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Tess Waechter – Intern

Hailing from Midland, MI, Tess has always loved people and food. Raised on fresh fruit and vegetables, home-cooked meals, and family dinners she deeply enjoys a shared meal of local sustainable food whether it is home-cooked or out on the town.

Although Tess studied music in college, she has since worked in the social service field, taking her all the way to sunny San Diego, the windy Chicago, and finally rainy Portland. Her background involves working with a non-profit to end a war in Uganda, working in a residential home with youth, and in a bakery that trained and employed formerly homeless and disabled individuals.

Upon coming to Portland, Tess was in search of meaningful work and a community that cares about justice and spirituality. Through her search, she found she loves spending time at Sister’s of the Road cafe (test.sistersoftheroad.org), where she helps prepare meals in the morning and often helps serve individuals eating at the cafe. Additionally, Leaven Project (http://leavenproject.org/) has become a community for her where she finds space for spirituality, curiosity, and community organizing.

Currently, Tess is a Residential Counselor at Volunteers of America Men’s Residential Center while studying to be a certified Drug and Alcohol counselor. Tess never imagined working in the addictions field but has found deep satisfaction and connection working with men in recovery as they discover more about the disease of addiction and work toward a life of recovery.

For her internship, Tess originally planned to develop the mission and vision for a cafe she wanted to open that would bring together her passions for food, community, justice, and working with the marginalized. She originally envisioned it as: An exploration of community in a cafe. A place to meet a stranger and a friend; where you can come together to be fed in mind, body, and soul. To ask deep questions and discuss topics on food-justice, faith, equity, ecology, and more. Tess planned to develop a team of people to help her envision and develop the possibilities for a cafe, as well as a team of interdisciplinary mentors who can advise the cafe development team. Additionally, Tess will be researching and in conversation with other cafe’s and communities around the states doing similar work to what she envisions. Some of the places she hopes to visit are Bus Boys and Poets in D.C., Haley House in Boston, The Common Table in Bend, Homeboys Industries in L.A. and many more.

What happened during Tess’ Internship?

Core Team member Angie Hummel( L) & Tess at her Table Talk on May 31, 2014

Tess writes:

About a year and a half ago, I started my journey with EcoFaith Recovery.  As I write this, it is finally coming to a close. The finale is much less dramatic and exciting than I expected it to be. You see, I thought at this point I’d be well on my way to implementing a business plan for a cafe I had envisioned. It would have been this tangible product, a marker of a successful internship. I discovered the cafe isn’t my journey; instead I’m in a place where I’m digging deeper, learning and taking different risks than I had expected.

For the last five months of my internship I struggled with this idea of failure. Although I knew I had gained more than I could have imagined, from the outside looking in, it didn’t feel like I had anything to show for it. I felt people would think I had squandered this opportunity. But today, I’m letting go of that or at least I’m trying to.

I could not change my experience of this internship even if I wanted to but what I can change is my perspective of success and failure. Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animation and author of Creativity, Inc. writes about failure as an opportunity of growth.  He says we must move beyond acknowledging mistakes as a necessary evil and recognize that failure brings both pain and growth. We must instead think of the cost of failure as an investment in the future.

Robyn asked my to dream wildly, to be bold and courageous. Her enthusiasm toward my dreams was inspiring so I jumped at the chance.  When we take these opportunities more often than not we fall short of our goal and I did. However, we have to pick ourselves up again and move forward.  I could, and I tried, to shove this failure and embarrassment under the rug (or into the chocolate more likely), but ultimately these feelings did not disappear. The spark, the bold and courageous desire hadn’t died. I had to take the cost of this pain and use it in order to continue on to the next step.

Below are photos from the Table Talk Tess led on May 31, 2014: Discerning Between Failure and Opportunity: An Interns Reflection on a Year of Discovery

photo 1 (1) photo 4 photo 2 photo 3 photo 2 photo 1

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