/ By Debra Rainey /
Vera deVera has made some surprising discoveries as she’s visited various LA communities and talked with community and organization leaders and residents to identify neighborhoods for the “LA Inside & Out” immersion tour.
“First, I love being a tourist in my own city! I was born, raised, and have lived in Los Angeles all of my life, but I still get excited when I visit various areas and talk with people who are excited about the great work that’s taking place.”
Vera says word is spreading that she’s putting the LA immersion tours together, and people are actually reaching out to her! “Many people don’t realize that Los Angeles is not just one big city where the stars live. It’s made up of almost 90 cities with hundreds of neighborhoods and a diverse mix of cultures. LA people want to present the ‘best’ of the ‘real LA’ – and it’s been gratifying that they want to help me find locations that showcase the forward thinking that is inspiring real changework where they live.”
And don’t think for a moment that Vera is locking down locations without finding out first-hand what it takes to get to each tour stop – and back. “I want to experience the transit options myself. For example, I’m getting up early to get to the InterContinental (Upswell’s home base hotel), so that I can make my way by Metro to LA Kitchen (one of the tour stops). Then I’m going to take the shuttle downtown. I want to personally check out the variety of tour modes to ensure that they are sensitive to and accommodate various mobility needs.”
One last surprise for Vera: When we first introduced her, she thought planning the tours would fulfill her “dream job to be a tour guide to show visitors the ‘real’ Los Angeles.” But she’s changed her opinion about that.
“Now I’d say I’m more of a ‘tour director’ – organizing, planning logistics, and helping to coordinate all of the pieces. The local changemakers and residents are really the tour guides. They’re the ones who can provide Upswell attendees with the real deal on the ups and downs and insights into what they’ve experienced. And they’re the ones who have worked together to turn around tough challenges and create positive and lasting change in their communities.”
Debra Rainey is manager of communications at Independent Sector.