A few weeks ago Greta and I participated in the CCBN’s annual staff retreat, which consists of 2 1/2 days of evaluation, reflection, planning, and relaxation for the entire team. We started out the retreat with a presentation by the Center’s General Coordinator on the state of the impact of the Center’s work. We learned that the Center’s work has directly benefited almost 2500 people over the last year, including over 1000 students enrolled in courses, 113 scholarship students, and over 50 participants in the arts groups.
Beginning with last year’s retreat, the CCBN has organized activities into strategic projects, including “Tools for Work with Dignity,” “Strengthening Adult Education,” “Breaking Down Barriers to Education and Enriching Children’s Learning,” “Promoting the Right to Arts and Culture,” “Promoting the Right to Live Free of Violence,” and “Institutional Strengthening.” For most of the weekend, we worked in these teams to evaluate the progress made on each project and to plan for the upcoming year. We also did a lot of work on the conceptualization of the values and ideals behind the projects, working to come to a consensus on exactly what our goals are and how we envision living out our mission.
I worked with both the “Tools for Work with Dignity” group and the “Promoting the Right to Live Free of Violence” group. As English teachers, Greta and I are part of the “Tools for Work with Dignity” project because several of our students want to strengthen their resumes and get jobs or get better jobs. Our group debated what we believe “work with dignity” actually is, whether it’s about the kind of job one has or the way in which one carries out one’s work. We also wrestled with the degree of responsibility the Center should feel in getting students jobs as they finish their courses, or if it’s more about giving students the tools to find jobs and empowering them to initiate the search. Perhaps we didn’t come to a clearly-defined consensus on these issues, but our discussions helped us create a vision for the project and helped me understand more about the philosophy behind the Center’s work. It isn’t about everyone thinking and believing the same thing, but rather about sharing our diverse perspectives and using that diversity to create a larger vision.
Greta and I, along with the CCBN’s Mennonite Central Committee volunteer Melissa, planned the evening activities for the weekend, with the goal of relaxing and having fun with our co-workers. The first night we walked a labyrinth and painted stones to represent the transformation we underwent on our walk, and the second night we washed each other’s feet as a way to remind ourselves of the service we are all so committed to at the Center. Having an artistic and reflective outlet helped break up the hard work we were doing and gave us a chance to goof off a little.