April 18 through April 24 marked this year’s Volunteer Appreciation Week. CCEJ could not exist without the thousands of hours of service dedicated by our volunteers who assist our staff in many ways each year. This past year, in particular, volunteers helped make CCEJ programs possible by providing crucially needed support to deliver online offerings. Since March 2020, CCEJ volunteers provided support and facilitation in our Elements of Justice dialogues, Conscious Classrooms workshops, breakout rooms at our Interfaith Intercultural Breakfast, and as camp staff at our Building Bridges Camp Online. Thank you, CCEJ volunteers, for all your support!
Get to know some of our amazing volunteers below:
Ary Nassiri (he/him): “I first got involved with CCEJ’s Building Bridges program in 2016 while studying Social Work at CSULB. I’ve served as Adult Staff for several camps, as well as Staff Liaison to support facilitators and campers in their self-care during the challenging moments. I especially love facilitating in the dialogue groups with youth and being witness to the connections and profound growth campers inevitably experience.
Outside of CCEJ, I am a social worker doing disability advocacy work, as well as an artist focusing on Islamic art with the use of natural pigments. It has been a privilege supporting youth in having critical social justice dialogue. They’re discussions I wish I could have had myself when I was in high school. I believe this work is truly the key to a better world. Sometimes, society leave me feeling hopeless; yet, every moment volunteering with CCEJ leaves me with so much reassurance and faith that progress is being made. This is work worth doing and we need all hands on deck to change things for the better.”
Asabi Adedapo Ifatunji (he/him): “I got involved with CCEJ in November 2020 to become a Restorative Justice Circle Keeper, and I now support Circle facilitation in the Healing Harms program. Circle work is actually one of my favorite things. It is an integral aspect of Ancestral Wisdom, which makes it close to my heart. Community members investing in each other with their authentic truths is always beautiful, and our society needs more spaces like the ones provided by RJ Circles.
I am also parent of 3 incredible children and partner to an incredible woman. I’m an Account Executive and Fundraiising/Engagement Consultant at MobileCause, and an Obatala and Egugun Priest of the African Tradition of Yorubas.
I have become a better listener as a result of the training we got to join the volunteer team. I feel humble and realize I have a lot more listening to do. Volunteering fulfills my need to serve the community. I would encourage folks who may be interested in volunteering to come sit in a Circle someday with me and others doing this work. This work gives our feelings the space they need. It’s good to feel and be felt. When we share in circles, we get to feel that good and share it with others in community safety.
Chloe Haynes (she/her): I first got involved with CCEJ as a junior in high school l when I attended Building Bridges Gender Justice camp. Now, I support Building Bridges programs, including Conscious Classrooms. I love being a Youth Mentor for Building Bridges camp. As a facilitator, I see youth grow a lot during camp, which is very rewarding.
Outside of CCEJ, I am an honors students and Liberal Studies (Education) major at CSULB. I am also a performer, and I love singing, acting, musical theater, and improve. In my spare time, I enjoy practicing self-care, roller skating, and handing out with my rescue cats and dogs.
As a volunteer with CCEJ, I have grown a lot as an individual and am more aware of the different systems of oppression that are entrenched in our society, as well as my conscious or unconscious role in perpetuating them. Hearing other people’s personal stories and experiences motivates me to continue to learn and volunteer with CCEJ. If you are looking to get involved, do it! It’s not only a great way to support your community, but it also provides a tremendous opportunity for personal growth. I have learned and continue to learn so much about myself and my community. And best of all, I have met amazing people and built powerful friendships through CCEJ.
Mary Conte (she/her): I completed the Healing Harms training in June 2019, and then got trained to support the REAL Resiliency program in early 2020. I have enjoyed being a REAL Resiliency facilitator because it’s great to see how youth develop a different perspective after participating.
When I’m not volunteering, I love biking, hiking, and visiting national parks. I miss traveling and learning about other cultures, languages, and food. I am a member of the Los Angeles Responsible Pit Bull Owners, where I am a trainer’s assistant. I also work doing financials at a small music agency that books folk and roots music all over the world.
As a volunteer with CCEJ, I’ve learned how important communication is for us to grow, learn, and see things from different perspectives. The relationships we develop while holding ourselves accountable help us see life as less overwhelming and keep on a forward part. We get to see how similar we are and how interconnected we are. Volunteering at CCEJ continues to give me hope that we move close to equality and justice.
Roberta Shintani (she/her): I got involved with CCEJ after completing a volunteer training with Healing Harms. I have only supported in one Circle session so far, but I would like to learn more and join all the webinars that CCEJ has to offer. My experience has been awesome and I am so fulfilled knowing I can contribute based on my own history.
Currently, I am the Executive Director of the Coalition for Engaged Education, providing case management to justice system-impacted youth as well as foster youth. Knowing that I can make a difference in allowing someone to be heard, and helping them move beyond their position to accept and maybe see their impact on others, is very rewarding. It is a great feeling that I can help one person at a time.
The impact on me personally is one of self-worth, growth, tolerance, and understanding. I am motivated by the hope to make a difference and bring peace, resolution, and understanding to and with others. I want to be here to help with the emotional seesaw that many young people (and adults) are experiencing.
I would encourage folks to take the time to give back because what you get in return is more than will ever learn or experience through books. Volunteering to do Restorative Justice will flush out your values and clearly define them. It will give you a solid foundation to become a better person.