First Person Perspective: Why I LIFT

By Helah Robinson on January 24, 2017

Categories: First Person Perspective, Real Stories

I LIFT because I can. And because at times in my life when I couldn’t, others around me who could, did.

After being at LIFT and hearing many of our members’ stories, I realized that growing up I had the luxury of not thinking critically about the safety net that existed around – and for – my family. But that without it, I’m not sure where I’d be.

When I was five years old, my older sister passed away in a car accident and my parents couldn’t afford the funeral or burial costs. I actually didn’t know until about three years ago that in that moment, my aunts and uncles came together, pitched in and covered the expenses—something I am now eternally grateful for. Having people in our community that were in a position to help us when we needed it most made all the difference.

After the accident, my mom didn’t drive for 13 years, which as you can imagine could have made life difficult in Los Angeles, a city where getting anywhere without a car or transportation can be exceedingly difficult. However, because of our community – which included friends, family and others who pulled around us and were always there whenever we needed help – I had the luxury of never having to worry about how to get somewhere or get something done. Someone was always there to help. For 13 years.

More recently, my family faced a moment when having a strong and supportive community was so important. About four years ago, my mom was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer which required several months of treatment. She’s doing well now, but at the time her treatment and recovery was hard and she needed someone with her to help. Though my dad and I had to travel a lot for work, we both were lucky enough to have employers who allowed us to take the time we needed. There was one week, however, that we were struggling to figure out how to coordinate. And without hesitation my then boyfriend, now husband, offered to fly from Washington, D.C. to Salt Lake City and work remotely for a week, by himself, to be with my mom when my father and I could not be. It is unfathomable to me how lucky I am to have this type of support in my corner. And because of that, I believe deeply at my core in LIFTs mission to try and be that same support for others.

I want to end with a metaphor my dad actually used in the speech he gave at my wedding. One that I think perfectly depicts how I feel about the support I’ve had in my life, and how I think LIFT tries to do the same for our members.

My dad asked if we’d seen a photo of the giant redwoods in California. They’re massive trees, 8 to 10 to12 feet in diameter, hundreds of feet high. And in addition to their size, the other notable thing about them is that you’ll never see one alone. As massive as they are, and as deep as their roots go, they cannot survive alone. They live among others, so that when a storm comes, they break the force of the wind, creating buffers for each other. They sacrifice none of their strength of independence by the fact that they occasionally rely on others.

And that’s what I believe LIFT does, in our communities and with our members. We are trying to be a support system to help members weather storms, but in a way that doesn’t ask them to sacrifice any of their own strength or independence…and in fact works to help build it.

And that, is why I LIFT.

About the Author

Helah Robinson

At LIFT, Helah oversees new program design and implementation across the organization’s four regions. She works closely with the regional teams to use Member feedback, program evaluation data and stakeholder input to improve LIFT’s services, design new program innovations and maximize impact. Helah LIFTs because she believes in every person’s potential to succeed when they are Read More