by Quinn Holmquist
Of all the weather-related metaphors I could make about my work with CEF this year, a rainstorm seems most pertinent – sometimes heavy, always reminding me that life is neither fair nor comfortable, and refreshing for precisely those reasons.
In August, Anne Yeung (Duke ’14) and I became the Co-Coordinators for CEF-Durham. Since then, we’ve settled into something of a rhythm: weekly meetings with community partners and various members of our Admin Team, outreach into the Duke community, fielding calls to the CEF-Durham phone line, hanging out with Members and with one another. I’ve never really had a “job” before, but my position right now is as close as I’ve gotten. How fortunate am I, to have my first job experience doing work that I actually want to do with my life!
Wait, what? you might be asking. There’s two different CEF’s? How is CEF in Durham different from CEF in Chapel Hill?
Good questions. Let me catch you up on what’s been going down at CEF-Durham.
CEF: A Short History
- 2009 – CEF launches in Chapel Hill
- Spring 2011 – Janet Xiao (Duke ’12) takes class with UNC CEF-ers. Wants to know how they became friends with people who are homeless.
- Summer 2011 – Janet meets with CEF-Chapel Hill Admin Team. CEF begins expanding to Durham.
- Fall 2011- Spring 2012 – Janet and a team of about 10 Duke students begin working in Durham transitional houses.
- Fall 2012- Spring 2013 – Under the guidance of Janet and Priyang Shah (Duke ’15), CEF expands to around 25 student Advocates and 40 Members.
- Summer 2013 – Six summer interns work for CEF-Durham (three from DukeEngage, one Pathways Intern, and two veteran CEF Advocates)
- Fall 2013 – CEF-Durham has grown to 45 active Advocates and nearly 90 Members
…which brings us to today.
Where We’re Going
Outsiders think we’re kidding, but you all know that I’m not when I say that the coolest people in town hang out with CEF. CEF-Durham is composed of Members, Advocates, Board Members, an Admin Team, and community partners, all of whom both push CEF-Durham forward and encourage us to step back and reflect.
A few examples:
- Shreyas Bharadwaj (Duke ’16) and Simar Nagyal (Duke ’15), the Opportunity Class Coordinators, have worked with Gary, a graduated CEF-Durham Member, to revamp our Opportunity Classes. Inspired by Chapel Hill’s successful Train-the-Trainer model, they have created a program that better meets our Members’ needs.
- Matt Hamilton (Duke ’16), our ever-professional Development Coordinator, has applied for at least four grants (and is already preparing more!).
- Parit Burintrathikul (Duke ’16), a dedicated CEF-Durham summer intern who enjoyed walking from meeting to meeting in downtown Durham this past summer, recently revised the curriculum for Laptop Classes, reflecting Members’ desires and his own experience.
- Apart from the four transitional homes where we already work, we’ve expanded to a fifth site for Members who’ve graduated (yay!) from the homes. Beyú Caffé has partnered with us, generously opening their space up for our weekly “Open Office Hours.”
What Guides Us
We naïve, visionary idealists (some call us college students) at CEF have a tendency to move forward with lots of ideas, lots of enthusiasm and only a little bit of a plan. As such, at CEF-Durham, we’re engaged in continued conversation with the whole CEF community, reflecting on what we do well already and how it can be made even better. From these conversations have sprung our overarching goals:
- Emphasizing a “culture of savings” – one Advocate at each home site (the Resident Savings Expert) receives specific training on CEF savings programming. We’re also streamlining our deposits and withdrawals, and plan on setting every Member up with a Self Help bank account the moment they join.
- Consistent Member-Advocate pairings – we want CEF to be a place where friendship just makes sense. So, having the same Advocate and Member work together every week just makes sense. This is why we created the Member-Advocate Coordinator position, filled by Anna Qiu (Duke ’15) and Nick Martin (Duke ’16).
- Thinking about the bigger picture – why do we do what we do? Is it even working? Who gives us permission to do our work? We come together twice a month to think through these questions (over home-made snickerdoodles, of course) at our Philosophy Times.
- More intentional times for Advocates to be together – we just had a wonderful first Philosophy Time and there are some fun CEF hangouts in the works. We just can’t get enough of each other!
It’s with these goals in our minds and in our hearts that we at CEF-Durham find direction.
It’s from these friendships, in community, that we derive our strength.
It’s from one another that we learn
And it is the rainstorm of CEF-Durham – the sometimes-overwhelming struggles we take on with our Members, the frustrating delays, the hard-fought successes – that puts our existences in the Duke bubble into (or blows them out of) perspective.
It’s from the rainstorm of CEF that we grow.