Raised by a family of educators, Oliva Orr seeks to make an impact on social justice through mission-driven work. Olivia shares what she is most passionate about today and reminds us "success looks different on everyone."
When did you first get involved in working with non-profits?
While I was a college student, I spent a couple of summers working with Upward Bound. It was a bit of a whirlwind; I built relationships with the students, planned trips, and assisted with some of the administrative duties. The experience opened my eyes to the professional possibilities within the nonprofit realm. I think my studies in Sociology only further solidified my desire to participate in community-based, socially driven work. I was lucky to land a job at a Boston-based nonprofit called Silver Lining Mentoring after graduation, but eventually, I realized Portland might be a better fit for me, which is how I ended up here.
Do you think you were born with the innate qualities to help others or did this evolve through travels and life experiences?
I think that my parents have a lot do with my desire to help others. Both of my parents are educators – my dad is a Forestry Professor and my mom is a Head Start teacher. They raised me to understand the importance of giving back. I’m grateful for my education and everybody I’ve met along the way because of those experiences sort of filled in the gaps. I had to figure out what “giving back” looked like in the real world – how could I make that desire more tangible?
Can you explain what ILAP is and what lead you to be The Operations Coordinator?
ILAP (The Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project) provides free and low-cost immigration information and legal assistance to low-income Maine residents. We believe that everyone should be able to access our legal system regardless of income or background. We provide direct legal aid, conduct educational outreach sessions, and advocate for policy change at the systemic level. My Portland job hunt was mission-driven. I knew that I could use my administrative and development skills in just about any office environment, but I wanted to find someplace that felt like the right fit for me. ILAP’s mission sparked my curiosity, which led me to apply.
What does your job entail?
I started off as the Office and Development Associate. My duties were evenly split between administrative and development work – it was all very straightforward. As time went on and I grew to be more comfortable with our work, I expanded on those duties. I wrote my first grant proposal (which was approved!) and designed new marketing materials. I am now trained to conduct Intake appointments (Intake appointments occur every Friday, by appointment, for all new clients), which gives me a chance to work directly with our clients. I think the title Operations Coordinator is sort of a catch-all for the little things I do here and there.
How has Trump's immigration bills impacted your mission?
We’ve certainly felt the impact of the new administration at ILAP. The work that we’re doing is now more important than ever, and we all recognize that. We’re lucky to have so many donors and supporters who have recognized that too. A lot of folks in our communities have chosen to speak up stand proudly with immigrants.
Outside of work, what do you like to do?
Music is important to me. Portland’s live music scene is amazing, so I try to attend shows when I can! I like hanging out at breweries and exploring new places in Maine. I’ve been learning to code in my spare time over the past couple of years, which has been awesome. I identify as an introverted extrovert, so relaxation is important to me too. My ideal evening is spent cooking dinner and swapping stories with my girlfriend.
What is Lesbians Who Tech and what inspired you to become the Maine Chapter's, City Co-Director?
Officially speaking, Lesbians Who Tech is a community of queer women in and around tech (and the people who love them). That’s pretty much all I knew when my mentor, Allyson Casey, encouraged me to attend the LWT summit in NYC last fall. Up until then, I had wondered if I was learning to code for nothing. What could I do with those skills? Would there be a place for me in tech if I wanted it? Who could support me along the way? My hesitation was put to rest after attending the summit; words cannot describe my experience. I was blown away by the general badassness and inclusivity of the LWT community. I shared my experience with Allyson and she proposed that we start our own chapter here in Southern Maine. We strongly feel that there are queer women and allies here who are also seeking community and want to support one another. Our first meetup was held in January, which was a resounding success! Stay tuned for upcoming events.
How important do you think building mindful technology is today?
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can connect my love for social justice with my building passion for tech. I think sometimes people hear the word “tech” and recoil because it seems inaccessible to them. What I’ve learned through LWT is that tech takes many forms.
What is one thing not many people know about you?
I love movie scores. No, I am obsessed with movie scores. I think I have over 2,000 songs in my music library from different TV shows and movies.
When did you start skiing and how long have you been assistant coaching with Portland Nordic?
I’ve been cross country skiing since I was about seven. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has a tremendous amount of lake effect snow (I think it’s something like 218” on average per year), so getting involved with skiing was pretty much a no-brainer. I skied competitively through high school and into my first year of college, but I sort of burnt out along the way and decided to try other things. When I heard about Portland Nordic late last year I wanted to get involved. It felt like the right time to get back into something that had defined me for quite some time but in a different capacity. I’m grateful the lead coaches let me on board! Middle schoolers are hilariously awesome and they work hard out there.
What are you most passionate about today?
Recently I’ve been feeling an intense enthusiasm around things I’ve enjoyed in the past, but strayed away from over the years. I’m really lucky that I was encouraged to try so many different activities as a kid. Because of that, I can sort of jump around and dive into different things when the timing is right. I loved dedicated myself to that over the past couple of months. Now I’m looking forward to getting back into coding with more regularity since the ski season is wrapping up. There are a lot of things in this world that make me happy, and I like not knowing what will draw me in 6 months down the line, or a year from now.
What is one message I can repeatedly share with the world on your behalf?
I spend a lot of time reminding myself that
Sometimes I feel successful when my stress level is super low. Other times I measure my success by the number of items I’ve checked off on a to-do list. Sometimes I feel accomplished because I’ve gone to the grocery store on a Sunday instead of waiting until Monday. I think that’s what I’m drawn to Mindbosa, to be honest! It makes you realize that your goals can be flexible and your measure of success is your own.
What is your favorite inspirational/motivational quote?
"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities"
In one word describe yourself: