Nothing about us without us: Community organizer training educates and energizes

“Listening and engagement, that’s what I’m all about.”

With that statement, trainee Varren Nelson embodied two themes of the Community Organizer Training offered by CCH.

Offered three times a year by CCH organizers, the all-day intensive trainings are designed to impart and strengthen the intellectual framework and practical skills of community organizing, as well as to energize and motivate a diverse group of CCH staff, interns, volunteers, and community allies. Twenty-six people participated in the training last Friday and Saturday. 

Associate Executive Director Jim Field, who also manages CCH organizing, says the training program is a key investment in strengthening the CCH team and identifying and developing future community leaders.

“Community organizing is a strange skill. It really involves a completely different way of thinking about the world than we’re ordinarily used to,” said Jim, a Chicago organizer and trainer for more than 30 years.

Trainees included Amaro Julien, a Wilbur Wright College student who is a volunteer with the homeless sports program Street Soccer USA and a founding member on CCH’s new Education Committee. Amaro said he wants to be a more effective voice in his community and in how he relates and communicates with family and friends.

Topics range from the history of community organizing to the nuts and bolts of building relationships, cutting issues, messaging through the media, and holding effective meetings.

Sessions are structured to be highly participatory and engaging, with time allotted for one-on-one and group discussion, activities, and writing and reflection. This allows the sessions to both educate and foster the communication and camaraderie inherent in community work. After each session a survey is given so that CCH staff can improve and focus their efforts for the next training.

Another trainee was Serena Williams, a CCH leader who lives in transitional housing at San Jose Obrero Mission in Pilsen. She shared her own experience that living in facilities can wear a person down, but participating in the training was “motivating, inspiring, empowering, and informative. The strategic side and methods taught will help me make a change where there is a lack.”

CCH thanks Facing Forward and Sanctuary Place for hosting the trainings, and commends everyone’s hard work in putting the event together.

The next training will be offered on Wednesday, May 22 and Thursday, May 23.

– Jim Lacy, Media Volunteer