Sadly, my summer with American Jewish World Service has come to an end, but as I think back on my time with the organization, I cannot believe how much I have gained from this internship. Over the summer, I completed numerous large projects, including developing several lesson plans to teach and inspire American lay leaders to advocate for the developing world. One of the greatest lessons I learned at my internship is how to work collaboratively with people more experienced than I am. At first, I really struggled to speak up during meetings because I felt that what I had to say could not possibly be important. However, after much encouragement from my supervisor, I found my voice at team meetings. I realized that I was able to bring a new and unique opinion to the team, as I came in to meetings with a fresh pair of eyes. I gained self-confidence and made a better impression among my colleagues when I started speaking up. This is a skill I will bring back to Brandeis with me. This semester I am taking two classes with which I have no experience, and I know there will be people in those classes with more things to say than I have. Nonetheless, I will feel confident to speak up and share my opinions because I know that what I have to say is (usually) worthwhile.
This internship has opened up a lot of doors to new ideas for me. Now that I have completed the internship, I would like to learn more about the issues facing the developing world, and how they come about. I would also like to learn other ways people can get involved in helping out with these big issues without devoting their whole lives to solving them. I would strongly recommend interning at a nonprofit social justice organization, and especially AJWS. I would tell students planning to intern at a social justice nonprofit to be prepared for some feelings of helplessness – you will learn that there are so many issues that need fixing and there is no way that you can come in and fix them all. Just remember that you are there to help in whatever way you can – and that is enough! Also, be enthusiastic about any task you are given. Most organizations will need some very mundane things to be taken care of, like file-sorting or shredding or making copies. Hopefully this won’t be a big part of your internship, but it is important to take on these jobs with as much enthusiasm as the more interesting tasks. These are all important things that help the organization to run smoothly, and your taking them on means that more social justice can be achieved in the world. Also, your employers will notice if you have a positive attitude.
To students interning at AJWS specifically, I would recommend making time to get to know as many people in the organization as possible. I set up hour-long slots to meet with several of my colleagues, including department managers and vice presidents who were all more than happy to take time from their busy schedules to meet with me. I learned so much from these amazing individuals and forged strong relationships with some of them too.
AJWS has challenged by assumptions about social justice by showing me the importance of a human rights-based approach to development. Before the internship, I assumed that the biggest task facing the developing world was access to resources such as water, arable land and food. AJWS showed me that this kind of resource-based approach is not effective. In order to assist the developing world, we must focus on human rights, because no matter how many resources a country has, it is not helpful unless women and marginalized communities have access to those resources and are not being abused or persecuted. AJWS’s work to end violence against women, child marriage, and persecution of LGBTQ people has shown me what it really means to be a change-maker and reinforced my own passion to work for real change.
– Jessi Puterman ’15