From the Eyes of a New Associate
by John Hayes ’16
Nothing brings a group of newly-hired people together faster than coffee and bagels at 9 o’clock in the morning. Sixteen new faces have recently been added to the ranks of JIFFI, and on a chilly Sunday morning in mid-November, we underwent our first training session to discover the inner workings of our new organization. The professionalism of our operations was immediately apparent to all of us as we were introduced to the JIFFI staff for the first time. However, the most memorable component of our first day on the job was the passion for our mission and our clients. Every single member of the staff exudes enthusiasm and a genuine motivation to have a positive impact on the economic situations of those who are exploited by payday lenders here in South Bend and St. Joseph’s County. From the beginning, the message was made clear: we are not a group of students working on case studies of local poverty. We are a professional non-profit organization causing tangible effects on the way people in our community satisfy their immediate economic needs and view the process of properly maintaining their personal finances.
Our session began with a discussion concerning poverty’s cyclic nature led by Bonnie Bazata, the Executive Director of JIFFI partner Bridges Out of Poverty. While Bonnie made several memorable points to pave the road for our future studies on poverty, the point that most fully captured the true spirit of JIFFI was a quote from leading child psychiatrist James Comer: “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.” Although I was only one day into the job, I could see very quickly that this organization was dedicated to establishing meaningful relationships with every client who gives us a call. I believe this is most apparent in our free financial empowerment program, which we make available to all customers, regardless of whether or not we can grant them a loan. Our goal is not to give the impoverished a one-time solution to their economic turmoil. Rather, it is a desire to provide them with the necessary toolbox to be able to build their own bridge out of poverty.
After bonding over a group lunch and a fun photoshoot to welcome the associates, we participated in our main training modules of practicing client interactions, drafting loan proposals, and teaching our financial empowerment programs. The JIFFI staff then introduced the responsibilities and functions of each division within the organization. As a new member of the staff, I found myself amazed by the sheer talent and mind power that founder and president Peter Woo has brought together to manage the various branches. I am excited to contribute to our organization’s goals as a member of the marketing department this coming year, and I look forward to working with such creative and dedicated colleagues!