Trying to Make a Difference

Series: Perspectives on Work, Worth and Faith (Article 10 of 13)

It’s been a pleasure to know Nana for the last 9 years. She is someone who has been a mentor, co-worker and dear friend to me. She is deeply invested in the lives of the youth and the people she works with. Her courage, joy and resilience has made such an impact on me and no doubt on others. If there is a gift God has given her, it is the vision to find, create and take advantage of the resources that can potentially make others’ lives better. 

CHRIS-ANN: What kind of work do you do? What does it involve?

NANA: I’m a City Programs Coordinator for a faith-based charitable organization. It involves managing 2 teams that support our child and youth programs in low-income communities. These communities have been identified as priority neighbourhoods in the city.

In the neighbourhood I focus on, the people are generally open, friendly and the community shows a lot of promise. But these neighbourhoods are also marked with random acts of violence and various illegal lifestyles. A lot of people that work and live in the community are trying to make a difference. We primarily do after-school programs that provide mentoring, support to schools and youth in the neighbourhood. I’m also an author and I’ve published two books.

CHRIS-ANN: Was this something you always wanted to do?

NANA: To be honest, I always wanted to work with youth but I didn’t know this position existed. When I was younger, I thought of being a missionary, dancer, child psychologist or teacher. I didn’t necessarily have a specific thing, just more of a feel. That being said, I enjoy my job very much. When I was younger I didn’t ever envision doing anything that I would enjoy. It keeps me invested in a good way. I get to use new ideas and think of how they can benefit the youth we mentor in the future.

CHRIS-ANN: What would you say are the hardest parts of your job?

NANA: I would say it’s the change. Watching kids grow up and move away that you’ve grown to know and love. Because of the part-time nature of our work, we employ a lot of young people. Most can only commit to 3 years on average so turnover is fairly frequent. Another is building relationships and trust when some youth have a hard time trusting you. Last, I would say is balance in my personal life. Most of the program times (afterschool, weekends) are the times when most people live their lives. I have to know when to stop working and rest.

With writing, I would say that some of the hardest parts are the length of the process. There’s the writing, editing, and then repeating that whole process a few more times. There’s also the financial and technical back-end. I don’t like or want to do the business side, but it’s a part of the process. Emotionally, it’s hard when there are moments of not feeling supported. You have to really believe in what you’re doing and why.

CHRIS-ANN: As we both know writing takes a lot of time. What are some lessons you’ve learned that could easily parallel to other areas of work?

NANA: The first thing I would say is time doesn’t magically open up, you have to make the sacrifice. For years I struggled to write and schedule my time. I felt like I was living according to what others told me to do. For example, there was a specific night I planned to write but someone called me with a problem. I spent hours on the phone helping them sort through it. After I hung up, I really just wanted to go to bed, but I knew that if I didn’t press in to do what I planned to do, this would always be an issue. Schedule your time with yourself as a priority.

Be aware of your distractions (social media, netflix etc.) and don’t let them prevent you from experiencing life and doing things that are important to you.

The second thing I would say is to take that time and invest in what you want to do, whether it’s education, money or energy. Go to conferences, take necessary courses and practice. Be aware of your distractions (social media, netflix etc.) and don’t let them prevent you from experiencing life and doing things that are important to you.

CHRIS-ANN: You mentioned you’ve published two books. What are they called and what inspired them?

NANA: The first one I started writing is fictional and titled Anastasia The Awakening. In writing it, I was hoping to bridge a gap. I saw that there was a whole other side of christianity that people, especially young people were looking for: the supernatural and spiritual. Most christian youth that I knew were reading other supernatural or spiritual books. I wanted to create something that was exciting to read that would also teach underlying christian principles, similar to Frank Peretti. This book took me years to write and publish.

The first one I published was For Black Girls: The Shaping of a Young Woman. I wrote and published this book fairly quickly. This was really inspired by the work I do. I’ve spent over 15 years mentoring young women and thought it would be good for them to have a support manual of sorts that they could reference as they grow. I saw myself in these young women. A lot of them were dealing with some of the same issues I had growing up. For instance, dealing with some of the stereotypes that come with being a black woman or not feeling generally appreciated and even more so, when you have darker skin. 

I also wanted to communicate the benefits of really planning their lives. There are so many more things vying for their attention these days and some are frustrated or scared about life.

I also wanted to communicate the benefits of really planning their lives. There are so many more things vying for their attention these days and some are frustrated or scared about life. Others think life will be easy and things will drop into their laps. I wanted this book to encourage, speak to their identity, purpose, life skills and goals. I wanted them to see change as a good thing and remind them to be themselves and dream about their lives.


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