Starting at WATCH

This week was the beginning of my summer internship. Unlike most of the other WOW interns, my internship is located a short walk from Brandeis University. Right on Moody Street in Waltham, Massachusetts, lies the office of WATCH CDC. WATCH CDC is a non-profit (501c-3) established in 1988 committed to promoting fare, just, environmentally-healthy living conditions for the low income, immigrant community in Waltham through advocacy and community empowerment.  WATCH Housing Advocacy Clinic serves as the go-to place for the local community for housing issues such as evictions, rent assistance, tenant-landlord conflicts, and unsanitary living conditions. The clinic advocates are students trained in housing rights and equipped with knowledge on local sources for legal assistance, financial aid, and shelters. In addition, WATCH is involved in community organizing projects that build confidence and leadership skills within the Waltham community.

As an intern, I will be in charge of the housing clinic, in which I will help tenants resolve tenant-landlord conflicts, eviction proceedings, sub-standard housing conditions and other housing problems, as well as inform them of their housing rights, empowering them to be their own advocates. As part of my work at the clinic, I will be identifying tenants with leadership abilities and creating a network where they can effectively work together to address the communities housing needs. In addition, I will be building relationships with the community and connecting community members to ongoing community empowerment projects at WATCH.

I first got involved with WATCH’s Housing Advocacy clinic the 2012 fall semester when I joined Professor Laura Goldin’s practicum. As part of the practicum, we volunteered at the clinic throughout the semester.  After the semester, I was eager to continue my work at WATCH and Professor Goldin offered me a supervising position at the clinic, in which I had to organize, train, and mentor Brandeis student clinic advocates. This spring, Erica Schwartz, executive director of WATCH, offered me a full time internship for the summer, which I accepted enthusiastically.

During my first week at WATCH, I began to get accustomed to the everyday working environment of a small non-profit. Luckily, I already knew most of the staff from volunteering here throughout the year. WATCH had recently moved to a new address and I had to assemble a new office for myself – now I have my own desk, computer, and phone.  I met with Daria, my supervisor and the new WATCH executive director, and established short- and long-term goals for my internship. I finished following up with clients that called the office during the short transition between the semester and my summer internship, during which the clinic was closed. I also started working on a letter-writing project that we wish to integrate with the clinic. In this project, clients will be able to identify their ward councilor in the local government and send them personally tailored letters that advocate for a safer and more affordable housing.

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As part of my long-term goals, I wish to learn about the inner workings of a non-profit organization and specifically I wish to engage in community organizing around housing issues, which include advocating and lobbying for our local community. Extensively working with tenants, helping in cases from start to finish, and participating in community empowerment, would help me reach a new perspective and identify my career path within the public sector.

– Shimon Mazor ‘16

Helping from Halfway Across the World: My First Week at FIMRC Global Headquarters

Around the world, millions of children and mothers lack proper access to healthcare. Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve health “one child at a time” through a multifaceted approach; outpatient clinics, health education, and partnerships with IGOs and NGOs combine to address the comprehensive health needs of each population. Currently, FIMRC serves 9 specific communities in 7 under-served countries: Costa Rica, Uganda, India, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Peru.

A map of the 9 FIMRC project sites in the FIMRC office

This summer I am interning at the FIMRC Global Headquarters in Philadelphia, PA, working on administrative tasks involved in the coordination of FIMRC projects abroad. This is quite a different perspective from when I volunteered in Peru on a FIMRC trip last February. Organizing volunteer programs takes a lot of work! My current project is compiling statistics from each of the seven project sites. These statistics (which include measures like number of patients treated in FIMRC clinics per month and top causes of clinic visits and number of volunteers) will help us gauge the success of FIMRC’s global health initiatives.

Each health program is uniquely tailored to fit the needs of the community. In Peru, Dengue virus, malaria and other water-borne diseases are common, but they are also preventable. Volunteers give health education talks to children about sanitation and hygiene in order to promote knowledge and prevent disease. In Alajuelita, Costa Rica, the community’s needs are much different. Due to lack of clinical services, FIMRC built a rural health clinic in Alajuelita, and volunteers participate by staffing the clinic (taking measurements, assisting doctors and distributing medication). While their parents work, children age 2-5 in Kodaikanal, India, spend the day in crèches, which are like a combination school/daycare/health center. The children’s families survive on less than $1.50 a day, and as a result many children suffer from malnutrition and consequent illness. FIMRC helps by monitoring child health in the crèches, holding health education sessions for teacher and mothers, and has successfully implemented a dental hygiene campaign and supplemented the children’s diets with protein, like chickpeas and eggs. I was excited to learn that since FIMRC’s intervention, crèche attendance has increased… and the lack of attendance had been largely due to illness! Watch this awesome video (video credit: FIMRC) to experience the unique health needs of Limón, Nicaragua, and how FIMRC projects are helping.

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On our volunteer trip to Peru, Brandeis volunteers and I gave a hand-washing lesson to school age children at Albuergue La Esperanza Children’s Home. What great kids! Photo credit: Brandeis student Jessica Jaya

I learned about this internship opportunity through a friend and fellow Brandeis FIMRC chapter e-board member, who enthusiastically told me about her internship experiences at FIMRC Headquarters two summers ago. After applying and visiting HQ over winter break, I was offered an Ambassador position and gladly accepted!

Orientation was on Thursday, May 16. I was pretty anxious, but everyone—the CEO, my supervisor, the 3 other interns—are all super friendly, and my nerves were eased right away. There is even another intern from Brandeis! I’m excited to continue to get to know each of FIMRC’s project sites and understand the process of implementing a global health project, from initial research to the final product, execution of a successful and flourishing health program. In the future my ultimate goal is to work in international healthcare. Even though it has only been a week, my internship at FIMRC has provided me with invaluable insight on global health. I cannot wait to see what the weeks ahead bring.

-Erica Granor, ’15

First Week at CBHI

 

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Massachusetts State House                           1 Ashburton Place

My internship is with the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI) in Boston, MA. CBHI is a division of the department of Health and Human Services which is a branch of the Massachusetts State Government. This organization was founded in 2008 in response to the case of Rosie D v Patrick which stated that families with children on MassHealth deserve more standardized and transparent behavioral health screenings. The mission of this organization is to prevent inadequate behavioral health screenings, promote community based care, and help children be successful in all domains of their lives. My organization specifically works to develop and improve the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) tool. CANS is used by clinicians and psychiatrists as part of a comprehensive analysis when they meet with children struggling with behavioral health issues. CANS is a standardization tool that allows health care providers can properly screen and assess both the needs and the strengths of individual children, so that the proper treatment plan can be made. My organization helps to train health care providers to implement the CANS into their practice, improves the CANS technology so that it best meets the needs of both the clinician and the patient, and works to provide many resources that families on Mass Health can turn to for behavioral health services. In a nutshell, CBHI provides the training and support to health care providers so that they can provide the most responsive and accommodating care.

This is a link to the CBHI webpage

I will have various responsibilities within CBHI. I will attend meetings within the department as well as with health care supervisors to gain input on how to improve CANS and offer suggestions for training and screening development. One major task I will complete is the creation of an extensive list of all statewide training directors who provide Mass Health. This list will improve communication between our organization and those using our services so that training methods and materials will be more accessible and clear to those using CANS.

 

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CBHI Logo

I found this internship with the help of Cynthia Tschampl who I met with in December. She directed me to a few internship postings that she was aware of, one of which was CBHI. In February I met with Deborah McDonagh from the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative. At the interview Deborah and I discussed my experience, duties of the internship, and each of our goals. Later in February, Deborah contacted me and told me that she would offer me the position.

In my first week I completed the CANS online training and took the certification test. I am now certified to provide CANS assessments. While I will not use this training because I am not a certified clinician, this training has helped me better understand what CBHI does and how CANS works. I also spent this past week attending meetings, one of which was with behavioral health providers in the Boston area. This meeting was both interesting and informative in helping me to better comprehend provider concerns, technological developments coming in the near future, and understand how collaborative work between many interests can work towards a common goal.

This is a link to a list of Newsletter archives that I read through this past week to better understand the CANS training program:

My impression is that everybody working to provide these improved behavioral health screenings is very dedicated. Everyone wants what is best for the children and their families. I believe that the projects I am assigned to are necessary and will be extremely useful in the future. This internship will teach me about policy making, the behavioral health system, and how to become an effective advocate. My hope is that the relationships I am developing now will continue years down the road when I go on to a future career with child advocacy and social work. Additionally, this internship will help me gain leadership skills, maintain professionalism, and develop meaningful connections. 

Elizabeth Chalfin, ’15

 

Image Citations:

1) https://www.google.com/search?q=ma+state+house&rlz=1C1TSNJ_enUS459US459&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=QuSaUbOBGuiV0AW7hoCwAw&ved=0CAoQ_AUoAQ&biw=1366&bih=624#imgrc=ekzMF7cnYQRheM%3A%3BWWASVPK07-NXYM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fupload.wikimedia.org%252Fwikipedia%252Fcommons%252Fthumb%252F4%252F43%252FMass_statehouse_eb1.jpg%252F250px-Mass_statehouse_eb1.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fen.wikipedia.org%252Fwiki%252FMassachusetts%3B250%3B193

2) https://www.google.com/search?q=i+ashburton+place+boston+ma&rlz=1C1TSNJ_enUS459US459&aq=f&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&authuser=0&ei=E-aaUbWFFMGh0QWzjYG4Bg&biw=1366&bih=624&sei=FeaaUfanNqW10QWDhoCQDQ#imgrc=yhznadyYRSi1xM%3A%3B58UpDUlKbzTptM%3Bhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.sec.state.ma.us%252Fpre%252Fpreloc%252Fmccormack.jpg%3Bhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.sec.state.ma.us%252Fpre%252Fpreloc%252Fpreloc.htm%3B250%3B375

3) https://www.google.com/search?q=cbhi&rlz=1C1TSNJ_enUS459US459&aq=f&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&authuser=0&ei=MeaaUbrSMOjw0gX2s4DwDw&biw=1366&bih=587&sei=M-aaUaTVJLOr0gW0-IGYCQ#imgrc=7_U2JvtpWmZ53M%3A%3BK7KL4YojzBnnaM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.communityserv.com%252Fimages%252Fcbhi.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.communityserv.com%252Fcbhi.html%3B166%3B100