4 Lessons I Learned at New Breath Foundation

Ly Ia

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My name is Ly Ia. I am currently a 3rd-year student at UC Berkeley, majoring in Asian and Asian American Diaspora Studies. For 9 months of the school year, I had the pleasure of working at New Breath Foundation (NBF) as a Fellow through MOVE, an Asian American community organizing fellowship program. During my fellowship, I learned many valuable things from NBF – about myself, about AANHPI nonprofit organizations, and about community foundation work.

4 Lessons I Learned at New Breath Foundation

1. Connecting on a human level is key.

People say that your co-workers are simply co-workers – people who work alongside you. But I can tell that at NBF, everybody cares about each other as individuals and has an amazing bond that makes them such a model team.

At the beginning of my fellowship, I was expecting to only work with my immediate supervisor, Mari, who is the Program Coordinator at NBF. Instead, I had the pleasure of meeting with other NBF staff one-on-one and enjoyed simply getting to know one another on a human level. This human connection continued with bi-weekly break rooms to chat about anything and learn more about each other.

Ly with NBF staff during a team hangout in May 2023

2. Knowledge leads to more knowledge.

As Albert Einstein once said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” Before becoming a Fellow, I did not know a lot about nonprofit organizations. Where I grew up, nonprofits with missions centered on AANHPI communities were few and far between. Through researching the organizations that NBF works closely with and supports, I now know so much more about the nonprofits that surround me. In addition, NBF staff have shared about and educated me on violence, incarceration, deportation, and racism within AANHPI communities. This new knowledge has increased my awareness and eagerness to learn more through following the news, reading books, and educating myself outside of my fellowship.

3. Resource sharing is the way forward.

Two of the most impactful projects that I worked on at NBF were the collective learning sessions and the monthly grantee newsletter.

Collective learning sessions are spaces where NBF staff come together to learn about and discuss various topics related to issues that deeply impact our communities. Past collective learning sessions included topics like abolition and AAPI history.

During my fellowship, I was in charge of collecting relevant resources including articles, newspapers, books, videos, documentaries, podcasts, websites, and more. Once I compiled an organized list, I chose a few resources that I thought would be great to discuss and sent them out to staff, along with discussion questions. I was even given the opportunity to lead my own collective learning session on Southeast Asian American history and immigration patterns. These sessions were cherished times of sharing and bringing our own unique perspectives to the table.

Slide from Ly’s presentation on Southeast Asian American history and immigration patterns

Similarly, for the monthly grantee newsletter, I compiled resources to share with other organizations that could be useful and easy to navigate. I’ve seen how much power there is in sharing knowledge, resources, and news within the NBF community. Resource sharing has given me so much joy.

4. Philanthropic foundations can also be rooted in serving the community.

I have always loved serving my communities in various ways, such as planning school events at my local elementary school, volunteering at the local hospital, or – most recently – tutoring students at the YMCA in SF Chinatown.

When I first started my fellowship, I wasn’t sure how involved staff would be in the local community, given that NBF is a philanthropic foundation. However, seeing the hands-on work that NBF does with its grantees and how community-centered all the staff members are, motivates me to continue my own goals of serving and supporting my community long term. I recognize that even being a Fellow at NBF is just another way to support AANHPI communities, and I hope to continue supporting my communities on a larger scale in the future.

This fellowship was my first time getting a sneak peek at the behind-the-scenes of a full-time career. I feel inspired after my fellowship experience – to keep serving AANHPI communities, gaining and sharing knowledge and resources, and staying connected with the people around me.