By Tarah Carnahan, Executive Director
I love a good challenge, but I’ve got to be honest––I didn’t see my transition into the role of executive director looking like this.
In the months I spent considering taking on this position, I recognized that my hopes for Treetops Collective’s next season were alive in me and waiting to be realized. I imagined what it would be like to welcome women in the work of securing our spot on 906 Division and building it into a beautiful community space where women could gather together. I was grateful for the 45 new women who in February began a journey with Treetops for the 2020 Sister Circles cohort, women who believed they were leaders and were ready to commit to working alongside one another for the betterment of their future. I was in awe of the three teen girls in the new cohort who jumped at the opportunity to engage in our social enterprise internship, and am eager to see the ways their story will influence their creativity!
2020 Sister Circle members at our Welcome Workshop in February
And here we are, amidst a pandemic where gatherings are not possible; where cross-cultural partners––fueled with their training and willingness to jump in––are still waiting for an opportunity to meet their new friend; where needs are sky-rocketing, community connectors are limited to weekly phone calls, and internships are being launched virtually.
Our Social Enterprise Internship Coordinator, Estefania, has kicked off internships for three teen girls in the cohort virtually.
Thanks to the help of this collective, we were able to respond to the teen girl program members' need for Chrome books so to do distance learning while schools are closed.
If I’m being honest, this crushes me. At Treetops, we are not about social distance, we are about togetherness and have been fighting against the pain of isolation for four years.
The current season, however disorienting it is, I believe calls us to do some reorienting. It calls us to remember how good it is to be in community with each other, how we actually do need one another and that we don’t notice it enough. It makes us realize how the world, and all of its people, are clearly more connected than we could have imagined.
We are also collectively experiencing an upending of normal, a shared grief, which is not new to our New American neighbors, many whose lives shifted in an instant. But when their lives shifted, they didn’t get to tuck their littles safely into cozy beds and awake to another day of the same. They had to run, wondering where meals would come from and where they would rest.
And the question of “When will this be over?” that all of us consider––and our children impatiently inquire of us––daily during this pandemic, is the same question many of our new neighbors asked for over 20 years as they awaited resettlement.
When we started Treetops, it was in response to feelings of being powerless to act in light of the over 70 million displaced people in the world. We recognized that right here in our own community, families had found a place to rest, an answer to the wonderings of “When will things return to normal?”. But the tragedy is that for many who resettle, life doesn't return to normal or get easier. Our new neighbors now just face different challenges: struggling to learn new languages, navigating systems without local friends who hold insider information, figuring this new life out alone and on the margins.
And four years later, what still gets me up in the morning is asking myself: Can we do a better? How can we spread welcome, increase access and act as a connector to services like ESL, driver’s training, education, financial planning, homeownership, and citizenship? How can we build bridges and celebrate the tenacity and skillsets of women who have proven their ability to adapt and be resilient? How can we position our community to be one that values the leadership and lessons of other cultures? How can we create opportunities to sit at the feet and learn from someone with different experiences and build friendships with new neighbors in mutuality and respect? How can we shift our thinking about what it means to live in community?
These questions fill me with hope for what’s ahead and confirms to me that our culture-shifting work is needed like never before.
So here we are… let’s write this next chapter together!
You can support Treetops during this season of transition, unknown, and hope and help us spread welcome even in a time of forced separation by donating to our $30k in 30 Days campaign today!