This month, we would like to introduce you to N Street Village staff member Ilana Krakowski. Ilana is working as a Program Assistant in the Wellness Center as part of her Avodah Volunteer Corps service year. Ilana is from New York City and graduated from Barnard College with a BA in Comparative Religion. Ilana recently shared with us more about herself and her experience at N Street Village.
NSV: What inspired you to work in the Wellness Center at N Street Village?
IK: I was inspired by how N Street Village tends to the full needs of individuals who experience the tragedy of homelessness, treating them in the exact way I would want to be treated. So many of us regularly participate in classes where we tend to our artistic, emotional, spiritual, physical and mental health needs that we can come to take such recreation for granted. Before working with the Wellness Center, I never saw these as basic rights that everyone should have to experience. The Wellness Center showed me that part of empowering individuals in their recovery, education, and economic goals is assisting them with building confidence, self-esteem, and healthy ways to deal with stress. I knew that my interest in alleviating poverty with my experience in studying religion, dancing, gardening, and teaching would be a perfect fit.
NSV: What do you do on a daily basis at N Street Village?
IK: My main responsibility is overseeing our Wellness Center activity schedule. Each day we provide 4-5 classes and 1-2 health services for our clients. I am in contact with every volunteer and staff member who leads these activities and make sure we are on time, that each client’s need is taken care of, and that our day runs smoothly. I also facilitate sign-ups for our medical clinic, conduct health screenings for prospective residents, provide OTC services, and teach several of my own classes including dance, gardening, and spiritual literacy. My favorite part, however, is collaborating with the Wellness Center client receptionists and supporting them in their professional development goals.
NSV: Describe working at N Street Village in 3 words or less.
IK: Empowering, fun, and a privilege.
NSV: What is the greatest thing about N Street Village culture?
IK: I love that N Street Village maintains itself as a safe place exclusively for women. Having gone to a women’s college, I see a similar culture of creativity, care, collaboration, energy, and empowerment that I felt on campus. I am also inspired by how staff supports each other, works outside their specific areas of focus, and understands that nothing gets done as well without a team of people dedicated to a shared goal of moving women from homelessness to independence.
NSV: What story about a woman we have served has stuck with you most?
IK: The personal journeys of our receptionists have stuck with me the most. Finding themselves homeless for vastly different reasons, each woman came to the Village looking for help and a fresh start. After participating for a while, they gained enough exposure to the Wellness Center and interest in helping other women learn the ropes that they requested to volunteer. Each receptionist plays a vital role in helping run the Wellness Center, whether it is teaching their own classes, working with our volunteers, setting up for different programs, or providing information for new clients. I see that despite everything they need to work through, they have confidence, a real sense of purpose and personal fulfillment, and knowledge that they are extremely helpful members of the NSV community. I am impressed every day with their courage and leadership!
NSV: What was your greatest accomplishment of the past year?
IK: My greatest accomplishment has been running several Wellness Center activities. In my first month on the job my supervisor asked me to teach a dance class. I was extremely nervous about this but have now been doing it for almost a year and love dancing with our women every week. I then increased my teaching involvement and started up the garden club again and helped teach spiritual literacy, which I now lead. Facilitating such classes and dialogues with our clients has been one of the most rewarding and impactful experiences of my year at N Street Village. I am a better listener, speaker, and teacher for it.
NSV: Where are you originally from? What do you miss most about your hometown?
IK: I am originally from Brooklyn, New York. Besides my family, friends, Broadway theater, and the general energy of New York City, I miss the ability to eat a delicious slice of pizza or a freshly baked bagel no matter what time of day it is or what city block I find myself on.