Summer Internship with Center for Restorative Approaches by Olivia Simkins

The Center for Restorative Approaches’ mission is to “nurture our humanity; one person, one community, one circle at a time.”

CRA

The CRA was founded in 2008, as a part of Neighborhood Housing Services, a non-profit that believes in empowering the community through making ties to organizations and restoring pride and confidence in the New Orleans Neighborhood. The Neighborhood Housing Services sponsors organizations that they believe will provide positive results effectively, and foster environments that are built with honesty and respect; qualities that the CRA pursues at every level of their work. In 2013, the CRA moved to the fiscal sponsorship of the GoodWork Network, which provides business development services to minority groups throughout Louisiana. From there, the organization has achieved and maintained their goal of helping people to uncover their “natural ability to respond to destructive behavior in constructive ways” through grants and volunteered time and resources.

The Center for Restorative Approaches (CRA) works to provide the New Orleans community, primarily school environments, but also neighborhoods and community centers (wherever they receive referrals) with the tools, training, and resources to build productive and stable relationships. The goal is to decrease the amount of violence, crime, and conflict New Orleans has seen and struggled with for so long. As opposed to destructive communication techniques, the organization fosters the ability within members of the community to develop their own solutions and ways of correcting harm that isn’t detrimental to families, friends, and the community as a whole. In short, the CRA teaches alternatives to undesirable actions, and addresses some of the most concerning issues that surround the youth of this city.

One of the things I find to be the most important aspect of the CRA is that it is truly not an invasive organization and is incredibly respectful and conscious about the way it handles its work. They also network within the community so that those who have been through the CRA’s training can meet with members of their own community to help assist in the resolution, not an outside representative, which I think really encourages the success of the organization and its message, especially within the New Orleans community where most of the outreach is being done with young, low-income, African American youth. When the CRA is called in to help resolve a conflict, every aspect and step they take is in collaboration with those who have been affected, and their goal is to help them come to a solution or a resolution, not to provide it. The restorative methods allow for people to listen, to be heard, and to work out the conflict in the healthiest way possible. Restorative Approaches are a philosophy sprouting from Restorative Justice, and are “processes and strategies used in workplaces, schools, organizations, and the justice system to help repair harm and build or strengthen relationships. These processes focus on helping people to cooperate, to take responsibility for personal actions, and to resolve conflict.” The CRA discourages doing anything “to or for people; instead, we should do things with people”. It also provides a new outlook on conflict, as it is seen as an opportunity for relationship strengthening and repair. The CRA teaches people to recognize that the differences we have can be harnessed and used to build a community into one vibrant and lively and prosperous one, as opposed to being destructive and harmful towards one another for pride, money, attention, or any reason.

The actual services provided by the CRA depends upon the situation, but they range from preventative conflict resolution to intervention. A huge goal of the organization is to reduce suspension rates within schools, because 43% of students who entered high school with 3 suspensions on their record end up dropping out” (School of Education at Johns Hopkins), and 1 in 10 males who drop out of high school end up incarcerated. So the CRA is trying to stop the school to prison pipeline that is way too common in New Orleans. Sometimes, when the CRA is called in, the student’s willingness to comply and resolve the issue that occurred will stand as an alternative to their suspension, which is great because punishment for doing something bad atschool by being kicked out of school will never foster change in the right direction. One exciting and recent development for the CRA is that is has officially partnered with the City of New Orleans, bringing Restorative Approaches into all Orleans Parish Schools, under Mayor Landrieu’s Nola for Life Initiative and has allowed for more Whole School Approaches, where the entire staff and student body is able to benefit from the information put forth by the CRA, which will be a huge public service to the city of New Orleans .

CRA logoThe physical bodies of the CRA is a small number. There are 6 permanent staff members, and then interns and volunteers who donate their time to the cause, and can choose to do more behind the scenes work or to be on call for resolutions. The techniques used by the CRA include Solution Circles, which bring individuals who are feeling tension together so as to prevent a crime, conflict, or act of violence. It allows people to talk about what happened, how they were affected and felt, and what they think they can do to move forward. A Community Conference brings together everyone who has been affected by a crime, conflict, or act of violence that has actually occurred, again being listened to and heard, and then attempting to resolve and repair the harm that has been done in the best way possible. The CRA also provides training for those who are interested in facilitating these circles, and the training is open to anyone interested in learning productive communication techniques.

My work with the CRA has not been in facilitating the conflict resolution circles, but has been rewarding and educational nonetheless. I took on a publishing internship with the CRA, so I have been working on editing and re-orienting the training materials, lessons, and power points that they bring into the schools and actually use during the training for facilitations, the actual facilitations, and the school lessons. Through this, I have gotten very familiar and comfortable with the methods, information, and techniques used by the CRA, and it has connected to both my Linguistics and English majors because the use of language in certain spaces and environments, what is appropriate and what is not, what leads to stigmatizations, what language

causes conflict, etc. is something very stressed by the CRA as they make sure that definitions are clearly understood by all. Furthermore, the actual editing and re-orienting of the materials gives me access to the publishing world, which has always been something I’m potentially interested in pursuing. Additionally, the CRA has a Summer Initiative Training Session coming up, and I have been working on the event planning for that, and will be attending it.

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Summer Internship with LOOP: Island in the Sun by Ethan Champagne

Island in the Sun

            Nestled in New Orleans’ City Park on a little island lies the Louisiana Outdoors Outreach Program, or LOOP as it’s affectionately known.  The island itself is not tremendously secluded, but you do get a special degree of separation while you are there that makes you feel as if you’re somewhere far away on your own private playground.  Everywhere you look there is a smiling, sun-touched face with sweat rolling down and the sound of laughter joins the symphony of insects. On this island is where I would spend the first half of the scorching, sticky Louisiana summer to learn more about what it means to trust, empower, and serve others.

LOOP is the pride and joy of all who work there, but will always be remembered as the baby of the late founder, Dan Forman. Mr. Forman is originally from Rhode Island, but found himself deeply in love with the music and culture of New Orleans and decided to make it his home in 1997. Mr. Forman believed that lessons learned through outdoor education had the potential to make a lasting impact on the lives of the city’s poor who are often cursed with a cycle of violence and dysfunction. That year, Mr. Forman began work with an emerging organization funded by NORD (New Orleans Recreation Department) that began establishing outdoor recreation facilities for inner-city schools all while operating on a whopping $5,000 operating budget.  Participants in the program would engage in traditional classroom-style environmental education before progressing to educational experiences outdoors through canoeing and fishing trips and a plethora of other activities.

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            Seven years later, LOOP would be born out of Mr. Forman’s frustrations with city administration as well as a request by the then Lieutenant Governor, Mitch Landrieu. Mr. Landrieu’s request was for a similar program that could be adopted by the Louisiana Office of State Parks.  The result was a program that combined typical classroom learning, which would be re-enforced by physical outdoor experiences that would foster social-emotional growth. Shortly after its official creation, the program would experience the bitter repercussions of Hurricane Katrina with the rest of the city, but would also gain an important financial stabilizer from the expanding charter school system that recognized the important role that LOOP could play. The funds from the charter schools would turn into the nonprofit support for the program, Friends of LOOP. Friends of LOOP played a crucial role then and now as the organization faces looming state budget cuts.

In the time after Mr. Forman’s passing in 2012, the organization is still out to fulfill their mission “to provide underserved youth with an opportunity for social-emotional growth through outdoor education”. The program manages City Park’s high ropes challenge course as a way to diversify outdoor education as well as a marketing tool to keep different groups interested in coming out.

During the summers, past LOOP participants from partner schools and the larger community are encouraged to apply to participate in LOOP’s Adventure Challenge Leadership Training (ACLT). The target population of the program is youth in Greater New Orleans aged anywhere from 14-19.  Some may be at risk of dropping out, or have dropped out and returned.  As the program director Valerie Bodet describes it, “LOOP is a place for these youth to try and try again in an environment that tells them that they can succeed. For a lot of them, they have never known what that feels like, so LOOP provides a unique experience for empowerment.”

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Youth who are accepted are given a thorough introduction to challenge course safety and facilitation training with live hours belaying. At the conclusion of the internship, LOOP interns are given a skills test where they are able to demonstrate their technical skills knowledge to the staff. The staff combines evaluations from the skills test along with internship long observations of soft skills to make a decision on potentially hiring some of the interns who score highly to work for LOOP. While participating in the internship, the students gain professional work experience and references from all of the trained staff members who run the training as well as tangible belay skills and more abstract social soft skills. The focus with the internship here is directly in line with the mission, and that is to provide outdoor learning over a much longer period of time in hopes that it will foster a lifelong passion for all learning.

My particular role with LOOP this summer has been multi-faceted. On one hand, I am a full-fledged ACLT ropes course intern alongside the students, and a fundraising intern on the other to observe the grant writing and application process. My work with the interns was more of a mentorship through the ACLT training as myself and the staff members tried to pick at least two students to keep under our wing for training and help them through a project or work through a skill. This part of my internship was actually one of my favorites as it gave me a refreshing change of perspective from learning about the different lives of the youth in New Orleans.

LOOP is an outreach program such that it fosters growth among youth in the New Orleans community, but LOOP also reaches out to other organization in New Orleans committed to empowerment such at Grow Dat Farms and the Lighthouse Louisiana summer camp for visually impaired. During my time with LOOP, we have worked extensively with these organizations through our programming and that work has truly taught me a lesson in helping your neighbor. This is what LOOP is truly about – building a community of service.

The end of June 2015 marks an important time in LOOP’s history – the organization will find out in the next couple of days if they will be able to continue outdoor education on the magic island in City Park. As a fundraising intern, I’ve observed the  application process for a Propeller Foundation incubation , which has complimented my public health studies in nonprofit fundraising.  I’ve also been able to observe some of the day-to-day operations of Louisiana State Parks officials as well as the basic structure as a department of the state. My hope is that this incredible organization survives and that I will still be able to volunteer my time with LOOP on the island in City Park.

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New SISE Internship Seminar Engages Students Inside and Outside of the Classroom by Julia Turkevich

Social Innovation & Social Entrepreneurship is a field that combines business mindsets with activism and where social justice and social entrepreneurship interact. This semester, a small group of SISE students doing internships through the Center for Public Service attend the required weekly SISE academic seminar to discuss challenges faced at their public service internship and their role in a greater scheme of community engagement.  Annie Heinrichs and Haley Burns, two of the seminar students, shared their experiences from their internship placements and academic seminar, and expressed the applicable value of the weekly discussions to their internship experiences.

Annie Heinrichs is a sophomore studying Communications. With a long-term career goal of working in a nonprofit organization, her academic advisor recommended the public service internship with a focus in SISE. She interns at A’s and Aces, a nonprofit that provides New Orleans youth academic support as well as tennis instruction. As the Tennis Tournament Administrator intern, she has been planning a spring tennis tournament event for the organization by serving as a liaison between donors, community partners, volunteers, and A’s & Aces staff and by creating marketing material. She is very welcomed at her internship placement and feels that her opinions are valued, even as an intern.

SISE article_fund 17Haley Burns is a senior studying History and International Development, with a minor in Urban Studies. After her start from the Tulane New Day Challenge, Haley is now the founder and executive director of Fund 17, a nonprofit that offers micro loans to independent entrepreneurs in New Orleans. These businesses are usually home-run and free-lance, like artisan crafts and cooking, and are looking for new local and online business opportunities. On a day-to-day basis, Haley’s role consists of community outreach and finding potential entrepreneurs in mostly the 7th Ward and Central City neighborhoods. She also manages team fundraising, recruiting, and communication. Since Fund 17 is a partner with CPS and CELT, Haley was able to gain academic credit for something she was already very involved in.

Annie and Haley both agree that they have a great connection with the instructors of the SISE seminar course: Carol Whelan, Senior Professor of Practice in the Tulane Teacher Certification Program; Julia Lang, Senior Administrative Program Coordinator at the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking; and Kathryn Hall-Trujillo, founder of The Birthing Project. Through their guidance and shared experiences, the seminar is very valuable in identifying the target populations of organizations and how to counter challenges faced in the field of social innovation.

Both students feel that the coordination between the seminar and the internship is critical; in particular, the seminar has helped Haley’s organization fall into place with social entrepreneurship. The seminar enhances the internship experiences by making interns informed actors in the field of social entrepreneurship. Annie sees the President of A’s and Aces, Dr. Anna Monhartova, as a social entrepreneur, because she is helping the community in a multi-faceted, innovative way.

SISE article_as and acesLike other internship seminars offered in conjunction with students’ public service internships, the SISE seminar serves as a platform for SISE students to discuss weekly updates about experiences at the internship placements, gain multiple perspectives about internship experiences, and provide an opportunity to be critical about service and community engagement. The SISE academic seminar has brought about reflection concerning innovation, one’s impact an organization as an intern, ways for effective time management, and how to improve both an organization and oneself as an intern.

Julia Turkevich is a senior studying Political Science and International Development with a minor in Architectural Studies. She is a student assistant for the Public Service Internships and International Programs at CPS.

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NOEMS by Megan Johnson

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http://www.nola.gov/ems/images/history/ambulance2_1911/?width=400&height=213

Every time I arrive at New Orleans EMS operational headquarters, I am amazed by how inconspicuous and small it seems for the action which takes place here on a daily basis. The two low slung trailers, which hold administrative personnel, almost blend into the background of the I-10 above, and stray cats wander the periphery. Beyond those it resembles a large parking lot, full of regular cars and ambulances. Today they have from four to six trucks posted around the city at any given time, ready to respond within minutes to emergencies, but this was not always the case. Although it is not a clear beginning, EMS in New Orleans is considered to have started with horse-drawn carriages provided by Charity Hospital in the early 1900’s. Over time, horses were replaced with early automobiles and eventually the ambulances used today. Similarly, the personnel staffing the mobile units have evolved. The responsibility of providing EMS was transferred to the New Orleans Police Department in 1947, meaning police officers worked the trucks. As emergency medical technician and paramedic training became available, the police department incorporated these certifications into their service, and today all trucks are required to have at least one nationally certified paramedic on board. Also aiding with the high call volume are two supervisors, also paramedics, in sprint vehicles. The New Orleans Health Department had taken over the division by the time Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city in 2005. Most of the rebuilding which occurred thereafter made NOEMS what it is today. The operational side of NOEMS was placed under the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, but all funding comes from the New Orleans Health Department and therefore that portion of the city budget.

New Orleans is also nationally celebrated for the work it is able to perform in New Orleans, a city with one of the nations highest trauma rates. Military personnel have even trained with NOEMS to prepare for trauma they might see in combat, and my EMT-basic claimed they would not have survived the combat zone without their training here. EMTs and paramedics on staff are more than willing to share some of the horrifying things they have seen on duty, with the unfortunate but necessary callous attitude adopted by most of them. In order to survive in such a demanding and exhausting job, emotions have to be set aside and cases cannot be connected to personal life. I have noticed the population base in New Orleans can be incredibly trying at times when it comes to a service which does not discriminate against any caller with an emergency, in my mind the ultimate public service. A lot of dispatches are for patients with advanced cases which could have been managed long ago with preventative care, but the lack of education is to blame in these instances. Additionally, abuse of the healthcare system is rampant. A large portion of the population uses emergency departments for complaints which would be better managed by family doctors or urgent care, also at a lower price. Yet the most frustrating part of all these issues is the minimal time frame EMS staff have to interact with their patients, since little to no change is able to be accomplished within the time frame. EMTs and paramedics are left to deal with problems caused by bad policy and infrastructure. Instead, the most they can do is give their patients the best care within their scope of practice and hope their influence will cause change in the future. Those EMS personnel who cannot manage all of this tend to leave for other, more pleasant careers. However, no medic or EMT that I have met is able to maintain this façade when it comes to children. Even though they will tell you it is easy to blame adults because they have been alive long enough to know better, children are innocent and never deserve the afflictions which befall them. The quietest and most somber call I have ever worked was an infant in cardiac arrest. There were no jokes or fun afterwards, only quiet reflection revealing the still human side of my medic and EMT-basic.

Another amazing quality of the majority of staff at NOEMS is their eagerness to teach, especially when it comes to volunteers such as me. Questions are encouraged, whether they pertain to a call, operation, or hypothetical scenario. Even though the job is hard, it is these moments where the medic’s and EMT’s passion for their work shines through. Most of the time, these lessons are discussions in which they encourage me to use my own knowledge base to come to the proper conclusion. Riding with NOEMS has easily magnified my medical knowledge and made me a better EMT. Before undergoing the extensive testing necessary to become a supervisor for Tulane EMS, I decided to ride consistently and frequently with NOEMS. Watching my crew in action as they digested a scene, determined life threats, and moved the patient towards higher care gave me unparalleled insight into pre-hospital care which is necessary as a supervisor.  However, I would like to think the ride-alongs are not one sided when it comes to learning. My service to them is more than just an extra, capable set of hands to ease their burden. I would like to think I serve as a reminder of the reason they love EMS and were eager to a pursue a career in the field. My presence hopefully becomes a break in the monotony, as they have someone to educate and cultivate in the next generation, which will be responsibly for instituting the social change which is sorely needed in New Orleans. I know through my career in medicine I can apply what I have and will learn with NOEMS to make the healthcare field a better place, and I appreciate the opportunity I have been given. 

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http://www.nola.gov/ems/images/history/ambulance2_1911/?width=400&height=213

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Interning at the Office of Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell by Amy Rodenberger

I am a sophomore from Lancaster, Pennsylvania majoring in Political Science and Spanish & Portuguese, with a minor in Latin American Studies.  I currently intern at New Orleans’ City Hall, in the office of Councilmember LaToya Cantrell.  This is a Public Service Internship for which I am earning 3 credit hours and fulfilling my 2nd tier public service graduation requirement through the Center for Public Service. 
 
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Being an intern in such an active environment, my job changes every day depending on the needs of the Councilmember and her office staff.  Some days are pretty mundane, and I am needed in the office to answer phone calls, send emails, organize files, and do other “classic intern” activities.  On one of my less than favorite days, I typed up the new and dreaded Mardi Gras Ordinances, filed them properly, and defended them on the telephone.
 
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Other days are much more interesting though.  I assist the Councilmember at Council Meetings, Budget Hearings, and Committee Meetings.  I go on sight with other staff members to large protests, city events, and emergency City Government meetings.  I helped organized events, like Wednesday at the Square and the District B Dog Bowl. I also was able to create an afterschool program for kids in the city to teach them about cleaning up trash, and see firsthand the success it has at afterschool programs with the city’s elementary school kids.
 
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Working in an office as influential as Councilmember Cantrell’s allows me to learn more about this city than I ever could have imagined.  I am completely immersed in local politics, and actually live out what I read on the front page of the Times Picayune.  I also am able to meet and work with a huge variety of people in New Orleans, from prominent city leaders to elementary school kids. I learn about so many of the city’s different groups and organizations through my work in the office, and experience just how complex and diverse the problems and the people in this city are.
 
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I have learned a lot about professionalism through this internship, from how to talk to a large variety of people, to how to stay organized and focused through the chaos that is New Orleans’ City Hall.  Things never stop happening there, people are constantly in and out, new problems arrive, and sometimes tragedies strike.  I see the importance of both teamwork and hard work in times like this, and I’ve seen how, when communities unite, a whole lot can happen.  The best thing I’ve learned from this internship though, is the importance of staying positive through everything, the good, the bad, and the even the boring. 
 
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With an office staff as vibrant and energetic as the one in District B, it is hard not to stay upbeat myself, especially because we are working in a city as exciting as New Orleans.  While I don’t plan to keep working in local politics, I believe that the office and people skills I have learned will be applicable to any job I want in the future.  If I do end up staying in politics though, the one thing I know now is there would be nowhere more exciting to work than in New Orleans.
 
 
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The Southern Food and Beverage Museum by Sara Muchnick

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WHO… is Southern Food and Beverage Museum?

The Southern Food & Beverage Museum is a non-for-profit organization that aims to circulate an awareness and understanding of the New Orleanian love of food and the South’s rich & intricate culinary culture and history to the rest of our country.

The Organization Offers

Exhibits| Galleries | Stories | Research | Culinary Library| Culinary Archive

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WHO … makes up the staff?

The Southern Food & Beverage Museum is primarily run by a staff of 12 people who are as colorful as the Food & Beverage culture that we live among. Their vast variety of education and employment backgrounds contributes to the unique range of focus and spirit exhibited by SoFab’s expeditions and overall character. Among the team is a culinary lawyer and writer, a media producer, an award-winning musician, a filmmaker, a culinary arts expert, a graphic designer, and a former restaurant owner. Additional Staffing and Help includes a team of 5 Special Curators & Researchers, 28 members of the Board of Directors, and 13 members of the Advisory Board. The Advisory Board generates a diverse range of perspectives, from professors to doctors to chefs, including New Orleans’ own bigwig, John Besh.

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WHO… do they help?

SoFab educates the city, state, country, and hopefully the world through their collection of artwork, projects, research, stories, news updates, library, and archive, some of which can be accessed on their premises or online.

WHAT… are their missions & goals?

Education about culinary culture offers significant information about world history and the evolution of traditions. The organization maintains the prerogative to educate the largest possible audience about the Southern food and beverage traditions and heritage from the ground up, literally. They cover information about the farmers, fishermen, and hunters & gatherers who contributed to the development and establishment of modern day Southern culinary culture. They cover the diverse ethnological components of Southern food conventions that originated from foreign traditions (such as those of African-Americans, Caribbean, French, and Germans) and have become the very core of the South’s own, elaborate traditions. They also focus on the food & drink culture as it is today, with note of the professional realm that make a living working to not only contribute to the Southern food customs but also keep it afloat and alive. These professionals range from processors to inventors to chefs to business people. They are involved in anything from the management of restaurants, to the circulation of Southern food products nation-wide or cross-continentally, and even to their personal preservation of their own or their family’s recipes that reflect the history of the South’s culinary traditions. 

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“Celebrate, interpret, investigate, entertain and preserve.”

Specifically, I’ve been helping out with a particular project of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum: the Culinary Heritage Register. This is the first database EVER that works to illuminate and preserve any factor that has contributed to our country’s complex and extensive culinary history and landscape. What makes this Register special is that it will preserve at a level deeper than simply recording historically relevant infrastructure. Instead, the Register will pay homage to “any significant culinary product, process, invention, tradition, and establishment at least 60 years old” that has contributed to America’s identity and that will offer truly valuable insight into its environment, economy, and social structures.

WHERE… is the education spreading?

SoFab has circulated its education about the South nationally and with the launch of the Register, it will expand the historical content it teaches from that which is strictly focusing on the South to that which is emphasizing traditions had across the whole country. Hopefully, with its Internet accessibility, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum will transcend the U.S. borders and educate the world.

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WHY…

The issues that the Southern Food & Beverage Museum addresses are far and wide. For one, it serves its primary purpose as an educational, non-profit source of rich history and culture of the South. However, there are community issues related to food that SoFab has adopted into its repertoire of areas in which to raise awareness. For instance, the childhood obesity epidemic is one that the organization addresses. The museum uses its bi-coastal presence (in Washington DC and Los Angeles) to deliver pedagogical speeches to the world about legal and social implications of this issue.

The organization has also taken it upon itself to initiate Cultural Impact Research by creating a website to collect and distribute information concerning the affects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill. In an effort to promulgate the depth of the cultural consequences of the spill, SoFab also created an open forum that welcomes anyone to post relevant data about the spill itself or additional research or projects dedicated to its cause.

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HOW… can they afford it?

Funding for SoFab’s exhibits and other efforts primarily comes from donations, memberships, and gift shop sales. However, the staff’s wide range of expertise allows them to also offer lectures in each of their respective fields, for which they charge a fee.

LECTURES

Food, Law, Policy | Cocktail history | Culinary History of New Orleans | Food Museums

HOW … does it apply to me?

Philosophy is instrumental in the way I think, read, write, understand people & appreciate their diverse approaches. I’ve always worked in the hospitality industry: hostessing and restaurant events, PR, & marketing; and I’ve always converged my education with my passion. Specifically, for marketing, I executed my learned persuasive writing & insight into people in order to package the restaurant in a way that’s compelling. Thus, my marketing and development position with SoFab’s Culinary Heritage Register extracts & applies concepts from my major & experiences.

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THE LATINO FARMERS’ COOPERATIVE by Marian Hancock

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I have been jokingly told by the director of the Latino Farmers’ Cooperative of Louisiana (LFCL) that it has been inaptly named. It is an organization that helps all people, not only Latinos; it does not have a farm, only a small community garden; and it is not a cooperative.

But when the organization received its name it was a full-fledged farm. Just last year, LFCL adopted an English language learning program. In an attempt to maintain public recognition, they have kept their name.

LFCL is a demand-driven service organization. That is what drew me to this organization in the first place. Oftentimes service organizations provide what they think a population will need. They do not provide what the population actually needs. But the Latino Farmers’ Cooperative only exists to provide the services that the clients need.

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Tom Zolot (my site supervisor) holding up giant turnips from the community garden. 

On the membership sign-up sheet there is a checklist of services that a new member may want to receive from LFCL: a food bank, English classes, nutrition classes, poultry production, farmers markets and/or small-scale urban farming. As I archived the newmember information, I noticed a shift away from an agricultural need and towards an educational need. Similarly, the organization has adjusted to provide a stronger educational component including a diversity of classes and class sessions.

LFCL originally focused on offering education and training so members could grow and eat healthy food in urban sustainable farms. The community garden still allows for small agricultural projects. Nutrition classes are still thriving at the Coopertativa, as we call it there.

The work that I do addressed the socioeconomic issues of the Latino community in Louisiana. As I previously stated, the Cooperativa is available to all people who seek help, not just Latinos. As the assistant to the case manager, I help clients read, understand and fill out legal documents. Most often, we help clients with government aid documents such as forms for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid. These documents are offered by the government in Spanish, but they have been poorly translated. It is as if someone input the English version of the form into an online translator, and they hand out this unintelligible version in Spanish. So as an assistant to the case manager, part of my job is to explain the forms and the timeline the client should expect from the process.

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A “Communal Vegetable Sale” sign outside of the Cooperativa. 

To me this is the most interesting part of my internship: being able to help people face-to-face. It is my passion to speak Spanish so I love being able to speak Spanish with the clients. I studied abroad in Chile in South America, but the majority of the clients speak Spanish with a Nicaraguan or Honduran accent. I am learning different dialects and pronunciations through my work at the Cooperativa.

Right now most of my Spanish classes are focusing on Latino literature, which does not exactly tie into my internship. I am taking Latin American culture class though. This class has helped me understand the geopolitics and history of the homelands of
many clients. We are learning about the political leaders who made Latin America independent from Spain and dissuaded the United States from invading after Spain left. This class information allows me to understand the countries where many of the clients have come from. It allows me to understand why people left their home countries to come to New Orleans, a city that does not provide many public services to the Latino community.

So often Spanish-speakers (they aren’t necessarily immigrants) are shunned and do not feel welcomed in this country of immigrants. When I first moved abroad and my Spanish abilities weren’t very good, I would try to run errands and I would get very frustrated at myself and the people around me. Not being able to communicate what I needed made me feel defeated. Store owners worked with me and were happy that I was trying to speak Spanish. I don’t think this is a common occurrence in the United States. Store workers get frustrated when Spanish-speakers aren’t fluent in English and give up on helping. 

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Inexpensive international foods for sale for clients inside the office.

LFCL builds a place where people can feel like they belong. It promotes community involvement for everyone. We who work at the Cooperative will not give up on helping our clients. This allows a feeling of belonging for everyone. The Latino Farmers’ Cooperative filled the void of services provided to the Latino community in New Orleans. It allows for a sense of connection to the city for both adults and urban youth.

 

 

 

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