What is CARE?The Consent Advocates and Relationship Educators (CARE) is a peer-education organization that works to encourage enthusiastic consent and foster a campus culture free from the threat or experience of sexual violence and gender inequality for all people. They establish partnerships with organizations and administrative offices to create safer, trauma-informed spaces for both survivors and allies, plan informative campaigns and events, and conduct peer-to-peer educational training surrounding consent, healthy relationships, and gender equity. CAREs complete 40 hours of training through a 12-week curriculum in the Spring semester and a 3-day intensive training in August of Fall semester to prepare them with the tools and foundation to facilitate productive conversations with their peers.
Path to my Role, Director of OperationsI was first exposed to CARE my freshman year, like every other freshmen, through the Opening Days workshop. I had previously received a short sexual education “class” during eighth grade, but had never experienced sexual education like the one I was provided with in Harvard’s peer-led workshop. While not as in-depth, I had fortunately heard about some of these topics through informal advice from my mother, but I was amazed at how many students around me had never even heard of the word ‘consent.’ This inspired me to want to do more and be involved with CARE’s mission.
I applied to become a CARE my sophomore year, feeling ready for the challenge and opportunity to educate others. After intensive training and bonding with others in my CARE class, I felt a calling to take on a bigger role to fully immerse myself in this work in hopes of creating and leaving an impact on Harvard's campus. After a semester of CARE, I was elected to the Leadership Team as Director of Social Media. While I loved this role and the increased responsibility I had in carrying out CARE’s mission through our social media platform, I felt I could make an even greater impact. This notion was reaffirmed when I was chosen by my peers to become Director of Operations.
As Director of Operations, my main responsibilities, in addition to facilitating educational workshops for students that all CAREs take part in, include managing the day-to-day logistics to keep CARE running smoothly, acting as a liaison between administrators, faculty, deans, and CARE tutors who want to work with CARE, and reviewing requests for co-sponsorship and event help depending on CAREs’ capacity. I love being an outlet for people to go to, inspiring a shared vision of enthusiastic consent and unacceptable tolerance toward sexual violence, and feeling like I can leave a lasting impact on CARE and those we educate. I love fighting for a mission I truly believe in with other similarly passionate people.
Action ResearchWhile this role is rewarding, it can be challenging when trying to balance the emotional labor of the role with fulfilling all of the role’s responsibilities, especially when dealing with a personal, heavy topic like sexual assault. I define ‘emotional labor’ as the invisible work we do, the process of managing one’s feelings and emotions, while trying to fulfill our obligations, care for everyone else around us, and live up to the social and personal expectations of ourselves. With CARE, I understand that the work we do can be emotionally draining, but I also want to be able to educate and reach as many students as possible which calls for all members to be active and present. This can be challenging to address and overcome when I do not know what every person is going through if they are not honest with me when checking-in. Personally, I want to set a great example and make sure things are running smoothly, but on the days that I feel emotionally inapt, I struggle with wanting to be a dependable leader and putting myself first. From this, I question:
How do leaders balance the emotional labor needed to accomplish all of their role’s responsibilities and tend to their members, all while leaving time for self-care?Leaders tend to feel a sense of pride and accountability to look like they have it all together, fearing to show weakness and potentially admitting that they cannot handle the task at hand. This is an important problem because we, as leaders, cannot fully help those around us to the best of our abilities if we are personally struggling, as well. This also applies to members who may not have the emotional capacity to be present or carry their weight, but how can a leader support them, instead of demand more of them, if they are not transparent about it?
I hope that my findings can be used to benefit other student organizations who are grappling with similar questions and struggles. I intend to use the data I collect to implement an action plan -- the Self CARE Protocol -- to aid in CARE’s management of emotional labor for leaders and members that can be broadly applied to any type of student organization or beyond, including work settings.