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Meet Lillie our Emma Tenayuca Community Organizer Apprentice

Feb 14, 2014 | by admin

Interview with Lillie Williams , 2 months in to her EPOCA Emma Tenayuca Community Organizer Apprenticeship funded by Boston Women’s Fund.

“Being a volunteer the past year and a half to two years I did things an Apprentice does, but it wasn’t as in-depth.  There’s the fact that people are going to hold you more accountable and there’s certain strains placed upon you– it was rough waters starting out.  You have this training and now you’re in a position having been trained as an organizer – while as a volunteer you’re “Free Willie”, there’s free will.  Now I have certain guidelines to follow and meetings with a Co-director who is my supervisor every week.  There’s paperwork I have to fill out and criteria I have to meet every week.”


“At first you’re shell-shocked – now you’re in different shoes.  You are a core part of the organization now – a very important part – going out and recruiting new members.  You are now a leader and people are looking at you like you have this fabulous position- not knowing the internal parts of it- knowing that I have to work hard and hold myself accountable.”


“In the very beginning, I wanted to throw it away, I didn’t feel worthy, I didn’t feel that people looked at me like I could do the job.  I was telling myself, “you’re not going to be good at this, you’re going to mess it up”.  Then I turned things around.”


“It was like a wake-up, God had centered me in a position.  I began to see that I’m worthy and I’m a leader.  Going to PICO training this summer was huge, it showed me I do have the skills.  I had other organizations asking me how to get people within their groups to do one-to-ones, how to interact with each other.  I sat down with this guy and gave him some pointers that I learned here.  Even at Haymarket (Grantee Gathering in November) I got up and spoke and the whole room was excited.  For me, when good things are happening it isn’t something you boast about – I’m sure people see that I’m stepping up to the plate.”


“It’s kind of like a new life when you wake up.  At times when I was a volunteer I had my little piece, I got fired up and dug in.  I had to get fired up – I love interacting with people, I love having conversations, I love finding out what in their life is bothering them, what they want to change about themselves and the world.  Also going out in the communities – that’s an awakening: we’re letting people know there’s a big problem and we’re here with a solution, so let’s work together to fix the problem!”


“EPOCA is a loving and caring organization.  We allow you to come in, build your self-esteem and find that piece in EPOCA where you fit.  When you work at being an Apprentice it takes you out of your comfort zone and puts you into new territory – because there’s rules you have to follow.  I’ve learned how to relax, be grateful for the opportunity, embrace what I do, not only as an Apprentice, but as a way for me to gain knowledge and empower myself and others to empower themselves through the conversations we have through the outreaches, through engagement and change.  Getting petitions signed, holding meetings, believing that I am worthy and that I have power that can help change so many people’s lives – one day at a time.  At the end of the day you realize that it’s all worth while.“


“Someone asked me “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”.  I say I am a facilitator for EPOCA.  I’m going to go out and organize.  I want to be an organizing trainer, I want to teach others how to organize. I might not know everything, but I know some things.  This is my idea, I’m going to be flying around the US.”


“Something is going on with me – I’m going to be something big.  I know it, I feel it and it’s huge.  Wherever this is taking me – it’s going to be something big.  It’s a great feeling.  If you’re true to yourself and work hard it’s going to work out.”


“I can say I enjoy every day.  I’m grateful EPOCA came into my life and grateful to be on this journey that I’m on with this organization – It’s taking me places I’ve never been – It’s got me looking into the future – places I can’t see yet, but I know through the campaigns we’re working on that something great is going to happen.  There’s a blessing that’s coming.”