Purpose — what is your purpose and what are you doing to reach that goal? When I first thought of The Snack Sack, I realized I had to remember what the overall purpose was. This is what pushed me to continue towards my goal.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chamieka House-Osuya.
Chamieka House-Osuya is a dedicated child, family, and community advocate. She is skilled in community outreach, crisis management, and relationship building. She is the CEO and Founder of The Snack Sack and has extensive experience in both educational and social work sectors.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
I was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin by a single mother with three other siblings. I was surrounded by a ton of love and memorable experiences. My family was one of the biggest inspirations for going into community justice work. My family was heavily invested in community work and giving back. My great-grandmother (who is 100 years old) was the backbone of the South Madison community. No matter what problem, the community could always rely on her for wraparound support. The importance of serving and advocating for others was ingrained in me at an early age.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I took my first job in college, I worked for the Human Resources department and I was the assistant to the HR Manager at the time. After each meeting, I was tasked with sending out the meeting notes to others who were in attendance. After one meeting, she gave me her own personal notes and I sent them out as usual. Turns out she didn’t want her notes to be given out, and she was pretty upset. I would definitely say this was the most interesting experience in my career.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I would say the biggest thing that makes The Snack Sack stand out is the power of mutual aid and direct giving. Mutual aid organizations understand that many people in this country are financially oppressed, and also understand that those people are more likely to be Black and brown people, as a result of white supremacy and institutionalized racism. These platforms provide support to the most vulnerable people in our society, and they do this in a way that does not create more work for people who are already overextended and struggling to provide for their families. The Snack Sack was born out of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I wanted to provide children and families with the support that they were typically given through public schools. Since then, we have grown into providing wrap-around support for families across nearly every U.S. state. Nothing is too big or too small, we want to help.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I watched as my mom struggled to provide for all of us, and even though we didn’t have everything we might have wanted, we had everything we needed. She found the best in every situation that confronted her and shared that perspective with us. She never looked at it from a deficit standpoint, but rather from an empowering one. She pushed me to help others not only to survive but to thrive without any judgment. Many people of different races and backgrounds are poor in this country, but because of generations of systemic racism, Black and brown people are less likely to have any sort of safety net or people they can turn to for help in their family or community. So, I’ll be that community for them, just like my mom taught me.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience is more than just getting through difficult times, despite what society tells us. It is giving your best and letting that be enough. It’s being kind and honest with yourself. It doesn’t have to be overachieving and obsessing over personal goals. It just has to be enough. Success is not linear. Taking a break is not a waste.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Resilience is more of letting your best be the “best”, even in the midst of difficult times. It’s about staying the course when all signs are pointing towards giving up. To have courage is being able to confront a difficult situation and overcoming the situation. They can be used interchangeably, but they are different.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
When I think of resilience, I think of all the people we serve at The Snack Sack. The families that we help are resilient, they continue to preserve even when it feels that times will not get better. They allow their best to be the best.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
The Snack Sack was an idea that was focused on bridging the gap between low-income students of color that depended on food from school districts in Milwaukee. When this first started there were people who said it wouldn’t work or didn’t want to help at all, but I still persevered. Sometimes you are the only person that sees your vision. I knew what I wanted to accomplish and I wanted to reach that goal.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
I would say when I was in the 12th grade, they told me that I was not set to graduate high school. This hit me like a ton of bricks, simply because school wasn’t important to me at the time. Providing for my family and surviving was more important for me. However, when I learned that I wouldn’t graduate, I buckled down and worked to graduate on time and ended up ranked in the top 20% of my high school graduating class. This inspired me to go to college and charter a different path for myself.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I grew up having everything I needed but not everything I wanted and that was tough at times. I saw what other kids had, could participate in (extracurricular activities) and family vacations. That just wasn’t the reality for us. What we did have were love and active imaginations.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Purpose — what is your purpose and what are you doing to reach that goal? When I first thought of The Snack Sack, I realized I had to remember what the overall purpose was. This is what pushed me to continue towards my goal.
- Belief — you have to believe in yourself even if no one else does. If I stopped because of the rejections I got from other people, I would not be where I am.
- Flexibility- You have to be open to change based on current circumstances. Things change and things happen, as we see with COVID-19, we have to be prepared for the unknown.
- Support — Find people in your life who believe in you and your goals. Similarly, humbly support others. It’s about give and take. Nobody can pour from an empty cup. I appreciate and am grateful for the people who stand by and support me when it comes to The Snack Sack.
- Influence — It’s important for people with platforms or power to understand the influence they have. It is our responsibility to humbly uphold that influence with integrity.
You are a person of great 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. 🙂
My main goal would be to abolish and address food insecurity on a global scale. I would like to promote the importance of food justice. Structural racism and systemic oppression lead to unequal poverty rates, limited food access, detriments to physical and mental health, and many more negative outcomes. Food Justice seeks to address this oppression and reduce its effects on everyone, especially marginalized people. Since food insecurity and access are so complicated, with so many systemic issues at play, the Food Justice movement seeks to address many of the root causes of food apartheid. This is why Food Justice can be considered a “movement of movements,”.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
One day I want to meet Oprah and just say, “Thank you for expanding my view of what my life could be. I didn’t chase a mere job, I chased my purpose.”
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can find more about The Snack Sack by visiting our website: thesnacksack.org and if you wish to learn more about our A Disney December to Remember campaign, visit https://www.thesnacksack.org/a-disney-december-to-remember
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!