Week 1: A Family of Strangers

Jae Jin Lee, 2018 CAUSE Leadership Academy

Without any context, the idea of spending three whole days with a group of strangers that you’ve just met at a giant AirBnB house in Indio might not sound like an ideal getaway. For me, even just the intense 110F+ degree heat is enough of a reason to not to go on such a trip. However, if it’s for the CAUSE Leadership Academy, it all becomes worth it.

After a very interesting and entertaining car ride to the retreat site with CAUSE staff members Richard, Audrey, Haidee and fellow CLA intern Jocelyn, we arrived at a picturesque gated community with a spacious house that we would call “home” for the next couple of days. Excited to start our retreat, all of the interns helped unload retreat supplies and their personal belongings in order to begin with the first introductory activity – the snapshot activity.

Jae Jin Lee, 2018 CAUSE Leadership Academy

We were all given a post-it note and were told to draw the event that first sparked inspiration in our lives. As we shared our heartfelt stories, I felt that the activity gave me a true insight into the lives of the people I was with. For some, introductions can be a simple exchange of names and a handshake. But where is the substance in that? As CAUSE Programs Director Adam concluded the activity, he verbally summed up what I believe everyone was mutually feeling, “From these stories, I can see that you are all very passionate individuals.”

As the workshops and activities continued, I got to learn more about what everyone was passionate about.

Andy is passionate about helping immigrant communities, especially those who are negatively affected by current policies.

Ben is passionate about mobilizing communities and building leaders.

Christine is passionate about grassroots organization to fight for the causes she champions.

Hesu is passionate about providing others with opportunities for finding their interests, such as through internships or job positions.

Jenny is passionate about advocating for marginalized communities.

Jocelyn is passionate about breaking the stigma surrounding disabilities.

Jordan is passionate about learning the history and current issues of the APA community.

Kat is passionate about providing necessary resources to disenfranchised communities.

Leann is passionate about addressing sexual violence issues in the APA community.

Pranett is passionate about raising the standard of living in disadvantaged communities.

Yumei is passionate about studying public policy in regards to urban housing and development.

2018 CAUSE Leadership Academy orientation retreat

Even beyond the interns, the passion of the CAUSE staff members was evident throughout the retreat. Kim and Adam told stories of why the political process and empowerment had become so important to them. Haidee was always running around, taking pictures or still working on other CAUSE things on her computer. Audrey and Richard helped out behind the scenes, preparing food, setting up for workshops, and even preparing treats.

Though this retreat hasn’t taught me everything, it’s taught me that the cohort I will be working with throughout this summer will no longer be a group of strangers, but perhaps, a family of strangers.