We are happy to introduce our newest position at the Mediation Center, the Community Engagement Liaisons, which are held by David Grant in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Karolin Betances in Crown Heights. The Mediation Center is expanding and we want to make sure our relationships with the community expand as well, which is where our liaisons come in. As the Community Engagement Liaisons, their job will be to focus on strengthening community partnerships, mobilizing residents, and promoting public health and safety, as well as representing the Mediation Centers programs. Want to meet them? Check out our interview with Karolin below!

Leah: Hi! How did you first find out about the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center?

Karolin: I’ve lived in this neighborhood for almost over 20 years and I remember passing by this location and asking my mother what this was. Then I remember seeing SOS stickers all around my neighborhood and thinking that it was so cool that people weren’t afraid to address this issue. So when it came time to complete an internship for my college degree program, I knew I wanted to do it where I would be helping out my community, and that is how I first fully learned about the Mediation Center.

Leah: That’s awesome! When you did you internship with the Mediation Center, what did you do?

Karolin: As an intern here, I split my time between three different programs; Legal Hand, the Bedford Stuyvesant Anti-Violence Project, and Her Life. The three programs were very different, so it felt as if I was doing something new and meeting new people everyday. My responsibilities varied from helping community members with issues affecting them to co-facilitating an internship for young women of color, but one thing I can say that was similar between the three programs was that I was always helping someone out which I feel like is one of the Mediation Center’s best qualities.

Leah: It sounds like you were able to do a variety of things during your internship here. You mentioned that helping people out is one of the Mediation Center’s best qualities. What are some of the other Mediation Center’s qualities that you appreciate?

Karolin: I think mobilizing the community is another thing the Mediation Center is great for. I mean, have you ever been to one of their block parties? So much fun, but also, they’re great at mobilizing the community when serious issues such as gun violence occurs.

Leah: I totally agree! How did you move from your work as an intern to your current position as Community Engagement Liaison?

Karolin: As an intern, I feel as if I learned so much and got to know the staff well, so went the opportunity arose to work here as a full time staff, I didn’t hesitate to apply. My first position at the Mediation Center was as the Support Services Case Manager/Hospital Responder, which required me to do a lot of what I was doing as an intern (help people out with their issues) but with our participants. But also, I was networking a lot and building relations with people from the community, as well as finding out new ways of promoting our Legal Hand program. Then the Community Engagement Liaison position was announced, and I thought to myself, helping people is great but how are we going to help the people who don’t know we’re here? So I decided to apply in hopes to strengthen and create more relations between us and the community, as well as government officials and local organizations.

Leah: Cool! In your new position, how do you plan on strengthening and creating relationships with the community, government officials, and local organizations?

Karolin: First things first, I plan on going to a whole lot of community meetings, so if you see me, please feel free to talk to me! But I think it’s very important for me to go out there, introduce myself, make my presence known and make sure everyone knows that I’m here to listen to them and advocate for them.

Leah: That’s awesome! Are there any issues in particular that you’re interested in connecting with folks about?

Karolin: I really want to hear people’s thoughts on what they envision their community to be and how we can help them create this vision.

Leah: It sounds like you’re really invested in connecting with folks in the community. What is the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Karolin: The best way for anyone to get in touch with me is by email which is betancesk@crownheights.org but also, they can stop by and visit! My desk is the first desk at our 256 Kingston Ave office.

Leah: Awesome, thanks for talking with me today!

Karolin: Thanks for listening!