Ali is the newest member of the Office of Social Justice team. She joins our team this week as the Policy Analyst and Advocacy Fellow. Ali comes to us from a background in social work at Spectrum Health after attending Calvin College and receiving a masters in social work from the University of Michigan.
We are thrilled to have Ali as part of the team!
1. Who is one of your social justice heros?
Must I only name one? So many people, both big names and dear friends, come to mind. Bear with me, I'll narrow it down to two. Theologian and priest Gustavo Gutierrez is the first person I think of. He's one of the great minds behind Liberation Theology, which provides a biblical response to and understanding of poverty. Gutierrez spent his life living, working alongside of, and advocating for the poor in Peru. I so admire his dedication to understanding and exemplifying Gods' profound love for the poor and oppressed. The other person that comes to mind is a professor I had while I was at Calvin. Joe Kuilema is a hometown social justice hero of mine. I'm positive he doesn't know that, but he does now if he happens to be reading this! He uses his platform and privilege to speak out against systemic injustice even if that means getting a lot of push back. He does the leg work to understand both sides of an issue, which allows him to engage in respectful and meaningful dialogue. His classes are what sparked my interest in the intersections between social justice, faith, and community.
2. You have a background in social work. What has been one of the most formative experiences or lessons learned from either your education or work in that field?
My education in social work has taught me about strengths. Every person has inherent strengths whether they are aware of them or not. My experience as a social worker in the field has only helped to underline this truth. There are obvious gaps within the systems that run our nation. These systems disproportionately and negatively affect the underserved, the marginalized, the historically (and presently) oppressed. I witness it every day. But I've also found that despite these massive gaps, people are extraordinarily resilient. When faced with seemingly impossible barriers and lack of resources, people often find a way to keep going. One thing that I've noticed about these folks is that at some point there was someone there to help them recognize their own worth and strength. Sometimes that person is a social worker. That's why I love what I do. I have an opportunity (a joyful obligation, if you will) to be the hands and feet of Jesus each day. I like to think it's part of my job description. It is humbling and inspiring work.
3. Tell us about a time you have been inspired by your congregation or church.
I recently joined the Education Team at my church, which has been a really great experience so far. Most recently, we have been working to create a curriculum plan for both our adult education and children's church programs. We spent a lot of time thinking about what would be most important to learn about and discuss as a congregation. These conversations were so meaningful to me. We wrestled with how to effectively teach adults and children about privilege, about what it means to be a good neighbor, and how to advocate for others and for social justice. I feel incredibly blessed to be part of a church that prioritizes these things and is willing to have difficult, but deeply necessary conversations together as the body of Christ.
4. Which TV show character is most similar to you and why?
I took an online quiz a few years ago to find the answer to this very question. At that point in time, I was told I was most like Pam from The Office. I think that's a super high compliment. So, thank you, creator of that quiz! However, I figured that I needed a more up to date answer. I searched the web for the same quiz to retake it, but I couldn't find it. I then enlisted the help of a few friends. The majority (2 of 3) told me I was most like Jessica Day from New Girl. I like to think this was due to passion for my work and my desire to see the best in people. My friends cited my wardrobe and cheeriness. There you have it!