Tuesday, November 11, 2014

PACC Fall Retreat

It's been a whirlwind of a couple of weeks! I've completed my first five site visits and have another nine to do before Thanksgiving and we just had, what I would consider, a very successful Fall Retreat. It seems only appropriate that this post start with a picture of our great group of PACC*VISTAs in front of one of the cabins they stayed in at Pearlstone Center.
I'd like to point out a couple of things about this picture: 
1. It was almost lost when my phone unexpectedly stopped working on Friday evening. It was touch and go there for a while. I faced a very unsettling red blinking screen all weekend but thanks to the capable Genius at the bar (Apple that is) my phone was saved and the evidence of PACC's time together, recovered. 
2. It was pretty chilly and windy at this point and yet the vast majority of people still seem happy. 
3. This was on day three of the retreat, the cars were loaded, the trainings had been completed, the late night jam session had run its course and everyone still is awake more or less. 
4. This is not the full group. Char had to leave early and Mike was unable to join us for this retreat. But, Tyreek? He's there. He's the Philly's hat strategically situated behind Kevin's head. 
5. This picture seems to really capture an event I know many of us were looking forward to as a milestone of the Fall.

Planning this retreat was a challenge for me. The word "challenge" gets a bad rap. I often describe myself as "directionally challenged" and what I really mean by that is that my proclivity for getting lost has become a well-known fact in my life. The "Ice Bucket Challenge" was getting people to do something that would make them moderately uncomfortable to ultimately raise money for a worthy cause. If you are "challenged" to a duel that means someone is asking you in a manner in which you'll feel odd saying, "Eh, I'd rather not." If you look at the etymology of the word, in Middle English it used to be an accusation. Meaning, if I'm challenging you, I'm accusing you of a shortcoming of sorts. However, (if I haven't lost you on this digression yet), I mean that this was a task that really tested my abilities. It was a challenge I spent a lot of time and thought on.
I tend to have a hard time making decisions about what I want to eat. So, choosing so many meals for such a big group of people with many dietary restrictions made me feel a bit like this.

And sometimes trying to plan the actual events that will transpire for a group of people with diverse interests and expectations feels a bit like trying to catch a shadow. This dog trying to do the same captures this feeling quite nicely.

All in all, despite the challenges, I think the retreat was a success. There were a lot of highlights for me and I won't attempt to describe all of them. However, I will give a synopsis of a few. 

We jumped right in with "Show & Tell" items. I asked everyone to bring an item that they believed helped reveal something about themselves. An artifact of their lives. We had necklaces, flutes, chess sets, books, and scarves just to name a few. The first person to share, spoke for about 5 minutes about their item. If everyone had done this, we would have been showing & telling for nearly 2 hours. However, her explanation was thoughtful and her willingness to share her vulnerability really left a precedent for people to share with the same level of consideration and reflection. 

This tone for the retreat continued for the next two days. Robert Brault once said "enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." I think that this group has been very good at enjoying the little things with each other and realizing the value of these moments and exchanges.

Sustainability Workshop:
This is our workshop on sustainability. The meeting room was incredibly hot, so we relocated to the cabins for this piece. Well, that and so we could eat guacamole. Each group was responsible for pitching a solution to their supervisor regarding the sustainability of their program. Prior to the role playing part, I asked VISTAs to come up with a definition for this word that I say so very frequently. "If sustainability were the top of a building, what are the pillars you would need to hold it up?" Was the question. Here are some of their answers: Value in the cause, Empowerment, Accountability, Adaptability, Lasting, Legacy, The ability to persist without a lot of management, A form of resilience, Enough Resources, Point people-delegated to tasks to keep the program running.

"A Better Life" Movie Night:
Movie Night
Here is the trailor for "A Better Life." It is a film that I would argue is one of the most important I have seen in the last several years. I'm not sure I can put into words how much this film both impacted me and stayed with me. It is both a film I struggle to think of watching again and want everyone to see. In a world where immigration is often shown to us in statistics, it addresses the issue in terms of the story. It really generated a powerful and rich discussion for us on how this movie speaks a lot to the idea of origin and identity and power and privilege. Which we then discussed in depth with Sarah Halley. 

Power and Privilege Workshop:
Sarah Halley came to Peralstone on Friday to do a 3 hour workshop on Power and Privilege with the VISTAs.