Financial Empowerment: Together We Thrive

This blog post was written by Emily Kuo, a Duke Engage intern who has been working with multiple departments at Solid Ground this summer, but with a focus in Supportive Services. The post originally appeared on the Duke Engage Seattle blog
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Week four has come and gone. I can hardly believe that we’re past the halfway mark in our placements and our Seattle experiences. We’re in the thick of things now – our routines are set and projects are flooding in. What was once a vague suggestion of an action plan is now concrete and the deadlines very real. One of the main projects my community partners at Solid Ground was hoping for me to complete was a video that can be viewed by both the staff and the clients they serve to energize them about financial empowerment and how it could benefit everyone, staff and clients alike. For the past three weeks I had been collaborating with Vera Zhang, the Duke Engage intern placed in the Communications Department of Solid Ground, to conceptualize, film, and edit the project.

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Gerald Wright, the Hunger & Food Resources Director, on set

I had not met Vera until we were both in Seattle and discovered we were placed at Solid Ground. Our friendship developed into a trusting team dynamic as we learned that our placement supervisors wished for us to work on this rather large-scale project together.

Teamwork is a tricky thing. It’s an ever elusive concept and a frequent buzzword flying around large corporations, small firms, and pretty much every social sphere we’ve been in since we were children. So what is it? What does teamwork mean to you? Is it all in the bottom line and whether your group accomplishes the goal, or is it something that permeates through every step of the creative process?

To me, a great team doesn’t need to have fancy frills and titles. It doesn’t take multiple experts coming together to form a dream team. A great team can be as simple as two minds coming together, understanding the mutual end goals, adapting to whatever limits exist and balancing out the others’ strengths and weaknesses.

It was a great pleasure working with Vera because we both wanted to do whatever it took to create a professional, high-quality output. Though there were some setbacks and limitations to the equipment and short timeframe, we both tried to think innovatively about how to overcome these trials and fed off of each other’s energy and enthusiasm. There were some rough moments during the process when we broke a light bulb and frame on the first day, but we were there to encourage each other despite the fact that we both wanted to cry in frustration. When we felt overwhelmed, we’d allow ourselves a pick-me-up at Molly Moon’s or our favorite sushi lunch. We allowed each other the time and space to recharge and reapply fully to the project.

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On the set shooting Kira Zylstra, Stabilization Services Director

Moreover, as we worked intimately over the course of these last few weeks, I found that our strengths and weaknesses really complemented each other. Vera’s attention to lighting and detail were crucial in the ultimate high-level production, whereas I wouldn’t have weighed the importance of such things. I was much more focused on the lines and whether they felt natural or scripted, and finding the energy in each individual actor. Her skill in PowerPoint proved integral when she created beautiful animated infographics that appeared much more high-end than mere PowerPoint wizardry. Meanwhile, I edited the footage and music and we synthesized the two to create the final rough-cut. Through it all, our supervisors Mike and Judy were endlessly helpful and gave so much guidance and support to us. When our video finally got its debut at the All-Staff Meeting on Wednesday, July 23rd, there was a gratifying sense of relief and pride. So many of our coworkers came together to help us and be a part of our video despite their busy schedules, and it was so wonderful for everyone to see the finished product.
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Our video being displayed at the All-Staff Meeting

Take a look!

Learning to write with compassion & understanding

Solid Ground Communications Intern, Kahla Bell-Kato

Solid Ground Communications Intern, Kahla Bell-Kato

My internship with the Communications team at Solid Ground has come to an end, and I can’t help but be awed by my experiences – an education that extends far beyond mastering catchy titles or figuring out Photoshop.

While keeping the audience my focus, it was important to frame my work around the people I write about – our clients. This internship taught me to write with compassion and understanding about subjects I have never experienced. Throughout my time at Solid Ground, I have seen the face of poverty – not the numbers on a chart of statistics, or labels in a book, but glimpses into the lives of people fighting to survive – and it has changed me.

Interviewing employees and volunteers at Solid Ground stands out as my favorite task during my internship. It was incredibly reassuring to see the passion and intensity the people I interviewed expressed about their work. With eyes sparkling, they recounted all the support, aid and comfort their programs provide for their clients. They lamented the struggles their programs face, and begrudged the policies and red tape that perpetuate poverty and oppression. I am grateful I had the opportunity to work with these folks – many of whom have become my role models.

Through anti-racism work at Solid Ground, I have come face-to-face with my own white privilege and have learned that my silence maintains a system of oppression through which I benefit. However uncomfortable these meetings might have been, they gave me fundamental tools to work and interact with diverse groups of people.

From those working on the frontlines to those in the offices at headquarters, everyone is toiling to fashion this agency into a place that holds its responsibility to the community and the people they serve as their number one priority. Their drive and determination to make their community and the agency a better place, despite the struggles and setbacks, has had, perhaps, the biggest influence on me during my time here.

Before taking this internship, I lacked confidence in my skills and was unsure about what career path to take. However, my time at Solid Ground revealed that I have been fortunate – a reality I tend to forget in the day-to-day grind of things. My internship experience makes me grateful for my education and the opportunity I’ve had to fully dedicate myself to this position.

With a Solid Ground spirit, I intend to make the most of all the advantages and opportunities imparted to me. I will take with me far more than I anticipated, the most profound of which, unfortunately, won’t have a place on my resume.

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