Looking Ahead

It’s great to be back at Brandeis and in school-mode (although I had forgotten how busy and exhausting the first few weeks of school are), but I’m sad to be done with my summer internship with Company One Theatre— even if the last few weeks consisted of a lot more office work than it had been earlier in the summer (although I’m actually really proud to have finished a massive headshot reorganization project in which I re-categorized about 20 giant binders of head shots and resumes we keep to have records of every actor that has auditioned for us. I wish I had taken a picture I was so proud of it). 

My second to last week I got to sit in on a staff meeting, which was a great experience. Every member of Company One gets together once a week to connect, discuss different projects, etc.. We talked about what was going on in each department, discussed a potential play for the upcoming season and the pros and cons of it, talked about other theaters and their seasons, the benefits of joining certain organizations, etc.. It was very cool getting to see how a small non-profit theater organizes and runs things, and it was especially awesome to see how invested each member of Company One is in engaging the community and adhering to the core values of the company (making theater more accessible and producing theater that is diverse). It was also one member’s last week, so we celebrated her time with the company with cake, etc.. 

Overall, I had a great time this summer at Company One and learned a lot. I learned a lot about contemporary playwrights that I didn’t know about before, I learned what dramaturgy is (I think), I learned the ins and outs of a professional fringe theater in Boston, I even learned about Boston and its’ history.

Flashback to the LMDA conference
Flashback to the LMDA conference

I gained a sense of the incredible amount of work that goes into creating and producing thought-provoking theater— and with that I also came away more frustrated than I usually am at the lack of funding that goes into arts. These people who create this wonderful form of art are under-appreciated and underfunded in our society. It’s really something to see people working so hard to create art, to change the world, and to also see how hard it is to get funded, to get paid, in the theater world. And meanwhile public school are still cutting funds for music, theater, the fine arts, and all these art forms that are near and dear to so many peoples’ hearts. 

But I also came away inspired to know that there are people out there working this hard to produce diverse, inclusive, and provocative theater that talks about topics we don’t generally talk about in our day-to-day lives. I cannot wait to continue to explore all the different types of theater the world has to offer, and all the different ways theater can be created. Many thanks to Company One and the Brandeis WOW fellowship grant for giving me this awesome opportunity (and go check out their upcoming season!). 

Astro Boy and the God of Comics
Astro Boy and the God of Comics

Alison Thvedt ’15

The End of My Time with World Vision for the Summer

My lovely work space

 

For my time at World Vision, I had hoped to gain experience in helping facilitate organizational communication. My learning in this case was achieved mostly through observing my supervisor who deals with day to day employee needs; from handling internal relationships to communication between the various offices in different Brazilian cities. Furthermore, because I am passionate about cross-cultural dialogue and interaction in this increasingly globalized world, which requires us to understand other cultures in order to operate successfully, during my time at World Vision I wanted to explore aspects of what I learned in regards to global understanding in Organizational Behavior(OB), which is an area of business that deeply intrigues me. This summer my goal was achieved because as an intern at World Vision Brazil, I was able to gain an understanding of a new country alongside learning very specific cultural norms which translate to the work place environment.

Having the opportunity to work in an organization that focuses on international development and the alleviation of poverty, especially the experience of going to an ADP (Area Development Program), where I had the opportunity to meet with the children that the organization supports afforded me great insight. I learned important lessons, such as, the fact that it is crucial and beneficial to have a clear understanding of an organization’s core mission when you work there. Though I was an intern for the human resources department, going to visit a community development project was a source of motivation. My work experience changed after being at the project because  I saw that what connects all the employees is a passion for people and changing lives for the better. And as I seek to become a more effective communicator within organizations, such insight will be of use in my future. Also, through the internship experience my Portuguese language skills were significantly improved.

In my WOW application I mentioned how at an early age I became passionate in advocating for a break down in communicative barriers among people of different backgrounds. I then attended a United World College which provided training in facilitating multicultural dialogue as a force for peace in the world. These experiences enable me to easily integrate into new environments and engage with people from varying backgrounds; being an intern allowed me to test and improve these skills at a different stage in my life where I am older. Additionally, instead of using my interpersonal skills in an academic setting, I got to practice them in a professional environment.

After this experience, I would like experience in the for-profit sector to get a sense of the environment in order to compare and contrast my experiences. I would also like to get experience in more of the field work in international development. In order to learn how to be strategic and create proposals for plans to alleviate poverty sustainably, it is important to understand the field work.

Students interested in an internship at World Vision should know that there are many opportunities for volunteers available, especially for individuals such as Brandeis University students who believe in social justice. Also, it is an organization with operations in 100 different countries, meaning there are opportunities in many areas of the world. Importantly, what I learned spending time in a non-profit organization is that passion for world change is at the core of all operations. To make an impact you have to deeply care about what it is the organization is trying to achieve. It is also an industry that needs forward thinking people to innovate and create new strategies

Just to reiterate what I have mentioned before. By seeing the systems in place with the sponsorship program that World Vision runs, I have been reminded that anyone can be a positive change maker in this world. My primary philosophy when it comes to development is that I believe in sustainable poverty alleviation. I feel that everyone has the right to reach their full potential on this earth and that the inequality that exists in this world is something which can and should be fixed. Working at World Vision has reinforced this conviction and allowed me to realize the many ways in which I can be an agent of change every day and in the larger scheme of things. Social justice boils down to one concept in my opinion: “Love” as a verb, love for yourself which you can then translate into the world; when we love those we are helping we do not act out of selfish ambition but rather by the passion for what we know the world can be, only then does true change take place even when things are not easy. Lastly, as an intern, I have been challenged to think outside of the box in the development field. I now understand that there is no ‘formula’ to changing a community, each place has its own specific needs, and so does each organization.

A cycling event held in Recife Brazil.
A cycling event campaigning against “Trabalho infantil” meaning Child Labour. held by World Vision in Recife Brazil, July 2014.

 

A summer in review

At the beginning of the summer, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from my internship at Boston Children’s Hospital. I wasn’t 100% set on whether a career in the medical profession was what I wanted to pursue or whether this opportunity was going to teach me things beyond what Brandeis had already given me. Upon entering Children’s on my first day back in early June, all doubts I’d had vanished as I was immediately submerged into the hustle and bustle of a hospital work environment. There was never a dull moment over the summer, but rather a constant stream of interesting work to be done and knowledge to be gained.

From my work on the Female Athlete Triad screening survey to analyzing data in the retrospective chart review, working at Boston Children’s Hospital enabled me to fulfill all my anticipated goals. Although most of my work was centered primarily around research, I was still able to participate in patient care and even serve as a test dummy for a few clinical tasks that needed to be done. Being able to experience multiple facets of the medical career not only helped me visualize my future goals and dreams but provided me with a deepened view of how research can be conducted. Although my main supervisor was a doctor, I made connections with nurses, physician assistants and research coordinators, all of whom aided in my success over the summer. Working with all these different types of people allowed me to get many different prospectives on how the medical system works and how it requires a great deal of coordination and balance between each sector for things to run smoothly. All the tasks I had to complete this summer broadened the knowledge I’d gained from Brandeis as I finally got to put theory into practice.

I believe that my experiences at Boston Children’s Hospital will directly translate into furthering my Brandeis education. I now have a grasp on research in a clinical setting and can begin to explore my own ideas for research in the future. At the midpoint this summer I had begun working on my own project to get the Female Athlete Triad into the forefront of Brandeis Athletics and have since been in contact with the athletic director to get the gears in motion. Using Brandeis as a launch site, I hope to be able to expand awareness of the Triad into other colleges and athletic programs in the area.

My biggest advice to a future Boston Children’s intern is to never be afraid to ask questions and always have a notebook available to jot down notes. When I first began my internship, I was always nervous to ask questions but I slowly became more comfortable with my supervisors and the questions began to naturally flow. Having a notebook was also a large component to my success as I would typically review what I had learned that day every night just to make sure there wasn’t anything I needed to get clarified.

I absolutely loved every minute of working at Boston Children’s Hospital. The staff I worked with and the patients I got to meet made a huge impact on me and my future aspirations. I hope to continue with the connections I made and thank Brandeis and Hiatt for the amazing opportunity I was given.

-Ally Parziale

Mid-point at Boston Children’s Hospital

Having reached the halfway point of my internship at Boston Children’s Hospital, I have successfully completed the patient survey and have begun to work on implementing it into a clinical setting. Through the use of this survey, patients will be prescreened for Female Athlete Triad, enabling doctors to provide better care to their patients. Having completed the survey, I have progressed into seeking IRB approval for a retrospective chart review study on female dancers to see how Female Athlete Triad affects their health. In gaining approval, I have had to use a great deal of my Brandeis knowledge, as being able to write scientifically plays a vital role in the process. Although my scientific background has provided me a firm basis for a lot of the work I’ve done at Children’s, my internship has taught me so much to this point. I have become much more comfortable interacting with professional medical staff through asking lots of questions and by taking their feedback on the projects I work on. I also have learned a great deal about doctor-patient interaction and how to best serve individuals in a professional manner. Many of the experiences I have had at Children’s are unlike anything I would be able to have on my own, so each day is a learning opportunity. I’m proud of my ability to use the knowledge I’ve gained at Brandeis in a real-world hospital setting. Compared to the other interns who work with me, it’s clear that Brandeis has given me a step up in many aspects including the efficiency and quality of my work as well as my ability to work in a professional setting.

My internship at Boston Children’s Hospital has thus far solidified my interests in pursing a career in the medical field that encompasses both patient interaction and research. Through working with my supervisor I’ve begun to develop my own ideas on research that I could pursue on my own after my internship at Children’s is over. I’ve also started a discussion with my supervisor on trying to implement a Female Athlete Triad program within the Brandeis Athletic Program to educate athletes on the issue and hopefully aid in prevention.

Do I Finally Know what Social Justice is: Finishing up at AVODAH

Upon completing my time at AVODAH I began to think about what made me come to this organization in the first place, and beyond that, if I got out of this experience all that I had hoped for. AVODAH is an organization which upholds ideals which are important to me. My father worked in international human rights and refugee law, and my grandparents dedicated their lives to immigrant aid and preventing poverty amongst Jewish immigrants to Canada. Consequently, I grew up imbued with ideas of social justice, helping others, and understanding that my world is affected by all those in it. There was huge emphasis on the importance of ensuring social welfare and justice. That’s why I applied to work at AVODAH. I, as a product of my environment, felt a responsibility for others and valued my Jewish experience: AVODAH looked like the perfect blend of both.

I had two main goals coming into AVODAH: to experience social justice, and to learn about not for profit work. I’d be hard pressed to say that the day-to-day administrative work at a not for profit is exhilarating, but there were constantly valuable learning opportunities. All organisations have different departments that interact with one another, but at AVODAH most of these departments were staffed by one individual. Being present at staff wide meetings, and participating in conversations about strategy and how to proceed was fascinating. Every individual brought to the discussion not only their department’s goals, but their perspectives as unique individuals trying to accomplish those goals. It taught me that differently minded individuals create productive environments.

Aside from the work I did for AVODAH in the office, I was also able to experience firsthand some projects that the organisation undertook. One of my supervisors began to teach at a two week program called JUSTCity which was a project of List College (the joint program between the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and Columbia University). Through this program eighteen high school students came together to discuss issues of social justice and inequality in New York City through a Jewish lens. It was first quite empowering to learn about Jewish attitudes to communal service, and the responsibility to contribute to the pursuit of justice. A particularly amazing experience I had in this program was hearing the thoughts and questions asked by the young high school students who participated in this program. I have been conditioned to this larger conversation in my personal upbringing and my time at Brandeis. Hearing this conversation through a different lens was enlightening and refreshing.

As I return to Brandeis I bring with me these conversations, these questions, and most importantly the lack of answers. I think that something that most people hope to get out of a summer internship is a potential career path, or some enlightened view on your life’s goal. I don’t think that’s what I got out of my time at AVODAH, I’m actually unsure if Jewish not for profit work is really for me. I did however garner a profound respect for the work that has to be done. I hope that I can translate that respect into this coming year at Brandeis by observing the world through not a new lenses, but various lenses.

At Brandeis I often hear the question “What does Social Justice really even mean?” asked a lot. Many friends of mine are often frustrated with the answers given or even the lack of any answer at all. I’ve realised that answering this question is not necessary. What’s most important is that we keep asking the question. As long as it’s being asked, we will strive to answer it, and as long as we strive to answer it, we will pursue social justice.

Halfway point at CGSHR

I am a little over halfway through my internship at the Consortium on Gender, Security, and Human Rights and I am amazed at how much I am learning! I went into this internship hoping to primarily advance my research skills, and the Consortium has definitely provided an opportunity to do just that. I have been assigned to the Masculinities and Armed Conflict annotated bibliography . I have been locating recent articles on hegemonic and alternative masculinities, on peacekeeping operations and sexual exploitation, and the role of masculinity in military trainings. We also spent a day learning about research techniques, including Boolean Operations, and other ways of better utilizing resources such as JStor and Academic Search Premier. The Consortium also recently brought in a speaker to discuss his work on masculinity in armed conflict with the interns, and I was able to connect with him afterwards to discuss resources on this topic. I am grateful that the Consortium puts us in contact with such interesting speakers and valuable organizations!


I find that research is not the only skill I have been developing here, as I have learned a ton about organization and team leadership. I have been placed as team manager on the Syllabus Collection project, which gives me the opportunity to research academic programs regarding gender, politics, armed conflict, and international relations, and practice writing professional correspondence. The best part about it, however, is that I am getting leadership experience in managing a team, which is something I find I enjoy much more than I thought I would!

The work I am most proud of, however, is the work I have done on the Country Profile and Thematic Reports for the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security. The NGO WG draws on these profiles and reports that we draft to write their Monthly Action Plan (MAP) Reports, used to bring issues of women, peace and security to the United Nations Security Council. I have been researching the ways the mandates and resolutions of the UN Security Council adequately (or, often, not) address issues of women, gender, gender equality, women’s political participation in the peace negotiation process, etc. I was assigned to draft reports for South Sudan, Syria, and Israel/Palestine, which gave me a chance to read up on what is currently happening in these areas with histories of brutal and deadly conflicts. The works I am reading are both informative and disheartening, but I am glad that this internship is a motivator for keeping up-to-date on international news and events.

Looking forward to this upcoming week: our associate director will be leading us in a yoga class on the green by the bay outside of the office!

ISlide: The Final Chapter

whoopie
We had a lot of fun throughout the summer, especially when trying to finish a giant Whoopie Pie (see above via Instagram).

As the hours ticked by on my last day of work at ISlide, I noticed several things running through my mind. The first was relief. I knew that after this day I would be able to go home and see my family and that 45-hour work weeks were a thing of the past (for now at least). The second, however, was sadness. Throughout my time as a summer intern for ISlide, I grew extremely close with my coworkers, my boss, and the company itself, and the day had come where I would be leaving it. I had fallen in love with everything the company stood for, the product, and how we went about our business day in and day out. I started to realize how much I would miss that hot, old, amazing mill. But my time had come to move on and to allow another batch of young, intelligent, hard-working interns to come in and give it everything they had.

slides
Here is a picture of the slides I had made for a CrossFit Gym in Dallas (via Instagram).

During the months that I worked at ISlide, I had tasks and activities that helped me move towards my learning goals everyday. My main job was in sales. I worked day in and day out trying to add accounts for the company and manage the ones that I was able to sign. This task allowed me to build communication skills, confidence on the phone and in emails, and bolstered my Microsoft Office abilities. On top of that, we all worked very closely with Justin (ISlide’s CEO) in meetings where the topics included real world sales and operations reports, cash flow sheets, and investor decks that were used to pitch the company to outside venture capitalists and angel investors. These activities gave me background on all the things I had learned in the classroom and showed me how they are relevant in the business world. My tasks and activities at ISlide boosted my real-world business experience, taught me new skills and techniques, and showed me what it truly takes to run a successful start-up company.

From this point forward I will be looking to build off of my experience at ISlide. When it comes to my time in the classroom at Brandeis, I will use the experience I have gained and the new facets of business that I have learned to put the material into context as to how it could be important in future jobs. I think that this will allow me to focus more because what I am learning will have more meaning. I will also take my experience beyond to levels that reach outside of the classroom. Without a doubt in my mind, I will put to use the skills I learned at ISlide in my future internships, jobs, applications, and in life in general. I want to learn so much more and what I learned this summer will serve as excellent background knowledge for all of my future endeavors. I would love to explore more and more facets of business. I have experienced the start up world and the positions as a sales rep and I loved it. However, I would also like to look into advertising, marketing, and finance. These three things are experiences that I would like to take on in the future so that my knowledge can become as well-rounded as possible.

If I were to advise a future intern at ISlide or one in the sales/business field in general, I would tell them one thing: work hard. Work harder than you think you should. Don’t go into this internship thinking you have good work ethic; look to improve it. When I arrived at ISlide, I thought that I had top-notch work ethic, but then I watched Justin day in and day out. He is so diligent and so passionate and is willing to put in the hours for his company, for his child, so to speak. This rubbed off on me and before I knew it the nine hour days were flying by, I was working on emails when I got home from work, and I was thinking about ISlide all the time. The fact that I pushed myself to new limits when it came to my work ethic allowed me to experience success, and there is no better feeling than when the grind pays off. Here is a link to the website of an MMA apparel brand that I signed. I advise to work your tail off because in the end, it will make it exponentially more rewarding and you will be proud of the body of work you put together.

I loved my time at ISlide and wouldn’t change it for anything. It was an amazing summer, I learned more than I could have ever expected to, and it was a ride that I will never forget. Here is the “Meet the Interns” video that one of my fellow interns made about our summer with ISlide.

-Max Hart

LAVA BEAR Conclusion

My internship has come to a close! Unlike in my other posts, I feel at a loss for words. This experience at Lava Bear was everything I had hoped it would be. In my exit interview, I pretty much delivered heaps upon heaps of effusive praise. Lava Bear is a great company – it was sheer serendipity that this place was perfect for me. The last few days have been rough, acclimating to the responsibilities of “real life” and accepting that my time in Los Angeles has come to a close (or at least a hiatus).

The viewof Lava Bear through the garage
The view of Lava Bear through the garage

Spending these last few days reflecting, I feel that I accomplished my many goals. I now know that I could happily live in LA. I now know that I could work in development. I now know that I could read scripts for a living. This summer was not necessarily revelatory (it was too lifelike for that) but it was an incredibly important step in my career. I now know that I want to learn more about film budgeting and the Massachusetts Film Commission (potential future internship site?). I have developed a deeper love of screenwriting that I cannot really expound upon; again, my confidentiality agreement heeds, but I must say that one of the highlights of my summer was sorting through tens of fascinating and individualistic scripts that I cannot tell you about.

I was just discussing with a friend whether I thought reading such a dense volume of scripts improved my writing. While I don’t think it stoked my creative side, I feel my analytical work will be much stronger now. My wit is definitely more acerbic, that’s for sure! I will definitely be able to apply these skills during my final year at Brandeis. On the way out, one of the higher-ups told me I should start a blog. What a thought! I discussed with my coworkers the possibility of moving out here; all of them seemed willing (even eager) to help me locate a job. Writing thank-you notes was easy. I feel blessed and happy that I was able to make this dream a reality (with the help of others). Moreover, I made contact with a bevy of independent artists in the community. The friends I have made in California have been wonderful. I feel satisfied with the networking I did, and furthermore, I believe I developed my skills in networking.

I walked past this street art every day on the day to work
I walked past this street art every day on the day to work

My thoughts on film have shifted, particularly my thoughts on screenwriting. I feel pretty confident that I could work various vocations, from a suit to a creative. Now I have this year to make some decisions about the niche I want to occupy. Thanks to the WOW, I feel certain that I could compete in this landscape. I encourage anyone looking to work in film to simply start networking immediately. Networking is vital and you cannot make film without the assistance of others. That is what I love about film art, that it requires collaboration. I took particular joy in showing the work of Brandeis Television, a club I’m on the E-board of, to my employers and artistic friends. This is also not a shill, but I strongly recommend taking advantage of the resources the Hiatt Career Center has to offer. I used Hiatt offices to conduct my multiple phone interviews, have my resume checked, and the advice of my Hiatt liaison has been vital throughout the process. Keep working, keep pushing, because really, what else is there to life besides kindness and art-making?

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog posts, my intermittent Carriemoments. Bonne chance, Brandesians and future WOW’ers!

-Alex Weick, Brandeis 2015

Finishing up at MCDI

At the tallest point on Bioko Island- El Pico.
At the tallest point on Bioko Island- El Pico.

 

It’s hard to believe it’s been over a month since my internship ended. I’ve been putting off writing this last blog for a while now due to a busy schedule and ongoing self-reflection.  Before my internship, I had a set of learning goals that I wished to, and did, accomplish: I spoke Spanish on a daily basis and continued to challenge myself throughout each day of my summer.  I learned the basics behind a data-collecting program and worked with various medical professionals in the clinical trial setting.  However, I also accomplished many tasks that I didn’t set goals for: I learned the difference between three species of mosquitoes and the difference between a male and female mosquito.  I learned what a good Standard Operating Procedure looks like. I also grew more comfortable expressing my ideas to my colleagues.

In the last few weeks I’ve been asked countless times what I did over the summer.  Now that I’ve had time to reflect on my summer experience I now know how great of an opportunity this was for me.  I am determined to pursue a career in the public health area and have looked at classes at Brandeis I can apply my new knowledge to.  I also recently met another CA that is a part of a Nothing but Nets chapter on campus that I hope to join this year.  I’m very excited to keep in touch with my summer colleagues and to learn about the progress that is happening in Malabo.  I know now that even the little things that I did were a part of a great cause.  It’s very motivating to think that I was a part of a clinical trial for a potential malaria vaccine.

My advice for other interns is to be flexible! There were multiple times during my internship that I felt like my expectations of myself and my internship were not being met.  It is during these times that you will learn something new about yourself and about “the working life.” MCDI was a great organization to work with and I encourage all interested people to apply to be an intern at one of their various sites.  Working in a country that you are not accustomed to and in a field where the territory is new (like implementing a vaccine trial) can be frustrating at times.  However, it is important to always carry a positive attitude and an open mind.  I met some amazing and inspiring people during my internship that will continue to motivate me throughout my career.

In Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, MCDI concentrates on preventing malaria transmission through indoor spraying, bed net distribution and education as well as implementing a malaria vaccine trial with the PfSPZ vaccine created by Sanaria.  During my internship, I had a chance to accompany the spray team to one of the remote villages that they visit.  It was then that I learned that malaria, although a huge issue, was not as important to the community members of this village as it was to MCDI. Many members complained of their lack of clean water, electricity and stable houses and protested MCDI’s attempt to spray the houses because they lacked more essential items.  It is difficult to pursue social justice in one area when there are other areas that need help too.  It is important that we as individuals work together to provide social justice in all areas.  All aspects of social justice are as equally as important as others.  I know that I won’t be able to help everyone in the world, but I am determined to help in whatever area I specialize in and strive to understand and listen to those that I work with and for.  Before I started writing this blog I felt as if it would be the end of my internship experience; however I am now more excited than ever to see where this experience will take me next.  Thanks to everyone who helped me get here.

Last staff photo!
Last staff photo!

– Jesse Knowles

Final goodbyes

The summer is all but done, I’m back in the US, and the temperature is already dropping here at Brandeis. Considering that the heat in Dakar is only just hitting its stride, I’m pretty happy that the northeast is cooling off sooner than usual. It’s a little strange to be speaking English almost exclusively and I’ll miss the homemade Senegalese dishes that I’d gotten used to, but it’s also been nice to see my family and be surrounded by green trees again. There’s nothing wrong with the Sahel,  but greenery is nice after 6 months of sand, sandy wind, and the occasional baobab tree thrown into the mix.

My learning goals were definitely skills that I improved during the summer. In the wake of the Ebola spread happening in West and North Africa, sanitation and disease have been keywords popping up in more conversations than I can count. One of my goals was to link my classroom knowledge of West Africa and its history to a more in-depth, on the ground perspective. One of my main tasks at GRAG during my last month was to complete a preliminary evaluation of a sanitation project done by UNICEF and a few other big-name international NGOs. I learned a lot about some of the smaller issues that affect the success of sanitation programs in the region in complex ways. For example, hand washing isn’t necessarily something taught in a lot of rural schools or focused on in households. And without a culture of focusing on small sanitation acts like that, any large companies coming in to spread messages about them can seem like just more of the same Western aid programs that might mean well but don’t end up benefiting the population in any meaningful way. The key to successfully impacting communities like the ones targeted by the UNICEF program isn’t anything difficult or impossible, it just requires careful listening to those populations. Community involvement does much more in the long-run than programs that only involve the population in secondary roles.

This example is relevant for my career goal, too. I had wanted to gain more experience with crafting NGO publications and reports and community involvement is important for that as well. Some of my translation work required translation of publications from English to French, which is one of the languages spoken in the area. But there are several other languages spoken by people in the area who don’t have access to the French education system. Sometimes another GRAG member fluent in those languages would have to take my translations and translate them again into local languages. And community engagement was important for the questionnaires to be used for research projects — we would occasionally have to bring in a consultant to handle parts of the project regarding a specific region or ethnic group and their traditions. This was in addition to hiring research teams from the targeted populations to be overseen by a supervisor from GRAG. All of this served to engage the communities better and achieve more of a grassroots, long-lasting impact.

My personal goal, learning more coping mechanisms for this line of work, generally went well. I’d become attached to some of the projects that I helped with or evaluated, so any failures I heard about could hit hard. But you learn how to deal with these kinds of emotional twists while working on so many things at once. It’s important that I remind myself that everyone will be trying harder on the next project and all I can really do is continue to perfect my section of it all. The team atmosphere at GRAG helped me to realize this philosophy and I think I can go forward knowing that those kinds of workplace bonds can be helpful in any kind of emotional situation.

My experience has given me a lot more confidence in my ability to work in an industry that I’m interested in. From here on I’m hoping to jump into even more experiences in line with research and NGO work and possibly including travel. I’ve looked into internships in the Brandeis area that do public health research or deal with sustainable tourism.

I would advise anyone wanting to work at GRAG to make sure to look for opportunities outside of the given tasks. After about a month and a half the pace got pretty erratic. There would be some weeks with pages and pages of proposals to work on and others when days went by with only simple tasks or almost nothing to do. In the end I would come up with tasks to add onto, like helping other GRAG members on their projects, or I would ask my supervisor for more things to do. I think the pace of my internship is pretty similar to that at other international aid organizations since I helped my boss do some work for a UNAID office at their headquarters in Dakar once and the setup was much the same. In general it’s necessary to be aware of the differences in activity day-to-day and not to let the fast pace or a dragging day dishearten you.

My thoughts about social justice have been reinforced as a result of my experience this summer. My internship helped me to focus on the fact that there are many different ways that I can help people in far-flung locations…but also many ways in which I can’t. I’m not fluent in any local languages in the Dakar region or fully knowledgeable of the cultures that exist there. I could pick almost any point on the globe outside of the northeast United States and the same would be true. I think that many times our vision of social justice becomes patronizing and very paternalistic to some of the people we think we are “helping.” An important part of social justice abroad is standing up for your corner of the globe and realizing that you are not the expert on any others. For me this means that I will look for opportunities in the future that partner me with people who have grown up in these places and have a deeper understanding of the forces at play there. Organizations like UNICEF or UNAID can do a lot of good, but doing so takes some stepping forward from people like me and also some stepping back. Maybe the gap between classroom education and real-world experience can never be fully filled in and that’s fine. We all have to do what good we can in the ways that we can, adding onto others and eventually creating an even better network of specialized change agents.

The summer was everything that I needed in my career and personal lives and more. I’ll miss Dakar for a while but for now it’s back to Brandeis, back to formal academics, and back to figuring out the future as it comes.

 

-Natasha Gordon ’15

 

What Makes AVODAH’s Anti-poverty Work So Jewish

“… there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
– Abraham Joshua Heschel

AVODAH’s mission statement states that the organisation strengthens the American Jewish community’s response to the causes and effects of domestic poverty. The mission statement also expresses the goal of fostering “lifelong leaders whose work for justice is rooted in and nourished by Jewish values.” The question I had after reading the mission statement when applying for my internship was what connects those two aspects of AVODAH. Fighting poverty is an important and noble cause, and fostering Jewish leaders is integral for continuity, but what makes fighting poverty so Jewish, and what about anti-poverty work makes for a Jewish environment?

One of the first questions I was asked upon coming to AVODAH was: what keeps you up at night? This was not referring to the New York heat, nor was it referring to the neighbour’s dog, but rather it was asking me to think about what truly bothers me. Walking through the subway in New York, and on the streets in Midtown on the way to work every day, I began to see poverty everywhere. I saw homeless individuals on corners where I had not seen them the week before. The scary realisation that I had was that they were there all along, but they didn’t stand out to me – they seemed like a natural environmental fixture. My “indifference to evil” was worse “than evil itself.” When my sensitivity was heightened to the suffering around me, I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to get a roll of quarters so I could help everyone, but a friend reminded me that that would only assuage my guilt and not actually help.

I began to think of what AVODAH does as an organisation. I realised that trying to remedy the effects of poverty is important, but combating poverty from its roots was key. AVODAH’s approach to fighting poverty addresses the issue from varying approaches including housing, healthcare, education, and hunger. Corps members are placed in jobs that extend from direct action, to advocacy, to organising around individual’s rights and policy. I learned that the only way to properly address a social issue was not just to assuage the effects that make the rest of society uncomfortable (like I wanted to make myself more comfortable by having quarters to give out), but to also address the root issues and work towards solving them.

On considering the new subject that succeeded in keeping me up at night, a teacher of mine reminded me of the rabbinic trope that “it is not on you to complete the task; however, you are not free to abandon it” (Tractate Avot 2:21). This was the view I had to take in encountering poverty as I sipped my Starbucks coffee, while going to work to fight poverty. I was doing my job, I was contributing to the effort, but this was not a task I could go at alone. Likewise, fighting poverty is not a task anyone can go at alone and that’s why AVODAH exists, to create a community of leaders with a common goal. My question, however, still remained: what makes antipoverty work so inherently Jewish?

The quotation that I quoted and affixed to the top of this post is, not surprisingly, one that I borrowed from an AVODAH promotional poster. It emphasizes the Jewish values of mutual responsibility and fighting injustice. Acknowledging an issue is human, actually doing something about it is Jewish. I think this idea is what Heschel was trying to convey in his words, and I think this is the idea that AVODAH embodies every day.

– Ariel Kagedan

Is the Work Truly Over?

Hello everyone,

I hope your summers have ended well and that you are all settling back into school or whatever you may be up to at this point. I have been at Brandeis for three weeks, jumping right from my internship into CA training, and from that to classes. Although my internship ended on a “good note,” for all intents and purposes, I still have work to do.

Just in case I did not clarify sooner, AVODAH, the organization for which I interned this summer, is a Jewish non-profit organization, which works towards bringing social justice-oriented Jews into significant roles in antipoverty organizations, influencing Jewish communities to do likewise. The word avodah in Hebrew literally translates to “work”, hinting at the difficult work at hand in the effort to eliminate or at least ameliorate the causes and effects of domestic poverty. A Jewish proverb delineates the same concept, stating that “it is not on you to finish the work, and you are not free to exempt yourself from it.” There may be large, overwhelming steps in the process of reaching the goal at hand, but you can’t back away from it.

This proverb perfectly expresses what has been on my mind since my completion of the internship. I have learned a tremendous amount about the inner-workings of a non-profit organization, as well as the goal of the organization and especially pertaining to alumni and community engagement strategy. I have begun to think critically about my role as a leader in multiple subsets of the Jewish community, and how my experiences at AVODAH can bring others to think similarly about issues of domestic poverty and Jewish communal involvement. I look forward to contributing and facilitating programming on the Brandeis campus and perhaps beyond, bringing others to better understand and contribute to a more socially and economically just society. I have much to learn about antipoverty work and urban poverty in the United States, but I have a good foundation on which to build greater understanding.

I have also an enormous amount of respect for all the AVODAH staff members. Each and every one has great expertise on how to run this crucial organization, and has helped me understand how their job contributes to the larger picture and how my work added to their project. Finally, I have to thank my supervisor, Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay, for teaching me about what it is to be passionate about Jewish antipoverty efforts and how to bring knowledge and personal experiences into the work setting in a productive way. I hope to continue the relationships I have built with my supervisor as well as other AVODAH staff members, as I see them as invaluable guides to that particular field and trailblazers in progressive Jewish communal efforts.

As I plunge into this semester and what it may bring, I will have an increased awareness of the world around me, and have a better grounding in what I can do to contribute to a more sustainable and socially just community and society. I am grateful to have been able to give you all snapshots of my experiences, and hope that you all have meaningful semesters and feel free to ask any questions you may have about my internship.

Thank you for reading, and best of luck to you all!

Hannah Z. Kober

 

Start Simple for Steady Development

My summer internship has finally come to an end. I have learned so much and worked with so many inspiring people who are friendly, always willing to help, and passionate about their jobs. After the internship, I can confirm my passion for development work and my career path ahead. The following is the farewell card from my SJ team as a good-luck gift for my career path in international development.

 

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Over the summer I have run the first phases of a project called “Raising awareness about climate change for children in remote areas”. My task started with desk research on what has been done and what materials we can provide for the libraries we set up in coastal areas which are heavily affected by rising temperature and immigrating sea water. The children and farmers there still lack basic information about climate change, its effects, and how we can mitigate its destruction.

Along with mapping climate change in Vietnam, I also collected physical documents and soft copies for the information center. This work required lots of traveling, contacting other organizations and also explaining our projects for their support. I learn a lot about the landscape of NGO work in Vietnam.  I also learned what skills and experience are needed for a development worker and what I need to do next for my career path. I am thankful because the people I met and worked with are very passionate about their jobs and willing to share with me their experiences.

Another part of my job requires traveling and talking with local people at the sites that we will set up our information center. I have traveled a lot through out the country, but have never been on business trips like these before! We were able to go to very remote places with only limited access for locals. We created a survey about climate change issues and sent out copies to local people to fill out so that we could know about their needs and their background knowledge on the subjects. I was amazed at the low level of information they have about the alarming issue of climate change, and I really hope that our project can bring some positive change to the villages.

After the internship, I am more confirmed about the career route that I want to follow. I will continue my work in international development, improve my language skills, and travel more. The first thing I will do when I get back to Brandeis is to talk with my professor in Development Economics about my career path and ask for her suggestion on graduate schools and work experience. I will take more classes in related fields such as environment studies and sociology to prepare a better background on the subjects that I have been working on. More importantly, I will do more research on climate change issues in South East Asia and the possibilities of micro-finance in a climate change context, two concepts that I have been working on for the last two summers. That idea has been given to me by my supervisor during the time we worked together. I have gained so much advice from him and plan to stay connected after my summer internship.

For other students interested in working in international development in developing countries, the most important thing is reaching out and showing people that you are passionate about what you are doing. Development work, especially NGO work in Vietnam requires multitasking and interpersonal skills because you will have to deal with many unexpected situations and overcome challenging living conditions. But once you get through all the difficulties, the reward is satisfying. I am very glad to see the impact of my project in the local people’s lives and how they are looking forward to more projects like that.  A plus of the job is the people in the field. They are very open and want to share their experience. They come from different countries with different backgrounds but all share the same wish for a better community. Once you love your job and are willing to learn and contribute your work to the community, people will welcome and help you. For an internship with SJ Vietnam, I suggest contacting the program officer with the specific projects you are interested in and asking for an informal interview. If you are suitable for the job then SJ will let you join because the organization still needs lots of help!

As a Social Justice recipient, I think my philosophies and ideals have been strengthened as I can see the result of my work and how it can improve a community. The goal of my work is not about learning a new theory or solving a difficult mathematics problem but finding the best solutions for a sustainable community supporting people and making their lives better. Along the way there will be difficulties ranging from financial shortages, support from the government, or coordination of local people. But I am sure that with my social justice philosophies and beliefs, I can work through such challenges. Thanks to my summer internship site and the support from WOW to make this experience a reality. Now it is the end of summer and I am heading back to school. But I am glad that I am much more prepared than before I left, and I believe I will be more prepared for next year when I leave Brandeis and be ready for my real life journey.

– Trang Luu

Saying Goodbye to NARAL (But Not Really)

Working at NARAL, a tiny organization with a four-member staff, made me realize that the job descriptions offered by non-profits encompass only a fraction of the tasks employees actually undertake. I began my summer with the impression that my sole task would be to oversee the Political Interns and help build membership, never guessing that my role would eventually expand to encompass strategizing grassroots campaigns, drafting NARAL literature, and coordinating regional activist teams to accomplish initiatives remotely.

Certain tasks I was assigned this summer allowed me to accomplish the learning goals I laid out in May. Each Wednesday I supervised an intern weekly meeting, which gave me a platform to develop my leadership style. When interns gave feedback about the prior week, I learned how to be a sympathetic ear, an attentive listener, and a problem solver if the situation demanded it. Five minutes later, I had to delegate tasks assertively, offer background information about NARAL’s work that week, and occasionally offer constructive criticism of the interns’ work the week before. I learned through these weekly meetings that being a leader is not a one-dimensional role; it requires great personal flexibility in the way you handle different situations, and the interns ultimately appreciate a leader that can be both firm and personable.

This summer, I had over 25 one-on-one meetings with activists and organizational leaders in the hopes of getting more individuals and organizations involved in NARAL’s work. After hours spent chatting about abortion access over coffee, I learned that the best way to engage new activists is to frame NARAL’s work through the lens of the activist’s interests. Even those who may not initially be receptive to NARAL’s mission may become more interested when you frame NARAL’s work in a less polarized way. For example, I recruited an organization that focuses on poverty among low-income women by explaining to their Political Director that crisis pregnancy centers – false health centers that seek to deter women from receiving abortion care – typically target low-income women of color. The Political Director did not identify as “staunchly pro-choice,” but this direct appeal to her organization’s focal point made her more receptive to NARAL’s work.

Now that the summer is over, I feel like my cumulative intern experience – both this summer and in the semesters prior – has finally paid off. Two weeks ago, NARAL applied for a grant that allow for the hiring of a full time, paid staff member that would oversee our electoral work and campus program. We received the grant a week later, and NARAL has opted to hire me for the position. On September 2, I will sign my contract and continue my journey as a pro-choice advocate, this time as NARAL’s Political Organizer. Though I will be adopting a new title, I will oversee multiple teams of activists, draft NARAL-specific literature, coordinate field campaigns, a devise strategic grassroots mobilization efforts – all tasks I accomplished this summer, and will continue to build upon in my new role.

This internship gave me an in-depth look at the mechanics of grassroots organizing: mobilizing folks at the individual level to create broad political change. Grassroots organizing is deeply satisfying – in that you as an organizer develop personal relationships with volunteers and activists – but it is also exhausting, because it requires a heavy investment of time and energy with no guarantee that it will yield results. Now, I want to learn grasstops organizing: building coalitions, developing organizational partnerships, and working with elected officials to pass priority legislation. Political Directors are required to negotiate complicated political dynamics and protocols when they interact with other organizations and elected officials. As grasstops organizers, Political Directors must learn an entirely new code of conduct, and must juggle the organization’s needs with the needs of the elected officials with which they interact. It’s a complicated balancing act, one I have little knowledge of and one I’d like to become more familiar with.

As someone who appreciates structure, organization, and clear-cut duties, I would tell prospective NARAL interns that working at NARAL is a lesson in learning workplace flexibility. I learned this summer that small political non-profit organizations are often reactionary, responding to elections, Supreme Court decisions, and executive orders at the drop of a hat. Professionals in the political non-profit industry quickly learn that they must be flexible and readily adaptable, or else their organization will not be able to respond to political happenings appropriately.

This summer was my first experiencing approaching “social justice” as a staff member at an advocacy organization. It was my first experience encountering the thrills of broad-spectrum political change – and the unfortunate bureaucracy and gridlock that follow. I learned that political organizations often compromise or sacrifice their ideals for incremental success – a far cry from the romanticized “social justice” movements of the 60s and 70s that tended to be more radical and unapologetic in nature. In our current political climate, the organizations that minimally challenge the status quo and seek incremental, “baby-step” success towards their ultimate goals are the best respected. Pragmatism trumps idealism. The same can be said for our elected officials; we elect and endorse candidates not for their ideals or their liberalism, but for their viability and the projected success of their initiatives. Though I understand the paradigm of being radical, and challenging society from the roots up, working at NARAL has made me realize that I can be the most effective change agent by working slowly but determinedly to advance the pro-choice cause.

Ending my amazing experience at Victim Services in SFDA

My internship at the San Francisco District Attorney in Victim Services has come to end. It was a bittersweet day because I have made connections with the advocates that I worked with this summer. The advocates showed me what they go through on a typical day. They give support to victims while caring for their safety. The task I would do on a daily basis was explaining the California Victims of Violent Crime Compensation program to our Spanish-speaking clients and process. It would be difficult for them to understand because all the paper works was in English. Some of these Spanish-speaking clients would just come in to comprehend their claims and what steps they needed to take. This made me realize that there are not enough resources for the Latino community. It’s very difficult for them to try to read their information and understand court while it is being conducted in English.

I was working on reviewing U-visa for undocumented immigrants who have been a victim of a violent crime. It was interesting seeing the qualifications that are needed for this process and the forms that need to be filled out. One main question that is asked for this is: Was the victim cooperative? With the prosecutor? With the advocate? Most of them were cooperative in the case, which made it easier for my supervisor to sign their visas. For others we needed to see more into their case and see what really occurred during court. I am glad I worked with this because it made me learn on how the process is really about and the requirements that are needed. Especially with my interest in immigration and the obstacles that immigrants have to constantly face. There were many stories that immigrants have come to San Francisco and less than a month are assaulted and become victims.

With my time at Victim Services, I want to see more of how the criminal justice system is seen from multiple sides. It’s not just the prosecutor and defense attorney but the victim as well. At times the victim’s story goes unseen. While at Brandeis I want other student to see the truth within social justice. We need to focus on not only what happens at Brandeis, but in the outside world as well. There are so many tragedies that are occurring in San Francisco and all around the United States. Sometimes the blame gets put on the victim for being a minority and being at the wrong place at the wrong time. There still needs to be justice for the victim’s families. I want to see changes and any small differences that I can do by educating these communities to protect them.

I intend to apply to be an intern in other district attorney’s offices with Victim Services in other states such as Massachusetts  to see for myself how their process works in the criminal justice system. It’s great to learn from other locations and see what is working and what can be improved. I would like to see how other counties deal with violence in their communities and how their victims are being represented. We also visited a jail during my summer but did not have an extensive amount of time and I would like to learn more about how the prison system works.

Advice that I would give to anyone who works at Victim Services at the San Francisco District Attorney’s office is to be able to deal with anything and anyone who comes in. Some of are clients has suffered Posttraumatic Stress Disorder due to the incident that occurred to them which is understandable. However, we had to act quickly and help those and anyone who came in. It is very rewarding because it was great knowing that I could help someone calm down and relax to understand the support that they need. The same is with the criminal justice system because there can’t be preconceived notations about the incident until everything is laid out and explained.

Some of my ideals have been challenged because at times there are discrepancies between the victim and the prosecutor. At times the victim story changes due to how long ago was the incident and difficult to remember. Then the prosecutor feels that the victim might be lying to them or trying to protect others. The next question is whom do we believe? Is it the police officers that respond and write the police report, the victim, the defendant, and the witness? This occurs in many cases that are taken to court and makes it more complicated to resolve. I have learned that it is critical to take the time to listen to the victim’s story and what happened to them so they can trust you and that will make it easier for them to cooperate with you. It is going to help me personally to stop and listen to what people have to say because it is vital to anyone that you want to help and see him or her succeed.

My endless journey summer

Over half of my internship has passed and it seems like such short amount of time. Beyond desk research and collecting data for the project that I am working on, my tasks involve a lot of traveling to remote areas to conduct surveys. We are working on building libraries focused on climate change issues for children, so the work requires on-field surveys to get information on the needs and facilities in the villages where we want to set up our information centers.

Through field visits and data collecting from the field, I have learned so much about the job and the skills I would need to be more prepared for my future career. Despite strong quantitative skills and attention to details, a development worker should build up a very strong background on the community and soft skills to deal with unexpected situations. We have worked with people from different sectors such as the government, private businesses, and most importantly with farmers and children. I have learned that all the theories and knowledge I get in school contributes to the work that I am doing now, bringing our project on paper into real life.  Moreover, I have had a chance to talk with local people about various NGOs’ work and the impact on their lives. One of the most interesting parts about the job is that I could travel to lots of remote places in the country that I have never been to.

During our trips we face many challenges.  The local authorities are not always coordinated.  Sometimes traveling takes lots of time and road conditions are not very good. However, thanks to our partners in the village, we are able to collect all the survey we need.

Here is the picture of our team in a coastal village which is heavily affected by climate change. As we can see, the old church which used to be in the center of the village is now partly covered by sea water.

 

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The following picture captures us conducting a survey about climate change in  Hai Hau village in the Nam Dinh province.

 

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The more I get involved in my work the more I learn about a career path in development and sustainability. The knowledge I receive at Brandeis is very important, but I also have to learn a lots about the field, the situations in developing countries and what development needs are most pressing. In Vietnam for example, environment and climate issues are the two most in-need fields of development as the country is the second most country affected by climate change. The cross-cutting approach that has been recently used in NGOs requires students with variety of skills and multitasking abilities. Hence, I know what I should gain for my last year at Brandeis. Beyond academic focus, I also need to explore the needs in other developing countries and prepare a good background in global issues.

The experience has been so good so far. I have learnt many things about the culture, the people, and most importantly the next steps I need to progress in my career path. I hope the rest of the summer will come with more journeys and explorations.

– Trang Luu

Work Hard and Embrace the Struggles at Poturo Michoacán México

Working at CECYTEM-EMSAD has been an honor because I have grown and matured as a student and woman. I am very thankful for this great opportunity to work at this organization and have an amazing group of individuals working and supporting me. Although I have sacrificed many things while here, it has been worth it; seeing the smiles from my students and being thanked by the mothers of children with special needs for helping their children progress is the best gift I could ever ask for. Being around the Purépecha Mexican community has made me appreciate my culture and heritage that I come from. I love working at CECYTEM-EMSAD and hope to one day in my near future return and continue the work and change I have initiated at this organization and community.

“Clinic Rooms at CECYTEM-EMSAD”

I believe that I am on the right track on accomplishing my defined learning goals that I established before arriving at my internship. My academic goal is to use my Health: Science, Society and Policy major knowledge in order to help progress the health and education of this community. I also intend to improve my presentation skills through teaching English to children as well as educating teens about sexual and reproductive health. This includes holding workshops on various health topics at the clinic and nearby towns. I am really proud of the progress I have made toward this goal because I feel very confident speaking in front of large groups of children as well as adults all by myself. At first it was a bit difficult, but now I am used to the type of work and no longer feel scared, embarrassed or nervous.  This is the skill for which I am most proud and grateful.

 “Workshop on the Theme of Pregnancy”

My career goal is to establish an Occupational Therapeutic Learning Center for special needs children as well as a clinic for teens in order to help progress the medical and educational knowledge of this community. I think that I am on a good path in achieving this goal because through the weekly committee meetings with the faculty each week, I am learning how to better operate an organization, giving me the fundamental skills in understanding how to manage a business. Being around staff members that are so welcoming and understanding helps me to comprehend that in order to capture an intern’s attention, supervisors and staff must engage and challenge the interns in order to demonstrate if in fact they are ready to take on the responsibility of managing a whole team or event on their own. As I have learned through this experience, I must work hard and embrace struggle.

 “Patient Beds at CECYTEM-EMSAD’s Community Clinic”

My personal goal is to build a stronger connection with this community as well as build my skills of working with special needs children by operating different cases and offering them services such as speech, occupational therapy and behavioral therapy in order to help better the lives of the children and these families. I am working on three cases that have children with special needs. The parents love the way that I motivate their children and they tell me that they see drastic progress in the way that their children behave and act. By holding the weekly workshops of various medical themes, such as family nutrition, disabilities, psychology/stress, pregnancy, methods of protection from sexual reproduction, I am able to build a stronger connection with the population and help them adopt better health styles.

“Teaching English to Elementary Students at CECYTEM-EMSAD”

“Teaching English to Middle School Students at CECYTEM-EMSAD”

The thing that I am most proud of is teaching English to the students at the local school. Within these four weeks my students are already writing and reading English.  As I walk around the village I hear them singing the ABC’s and counting. This shows me that my students are learning and I am making the classes fun. I hope that they continue to have an enjoyable time in my classes and that at the end of my internship they will be able to have basic conversations in English. This would show me that I am creating change in the lives of these students.

“Having Class Outside with my Awesome Students”

I am very grateful that I was selected as a recipient for the WOW Social Justice because this is an unforgettable experience. It is awesome to go to another country and see the difference in culture and lifestyles because one appreciates the little things in life that one once considered insignificant. As a result of this internship, I am building many academic and life skills that will help me become a better student and woman in life. I am improving my participation, confidence, and most importantly I am no longer nervous or scared to speak in front of an audience or ask questions. I would not been able to improve on all of these weaknesses if it were not for this internship. This work has giving me the opportunity to become a better person and has supported me in my path to help me in my academics, future career plans, and other campus involvements. I am no longer a follower, but a leader that is ready to take upon any challenge.

Experience the Unimaginable at CECYTEM-EMSAD Poturo Michoacán México

Working at CECYTEM-EMSAD has been one of the most gratifying experiences in my entire life. At the organization, I completed many tasks that required great patience, responsibility, determination and hard work. I taught English to Elementary, Middle and High school students. I would also teach teens about sexual and reproductive health at the school. Half of the time I would teach English and the other half I would utilize it to educate teens about sexual health. At the end of my internship, I organized a graduation for all of my students and provided food, drinks and banners for their completion of my English courses. We sang songs, recited poems, did plays and had a wonderful time. Parents told me that they wished that I would never leave the organization. I loved hearing this because it made me feel that I completed my job and created a difference in the lives of so many individuals.

“Preparing Cotton Balls for Next Patients’ Vaccination”

At the clinic I would take patient vitals and help distribute medication. I was also in charge of organizing all medication and make sure that all the medicine was not expired. I also held weekly workshops on various health topics at the clinic and neighboring rural towns. I worked on three family cases involving special needs children. I provided them with OT, Speech, PE, and ABA/Behavioral therapy in order to help their children progress. The doctor was very patient with me. I learned how to take shots, measure a mother’s stomach and hear a baby’s heartbeat. I also learned how to do a small incision in a woman’s’ arm to implant an “implanon,” a type of contraceptive.

I am very proud of the work I put into this organization. As a result of my interaction with the population, the staff of CECYTEM-EMSAD has a better understanding of how to work with, talk to and better connect with this Mexican-Purépecha community. My academic, career and personal goals were achieved. I was even able to connect and understand my culture and heritage better, creating a stronger bond with my family and their cultural ties.

This internship opened my eyes to many career opportunities and helped me grow as a student and woman. Working at CECYTEM-EMSAD made me into a leader and inspired me to take on great responsibility. I had to keep myself very organized and manage my time wisely. This whole community depended on me to help them improve their health and education. I never thought that working with a community in such a rural society would be so difficult, but the experience was so gratifying and beautiful to watch.

Now that my time at my internship has come to an end, I am very interested in continuing to take HSSP and Business courses that deal with underprivileged communities and the struggles these societies face. I came to understand many of this town’s philosophies, missions, economy, education and health care. Through personal interactions, I have insight into the people who make up this community, more than I could ever achieve from reading about their lives in a textbook. By completing this successful internship, I want to one day return to work with my host organization again. I also want to work for the government or another company in Mexico to better understand the politics and economy of this country. This would help me in my career because if I apply for a job in the United States, I will be a more experienced individual for having the ability of understand the standards of life, health, medicine, economy of a different country.

“Taking a Horse to CEYCTEM-EMSAD”

One piece of advice that I would give a student who wants to work at my host organization is not to be afraid to take risks and ask questions. Speak up and stand up for what you believe in. If some one does decide to work at CECYTEM-EMSAD, they must be fluent in Spanish as none of the personnel speak English.

Someone who is interested in education, psychology, medicine, business, special education, or becoming a therapist should look into this internship. This internship is the best place for anyone who wants to explore more career paths. All the personnel are extraordinary, and my supervisor is the most considerate and best individual I have met.

“Graduated Students”

Yes, my ideals, philosophies and concepts of social justice have been challenged while working in Poturo, Michoacán México. I used to think that one person could not make a difference in an underprivileged community, but I was completely wrong. To my surprise, I learned that one person could not only make a difference, but also change a society as a whole. Being in charge of so many tasks at the organization made me become a more effective problem solver and citizen because I coordinated many tasks at a time, managed various teams and most importantly I worked with over 200 community members. I learned to appreciate the little things in life that I have because they can be the most valuable items in life.

 

My Final Days

On August 16th, the project I was working on finally bore fruit. That day, the participants finally performed the play  which they had been practicing for a month. Approximately 200 people who came to see the play, which was performed twice that day. They were friends and family of the participants, high school students from theater clubs and other people who were interested in the subject. The play consisted of episodes based on the participants’ own stories. For example, there was an episode about how someone was bullied when he was in elementary and middle school, then he started to bully others in high school.  Another episode was about some of the participants’ experiences with their parents’ divorces, and experiences they had as outcasts.
I was glad that quite a lot of people came to see the play and was especially glad to see that the participants’ friends and family came to see them. Lots of the participants do not have very close relationships with their parents because it can be hard for them to reveal their thoughts and feeling. Many r parents do not really know what the children are doing on a daily basis because they may be busy with work, so it’s hard for them to connect with their children. Even worse, some parents stop caring about their children. I had already known that most of the participants did not tell their parents much about what they were doing in the program, so it was nice to see their parents being pleasantly surprised by the performances. They were surprised by how capable their children are at performing and many of them did not even know about their children’s interest in theater.
I spent my last few weeks coordinating for the next performance. For example, I managed the venue and advertising and more! I was also in charge of finishing the project and documenting the outcomes. Overall, I think it was a very helpful experience for my future career and personal growth. This experience has given me the chance to learn about my strengths as well as weaknesses. Moreover, it taught me what I truly want to do and what the right fit for me might be.
The most important lesson that I learned this summer was the importance of work/life balance, especially when you are passionate and dedicated to what you do. The people where I worked this summer did not have much of a life outside of their work. It is admirable that they are working toward something that they can dedicate their whole lives to, but at times they could be overwhelmed by it. It is especially hard for NGO workers or social workers since they put a lot of energy and emotion into their work. Also, especially since I was working with participants whom I cared about, it was easy for me to get emotionally attached to them. Overall, I am happy to have had this internship experience, and I look forward to what is next to come.
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– Sohyun Shin

11 Weeks Later

Two and a half months after setting foot on the University of Massachusetts campus for the first time, I’m back at Brandeis for my senior year. From everything, I believe that I have gained an immense amount of knowledge about how a small non-profit runs. Going into this internship, I had little idea about the amount of work that each staff member puts into the organization every day. And although I did not conduct much research, from staff meetings, talking with other interns, and all the work I was coming in contact with, I learned a lot more about the field. I learned about new wars, masculinities, peacekeeping operations, and micro-finance, among many other interesting topics relevant to my studies at Brandeis.

The experience I had this summer was also the first time that I had the chance to work in the non-profit sector, and it has solidified my belief that working in a non-profit sector is something that I would like to pursue after graduation. Working at this internship for the summer was also the first time I had the responsibility of maintaining a full-time position. I executed my tasks to the best of my ability and believe from that I gained time management skills and a greater sense of responsibility.

From working with the Consortium, I had the chance to fine-tune my organizational skills. I was on the Cloud Organization team, which I happily signed up for after hearing about the project at the beginning of the summer. More importantly, I have become more detail oriented after working on many of the projects that required me to do so. For example, I was on the Website Accuracy team, which performed checks on website nodes that are part of the Research Hub on the Consortium’s website.

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One last lunch with the interns

 

One part of the internship that I really enjoyed was when we took the time out of a staff meeting to discuss application processes, which were relevant to many, if not all of the interns. Fellow interns and the staff shared advice on applying to various positions, whether it’s a job or an internship. Entering my senior year, and seeking employment after graduation, I’m grateful to have picked up resume and interview tips that will be helpful very soon.

After having had this experience with the Consortium, I’m interested in working with another nonprofit. I would like to gather even more new experiences and see how work is being done in different organizations within the nonprofit sector. If there is anyone interested in gender and security issues or working closely with a small nonprofit organization, I would highly recommend that they apply to intern with the Consortium. Particularly for international relations students, the Consortium presents issues that are very relevant to their field, but rarely discussed.

From participating in this internship, I know that the nonprofit sector is in my future. I saw the passion and the drive that the staff at the Consortium had that they applied to their work and hope to one day also be part of the change for greater social justice.

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View overlooking the water outside UMB

Thank you WOW for such a great summer!

Iris Lee ’15

Criminal Justice Internship leaves me wanting more

It’s hard to believe my internship at the LCADP is over. Although I’m not in New Orleans anymore, it won’t really be over. I feel very connected to this organization, so I will be keeping in touch, and finishing some projects over the next few weeks.

One task in particular was a challenging one for me: I created a phone app this summer, based on a calendar that was developed last year for Catholic Churches and High Schools to become more involved in social justice. This was new for me because I was not brought up in a religious household. I was able to accomplish the task however, and in doing so, I learned a lot about a part of peoples’ lives I knew very little about, and also learned how to work well with a different community. I was able to reach out to religious leaders and get feedback, advice and encouragement. This was a unique and wonderful experience that could have only happened by working for this organization in Louisiana.

This experience has given me an excellent platform to continue my entrance into the criminal justice field. I have made many connections this summer that I will carry with me both at Brandeis and in the outside world. I have applied to work for an Innocence Project housed at Brandeis because of this experience, and intend on looking in to Investigative Internships for next summer because of the work I did with investigators this summer.

After getting a taste of work in this field, I want to learn everything there is about criminal justice and human behavior. I am truly inspired and am actively seeking out more information. There is so much for me to learn, and I am very excited for all of it. I am keeping up to date on executions in the U.S., and continue to read through material I received this summer. A lot of the work I did was with defense attorneys, so I’ll be keeping in touch with them and following their work. I will also be keeping in touch with the inmates I met this summer, because they mean a lot to me, and I was lucky enough to become pretty close with them during my time in Louisiana.

My advice for students looking at this type of work would be to be prepared for very long hours. The people who work in the law offices I worked with do not sleep. It is very intense, hard, depressing work, so people with a sense of humor and a sense of justice are required. The humor is to stay sane, and the sense of justice is to remind you why you’re putting in 70 hours a week and not sleeping. It sounds horrible, but the work is the most fulfilling work I’ve ever experienced. I would also suggest doing more listening than taking. The people in this field know so much. They’re the best of the best because they’re self-selected to work as hard as they possibly can because most of the time they lose cases. They have to be smarter and better than the average lawyer and investigator, because they’re up against society’s norms and standards.

My goals and spirit for justice has been reinforced this summer, more than any other time in my life. I am positive that criminal justice is something I want to fight for. I was challenged a lot this summer by being in Louisiana. It’s a hard place to be when you’re fighting for the rights of poor people. What kept me going was the passion I felt, but also the grit and determination I observed from my boss and co-workers. It was beautiful, inspiring and refreshing. I couldn’t have asked for a better summer.

Links:

The botched execution in AZ hit me really hard. I had been following Joseph Wood’s case and went through an emotional rollar-coaster as he was granted stays then denied stays over and over. In the end, he was brutally killed, his execution taking over an hour involving a lot of pain. Read more: http://www.thereporteronline.com/opinion/20140802/botched-arizona-execution-proves-death-penalty-is-torture

More attention is being brought the the injustice of the death penalty! Let’s keep it going!

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Should-death-penalty-go-Law-panel-begins-review/articleshow/40862013.cms

 

No internship is complete without seeing a cute pup on the street.
No internship is complete without seeing a cute pup on the street.
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Great book to check out. This is an early edition given to Sister Helen, but it’s coming out soon, so look out for it! Bryan Stevenson is one of the leading Capital Defense Attorneys in the world; truly an amazing human being.

 

End of Internship at CGSHR

Reflecting back on my internship at the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights, there are many things that I have taken away from this experience that will enrich my life here at Brandeis and beyond. As a student, this internship opened my eyes to range of armed conflicts and human rights abuses taking place around the world today. I am so much better versed in geography, in international and comparative politics, and in current issues. I have learned an entire new language almost — that of gender analysis as a lens through which to more comprehensively research situations and conflicts. As a senior-year student, with an imminent post-grad job search always in the back of my mind, this internship also helped me to see what working in NGOs and research or advocacy groups might be like, and put me in contact with a whole range of interesting organizations from all around the world.

Now that I have completed this internship, there is even more I want to learn than when I began. At the Consortium, we read and spoke a lot about peacebuilding processes post-conflict, as well as peace negotiations during conflict. Being a “peace-nik” used to get me called “naive” or “idealistic.” Now, I know that there is a whole body of research out there on these kinds of peace-building processes and methods of post-conflict reconstruction, that show this kind of work to be valuable, practical, and tangible. Moving forward, I want to conduct targeted case study research on what kinds of peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction strategies actually work, and why (from an individual level, incorporating my psychology major). I want to look at the effect of sustained and chronic stress in conflict on the psyche, and its implications for post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding work.

As a Social Justice recipient, this ties directly into both challenging and reinforcing my ideas of social justice. I feel relieved and gratified to have read and immersed myself in research devoted to the practical application of peaceful solutions to violent conflict. Cycles of violence are endlessly complex and self-reinforcing, and it takes incredibly careful and thoughtful research to look at why these cycles of violence are perpetuated, and what kinds of interventions or support can help them to find new paths to peace. At this internship, I learned how to better ask the important questions, how to analyze conflict from a gender perspective— and ultimately, learned that this type of research does exist and, armed with this knowledge and experience I have gained, I feel I can become a more effective, informed, careful and practical peacebuilder in my future work.

My advice for any student interested in working at the Consortium? Read up on current events! You will get so much more out of the discussions and research if you already have a foundational base of knowledge about current world conflicts. When I began my internship, I didn’t even know where some of the countries were that we were studying.

Another thing I would advise, after a more personal reflection, for anyone looking to work in this field– would be to really know yourself and respect your limits. There are endless amounts of work to be done at this kind of small NGO, and often there is not enough staff or funding to get it all done. At one point in the summer, I found myself being added to more projects than I could possibly keep up with. I requested a meeting with my supervisor– and it was the first time I have ever had to tell a boss or teacher that I simply could not finish the work, that it was too much. She was incredibly understanding, and immediately shifted one of the projects to another intern who was looking for more work. It was such a simple thing for her, but such a huuuuuuge weight off my shoulders for me. I learned a lot about respecting my self-limits at work, and about leaving work at the door once I came home.

Finally, I am incredibly that this WOW Fellowship gave me the opportunity to have this experience at the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights. I have learned so so much and my life has been so incredibly enriched, and I genuinely could not have done this without the WOW!

Reflections on Streetlight Schools

The Streetlight Schools that I was working at during my last week in Johannesburg felt worlds different than the Streetlight Schools that I began working at back in May. The organization didn’t fundamentally change, but my role certainly developed.  The internship helped me to develop new skills as well as to realize my future professional goals and aspirations. When I arrived in South Africa in May, I knew that equitable education was important to me, but now I know that my professional future will involve increasing opportunities for education in the United States or abroad.

This internship not only made me more sure of my goals, but it also improved my skills in the office, which was exactly what I was looking for. In the past, I’ve been lucky enough to gain quite a bit of hands-on experience with students in classrooms, but I’ve had little exposure to independent work in an office setting in the non-profit organization.  I now realize that if I was employed in a position which was entirely office-based, I would be unhappy in the long run. It is for this reason that the Streetlight internship was the perfect balance for me: I spent mornings doing research in the office and afternoons tutoring in the Learning Centre.

As far as changes at the organization, I was incredibly luck to be able to witness the organization progress throughout the course of my internship. When I first arrived, I was looking for a team environment, however most of my work was independent.  It was quiet in the office, and while there was a lot to do, it seemed to be going slowly. But as time went on, it seemed like good things were happening left and right. During my time there, we created a Facebook page, a blog about innovation in education, and we also further developed the website. The organization also welcomed two new interns during my last month, both of whom I learned quite a bit from. It was also nice because they moved into my apartment with me, which was in the building that I was working (owned by Bjala Properties, the affordable housing project that partners with Streetlight Schools).

As a matter of fact, I think that that was one of my favorite things about the internship (which ended up making it more like a residency). I lived in the building that I worked. Normally, I think a situation like this might be a little bit too much, especially when putting a large time commitment to a job. I was initially slightly afraid that I would never be able to get the feeling of going home after a long day at work. It was, in fact, an incredible opportunity because it allowed me to learn more about the families that the Learning Centre was serving than would’ve been possible if I had been living elsewhere.

Saying goodbye to some of the learners
Saying goodbye to some of the learners
With the other two tutors at Leopard Tree

All in all, I learned a great deal during my internship at Streetlight Schools. I clarified about  my future career. It also provided me with the opportunity to get to know very knowledgeable people in my field, while working alongside them and observing their inspiring passion for improvement in and through education.

End of an internship with Healthy Waltham

Having worked with Healthy Waltham closely for the past few months, I have come to appreciate the complexity and effort that goes into nonprofits. Organizations like Healthy Waltham rely on a vast variety of people to promote healthy eating and living. It takes all kinds of people within the organization to push an idea, and community members are equally, if not more, important in creating change. It’s a team effort in which everyone invests. When the community members are engaged and interested, it works.

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But not everything works out all the time. You just have to make the best of it. A large part of my internship was supposed to be teaching a healthy cooking class, but the class ended up being canceled. The kids preferred other activities. I felt really disappointed in myself for not creating a class the students wanted to keep.

I could have seriously increased my fun-time with fewer obligations at the internship, but I focused my attention on programming and administrative projects instead. For example, reporting methods for events and programs was fragmented since HW gained 501c3 status, so I created an online survey. Moving forward, we should be able to see information like where and how most of our time is spent. That information will help answer questions raised at a strategic planning meeting about how HW is growing and how it should focus.

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Now that I have learned a bit about community health from one nonprofit’s perspective, I want to learn how research is applied to public health. Although I wish to pursue a research and medical career, I want to remain involved in public health. The most important improvements in the population’s health has been through public health initiatives rather than scientific discoveries (see “Medical measures and the decline of mortality” by John B. McKinlay and Sonja M. McKinlay). The next step would be something in translational medicine or research! It has always sounded exciting, but how to get my foot in the door…?

Even though my internship is over, I am now a real employee. If someone wants to be involved with Healthy Waltham or a similar health organization, just reach out! Take the initiative to start the conversation and show them you are interested. You will likely need several emails, phone calls, meetings, or a combination; but if you are dedicated and passionate, you will find someone who could give you the chance. You never know where you will end up.

 

– Yuki Wiland ’15

Bitter Sweet Completion of my TLHRC Internship!

I can’t believe this internship has come to an end, but yet it is bitter sweet. Being a part of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission has been an amazing experience that I will never forget. Midway through my internship I started to take my role to the next level by taking on more responsibilities and projects. Throughout my internship I have completed many projects such as letters to specific human rights organizations (including amnesty international), planning summer information series for American University, planning congressional briefings on pressing human rights issues, and maintaining the office by ordering supplies. This difficult but rewarding experience will help me not only at Brandeis but in my future career because it has challenged me to push beyond my knowledge and educate myself with issues I was previously unaware of. At Brandeis, I now feel more comfortable with my IGS major because I now am now more geographically and politically aware. In addition, this internship will not only help my resume for my future career but it has taught me professionalism and how to work as a team with my colleagues.

Now that my internship is complete, I would like to pursue another internship experience within a Business setting. I am very passionate about my work I did this past summer, but it will not be feasible for a sustainable career. Hopefully next semester I will have the opportunity to broaden my internship experience and have it be applicable to my future career. I hope to learn tools outside of the political realm and incorporate both of my skills.

I advise anyone that would like to pursue an internship at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission to be a self-starter and be able manage stress well. Being a fellow here requires a lot of patience and great communications skills. It is an amazing experience that I would encourage anyone to take advantage of. I now have many amazing memories from the work we have done at the Commission and the people I encountered. Although this internship was great, I do not advise many people to pursue a career/ internship in human rights. I know this may sound bad, but do not take it negatively. I strongly encourage everyone to volunteer and be activists for pressing human rights issues, but it is very difficult to make a difference no matter what your internship or position may be. Most of my colleagues who are highly educated with masters and doctorates were having trouble finding a full time job. It is definitely a field that I have promised myself I will always be involved with, but it is very frustrating because it is difficult to see change.

 

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