or find out more.


Come Join Us for Philosophy Time at General Body!

What’s new at CEF General Body meetings, you ask? We have started incorporating Philosophy Time into our Monday night meetings. What is Philosophy Time? This is a time during which we create an open space intended to facilitate deep contemplation and open dialogue concerning CEF’s role in the community. In the most recent Philosophy Time discussion, we talked about the links between shame and poverty. We discussed how people in poverty are shamed through institutionalized cultural perceptions and beliefs regarding what it means to be “poor.” We discussed how CEF fights against the perpetuation of these perceptions and whether CEF sometimes unintentionally propagates the feeling of shame and embarrassment that members may have.

You can check out the article here:

Here are some thoughts shared by advocates who attended our most recent philosophy time meeting:

“Philosophy time has brought meaning to our work at CEF, and allows at least myself to bring more perspective to meetings with members and relationship development.” –John Sincavage


Philosophy time means a lot to me because:
a) I think just considering these issues is worth so much because then you’re not fighting a battle without knowing the enemy; and I think many of these issues are the actual adversaries we’re fighting against.
b) I think we all need to look in a mirror and evaluate some times. And talking about these things give us a chance to kind of see where we fit in in the grand scheme of poverty.” –Anonymous


At first, I hesitated to speak because I wasn’t sure how everybody would react to my thoughts. I thought back to my high school days when people would say what was expected and not stray far from popular opinion. However, the more I listened to my team members speaking, it dawned on me that holding an unpopular opinion is not unusual. It’s typical and even encouraged to voice substantive arguments because we’re all open minded people who enjoy being challenged. In short, philosophy time may become one of my favorite aspects of CEF General Body meetings if I remember to read the article before coming to the office.” –Anonymous


Spotlight: Meet Matt Kauffmann, CEF's new Advocate Program Coordinator!

Matt Kauffmann

My name is Matt Kauffmann, and I am CEF’s new Advocate Program Coordinator. My primary role is to support our Advocate program in Chapel Hill, including training Advocates and pairing them with Members. I am serving in this capacity as an Americorps VISTA sponsored by North Carolina Campus Compact in partnership with the Center for Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the UNC School of Law.

        I first came to CEF as a junior transfer student to Carolina in 2010. In the first few weeks of classes, I saw a flyer in my dorm advertising a loan officer training for a student-run domestic microfinance operation. This sounded socially innovative and smart, so I went to the training. As has been well-documented on this blog, CEF was and is much more than microfinance. I spent four semesters and a summer as an advocate before graduating in 2012. Then it was off to Los Angeles to join the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. There, I worked for a large homeless services agency, first as an employment services case manager and then as the staffing coordinator for the agency’s in-house social enterprise. When presented a few months ago with the opportunity to return to CEF, my first thought was that I would love nothing more.
        Because if I were to stay in the so-called helping professions, I wanted to do work that was authentically compassionate.  Many organizations that seek to help people claim compassion as a value and motivating factor. But this is often not a psychological reality in those organizations. The philosopher Aristotle discussed compassion becoming “watery” in the context of a city where each citizen is asked to care for all. Care, he argued, is best exercised in small family groups and is predicated upon the fact that people belong to other people in a unique way. A father’s son is his and his only one (or at least one of a few). I cannot feel compassion for the entire city. The same goes for modern social service agencies. Unfortunately, the valiant effort of agencies to maximize their impact and the concomitant cult of efficency often leads to the watering down of compassion. I know from my time as a case manager tasked with assisting hundreds of clients each year that I could not care for each of those clients equally, much less devote the time and attention needed to effectively help each person. My efforts were watered down by the volume of my caseload. I imagine that many other helping professionals feel similarly.
        But at CEF, we leverage student Advocates at Duke and UNC Chapel Hill to give the necessary time and attention to our Members. Advocates are paired with members one-on-one or two-on-one. There is a sense as an Advocate that the Member you are working with is yours and your only one, to use Aristotle’s terms. This sense inspires compassion. And importantly, in an age of ever increasing inequalities in wealth and income, CEF extends our Advocates’ compassion beyond their usual social circle. I remember accompanying one of our Members, who had a serious intellectual disability, to court in Hillsborough a couple of years ago. We sat in the courtroom for a few hours until we figured out that we weren’t actually supposed to be there. Her court date had been rescheduled and the notification had been sent to her daughter’s address. I was annoyed at the situation and embarrassed that I was complacent in wasting our time. In that moment, I realized that this inconvenience was a sort of bad thing for both of us, that this situation was out of the Member’s control, and that I was just as vulnerable to being confused and having my time wasted as she was. Moreover, I realized that for this particular Member–with all the systems she has had to navigate over the course of her life–this sort of inconvenience was a normal occurrence. This realization saddened me. It is in these moments, where we’re able to walk a little ways in our Members’ shoes, that Advocates become a little more compassionate.
        With such experiences in mind, I am excited to be back and I look forward to growing with the many Members and Advocates who make up our CEF community. This year, I’ll be focusing on scaling our Advocate program to meet the increased demand for our services while maintaining our unique culture and the quality of the relationships that make us tick. In other words, I’m working to keep us from getting too “watery.”


HOPE Gardens Potluck

By: Taylor Wall

Gardens Potluck     This past Saturday September 27th, 2014 was the Hope Gardens and CEF potluck held at HOPE Gardens. There were great people, great stories, great games, and of course great people. I must say that if you were not able to make it to this one, you really missed a treat. But don’t worry, I’ll give you a play-by-play.

It all started out in the very tranquil picnic area set in the back of HOPE Gardens that is reached by traversing through the bountiful display that is the garden itself. Those that were carrying food laid their precious cargo on the table and began preparing it for the rest of the people that would be arriving soon. It wasn’t long before more people showed up for the fun.

The fun really started when one of the attendees pulled out a toy football and began passing it around. Soon another ball was thrown into the mix and even….a frog? Yes, and he was almost unanimously dubbed “Kermit” or “Freddy” depending on who you asked. As the passing and throwing continued, everybody joined in, including hapless “victims” that walked up after the game’s initiation. The game continued for quite some time despite some minor mishaps of spilled lemonade, the sudden secession into teams, and finally those that drew the white flag to indulge in some refreshing beverages.

At this point the real hunger games commenced as the line for the food table formed and everyone took their fill of the various assortment of dishes such as the mac n cheese, tossed salad, chili, and the chocolate covered brownies. Once everybody had their plates piled with all they wanted, the dinner conversations began. I don’t know about the rest of you guys that went but our table had some pretty interesting things to talk about.

Our conversation started out with learning about someone’s trip to Ecuador to do research, a Chick-fil-A commercial and the contradictory message they are presenting (very philosophically I might add J), the goals and ambitions of the college students (and the realization that we all are just as scared and unsure about the future), the difference in reactions to snow in the North versus the South, and the UNC football team (need I say more). It was so cool to get to know people on a different level and just hang out with them outside of a structured setting. Everybody had their stories and their own input on the different topics. I can honestly say I never looked into a Chick-fil-A ad and the contradictions that they present until our mini philosophy time.

Following the very filling dinner was the essential potluck games. The options included Frisbee, soccer, hacky sack, and…kanjam? Yes kanjam. It’s the newest game that is sure to sweep the nation since it apparently and tragically has not. I had certainly never heard of it. As it was explained to me it is a lot like corn hole but with a Frisbee. So you have two plastic cans with slits about a quarter from the tope and two Frisbees. You then have two teams of two that try to score up to 21 points. If you would like to learn more about this fascinating game I would suggest researching more into it or perhaps going to the next potluck where you might can try your hand at it. It was definitely the game of choice for the day aside from playing regular Frisbee.

In the end I’m very happy that I was able to attend the first HOPE Gardens and CEF potluck of the year and had a memorable time. I would highly recommend it to anyone that is new to HOPE Gardens or CEF or just want to hang out because it is a great way to get to know people while having fun. I most definitely plan to go to the very next one and hope to see more people, more new faces, and more great food!


Staff Feature: Alex

We got a chance to hear from Alex Biggers, our AmeriCorps VISTA (along with Sarah), to discuss her start with CEF and where she is now. We can’t express how lucky we are to have her!



How did you get involved with CEF, how did it all begin?

I originally got involved with HOPE first my sophomore year, through Talking Sidewalks at Homestart Women and Children’s shelter. That really shaped my involvement in CEF, I think, because I got to know the women staying there at the time and other students working with CEF who later helped me process and understand my experiences in CEF. Also, it was probably one of the most fun, fulfilling experiences I’ve had.

How would you describe your time with CEF while still an undergrad? How did your involvement develop?

When I joined, we were just meeting out of the back of the RBC Bank office (now PNC) and had a lot fewer members and advocates (in fact, we were all Borrowers, Savers, Savings Officers, and Loan Officers!).

I joined the Outreach committee pretty soon after and also began coming to Opportunity Classes (then Savings Circles–so many name changes!). In that way, my involvement was always pretty tied to getting to know new people –something I was really uncomfortable doing before CEF. But now most people know I love bugging people all day long.

I really loved Opportunity Class because I really enjoy learning and discussion (well, okay, I love talking…) and got to hang out for two hours a week with people who I really looked up to and we were willing to both share with and listen to me. I would have never taken a leadership role, though, if it hadn’t been for Maggie and others poking me to get more involved and spending countless hours sitting with me and slowly working through things.

After that initial year, I worked for CEF two summers and mostly worked with the Savings committee in an admin role during the year. Through that role, I learned a lot more about asset-building and became really interested in the broader picture of asset-building and housing policy in the United States…and a lot less interested in my actual schoolwork. But, thankfully, there were some interesting classes where I got a chance to study things that applied to my experiences with CEF.

What motivated you to work for CEF full time?

People keep asking me this, and I really don’t have much of a satisfactory answer because, to me, once I knew that it was a possibility, it was a no-brainer. A lot of friends wanted to get away after graduating in May, and I definitely understand that, but for me, if…

1. I have such a wonderful, supportive community here

2.  I have a job that pays me to spend time with people I love and challenges me every day

3. I get to learn and read about things I’m interested in

4. I can hopefully use my experiences with CEF to help it improve

…why would I go anywhere else? I really feel (and am) incredibly lucky to be able to work here!

What is your position within CEF?

I’m the Savings Program Coordinator, which basically means I work on anything related to CEF’s financial services, financial coaching, and financial education.

What does that mean?

I work with the Savings Services team in Chapel Hill who work to improve our systems for savings, savings trainings for advocates, and creating fun ways to celebrate and encourage saving.

I work with the Financial Education teams in Chapel Hill and Durham to troubleshoot and collaborate on Opportunity Class (and I still get to go to class on Sundays!).

I go to finance office hours at Urban Ministries in Durham every week and am learning a lot about ways to improve the ways we partner with other organizations and the way we do financial coaching (also getting to meet so many new members and advocates in Durham!).

I have the great chance to work with Mark Smith this semester, who is interning with CEF through the School of Social Work. Mark has helped kickstart a long-time-coming effort to improve the way advocates and members prepare for, look for, and sustain permanent housing.

Do you have a favorite CEF moment(s)?

I have far, far too many but a few are: going to Sam’s car blessing, when Sam, Equashia, and Amanda came to my graduation party, making empanadas with Garrett, playing survival at Opportunity Class last Sunday (Beyonce was voted off the boat, sorry Paris!), singing all of our favorite Juan Luis Guerra songs with Arnaldo, hearing Amanda speak at her church, Loretha’s speech about CEF last year, Dorothy’s housewarming party, going to Jordan Lake with the Mumeens, and so many more!



Advocate Spotlight: Nura Smadi

Nura Photo CEF 2

When did you get involved? How did you get involved? 

Although I heard about CEF at the beginning of my journey at Duke, only last semester I finally got a chance to delve into the CEF world and not only learn about the wonderful work that the organization does in Durham, but actually work directly with the members of the Durham community. One of my best friends at Duke, Shafiq, got involved with CEF last year and through him, I noticed the extent of the impact that he was having on the Members that he was working with, and also the impact of the Members on him. Each Wednesday of last semester he would return from his Office Hours at the Dove House in Durham with a smile on his face. Throughout the semester his excitement only increased as his relationships with the Dove House members strengthened and as he got more involved in the critical backstage work that ensures the smooth operations of the organization. That, along with a persistent stream of weekly e-mail reminders from Quinn, really inspired me to step outside of my comfort zone and venture into Durham with CEF.

What about CEF interested you in the first place? 

I have been involved with multiple service organizations in varying capacities since high school, but none have had the personal relationship-based approach that CEF is built upon. In the past, most of my service work has been rather impersonal; holding fundraisers, food-drives, or advocating for a particular cause. CEF has earned a very special part in my life because it provides me with the opportunity to actually connect with the Durham community members that it serves; in fact, I currently feel more in touch and more connected with the city itself due to my involvement.  What I love most is the fact that through the establishment of a collaborative relationship between members and advocates, this really cool and dynamic energy emerges that pushes both parties to set and achieve important financial goals.

What’s the most important lesson you think you’ve learned through working with CEF?

I think the most important lesson would have to be that relationships matter, and they matter a lot. Some may disagree, but I really believe that strong and powerful relationships can and do act as a catalyst for change, especially the type of change that CEF strives to accomplish. I have not been working with CEF for a very long time, but my experience so far has undoubtedly been the most rewarding and fulfilling experience at Duke. This would certainly have to be because of the relationships that I feel are actively forming with the members that I am interacting with.

Favorite Memory in CEF – Working with Ms. Habibah

Over the past few weeks, I have been meeting and working with such a fantastic member in Durham, Ms. Habibah. Every week I look forward to going to the Saturday Durham CEF Open Office Hours because I know I would see her again. Although I just met Ms. Habibah only a few weeks ago, she was so quick to let me into her life. She has so effortlessly welcomed me as her partner in this process of transition and financial goal setting. She is very inspiring actually; she has set very clear financial targets for herself from the start and since then she has not diverted her focus from reaching these goals. It is a wonderful feeling to know that my contributions and support as an advocate, although small in the grand scheme of things, can amount to something so important and meaningful for members like Ms. Habibah. I am so excited to continue strengthening our relationship and to be there with her as she reaches even more personal financial goals.


Learning Cluster: Partnership with UMD and CFED

Janet Xiao, Alice Ni, Dennis Xu, and Keyona Cooper at UMD’s bi-weekly finance office hours (Keyona made that cool hat she is wearing!)

CEF at our on-site bi-weekly finance office hours at UMD! 

CEF is pleased to announce our participation with Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD) in the Corporation for Enterprise Development’s (CFED) Intensive Learning Cluster on Integrating Financial Capability into Social Service Delivery Programs. CEF and UMD were selected from a pool of over 100 applicants nationally to participate as part of this collaborative effort alongside 10 other organizations doing similar work to CEF.

Relationship-based financial services are CEF’s bread-and-butter, and this partnership with UMD is a unique opportunity to take a step back and look at how we can more intentionally and collaboratively build financial capability in to homeless services.

CEF is now holding office hours at Urban Ministries two nights every week and specifically working with UMD’s Journey Program, which provides case management support and shelter for 90 days or longer. Our previous on-site office hours acted as a launch point for this partnership. Because of the footwork of our past committed UMD members and the amazing team of Duke advocates, we are now able to jump-start an expanded partnership at UMD, one with much more support and structure. With the collaboration of the great case managers at UMD, CEF advocates can focus primarily on our strengths: relationships and financial services. We set up affordable credit union accounts with Self-Help Credit Union, make action plans for building credit, budget, save towards goals in Safe Savings Accounts, file taxes for free with the Benefit Bank, and more.

Through the learning cluster, CEF and UMD’s program will benefit from technical assistance through CFED, a national leader in asset-building, and we will have the opportunity to learn from our fellow learning cluster members – agencies providing emergency services, workforce development, and housing.  In January, we were given the incredible opportunity to go to CFED’s office in DC for a nationwide kick-off meeting where we were given incredibly helpful tools, advice, and connections that will continue to help guide our work at UMD.

Read more about the learning cluster on CFED’s blog and stay tuned for more results and lessons learned!


Member Feature: Johnney Enemmoh / Iyke Chukwu


From Nigeria to Little Rock to Franklin Street, Johnney Enemmoh has been on an amazing journey through his life. Johnney walked through CEF’s doors for the first time on May 24, 2012. Known to family and friends back home by his Nigerian name Iyke Chukwu, Johnney came to the US in 1982 to attend college in Arkansas (where a notable Arkansas native, President Bill Clinton, served as his attorney). Continuing his passion for education, he moved to North Carolina in 1986 to pursue a Master’s degree.

In 1996 Johnney returned to Nigeria to care for his elderly parents. He remained there for over a decade to take over his father’s business. In the Spring of 2012, Johnney finally made his way back to the US. He always wanted to come back to North Carolina – he says it felt like home.

Johnney planned to find a job in Chapel Hill upon his return. However, his employment search took longer than expected, and he soon found himself staying at the IFC men’s shelter.

Still on the search for a job, Johnney was referred to CEF for employment services by two Advocates that he met on Franklin Street. He started working with those Advocates in the CEF office in May of 2012.

By August of that year, less than three months after his introduction to CEF, Johnney had secured a full-time job at UNC Hospitals. He moved into a downtown apartment in February 2013. After working just eight months in his new job, however, Johnney was caught in a round of summer-season layoffs. As was the case for many other UNC Hospital workers, the layoff came just before Johnney would have acquired health insurance.

But Johnney didn’t stay unemployed for long. He came straight to the CEF office after the news of the layoff and began searching for a new job. His always-positive attitude and drive to work hard landed him a spot on the customer relations team of the Franklin Hotel – a job that he likes even more than working at the hospital.

Now, Johnney enjoys sharing his joyful spirit by welcoming customers to the Franklin Hotel, where he works as a bellman. He greets hotel guests by checking then into their room and showing them around the hotel. Being a historian, Johnney likes to point out the pictures on the wall and explain the history of the hotel. He says of his job, “it is interesting because you share ideas with people, meet people, and become friends with them – because you never know where you can meet them again.”

Johnney is one of CEF’s most successful savers, having successfully reached an incredibly lofty savings goal. He saves for a “rainy day,” the way he says he was taught. Aside from working at the hotel and avidly saving money, Johnney spends his time writing. He is currently crafting a letter to his village in Nigeria which documents his ancestors’ history.

Johnney’s next steps? Saving to bring his six children to the US for college. With his contagious positivity and drive for hard work, that shouldn’t take long.


Member-Advocate Feature: Kevin & Erin

All of us have been hearing about the cookie cakes that Erin and Kevin have been crafting up in the CEF office, so we decided to meet up with them and talk about their experience with CEF thus far and growth of their relationship since being paired.

ErinKevinHow did you find out about CEF?

Kevin: I’m in a Freedom House and one of the things we have to go through is an orientation, and they tell you about the organizations that will help us, and CEF is one of them.

Erin: Somewhere along the line signed up for the listserv and was getting emails the whole semester while I was abroad, actually, and I was like “This sounds really awesome!” It’s the one [listserv] that I didn’t unsubscribe from, so I decided I’d check it out whenever I got back to Chapel Hill, which was last semester and I’ve been involved ever since.

What were your first impressions of CEF?

Kevin: I think it was a good impression because they helped me with my resume right off the top, and they were always willing to go above and beyond to help. Whatever I needed done, they helped me with it was.

Erin: It was awesome, with everything that’s happening here… a little overwhelming my first time in the office, just like all the things CEF does, which is what makes it so awesome, but at the same time it’s like, “Wow, we can help people get cell phones, transportation, housing, and all these things. How is it possible to do all this? I know nothing.” But then you learn it’s all a learning process and everyone is kind of in it together.

What kind of relationships have you built within CEF?

Kevin: That’s a good question that I can answer off the top. It’s like having a family, where you really cherish someone. I cherish the fact that I can come here and look forward to seeing Erin; she helps me out tremendously. As well as Jon, Sarah, Daniella, and everyone here is really helpful, and I look forward to coming here.

Erin: The same goes for me, both in the relationships that I have with other Advocates and Members as well. They’re so strong because they’re based on such deep compassion for issues… like helping people, and working through very real life problems, and the nature of those relationships is what makes them so strong and unique. Specifically, in working with Kevin, the things that we’ve been working through and talking about, I learn just as much from him as he does from me, so it’s mutually beneficial for sure.

Do you have any advice for Advocates and Members who come to CEF?

Kevin: My advice to anyone coming here would be to just lay down all your cards on the table, let them know what you want, what you’re looking for, what your goals are, and try to build a relationship from there. Do the footwork and everything else will fall into place.

Erin: I think Kevin said it perfectly, it’s all about the relationships really, and you kind of have to let your guard down sometimes and put it all out on the table. It’s all about getting to know the other person that you’re working with and seeing how you can help each other.

Do you have a favorite CEF moment(s)?

Kevin: Yes, I do. I think it was last week that I asked Erin to come to one of my meetings, as I’m in a recovery program. She told me she that would come and she shocked me and came up with another CEF participant… that overwhelmed me and I was filled with joy, almost having tears in my eyes. That was my favorite one by far.

Erin: Honestly, I think that’s been my favorite too. That was a really awesome experience to take things outside of the office and be present in a different space and witness other people that are experiencing different kinds of problems and it’s a whole different kind of support group. Like CEF is a support group, and it’s such an awesome thing to see the way that people are people are able to work together and help each other through their problems. There was a guy in the meeting that was clearly struggling a lot, and someone else in the meeting was like “Come talk to me after this, I want to help you, we can work through this, we’re here for you,” and that’s really what it’s all about.

Do you have any goals as you continue working with CEF?

Kevin: I’m open to new suggestions every day, and like I tell Erin all the time, I’m new here in Chapel Hill and any time I’m around people and they’re trying to help, I’m trying to better myself everyday. Only thing I can do is take good advice and I’m sure I’m in the right place with Erin. Erin has been my #1 supporter and my #1 friend, and she helps me line up jobs and applications because I’m clueless on the computer. My goal is to fix what’s broken in my life.

Erin: My personal goals are your personal goals and whatever you want to accomplish, I want to accomplish.


Kevin with his masterfully crafted cookie cake

Kevin with his masterfully crafted cookie cake.


Advocate Spotlight: Sean

We recently spoke with Sean McClung, a newly trained Advocate, on his time and experience with CEF thus far! Sean first got introduced to CEF via his Service & Leadership LLC and we’re very excited to have him working with us.

When did you get involved?  How did you get involved?

That’s kind of a difficult question. I officially became an advocate this semester but I worked with CEF before, because last year I was a member of the Service and Leadership Living Learning Community- and this year I’m the leader of that community. So, Dr. Charles Price does a class for just us called Action Research and we did a project for that class last semester when I was just a member of S & L. It was called HOPE for a Home and if you talk to Jon or Maggie they’ll know what you’re talking about. We split our class into groups and each dealt with different things like long-term support for grads, like alumni council meetings; going around Franklin and Triangle Transit asking getting lifetime discounts for graduates; and planning the actual event. We had the event and we just had a raffle going and announced the discounts—it was a recognition/ mini-fundraiser night.

So that worked out really well and it was really cool because we got to help CEF. So that’s where I started getting involved and while that was happening, I was like “Yeah I’m going to be an advocate!” but I just didn’t have time for it at that point, so I came in this year knowing this was something I wanted to do.

What about CEF interested you?

Long story short– It makes a positive impact on people’s lives and it’s very different from other organizations because it makes that impact in a personal way. Usually it’s very bureaucratic, but CEF’s emphasis on personal relationship and the fact that we do so much interested me. There’s no reason I wouldn’t want to do it, really. I want to make a positive impact on people and the world and this is a fantastic way to help those people who can’t get themselves where they want to be or just need an extra push to get there. There are just so many good reasons to be in CEF because it’s just incredible.

What is/are the most important thing(s) you’ve learned by working with Members at CEF?

You definitely learn about primarily the things you’re doing, first and foremost… but that’s just like physical life things- like how to apply for this or apply for that, which is great, since they’re good life skills for you to have.

I wouldn’t say that just CEF taught me this but CEF really helps you realize that connotations that come with the kinds of people we help are almost always completely unfounded. These are real people who have just found themselves in really unlucky situations and far too many people don’t realize that it could literally be them tomorrow. There’s nothing wrong with these people and sometimes they deal with circumstances outside of their control and some of them may have gotten themselves into situations by their own fault, but the fact that they’re here shows that they’re growing and learning. We’re all just people. I’ve learned over time from CEF and other places that no single person ever deserves judgment. Everybody makes mistakes and everybody deserves love. There’s no reason to not give that to somebody. They don’t deserve your judgment even if you could because absolutely nobody wants to be in the situation where you have to ask for help and the members we work with have, which shows something. And if more people realized that, I feel like most of the problems in the world would disappear.

What skills do you think you’ve developed through working with CEF?

I’ve become better at navigating these strangely arcane, bureaucratic things. I can’t say I’m good at it because I don’t think anyone can be good that them, but I’ve definitely learned to throw myself around in all of these systems and try to get things out of them as opposed to getting lost in cyberspace. I’ve learned how to apply for jobs and stuff—and I helped someone open a checking account, which is something I didn’t know how to do three weeks ago. It’s definitely a work in progress- you learn as you go.

Is there a skill or knowledge of a concept that you want to develop through CEF that you haven’t already?

I can’t really think of anything specific. It’ll come when I need it, that’s how CEF rolls.

Are there any future aspirations that CEF helps you achieve?

After graduation I plan on going into the Peace Corps and I’m considering doing business development as a career. Although CEF isn’t directly applicable to that, it’s very similar. Essentially you’re helping people restructure their lives and get them to where they’re supposed to be. We also learn about job markets and financial things, which are important skills to know and have. It’s nice to know how systems work even if you don’t directly work with them. But it’s also to know the types of people that you’ll be working with when you actually get into those types of careers. Experience trumps the classroom.

If you ran CEF and could change one thing, what would it be?

I would change that stupid printer on the other side of the room that always prints off wingdings… it’s really annoying. Like I just want something to print and all of a sudden there are symbols and wingdings on the paper. I just don’t understand.

What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you in the office?

So Ian Gallager and I had to move this copy machine where the savings center is now, and we were actually moving it to make room for the saving center. And we wanted to see if it worked, so we turned it on and it worked. It was really cool. Oh, but I bet if I had eaten Caleb’s kimchi that would be the craziest thing to ever happen to me… it wasn’t real kimchi, it was his take on kimchi.

What’s your favorite memory made in CEF?

That’s hard, but the first moment that popped into my head was this time I spent two hours working with a guy in one sitting; his name was Daniel. We started applying for a job, wrote a cover letter and resume. We finished the cover letter and this sounds really cliché but he got really happy and thanked me for being so efficient. And I wasn’t being really great or anything, he was just so happy that we were able to do that. It just made me feel so good because it sort of just validates why we work there.

What’s your least favorite moment from working at CEF?

I hated calling the Wake Tech financial aid office… I got put on hold for seven minutes

I hung up on them after seven and a half minutes and decided that an email would be a better usage of our time. It still took them a week to get back, but at least I didn’t have to stay on the phone for that long.


CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

Chapel Hill: 919-200-0233 Durham: 919-797-9233