Allen Lu 2011 Volunteer of the Year
Interview w/ Armando Torres-Garcia
Allen Lu was named as the Common Ground Worldwide 2011 Volunteer of the Year for his outstanding commitment to assisting the San Luis Obispo-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit move forward with its mission to provide interfaith spiritual support; education about global cultures & religions; & humanitarian outreach efforts, which currently include providing new inspirational books and handmade hats and scarves to shelters for families who are un-housed & survivors of domestic violence.
Lu met CGW president and founder Reverend Cynthia Rae Eastman in September 2010 when he volunteered to help with the organization’s “World Homeless Action Day” event. Having recently graduated from UC Irvine, Lu was eager to find opportunities to get involved during his time at Cal Poly as a graduate student. Lu was immediately drawn to CGW’s commitment to providing help through an interfaith perspective.
“The central idea of unity, an inherent mission of CGW, was a big deal for me,” he says.
Lu grew up in the outer Mission district of San Francisco, a place he says forces its residents to join groups, mainly based on race. Being Asian in a predominantly Hispanic community made him feel like an outcast. “People look at you differently, causing you to instinctively look back at them in the same way. It is no wonder that there are so many racial conflicts in deeply urbanized areas.” he explains.
“Getting a 0.72 GPA forced me to wake up and find myself. I realized after two quarters that I couldn’t keep doing this,” Lu says.
He joined the EDGE at UCI, a college-based Christian fellowship that introduced him to the joy of helping others. Through the EDGE he fed people who were experiencing homelessness at shelters and provided other services to those in need.
During his final year at UC Irvine, he began to explore the Baha’i faith, a decision he credits for giving him a more global perspective on life. “I learned life was bigger than my own desires. I began to pray for the world instead of praying to God only when I needed help with my own personal tests,” he says. Lu graduated from UC Irvine and received his bachelor’s degree in Social Ecology and went to Cal Poly soon after, where he is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning.
Not only does he see his challenges as another chance to grow, he welcomes them for the future. Hoping to one day work with an international group like the United Nations and traveling to different communities to empower the youth by teaching them the importance of community involvement, Lu sets an example by serving as Cal Poly’s student lead for the President’s Interfaith & Community Service Campus Challenge (PICSCC). Here, he is able to help form collaborations between various school and local organizations, hoping to create sustainable relationships within Cal Poly; and also between the school and local organizations (such as CGW). The primary objective is to create a desire in students to be active in local events through discussion and community service. “We have to inspire youth to take some initiatives today. After all, the youth today will be the leaders of tomorrow. .”
Through faith, school, and his involvement with Common Ground Worldwide, Lu will continue on his path to bring people together. Praying for others has taught him the importance of compassion. His decision to act on this realization has shown him what compassion really means. “It used to just be about me and what I expected from God. Now it’s about the intertwining relationship between God, the world, and me.”