As I reflect on my summer experience at Oxfam America, I’ve realized how much I’ve learned about the realities of social justice work, in terms of what promoting justice truly looks like in the real world. Social justice work is incremental, and oftentimes feels invisible or impossible. However, I’ve witnessed how the combination of seemingly small actions and collaboration between changemakers can create larger actions and long-lasting structural change. Instead of being disillusioned by the reality of social justice work, I am empowered to be part of the process. Before my internship started, I never thought it would be possible for individuals to leverage the power of corporations, but now I can confidently say that changemakers at Oxfam do so every day.
Throughout my internship, I collaborated and led various projects that supported my department’s overall mission of creating equitable food value chains for the largest food and beverage stakeholders. My biggest contribution was documenting supplier disclosure practices through researching and compiling resources, which I used to create a database to keep track of the supplier transparency efforts of these companies, traders, and supermarkets.
There were definitely moments along the way that felt tedious or like I was searching for dead ends. However, once I completed the project, I was so proud of myself and the research I had conducted. This project will be valuable for the members of my team who can now access this information in a consolidated and organized document. Since my team members work directly with companies, this information will serve as a knowledge base to guide action and directly influence the companies to improve human rights, environmental practices, and promote justice in all its forms.
After completing this internship process, I would recommend that others spend the summer interning at an organization like Oxfam America. I’ve learned how important it is to stay open-minded and say yes to every project, especially those that I knew little about beforehand. I’ve learned the importance of asking for help, and advocating for myself as needed. Over the course of my internship, I asked so many questions.
I would also recommend connecting with people outside of your department. After my supervisor asked me if there were any projects that I wanted to learn more about, I advocated that I wanted to learn more about health equity efforts at Oxfam, and had the opportunity to speak with Oxfam staff working on the COVID-19 People’s Vaccine. This campaign is working on improving vaccine access around the world by making the vaccine free, fair, and accessible (learn more and sign the People’s Vaccine petition here). It was so valuable to meet with people outside of my team and department, both for networking opportunities and to learn more about the topics that I’m passionate about!
I wouldn’t change anything about this internship experience. Through my internship with Oxfam America, I learned so much about how to promote gender justice, climate justice, human rights, and labor rights in the value chain. I also learned more about myself through this internship and the kind of work and setting that I want to be in once I graduate. I hope to stay connected to Oxfam America and am confident that this internship will help steer me towards future opportunities that promote social justice.