Our pro bono program is one of the lifelines of Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA). We accomplish so much with the help of pro bono attorney and volunteers. This month, we are highlighting our volunteer Shang Liu, a doctoral student at USC.
How did you learn about Advancing Justice-LA?
During the first year of my doctoral program at USC, a colleague of mine told me that she had worked with Advancing Justice-LA and felt that it was a fruitful experience for her as both an activist and as a scholar. She told me that Advancing Justice-LA is a non-profit organization focused on civic engagement and the human rights of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. This introduction prompted me to visit the Advancing Justice-LA website to find out how I can get involved.
What prompted you to get involved?
Before coming to the U.S., I had already been involved with non-governmental organizations, social innovation, and civic engagement for several years. In China, I was the founder of a volunteer organization called “The Fruits”, which aims to empower college student volunteers and improve the quality of volunteering. I was also dedicated to fostering leadership among young Chinese non-governmental organization practitioners and social entrepreneurs. After coming to the U.S. for my PhD program, I still want to get involved in civic and volunteer work. My research program also encourages me to participate. I was curious to experience how people are civically engaged within an American context, and I am happy to see that my skills and experiences in this area may contribute to different communities here.
What have you learned or how have you been personally affected by your experience as an Advancing Justice-LA volunteer?
There are many things that I learned during my time volunteering with Advancing Justice-LA -- both from staff members and other community volunteers. Despite being extremely busy, it is inspiring to see staff that is both very professional and passionate. Staff at Advancing Justice-LA always have inspiring and creative ideas about how to get people involved and how to improve their projects. They are always open to new and different ideas, which I believe is crucial for the development of an organization. As for community volunteers, I appreciate their dedication and courage to step out of their own comfort zones. These community volunteers, regardless of age, are always eager to learn new things. Whenever they face any difficulty, they try again and again, until they make a real difference. Ultimately, it is this feeling of hope from the staff and other volunteers that has personally stayed with me.
Do you have an inspirational story you can briefly tell about your experience volunteering?
About a year ago, I was invited to conduct a public narrative leadership workshop in the Chinese immigrant community by the Youth and Parent Leadership Development Unit at Advancing Justice-LA. The workshop teaches people how to mobilize others through their personal and commonplace stories. Four community members came to the workshop, including a young father in his thirties, an older gentleman, and a gentleman in his fifties along with his older mother. None of the attendees had any previous experience with civic engagement. I naively suspected that they were all here for the free food. I thought this because when I conducted this leadership workshop in China, only young folks attended and were really engaged.
However, the reactions and participation of those four community members really surprised me. They not only made many insightful comments, but also linked the theory that I taught them to their daily lives, and shared some very good stories. They were more than willing to learn, to share, and to organize. After the workshop, they even wanted to contribute more to their own community so they were considering to build a team. One month later, when I conducted the second workshop, all of them came back and one of them even invited some new members to join, and it seemed as though they already had a plan for their own community team. I was deeply touched and inspired by these community members. Every person can create his or her own power, and bring change, no matter how big or how small. These community members strengthened my own belief in the power of civic engagement.
What advice would you give other individuals who want to participate in volunteer or pro bono work at the organization?
Working with Advancing Justice-LA is truly an amazing experience. You will not only enjoy the supportive environment but also learn a lot from the people around you. Volunteering with Advancing Justice-LA gives you an unprecedented feeling that by focusing on your own work and by collaborating with other people, you are part of social changes. You are making the society better than it was before. Do not hesitate to become a part of these changes. We can do something together to solve the problems in our world and community today.
If you want to learn more about how to get involved, visit our Volunteer page.