Teaching & Learning: My Experience as a LIFT Intern

By LIFT on August 4, 2017

Categories: First Person Perspective, Our Work

I am only 18 years old. In the eyes of some, my life has been nothing compared to the incredible accomplishments of my elders who work at LIFT. Honestly, in my own eyes, this is true. But LIFT’s staff have never made me feel this way–even on my first day, when I had no idea what “development” meant in the nonprofit world. And I was supposed to be working on the development team!

Not only has my time at LIFT changed me into a girl who does know what development means, but it has also taught me that it was okay not to know. All I had to do was learn. Compare this to how we treat our members (the parents and guardians LIFT serves). We don’t expect them to know everything about financial literacy from day one. How should they know? We just want to help them learn.

That being said, I think that everyone would agree that to learn, we need people to teach us. And I have been fortunate enough to have found remarkable teachers in every member of LIFT’s staff. This relationship is expected, right? Staff teaches intern. Intern learns from staff.

But I think that one of the most invaluable lessons I have learned from my time at LIFT is that this relationship goes both ways. In my initial blog post from the beginning of the summer, I wrote of LIFT’s admirable dedication to relationships. But spending more time here has shown me that the most special thing isn’t simply that these relationships exist–it’s the nature of these relationships themselves.

Sure, staff teaches intern, intern learns from staff. But my entire summer, the staff made me feel as if I taught them valuable lessons, such as how to conduct an efficient intern program and how to prioritize tasks and give direction. They were learning from little ol’ me, as I simultaneously absorbed so much knowledge and so many lessons from them.

Once again, this is crucial to how we interact with our members. I think it is easy to look at the work LIFT does and think that we are simply teaching financial literacy to low-income families. Yes, we are. But we are not just teaching: we are also learning from them. Our member families teach us about what is most important to their situation. They explain how, specifically, we can best help them get and stay out of poverty. They teach us compassion, and we learn it.

. . .

One week has passed since my final day working at LIFT. As I type this closing blog post, I am sitting on a porch swing in my hometown of rural Pennsylvania. Last night, I took a long walk around the farm across the street and the pond further down the lane. My walk home from the pond was quiet, filled only with sounds of birds chirping and cicadas singing. All I could see was wildlife and beautiful greenery. I felt comfort in its simplest form.

My walk to my apartment from working in DC this summer, I heard sirens every day. I saw humans laying on the sidewalk. I felt the deep, cutting gravity of the world issue that is poverty.

Just because I am here and not there does not mean that it no longer exists. We have to do something. We need to provide tools and resources so that people just like us can help themselves to someday have their own porch swing, and even more so that someday their children will have their own porch swings.

LIFT’s unspoken philosophy about teaching and learning has taught me that that is what we can do. We can continue to open our eyes, ears and hearts to people in unfortunate situations and learn from them. We can continue to teach the more fortunate people in our communities about the reality of these world issues.

If we continue to live with LIFT’s mindset about continuous and mutual teaching and learning, maybe we can all help each other. I know that I have certainly learned a lot from working at LIFT.

Now, what can I teach?

This blog post was written by Rosie Arbittier, a student at Princeton and a summer 2017 intern at LIFT.