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Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Lori Lucchetti of Building Peaceful Bridges Is Helping To Change…

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Lori Lucchetti of Building Peaceful Bridges Is Helping To Change Our World

Leaders are not those who strive to be first but those who are first to serve and who give their all for the success of the team. True leaders are first to see the need, envision the plan, and empower the team for action. By the strength of the leader’s commitment, the power of the team is unleashed.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lori Consadori. Lucchetti

Lori Consadori Lucchetti’s career spans over several decades in senior executive roles in global corporations, U.S government (executive and congressional branches), and national nonprofits. In 2018, she co-founded and is the President of Building Peaceful Bridges, a community based organization that assists newcomers of all faiths with integration into American society and educates Americans on newcomer stories. She is a member of the North Shore Committee for the Gift of Adoption, co-authored, “A Rainbow of Memories”, and enjoys sailing and golf with family and friends.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In 2014, I met Ahlam Mahmood Al-Jebory who came from war-torn Iraq by way of Syria. We came from different parts of the world. I lived in Glenview Il via Washington, D.C. and New York. If you recall, the news at this time was very bleak regarding immigration and politics. We came together to inspire positive actions and peaceful resolutions in our communities. Ahlam arrived in 2008 in the United States with her two young children. Ahlam was blessed with many generous and compassionate people as she and her family resettled in Chicago. We began hosting groups of interfaith women in my home, inviting neighbors and friends. Ahlam would attend and bring other refugee women who were resettling in the Chicago area. Seeds of mutual respect, compassion, and love grew out of these luncheons and ultimately blossomed into Building Peaceful Bridges (BPB).

We recognized that BPB needed to “bridge the gap” for newcomers between resettlement agencies and gaining a sense of belonging and independence in their new home. We built BPB with a working volunteer Board of Directors, deploying all of our business and nonprofit skills and knowledge. We built the programs and shared the newcomers’ stories. Now, BPB’s fifth year, we are expanding our funding base, transitioning from predominantly volunteer based organization to hired staff and a volunteer governing Board of Directors.

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to work with strong leaders and mentors (Senator Rockefeller, Doreen Brown, Bob McCracken, Rick Larrabure, Gary Raley and Joanne Brandes) who constantly give back to their community and country. All of them taught me key ingredients of having a positive impact on society: relationships, compassion, listening and results. The rest is shadow.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

When COVID hit, we thought that it would be devastating for our organization. We were built on personal interactions and just couldn’t imagine how we were going to operate successfully with the restrictions that COVID introduced. Fearing losing everything, we quickly pivoted to the digital platform, embracing Zoom and all forms of digital communications. To our surprise and delight, we ended up growing substantially, reaching more people who were stuck at home and got used to communicating virtually. We communicated with our newcomers using WhatsApp and Zoom. We also had a greater geographical reach, getting people to attend our educational events both locally and nationally.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We thought that we knew what the best advice was for our first newcomer family. We knew exactly what they needed for gaining a sense of belonging and independence in America and all we had to do was to impart our great wisdom on them and all would be well. After each visit with them, we would talk and laugh in the car about how misguided our “best laid plans” were. In time, we discovered that we needed to honor their path and their desires and not just tell them what to do. We learned that listening and coaching and having patience were key to helping our new neighbors. This was very much an “aha” moment and we kept that lesson as a core part of our principles.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

We are helping newcomers to gain a sense of belonging and independence in their new home. BPB’s mentors meet newcomer families where they are in all aspects of life. Friendship is at the core of the mentor’s involvement. Mentors build long term relationships with newcomers and provide them with helpful guidance to services and tools that families need to move from surviving to thriving

We bridge the gap between the time that newcomers receive initial government support to when they gain a feeling of belonging and financial independence. BPB provides financial assistance as needed.

Some of the various needs include:

  • Rental Assistance
  • Tutoring — ESL and Academic
  • Employment Counseling
  • Medical and dental referrals

BPB helps newcomer families gain a firm footing and a sense of security in their new homes. Helping them with life’s essential needs while mentoring them is a clear path to financial independence and success.

Volunteers become a consistent and stable presence in the lives of newcomers, and long-term relationships are built over time. Our volunteers support English language development, assist with resume writing and job placement, provide tutoring, assist with transportation, and help families navigate their communities to find the resources needed to achieve independence.

BPB raises community awareness of newcomer stories through numerous educational events and publications. BPB hosts “Learning Luncheons.” a “Reading Refuge Book Club” and a “Junior Reading Refuge Book Club.” We also attend Speaking Engagements to reach a wider audience.

BPB uses our website, newsletters, social media, and videos to amplify the message of welcoming newcomers. Bridge Builders listen to compelling refugee stories and hear knowledge experts speak on immigration issues, refugee challenges and ways to address them.

Through our educational programs, we:

  • Amplify our mission by informing and building welcoming communities
  • Foster an understanding of the newcomer’s challenges and experiences
  • Encourage cross-cultural understanding

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Zeyad and his family came to America from Iraq in 2016. BPB supported them for four years. We coached them for their citizenship test, which they got in 2019. We helped them with rent and food support, seasonal clothing, mental health assistance, tutoring and regular visits. They became part of our family. Through our support, they not only became citizens, but were able to become independent and financially secure. Zeyad, a structural engineer, bought and rehabbed houses and “flipped” them for a profit. We continue to help them when needed. We gave them financial assistance to extract them from a dangerous situation in Iraq. We are friends forever.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  1. Increased Citizen participation to help create more welcoming communities and benefit many more newcomer families.
  2. Increased public and private funding of non profits to provide services for newcomers and inspire welcoming communities.
  3. Increased Affordable Housing

Please call Lori for a discussion. 262–497–0152

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leaders are not those who strive to be first but those who are first to serve and who give their all for the success of the team. True leaders are first to see the need, envision the plan, and empower the team for action. By the strength of the leader’s commitment, the power of the team is unleashed.

The creation of Building Peaceful Bridges (BPB) is an example of leadership. The team saw a global issue which impacts at a local level and created an organization to address refugee/parolee/asylee integration into the Chicago area. BPB bridges the gap between immediate resettlement and long term independence and belonging. The Team, the Board of Directors, are all volunteers and have for the last five years been a working Board, establishing BPB programs, policies and structure to benefit our newcomers and educate the community about newcomers’ stories.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why.

  1. It is a joy to work with newcomers assisting in their growth and impact on America. I would have started earlier.
  2. It takes longer than you think to financially stabilize a nonprofit organization.
  3. There would be a dramatic increase in newcomers to America over the last two years due to the Afghan evacuation and Ukrainian War creating a void of services and a scramble to provide needed resources.
  4. Compassion fatigue exhibited by volunteers and pro bono service providers given COVID, Afghan and Ukrainian crisis.
  5. There is a lot of good in local fellow Americans to help newcomers.

Please call Lori for a discussion. 262–497–0152

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could inspire a movement it would be a shift in national consciousness to embrace newcomers and see the similarities and shared humanity in them, rather than seeing them as “others.” It reaffirms American values of welcoming the strangers and supports a strong democracy. America needs to reimagine newcomer resettlement.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Some men see things as they are, and say why — I dream things that never were, and say why not.” George Bernard Shaw

I see how life can be better for humanity/people. I know there are many solutions to a challenge. There is always Plan B. If there is a need to be filled there is always another way to accomplish it.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Doris Kearns Goodwin

She speaks with knowledge and heart and has had an impact on society for decades. She was and is “in the room where it happened/s.”

How can our readers further follow your work online?, Instagram, Linkedin, Facebook, subscribe to BPB’s Newsletter

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Lori Lucchetti of Building Peaceful Bridges Is Helping To Change… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.