2014-15 PathWays Fellow Rachel White describes the work she has been doing at her internship with REAL Durham, and she invites others to participate in the good work that is already been happening in East Durham.

February 12, 2015

For my PathWays Fellowship Year, I am partnered with an organization called REAL Durham . . . and I can honestly say that there is no place I would rather be! Working here, I have the opportunity to build relationships with and learn from folks who live and work in this community. I have also been learning to navigate gaps and relationships with folks from outside the community who are interested in joining with the work that is already happening here. Things happen here at the speed of relationship, a definite and welcome change from my breakneck undergrad life.

To give you a better idea of what it is that we do, REAL Durham is a community-based, anti-poverty, anti-racist circles initiative located in East Durham. We are composed of three main groups of people: Leaders, Allies, and Volunteers.

Leaders are self-identified individuals from the community who are in material poverty, and who are highly motivated and looking to get themselves and/or their families out of poverty.

Allies and Volunteers are individuals with access to financial capital, resources, and/or social networks who are highly motivated and willing to learn how to walk alongside Leaders and share their access to resources with them. They are committed to working with Leaders to overcome obstacles on the way to financial stability.

Both Leaders and Allies complete an 11-15 week training process during which they begin to establish relationships with one another, as well as grow in knowledge regarding systemic racism in America, economic literacy, and poverty.

After completing their initial training, Leaders and Allies are matched into “Circles,” with one Leader at the center, and 2-4 Allies, surrounding them with support. A commitment to a Circle lasts 18 months, with an expectation that they will spend 8-10 hours together every month. In these circles, Leaders and Allies are expected to learn from one another and grow together, as well as be transparent with one another about the issues, challenges, and joys they are experiencing in their own lives. They set goals and work on them together for 18 months. In addition to Allies, Volunteers provide regular support for weekly meetings through providing meals, childcare, and general personnel activities. Volunteers are free to commit their time and energies at whatever level is most convenient for them.

If any of these volunteer opportunities appeal to you, we would LOVE to see you at our upcoming Interest Meetings on either February 18 or 26. These Interest Meetings will be an opportunity to learn more about REAL Durham, as well as ask any questions you might have. The meetings will take place from 6-7:30 p.m. at Antioch Baptist Church, located at 1415 Holloway Street. Refreshments will be provided and families are welcome. If these interest meetings go well, we will begin our next cohort of Allies and Leaders in March or April — so if you are interested in getting involved on a short or long-term basis, NOW is the time to get involved! Whatever your social location, interest, or skill set — there is a place for you.

If you have any questions or would like to know more, I would be happy to help out in any way I can — just email me at whiterachelnicole@gmail.com. Working with REAL Durham can be messy — it always is when you are looking to combat systemic oppression and build relationships. But I love it here, and I would love to have you join us in supporting the good work that is already being done.

By Rachel White, Duke Chapel PathWays Fellow 2014-15, Intern at REAL Durham

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