Founding Stories: Learning How To Moccasin

Hello, my name is Dianne Guerrier. I’m 23 years old from Orlando, FL and I serve on the Timberland Team at McDonough Elementary School.

City Year’s Founding Stories are a collection of stories and quotes from a variety of different cultures that become the foundation of the work that we do. These stories irradiate the values that guide us as an organization and at trying times, remind us of the motivations behind our work. So, when we are faced with difficult situations or find ourselves searching for the best ways to learn how to work well together, we look to our Founding Stories to shed light and provide an understanding that we may not have readily found on our own.

At City Year New Hampshire, each of our six team leaders have chosen a Founding Story that they feel their team should be centered around for the year. My team’s Founding Story is called Moccasins. It reads, “Oh, Great Spirit, grant that I may never criticize my brother or my sister until I have walked the trail of life in their moccasins” –  (Adapted from the Cherokee prayer). To moccasin requires true understanding of those you serve with and offers the opportunity to expose one another to our experiences so that we may be more likely to understand the perspective of those around us. I personally have found that it is much easier to work with people different from me after discovering a shared common ground. Amazingly, there are a number of people whom I originally thought were extremely different from myself, that are actually quite similar to me. After having conversations with them and hearing different experiences they have had throughout their lives, I have found a number of commonalities with them.

Ubuntu, another Founding Story, has perhaps been the catalyst that makes it possible for us to “moccasin” one another. Ubuntu is a shortened version of a Zulu proverb, which means, “I am a person through other people. My humanity is tied to yours.” At City Year New Hampshire, corps members often take “Ubuntu walks” where we take the time to talk to each other about why we serve and at times, other service projects we have participated in/contributed to. It is during this time that we are able to see others through a different pair of eyes, without judgment and with empathy and understanding. Through these walks we are more likely to appreciate the perspective and points of view that are often different, foreign, or antagonistic to our own, and essentially, “moccasin” each other throughout our year service. When you join an organization such as City Year, you are almost immediately taken out of your comfort zone and must find a way to effectively work side-by-side with individuals who are very different from you. For a lot of people, including myself, this is a task that often sounds a lot easier than it is. However, I value the challenge and continue to look to my team’s founding story to better understand everyone I serve with.


About CityYear NH

City Year is a nonprofit that unites young people of all backgrounds for a demanding year of full-time service. As tutors, mentors, and role models, these idealistic leaders make a difference in the lives of children, and transform schools and neighborhoods across the US and in South Africa. For more information on how to get involved please call the City Year New Hampshire Recruitment hotline at 603-218-5101.
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