Recipient of Social Justice WOW

The author of this post received a Louis D. Brandeis Social Justice WOW Fellowship. Learn more: http://www.brandeis.edu/hiatt/funding/wow/socialjustice.html

RI Foundation 1

 

As I reflect on my midpoint at the Rhode Island Foundation, I am aware that I have experienced many positive emotions in and out of my workplace environment.  I enjoy going to work at the Foundation so much so, that I come in before the time I am supposed to arrive everyday.  I like to be in an environment filled with people who are passionate about the work they do.  It encourages me and gives me hope that I will one day find a job that I can be equally as passionate about.  My overall impression about the workplace is that the work can be challenging and tedious, but every detail counts.  Life moves fast and it takes energy, skill and passion to make the work go by smoothly.

Rhode Island Foundation 2

The world of work is different from university life in that you are not measured on your performance by grades, or how much you have memorized for a test.  Instead, you are measured on how well you can work with members on a team and alleviate some of the pressures and challenges team members face.  Academic work is oftentimes individualistic.  However, I have realized that in the real world, you have to know how to talk, interact and learn from one another across a company, or in my case, a foundation.  I know that this can be a challenge for many workplaces; however, at the Rhode Island Foundation, everyone tries to make time for one another so that communication stays open.  I feel very well supported in this type of environment and because of the great teamwork and cross-departmental collaboration, I have been fortunate to meet and work with a large network of people.

The skills that I am learning in my internship are extremely valuable for me.  I am learning how to analyze and read through large amounts of information, and then summarize it in order to present my findings to my supervisor.  I am also applying my classroom knowledge of philanthropy and scanning broad search engines, such as Grants.gov, to do effective research for the Foundation.  The research I am doing is time consuming and I am required to search many key-word combinations to find grants for which the Foundation can apply.  It would be impractical to spend a lengthy amount of time on any one source so I have to find the information that I need quickly and then move on.  I am now confident in my ability to be able to continue to use my skills to help the Foundation, as I have been receiving positive feedback from my supervisor.

 

Best,

 

-Lauren Nadeau ‘2017

Week one of my internship at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) has concluded, and so far, my experience has been stellar.

Before elaborating about my experience thus far, I will highlight MCAD’s mission and my role this summer.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) is a government agency dedicated to eliminating and preventing discrimination, and educating citizens of the Commonwealth regarding their rights and duties under anti-discrimination statues (MCAD website). If individuals feel as if they have been wrongfully discriminated against, they can file a complaint through MCAD. Within MCAD, I am working as a SEED Outreach Intern; essentially, I contact organizations that serve individuals that are likely to experience discrimination and ask if MCAD can host a presentation at their organization. My colleague and I then conduct the presentation which runs from one to two hours and goes over the protections that people have against discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and housing.

My first four days kicked off with training for all the interns, aimed at teaching us the relevant aspects of Massachusetts law (151B).  The training was an illuminating experience.  I did not know the protections against discrimination were so expansive or that Massachusetts has become a leading state in the fight against discrimination – which I elaborate more on in my next blog post.

So far, my experience as an MCAD intern has exceeded my expectations. The work is very engaging, and my supervisor has done a great job of training us and preparing us for the work that we will be doing this summer. She also does a wonderful job of fostering a healthy work environment and building a strong sense of team among all the outreach interns. We have the opportunity to attend “brown bag lunches,” where staff members at  MCAD talk about certain topics over lunch. The first session discussed disability discrimination and was led by a subject matter expert who gave insights about the daily workings on an array of issues. In additions to structured trainings and talks, we are also given the opportunity to observe proceedings at MCAD. I have already had a chance to observed a conciliation hearing which gave me a chance to experience the law in a more practical setting.

The bulk of our outreach presentations are scheduled for July, so right now my biggest efforts are focused on outreach so I can schedule presentations with organizations.  In my next post, I look forward to providing more updates – including details on my experiences on the presentations.

All in all, I am very excited to be working here and I am off to a great start!

 

– Si Chan ’16

 

 

The Akshaya Patra Foundation, which provides a mid-day meal every school day to approximately 1.4 million Indian youths, is the largest provider of mid-day meals in the world. This summer, my main responsibility is to interview parents, teachers, headmasters, and, when appropriate, the general public, in order to gain insights into the ways in which a daily mid-day meal motivates families to send their children—and especially their daughters—to school for longer periods of time. The Akshaya Patra Foundation has two primary and interrelated goals. First, the Foundation seeks to supply children to with a mid-day meal to incentivize participation in government schools and, consequently, to help alleviate child labor and slavery. Often times, children attending government schools are forced to drop out of school to work menial and often dangerous jobs to provide supplementary income to their families. Since the children are fed during the school day, it often becomes possible for them to attend school, rather than working to pay for their own mid-day meal.

Every day, I will visit three government schools and interview children ranging in age from seven to sixteen years old. I will interview nine children per day. In addition, over the course of the summer, I will interview several former mid-day meal beneficiaries who have received scholarships towards the cost of their post-secondary education. I will use these interviews to write a series of “case studies” for the Foundation. These “case studies” may be circulated internally within Akshaya Patra, or may be displayed on the Foundation’s website with the hope of motivating potential donors to support the Foundation by qualitatively demonstrating the “impact” of the mid-day meal program.

Akshaya Patra is far from the only NGO to supply a mid-day meal to Indian youths. The Foundation receives half of its funding through the Indian government due to a federal mandate and national scheme that required that every child enrolled in an Indian government school is entitled to a mid-day meal. Since Akshaya Patra’s Bangalore headquarters raises approximately 40 percent of the necessary operating costs, funders that give in the United States account for only ten percent of the overall expenses. This differentiates Akshaya Patra from many other transnational NGOs. Because all of the food production—and the vast majority of the fundraising—come from Indian sources, the Foundation it is much more likely to remain sustainable in the communities that it serves.

Since the Foundation has asked me to write about “success” stories in order to demonstrate “impact,” I have proposed a senior thesis topic that explore the relationship between “success”—as defined by the informants—and caste/class status. More specifically, I have proposed to write about how notions of “success” are used by transnational NGOs, like the Akshaya Patra Foundation, as a means to motive foreign donors—primarily from the United States and western Europe—to support their work. I will engage with issued of “modernity” and “progress” as a way to interpret what “counts” as “success”—for the Indian students, for the transnational NGOs, and for the foreign philanthropic audience.  I’m hopeful that this work, which will be informed by the interviews I conduct this summer, will also be helpful to the Akshaya Patra Foundation. I’m looking forward to sending a copy of my findings.

I have the wonderful opporunity to stay at the ISKCON temple complex while I am in Bangalore. Akshaya Patra is affiliated with the ISKCON temple through A. C. Bhaktivdanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the ISKCON.

The Akshaya Patra Foundation’s website in India can be found here. In addition, the USA Akshaya Patra website can be found here.

ISKCON Bangalore’s website can be found here.

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ISKCON Bangalore temple complex

(photo source: http://www.iskconbangalore.org/our-temple-0)

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One of Akshaya Patra’s 24 kitchens across ten states in India

(photo source: https://theakshayapatrafoundation.wordpress.com)

 

-Shane Weitzman ’16

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It’s hard to believe that I am already at the half way mark of my internship experience with AIDS Action Committee (AAC). During these four weeks, I have had the opportunity to learn more about some of the barriers facing access to affordable housing. My position requires me to make calls to property managers and landlords to inquire about whether they have affordable housing units available for rent for people of low-income. After making the calls, I update AAC’s online database and hard-copy files so that our clients can have the most up to date information about the affordable housing options that are available when they start to fill out applications. Despite this seemingly simply routine, there are significant systematic barriers that block access to affordable housing for those who are poor.

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AIDS Action Committee is affiliated with Fenway Health in Boston. Photo taken from fenwayfocus.org.

The wait list for many affordable housing units are often over 2 years long and it is very rare to find a complex that does not have a wait list. Despite how overwhelmingly difficult it is to find affordable housing, many property managers discriminate against poorer individuals seeking housing. Though many luxury apartment complexes have affordable units available, this type of housing is often times not listed on their websites or other advertisements due to stigma. Working at AAC has enlightened me on a wide range of social inequalities and health disparities and has made me want to become a better advocate for those who are sick and living in poverty.

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First floor of AAC.

At AAC, they are currently holding a bi-weekly training workshop series called “Getting to Zero”, in which staff members are trained on different topics related to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment so that we can learn how to better advocate for our clients. After attending one of these meetings, I was able to gain knowledge on how to help people living with HIV/AIDS stick to their treatment plans and learn about some alternative treatment methods if people are not responding well to their medication or forgetting to take their medication. Though my main work at AAC is not in direct service to people living with HIV/AIDS, the training was extremely informative and allowed me to gain better insight on AAC’s mission. I am looking forward to attending more “Getting to Zero” meetings and I am especially excited to view the HIV/AIDS advocacy documentary “How To Survive A Plague” in one of our upcoming trainings.

This week, I had the opportunity to visit Youth on Fire, a program of AAC located in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA that serves as a drop-in center for homeless and street-involved youth ages 14-24. Youth on Fire aims to respond to the basic and urgent needs of homeless young adults at the highest risk of communicable diseases and victimization. It was a rewarding experience to get to connect with the youth there and just hang out and get to know them better. At AAC I have gotten to interact with a demographic of people that is definitely different from what I would encounter in a typical college academic environment. I am hopeful that I will take the advocacy skills I learn at AAC with me back to campus and use them in the future as a public health provider.

-Ngobitak Ndiwane ’16

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This summer, I am the development intern at United for a Fair Economy (UFE). UFE is based in Boston, MA. Its mission is to challenge the concentration of wealth and power in the United States. UFE works to close the wage gap, advocating for jobs with living wages, progressive taxes, and a government that works for the common good. In addition, much of UFE’s work promotes equal opportunity for people who have been marginalized in our society for reasons including race, class, gender, and national origin. Projects include popular economics trainings, collaboration with other organizations to support grassroots campaigns for tax fairness, and materials to bring attention to important issues. UFE’s website is in both English and Spanish, as is all of the materials it produces and the events it hosts. UFE maintains that democracy must embody these components of equality.

blog post 1 ufe

As the development intern, I assist with fundraising and donor communications. My responsibilities include research, donor appeals, and informational material preparation. By helping to raise money, I will contribute to UFE’s important mission. I found out about this internship through Brandeis University’s community service department. UFE partners with the Hiatt Career Center at Brandeis to hire one intern each summer as part of the social justice WOW program.

Overall, I enjoyed my first week at UFE. I learned a lot about what the organization and each branch does. I read previous intern’s projects and talked to the staff. I also began forming relationships with staff and board members. Everyone involved is very committed to their work and UFE’s mission as a whole. Their dedication is exciting and I look forward to working with and learning from all of them.  One of UFE’s most striking resources is, “11 Things the Wealthiest Americans Can Buy for the U.S.”.

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Also this week, I completed my first project, an information and statistics sheet to be handed out at UFE’s board meeting. In doing this, I learned how to use the database in which UFE stores all information about donors and communications. I used the information in this database and Excel spreadsheets to assemble statistics on UFE’s individual giving and online giving over the past few years. I then researched data on philanthropy in the United States, and created a summary for the board.

In my time at UFE, I hope to gain professional, non-profit experience. I would like to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes at a non-profit organization, or small organization in general. This being my first internship, I would also like to gain experience with the skills required to be successful in the real world, like time management, organization, and communication skills. In addition, I hope to apply what I have learned in school, including an understanding of economics and writing skills. Also, I want to utilize other more abstract strengths I have honed in school, including hard work, dedication, and a desire to learn. Lastly, I hope to develop relationships with my coworkers at UFE. This internship is an opportunity to meet some amazing people and  I am excited to learn and grow this summer in this position.

– Rebecca Epstein ’18

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I have officially completed my first week of my summer internship at the Community Day Center of Waltham. As the only day center in the metrowest area, the Community Day Center of Waltham provides a safe, warm environment for people who are homeless or otherwise needing of the resources provided by the center. Approximately 700 people are serviced each year, facing complex challenges such as physical and emotional abuse, domestic violence, physical disabilities, mental illnesses, poverty, homelessness, joblessness, alcoholism, drug addiction, and legal issues. The day center offers these people a concrete support system, offering them services such as the Internet, phones, advocacy, referrals, healthcare, legal counsel, housing referrals, and job search assistance. By offering these services, the Day Center enables these individuals to become more independent and productive. Having worked with the Day Center sophomore year, I have become more comfortable working with this population and am learning much about their experiences and stories, allowing me to better understand the complexity of societal barriers and societal standings. My growing familiarity with this population allows my perspective on the Waltham community and in general, homeless communities, to expand. The development of this perspective will give me the greater knowledge needed to accurately assess and refer the people that live in this community.

Me editing and uploading the Day Center's intake form

image2 Editing and uploading intake forms

At the Day Center, I have a range of responsibilities. I am a part of the Day Center team, meaning I help out with day-to-day tasks like help serving food for lunch, cleanup at the end of the day, and other tasks to ensure each day at the Day Center runs smoothly. Primarily I will be working on a health survey that over the past year, I wrote and implemented with the help of some Brandeis volunteers. I just completed our 100th survey and will soon begin the process of compiling and distributing that information. I will be writing a piece about the process of creating and implementing the survey. This summer, I will be collaborating with the Executive Director of the Community Day Center of Waltham to create a media strategy to share the results of the survey, identify stakeholders, reach out to community groups to give presentations, and coordinate these presentations. Aside from the health survey, I will be working on improving the Day Center’s efficiency and data collection by uploading intake forms, guest satisfaction surveys and other forms online. Additionally, I will continue to help with case management and support for the guests.

My goals for learning this summer include case management training and administration to assess individuals at the center,  implementation and publication of the health survey, and continued learning about the societal barriers and struggles of this population. To achieve these, I will fully engage myself in the work I do, commit time and focus to fully understand the necessary protocols in order to properly assess and refer individuals, and create professional yet personal relationships. To learn about the societal barriers and struggles of this population, I will create an open-minded and comfortable, yet professional environment for people to feel safe approaching me to talk about personal issues, or to seek help. So far, I have successfully been able to create this safe space for many individuals. I have learned a lot over the past few weeks and I look forward to the coming month.

Community Day Center of Waltham

Here is an article detailing some of what we do at the Day Center

– Diana Langberg ’17

 

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Goals for the Summer

This summer I intend on taking up all of the opportunities I am offered during my time at American Jewish World Services (AJWS) in terms of work, nonprofit organizations, and myself in order to accomplish my goals for my future career, academic journey, as well as my personal goals for the summer.

In terms of my career, this summer through the internship I hope to learn as much as I can about how a successful nonprofit organization functions. Through my experience at Brandeis in furthering good causes, I have encountered a lot of politics involved. I am looking forward to seeing how such a remarkable and successful organization such as AJWS deals with the politics of furthering good causes and how it organizes itself to be successful. I also hope to get to know the employees at AJWS to hear how they ended up getting involved and their stories, both for networking and for personal causes.

For my academic journey, I hope to learn more about specific human rights causes and which ones in particular I might hope to further pursue. I hope to learn more about “experiential education” and programming. I aim to apply what I have learned in my classes dealing with anthropology, conflict, dialogue, and Judaism to the work I do at AJWS.

My personal goals for this summer align with the others as I hope to make the most out of the opportunity to work for these incredible causes with inspiring people. I hope to explore my particular interests and the ways I prefer to work, and to get to know the fascinating people who are dedicated to the work that AJWS does.

 

My Work So Far

This first week interning at the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) has been absolutely incredible! The mission of AJWS is: “Inspired by the Jewish commitment to justice, American Jewish World Service (AJWS) works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world. Rooted in our mission, AJWS was founded in 1985 by American Jews who wanted to join together as global citizens to help some of the poorest and most oppressed people around the globe. Today, AJWS is the only Jewish organization dedicated solely to ending poverty and promoting human rights in the developing world.” (ajws.org). I am working in the New York office in the Office of the President Intern position, where my supervisor is the executive assistant to the president of the organization.

There have been so many fascinating parts, and also many surprises.

Some interesting parts were sitting in on an executive board meeting where I learned all about the ways that AJWS forms their goals and how they plan to accomplish them. The main goal of AJWS is to help marginalized people in the developing world realize their human rights. There are different subject areas that AJWS works in within the developing world: civil and political rights, land and water rights, and sexual health rights. AJWS also deals with disaster relief. I have had a wonderful opportunity to sit in on many meetings with the organization, as well as converse with Ruth Messinger, the president of AJWS, about her work. Also, on June 10th, I attended something called an “All-Staff” which was a staff retreat for all of the workers for AJWS in the United States. We discussed how much of the “J” (Jewish) should be involved in the organization, as well as many other interesting topics.

My work has included a lot of administrative work such as writing out dictations, reading a lot of articles/Dvrei Torah to find topics/quotes of relevance/interest, and other tasks of organization that will help move the flow of AJWS along. I have loved the reading and learning as well as sitting in on meetings and getting to meet with executive board members.

I have been surprised a few times throughout this first experience. The first day, Ruth Messinger, the president of the organization, paid my fellow Office of the President intern and me an unexpected visit, surprising me. Also, the organization is going through some structural changes, so the staff are in an interesting emotional place. These experiences have taught me a lot about how to maintain oneself in a professional setting. I have also been experiencing living in a big city for the first time as well as living by myself for the first time.

The start of my internship has been inspiring and I have learned so much so far. I look forward to the rest of the summer!

At the "All-Staff" retreat, each table was tasked with using random art materials to demonstrate what the "Jewish" aspect of the organization is.

At the “All-Staff” retreat, each table was tasked with using random art materials to demonstrate what the “Jewish” aspect of the organization is.

This is my office area where I work every day.

This is my office area where I work every day.

 

-Gabi Hersch ’17

My First Week in Indianapolis has already come to an end. Last Friday, after a three day organizing training with Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) in Chicago I arrived at my work site in Indianapolis. Here I am working with one of IWJ’s affiliate organizations, the Indianapolis Worker Justice Center (IWJC). This week was an exciting one, not just for me, but also for IWJC as an organization. IWJC was established about a year ago, and this week they were officially approved for a 501c3, as an affiliate for IWJ.  They also learned that they received their first grant this week as well. As a new member of the team, I could really feel the excitement that brought.

The IWJC is a non-profit organization working to help low-wage workers come together to organize as well as provide them with resources and trainings such as “Know Your Rights at Work.” They are working on campaigns with taxi drivers and 1099 misclassification, including work against wage theft and much more. So far IWJC has been running solely on volunteer work, they are therefore not able to hold regular walk-in hours for them to advise people but that is hopefully going to change soon.

My tasks include reaching out to the community to let more people know about the center. I will also be helping with the campaign to organize taxi drivers who are meeting at the IWJC. Further I am helping to advertise for our Fourth of July Justice Jam event. My work will impact the organization because it will hopefully help it grow. By letting more people and organizations know about the work that IWJC is doing and the services they are offering they will be able to assist more people. By reaching out to other community centers, we also want to create a local referral list for people who come to us with issues that do not fall into the areas of work that IWJC focuses on.

My goals for this summer are to develop organizing skills. I have already been able to learn more theory during the IWJ intern training and am now starting to put it into action. One of the most important things is to build relationships, which I will hopefully start doing soon. I also hope to gain a better understanding of specific workers rights’ issues and how to fight them. I have also already been able to learn more, for example about the problems taxi drivers face in Indianapolis.

Taxi Drivers meeting at IWJC

Taxi Drivers meeting at IWJC

As a sociology major, this internship directly relates to my studies of inequality, social movements in the United States. Being a part of an actual movement will help me understand the work that goes into these changes and it will let me understand how the theory is put into practice. My career and academic goals are very closely related to my personal goals because I wish to work towards a more just and equal society. I believe that this internship will help me see inequality fist hand and help me act against it.

– Tamar Lyssy ’16

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This past Friday marks the end of my first very busy, very exciting, and quite enthralling week of work at PFLAG National!

For those of you who don’t know, PFLAG is a national non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to both LGBTQ people as well as their parents, families, friends and allies. They have hundreds of thousands of members across the country and regional chapters in every state. PFLAG is the largest LGBTQ family and ally organization in the United States. Its mission is to support LGBTQ people, their friends and families, educate people on LGBTQ discrimination and the unique struggles LGBTQ people face, and finally, advocate on the local, state, and federal level to change attitudes and create laws that achieve equality for LGBTQ individuals.

Sounds pretty awesome right!

Well I have the immense pleasure to work under the Director of Policy, Diego Sanchez, as the Legislative and Policy Intern. Not only is Diego brilliant, motivated and passionate about LGBTQ issues, but he also has a long and intricate history of working in policy on both the state and federal level. Diego and the entire PFLAG office have been more than welcoming to me, and have immediately accepted me as one of their own.

(The Capitol building)

Doing things at The Capitol building!

Every day of work for me is different, so there is not really a “typical day.” However, my more regular responsibilities include writing up our biweekly policy newsletter Policy Matters, researching and organizing LGBTQ related legislative bills so that we can lobby them on Capitol Hill and among other LGBTQ organizations and constituencies, updating our national advocacy toolkit and policy guide One Voice, writing articles for our biannual newsletter PFLAGPole, and finally doing some social media and website updates.

Even though I have a range of really interesting and engaging in-office responsibilities, I also get to do a lot of work outside the PFLAG office. Almost every day Diego invites me to an event, a bill hearing, a planning meeting, or a conference with a legislator. Through all of these out-of-office experiences, I truly have the opportunity to not only observe but participate in the policy and legislative process. Just this past week I attended a White House Big Table meeting on the upcoming Supreme Court cases, a USDA Transgender Panel (where Diego spoke) and lunch in honor of Pride Month, a Voting Rights Act rally planning meeting with a coalition of other NGO’s, and finally, a conference with a Senator regarding an upcoming LGBTQ-related bill.

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Who knew I would get to go to the White House on my second day of work!

I couldn’t have asked for more out of an internship and it’s only been one week! There are a lot of exciting things ahead especially with DC Pride this weekend and the Supreme Court releasing their decision on marriage equality in late June. Both DC and PFLAG have immediately captured my interest, my enthusiasm, and my passion for change. And so I cannot wait to see what the rest of the summer, my work, and this city will bring!

-Aliya Bean

 

 

 

SUPLIVING

This summer I am thrilled to be working for Supportive Living Incorporated as a fitness trainer/research intern.  This internship has two parts. To start off, I’ve been helping run a three day a week fitness program for adults with brain injuries. Later this summer, I will be working off site on a research project that will hopefully help SLI improve their wellness program as well as advocate for state funding. As the research portion of my internship is not fully underway yet, I’ll spend this blog post talking about the fitness program and my experience so far working as a personal trainer.

About Supportive Living Incorporated and the Wellness Center:

Supportive Living Incorporated (SLI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that adults with brain injuries lead meaningful, fulfilling lives in their communities. To do this, SLI has created four residential programs that provide affordable and supportive housing for brain injury survivors. Brain injury can effect anyone at any time, and its impact is usually far reaching and life long. SLI recognizes this, and is a unique organization in the brain injury rehabilitation field because it offers comprehensive care that takes into account the many different needs of those living with brain injuries. First and foremost, SLI houses are not nursing homes.  The four residential centers operated by SLI were all developed to be the least restrictive environments possible and to focus on opportunities for independent living. As a public health student, I am fascinated by SLI’s all inclusive and life long approach to brain injury rehabilitation. SLI aims to not solve the individual challenges faced by those with brain injuries, but rather the entire puzzle. In addition to independent housing, SLI offers social programming, career services, family support, life skills training, case management support, money management, health care services, and more. SLI also conducts research in the brain injury rehabilitation field. You can read more about the history of SLI here.

My Experience so far as a Fitness Intern:

Working as a personal trainer for SLI’s wellness center has been a phenomenal experience so far. On my first day, my supervisor, Peter Noonan, sat down with me and the other fitness interns, and gave us a “crash course” he called “Brain Injury 101.” We learned the difference between traumatic vs acquired brain injuries as well as the common complications that occur after a brain injury. We then met with personal trainers from an organization called Access Sport America  who developed and run the fitness program for SLI. Finally, I met the individuals that I personally will be working with.

From 2:00-3:00 I will work with Terry, a middle aged garden enthusiast who suffered anoxic brain damage after having a heart attack about six years ago. Terry was confined to a wheelchair for about a year but is now able to walk completely on her own, though she still struggles with coordination as well as memory issues. Terry’s goals for exercising are to improve her coordination, core strength, and cardiovascular fitness so she can participate in one of her favorite activities- horseback riding.

From 3:00-4:00 I will be working with Lisa, who is quite a bit older than Terry but nevertheless full of life. She loves telling, and retelling, stories from her youth, including how she lead her high school basketball team to win the state championships and about how her two brothers “toughened her up.” Lisa usually uses a wheelchair but is adamant about using her walker for the fitness program. With Lisa I will work on walking and strength training to maintain her current level of fitness and keep her from being dependent on her chair full time.

Finally from 4:00-5:00 I work with Louise, who suffered her brain injury as an infant when she fell out of a window. Louise is also of advanced age, and is not afraid to speak her mind! I’ve found working with Louise to be particularly beneficial because she is always giving me tips and advice on how to safely and respectfully do things like help her stand up and walk. Louise suffers from seizures but other than that has very few cognitive impairments from her injury. With Louise the focus will be entirely on walking, as she does not get a chance to walk during the rest of the week, and needs to maintain the muscles and circulation in her legs.

I am loving that I can experience three totally different cases, each with different goals and needs for this program. An important thing I have learned about brain injury rehabilitation is how individual each person’s rehab journey is. Just like no two brains are the same, no two injuries are the same, and so SLI’s fitness program tries to offer one-on-one training as much as possible, so that a trainer can focus on one person’s individual needs at a time. This also creates a wonderful interpersonal relationship between the trainers and the individual they are working with. I can’t wait to bond with Terry, Lisa, and Louise at a personal level!

My Goals:

My career goal is to become a physical therapist. As a fitness trainer, I will be doing therapeutic exercises to rehabilitate people with disabilities. This work will prepare me for the work in physical intervention I hope to do as a physical therapist. I will also be making connections within the physical rehabilitation field, which will be invaluable as I begin to network relationships with physical therapists that can assist me in my prospective applications to graduate programs.

My academic goal is to apply and expand upon what I have learned as a Health, Science, Society, and Policy major.  In the fitness program, my responsibility of administering therapeutic exercises will utilize and expand upon my academic knowledge of physiology, biology, and exercise science. Working with the brain injury community will further my knowledge about the disability field, which I have studied academically. My duties as a research intern will utilize/expand upon my academic studies of epidemiology, statistics, research methods, as well as health policy.

My personal goal is to form intimate relationships with the adults in the exercise program. Interacting with this population every day, I hope to be a fitness trainer, and also a friend. As a physical therapist I want to be as supportive and understanding as possible towards people with disabilities and know how to best serve their unique needs. While teaching this population, I will also discover a great deal about disability on a personal level, something I believe you can only truly learn through hands on experience.

That’s all for now! To see what the space and fitness program looks like, check out this video:

– Julia Doucett ’16

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ETE Camp Logo

The countdown for the start of the Empowerment through Education (ETE) Camp in Hinche, Haiti has begun. ETE Camp is a not-for-profit summer camp that has been changing the lives of Haitian children for seven consecutive years. It was founded and facilitated by, Brandeis University alumna, Shaina Gilbert. The mission of the camp is to prepare youth in Hinche, Haiti “to become future community leaders for social change by strengthening their academic skills, increasing self-confidence, and building community and parental support.” In less than a month I will be in this brilliantly beautiful and resistant country, among the adolescents, teaching them and engaging with them in various topics including math, literacy, engineering, and leadership. In addition to those topics I will be piloting public health workshops to be included in the curriculum.

ETE Camp Website

As a counselor I am responsible for creating a public-health curriculum and proposing it to Boston Public School ESL teachers for review to strengthen the program. This is the first part of my internship that has already begun. It is extremely exciting and slightly nerve-wrecking feeling to know that not only am I working with this program but that I get to start something that I’ve spent the last 3 years at Brandeis studying: public health. As a rising senior I am in a high-pressure yet eye-opening time of my life. I am responsible for coming up with options for my post-Brandeis life and this opportunity to plan and take part in a field of interest is not only invaluable but unbelievable.

(Here I am doing research for the public health curriculum)

Here I am doing research for the public health curriculum

The current part of my internship, that is pre-departure, deals a lot with research and networking. I spend a lot of my time looking at statistics and comparing the efficacy of other public health programs to build ideas from for ETE Camp. There is a lot of communication between myself, my bosses, and peers to integrate what I would like to see happen and what they can see actually working. There is a language barrier, Haitian Creole, to take into consideration, so keeping things simple and effective is the main goal. My workshops are covering a range of topics including leadership, self-love/self-esteem, fitness, and of course health and prevention.

ETE Camp Mini-Documentary

My goal for this summer at the most basic level is to learn new skills and be completely immersed in this experience. I want to pay attention to how well theory does and doesn’t translate into practice so that I may develop necessary skills, as I prepare to leave my academic hub and enter the world, a place that is not as neat and organized as my textbooks. I will practice the problem-solving skills that I’ve learned to design my public-health curriculum and see what my skills produce. Giving this opportunity my full attention and dedication gives me the chance to not only show my gratitude for being a part of this experience but also gain insight into a future I am working towards. As I continue with the first, domestic, phase of my internship, I know that it is just as important as the second, contact-based, phase when I reach Hinche, Haiti. I am enjoying every part of my internship so far. The work that I have been given the responsibility to handle is showing me more and more everyday that I am capable of anything to which I set my mind.

– Zari Havercome ’16

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For my summer internship, I am working at the Illinois Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics (also known as ICAAP) located in West Town, Chicago, IL. ICAAP is a coalition of 2300 pediatricians located throughout the state of Illinois who are jointly committed to improving health outcomes of children throughout the state.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.23.02 PMMy particular initiative is called PROTECT- Promoting Resiliency Of Trauma Exposed Communities Together. Before I get into what the program does, you should consider watching this fantastic Ted Talk by Nadine Burke Harris about the overwhelming scope of childhood trauma, and learn why childhood trauma is being considered one of the largest unaddressed public health concerns to date.

The Early Childhood Development team at ICAAP- a group of three incredible and passionate woman- was awarded a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant for three years, the goal of which is to bring together different initiatives working to reduce the impacts of childhood trauma throughout the state of Illinois, educate important players (such as pediatricians, educators, and faith communities) about the impact of childhood trauma, create a virtual resource center to provide free resources to those who want to become trauma-informed, engage with communities and families who are exposed to trauma, and create policy recommendations and best practices consistent with being trauma informed. (Thats a mouthful- learn more about PROTECT here!)

One of my primary responsibilities will be to deliver speeches about childhood trauma to different audiences throughout Illinois who want to become trauma informed. This two hour presentation, my boss informed me and my fellow intern, will ‘become ours’, and we will ‘own it’. They told us that by the end of the summer, we will become experts in the field of childhood trauma. Here’s a few of the responsibilities that I can remember them bringing up: We will be writing grants, conducting research to aid communities who want to become trauma informed, acting as a coordinator and moderator of different interest groups, presenting about childhood trauma throughout the state, and attending educational Webinars on behalf of ICAAP. These responsibilities, some mundane and some large, will help the understaffed ECD team work more efficiently and collaboratively towards their goal of bringing a trauma-informed lens to the state of Illinois.

These responsibilities align perfectly with my learning goals, just as the staff at ICAAP are looking to do. An academic goal of mine is to learn more about childhood trauma, and understand the impact it has on healthcare and society. Already at the end of week one, I feel confident in my knowledge of childhood trauma. The more I understand about the scope of its impact, the more excited I am about my work. A career goal of mine is to experience first hand how a non-for-profit operates, and what it means to work to reduce healthcare disparities, a buzzword that is constantly thrown around but that I’ve never truly understood. My work is constantly exposing me to new non-for-profits. One of my first assignments was to invite businesses and non-for-profits to our upcoming Autism, Behavioral, and Complex Medical Needs Conference. Through doing so, I came to realize just how extensive a community exists in the subset of developmental delays, and how many different creative approaches there are for mediating disparities in healthcare.  A personal goal of mine is to get a better understanding of what drives change in the healthcare system. So far, I have seen glimpses of the dedication and passion it takes to influence policy makers, and I know that through my continuous work with such a noble organization I will continue to see what drives change.

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My workspace! Notice that the coffee isn’t too far from hand :)

Elizabeth Villano ’16

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In 2014 there were approximately 20,000 people who, at one point or another, experienced homelessness in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. There are two avenues someone can pursue to help people who endure this condition; one is to provide them with direct services. The other avenue is to seek lasting change on the public policy level. The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, my internship site, pursues both.

The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, an organization that advocates for those who experience homelessness, carries a mission of eradicating homelessness from the Commonwealth. In pursuit of this goal, the Coalition operates both Public Policy and Community Organizing Departments. These departments conduct policy campaigns to promote legislation that enfranchises those who endure homelessness. Located in Lynn, MA, the Coalition also operates a furniture bank in the same facility to assist those who were previously experiencing homelessness in acquiring furniture for their new residences. My focus as an intern is with the Public Policy and Community Organizing Departments. As a Legislative Intern, I research policy proposals, recruit organizations to endorse the Coalition’s policy campaigns, and encourage communities to write to their legislators in support of these campaigns.

Sr. Linda Bessom, Senior Community Organizer at the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless

Sr. Linda Bessom, Senior Community Organizer at the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless

As a Coordinator of the Hunger and Homelessness Division of the Brandeis University Waltham Group, a student-led community service organization dedicated to connecting the student population with Waltham’s population of those who are homeless, I first learned of the Coalition’s work by researching local policy institutes with my peers as a part of an effort last year to incorporate advocacy into our club’s programming. Having begun the club’s official partnership with the Coalition this past fall, I familiarized myself with a few of the Advocacy Directors who are employed there. In January, as I thought about the importance of obtaining an internship for the second semester of my junior year, I knew exactly who to contact. Fast-forward 5 months and I continue to intern for an advocacy agency that has scored significant policy victories over the last several months, highlighted by the signing of House Bill 4517 into law, An Act promoting housing and support services to unaccompanied homeless youths. With your help, we can ensure that the legislation will be adequately funded for the fiscal year of 2016 (FY’2016).

Kelly Turley - my supervisor - Director of Legislative Advocacy, Mass Coalition for the Homeless speaking at the 10th annual Forum on Family Homelessness sponsored by Advocacy Network to End Family Homelessness & Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries, at Trinitarian Congregational Church in Concord, MA

Kelly Turley – my supervisor – Director of Legislative Advocacy, Mass Coalition for the Homeless speaking at the 10th annual Forum on Family Homelessness sponsored by Advocacy Network to End Family Homelessness & Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries, at Trinitarian Congregational Church in Concord, MA

The Coalition is staffed by a very talented group of women who possess and display a worthy amount of humor in the workplace. I am fortunate to look up to a few of them as role models. My first week as an intern in January I found myself trading and discussing good books with a co-worker. Although much of the initial work that I performed in the office was limited to collating extensive amounts of policy fact sheets, I have graduated to completing much of the same work that my colleagues in the Advocacy Department perform, which includes researching and communicating with other organizations in Massachusetts that share a mission similar to that of the Coalition’s.

As I navigate my way through a jam-packed summer full of trips to the Massachusetts State House and extensive rides on the commuter rail, I hope to continue to gain valuable experience contributing to the Coalition’s current policy campaigns, including one present campaign to increase FY’16 funding for an important welfare program, EAEDC, that benefits elderly, disabled, and unaccompanied youth populations who are unable to adequately support themselves. Although I have only been with the Coalition for several months, it is very clear to me that these campaigns are crucial to the transformation of policies from proposals to state law. For this reason, interning for the Coalition has proven to be a fulfilling experience. Cheers to the next 2-and-a-half months!

Max Parish ’16’

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This summer, I am interning at National Consumers League, a non-profit group based in Washington, D.C. that advocates for the rights of workers and consumers. They promote social and economic justice in the U.S. and abroad by tackling a range of issues, from food safety to child labor. Their various public education campaigns and lobbying efforts fight for living wages, protect Americans from scams, and increase medication adherence among diabetic patients. I will be working with the executive director and focusing on projects within the realm of the food policy and health policy departments. Everyone who works at NCL is accomplished, inspiring, and very kind. One of my goals at NCL is to expand my professional network by connecting with co-workers and my co-interns at the NCL. One of my co-interns is working in child labor department and the other two are working with the Public Policy, Fraud and Telecommunications department. I planned an intern lunch to get to know them on my second day and one of my co-workers planned a staff lunch to get to know us. Throughout the week, I’ve enjoyed getting to know my co-workers and becoming friendly with them.

A representative from the National Cyber Security Alliance speaking at the Internet safety panel.

A representative from the National Cyber Security Alliance speaking at the Internet safety panel.

My first day, the head of the Public Policy, Fraud, and Telecommunications department showed me around the office and then we took a trip to Capitol Hill. On “the Hill”, we attended a panel on Internet safety, the first of the 5 panels/briefings I attended this week. As we headed to the event, my new co-worker told me one of the best parts of working at NCL is getting to meet so many people. NCL staff attends many events around DC, to speak at them, lobby congressmen, or receive free food and new knowledge. We checked out the display of drinks and desserts at the event and then my co-worker greeted and introduced me to almost everyone in the room. Although I won’t be working on Internet safety this summer, I was excited to learn more about this line of work and connect with people who work at different organizations and agencies in DC. Cyber security policy representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, Facebook, and Google spoke at the event so I had the opportunity to learn more about how private corporations interact with public agencies and NGOs. Learning about these public-private intersections is crucial to gaining a deeper understanding of how advocacy and policymaking work. Throughout the summer, I plan to explore the field of advocacy and find out if this is what I am interested in pursuing after graduation.

TPP press conference

Press conference on Trans-Pacific Partnership

I’m working on various projects that involve researching policies and current issues in the U.S., from “female viagra” to fraud among life insurance companies. I have also helped out with some behind-the-scenes work, including editing a speech delivered at a Trans-Pacific Partnership press conference that I attended the next day and greeting guests at the NCL’s congressional briefing on child labor in tobacco fields. While researching legislation and issues during my internship, I hope to hone the research skills that I’ve developed during my past two years at Brandeis. I hope to come back after the summer with an improved writing ability and a better sense of policy issues. Having more knowledge about the policy environment of U.S. health will be helpful for my work in many of my Health: Science, Society, & Policy and Social Justice & Social Policy courses and for my future career path.

– Rebecca Groner ’17

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It was a strange, but oddly fulfilling experience walking through the doors of a new University, because while I was still there to learn, I was there to do more than just better myself; I came to make a difference in my local community. Last Tuesday my Internship with the Omaha Farmers Market began with a meeting between two University of Nebraska-Omaha Professors and the President of the coordinating organization for the Farmers Markets, VGA (Vic Gutman & Assoc.). At this meeting the professors laid out a plan for the economic impact study I will be doing in the coming months, where I will be analyzing the impact the farmers market has on the local community. The immediate impression I was given was that it will involve a lot of data collecting through surveys and other means of communication. Beyond that we discussed the models that will be used to analyze the impact the farmers market has on the local community. It was an interesting experience discussing the various aspects of the market that I will be analyzing; while I have studied and researched many of these topics before, I have never actually had the opportunity to put them into practice. I am rather excited to receive a first-hand experience of market analysis, and while my responsibilities involve more data collection and entry than anything else, everyone needs to start somewhere.

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Omaha Farmers Market – Old Market (Source: OFM Facebook Page)

Omaha Farmers Market- Aksarben Village

Omaha Farmers Market- Aksarben Village (Source: OFM Facebook Page)

Another aspect of my internship that I am eager to begin is the improvement of SNAP at the Omaha Farmers Markets. SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is available at the Omaha Farmers Markets and the produce vendors on-site are required to participate in the program. My first meeting on improving SNAP at the Farmers Market is scheduled for tomorrow morning; I will be meeting with the President of VGA and the Project Coordinator for the markets to discuss what plans and ideas we have to improve the program.

Market Customers are able to use their SNAP benefits through of use Market Tokens.

Market customers are able to use their SNAP benefits through the use of tokens. (Source: Personal Photo)

I have spent a lot time so far doing research about surveys, head-counting, SNAP, impact studies, etc. and so far the tool that has proved invaluable to me is the resource library on the Farmers Market Coalition Website. This database of resources covers every topic that I have needed to learn about thus far such as: SNAP, effective head-counting methods, survey examples, etc., and while it has been my only reference site, it has provided the most useful information I have encountered. One study involving SBIP (SNAP-based Incentive Programs) utilizes research data from over a hundred different markets from across the country, analyzes the various aspects of SNAP at farmers markets and how it can be improved. This document will be rather helpful at my meeting tomorrow. 

As far as my ‘site’ goes, there is not one place that I spend a majority of my time for this internship. So far it has involved different meetings around Omaha, some research on my own time and data entry at VGA headquarters. Even though I am suppose to get an office this week, I still do not plan on spending a great deal of time there, because I will be out collecting data from local businesses, spending time on-site at the farmers market, visiting with local community centers to improve SNAP, or a variety of other things. While this may involve a little more work than I was planning on, I prefer it this way; considering my internship is designed to benefit the community it makes sense I would be spending my time working with that community rather than behind a desk.

 

– Luke Bredensteiner

Social Justice WOW Recipient

 

I believe that as human beings we oftentimes forget or do not realize where we are capable of going; we forget the number of stops we can make, the number of lines we can ride, and where it is we really want to go. For most people, the Beijing subway station is a beginning point, an ending point, or a meeting point. For me, it was a beginning point. I still do not know who I want to become; however I do know the kind of person I want to become. Whatever I do, I want to impact the world and others in a positive way.

Following my senior year of high school, a State Department scholarship allowed me to study Mandarin in Beijing for the 2012-2013 academic year. While I was in Beijing, I went to a local high school where I studied the language alongside other international students. During the week, I stayed in the dorms and every weekend went to my Chinese host family. Living in Beijing allowed me to make greater connections between my past and the present, the place I came from and the place I grew up in, and myself and others. Since coming back from China, I have become passionate about fostering students’ commitment to language learning and their interest in study abroad, as well as, wanting to see a wider range of students study overseas and acquire critical language skills.

 

 

This summer, I will be interning with an organization called, One World Now! (OWN). OWN is a non-profit organization, founded in 2002, that promotes global leadership through language learning. In our increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, the organization is dedicated to making language learning and study abroad more accessible to a wider range of America’s youth. The organization targets high school students in the Seattle Public School District (particularly youth who come from low-income families) and offers them language and leadership classes after school. Students can choose between Mandarin Chinese and Arabic, two very critical languages.

 

 

At OWN, I will fulfill the duties and responsibilities of a Study Abroad Intern and an Administrative Intern. I will help manage the organization’s internal application processes for its Summer Language and Leadership Camp and study abroad programs. As an Administrative Intern, some of my duties will include tracking expenses, processing receipts, and reporting on spending. So far, I have assisted in managing OWN’s Summer Language and Leadership Camp application process (printing students’ applications, as well as, contacting them to get required documents) and processed receipts.

Through my experience at OWN, I hope to gain insights into non-profit management, marketing and fund development, program management, and international education. In addition, I hope to enhance my knowledge surrounding global issues, particularly in China and Morocco. As an International and Global Studies major, I believe that this knowledge will supplement the politics, anthropology, sociology, and East Asian Studies courses I have already taken towards my undergraduate degree.

As I continue interning at One World Now!, I am very eager to see my work benefit the organization and broader community.

 

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On April 13, 2003, having served over 19 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Dennis Maher walked out of Bridgewater Treatment Center a free man. A victim of eyewitness misidentification, Maher was convicted of several accounts of sexual assault for a series of attacks on young women in Massachusetts during the Fall of 1983. However, having maintained his innocence for nearly two decades, Maher eventually caught the attention of the New England Innocence Project, who utilized newly discovered DNA evidence found in 2001 to bring about his exoneration several years later.

 

Dennis & Family

Dennis with wife Melissa, and children Josh & Aliza Photograph by Erik Jacobs

In the decade since his exoneration, Maher has proven to be one of the most inspirational individuals out there. Maher has not only accomplished his goals of finding a job, a wife, having kids, and buying a house within a decade of his release, but has regularly donated his own time and resources to aiding other exonerees in their transition back into society.

Meeting Maher one of my first days at the New England Innocence Project (NEIP) inspired a passion in me that has only grown since. In the short five months I have worked there, NEIP has become as much a part of me as anything else important in my life. NEIP is a non-profit organization that provides pro-bono legal assistance to individuals who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime in one of the six New England States. Since its founding in 2000, NEIP has exonerated a total of 51 wrongfully convicted individuals and counting. At NEIP we work with applicants every day to find the next individual who might’ve slipped through the cracks of the criminal justice system.

This summer at NEIP, I serve as the intake intern. I receive all non-administrative correspondence that enters the organization. On a daily basis, I receive and respond to letters from inmates, emails from their families, and phone calls from attorneys in order to advance applicants through the case review process into the eventual stages of litigation. In addition, I organize meetings for the staff to determine viable applicants, and work with the legal interns to gather all essential case documents. In effect, I serve as the voice of NEIP to guide inmates throughout the screening process, providing a liaison between the staff and the applicants.

Me at my desk! Photo by Emma Clouse.

Me at my desk smiling before 9am!
Photograph by Emma Clouse.

Throughout my summer at NEIP, I have several goals which I would like to achieve. Firstly, I hope to gain hands on experience in the legal profession. With NEIP, I have the opportunity to not only learn from law students, staff, and paralegals, but through communication with attorneys, clients, and law enforcement. This is a unique opportunity to be immersed in the legal world at an young age. Secondly, through NEIP I hope to learn more about the criminal justice system through my interaction with the case review process. By reading trial transcripts, post-conviction opinions, and appellate briefs, I hope to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the criminal courts throughout New England. Lastly, through NEIP, I hope to improve the lives of those who have witnessed their lives torn apart by the pain of wrongful convictions. In my correspondence with inmates and their families, I want to leave the impression that whatever they have gone through, they are not alone in this process. All in all, I am honored to work with NEIP, and I look forward to getting more involved.

– Daniel Jacobson ’16

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On June 1st, 2015, I started my first week interning at AIDS Action Committee (AAC) in Boston, MA. AAC is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1983. AAC is New England’s largest AIDS service organization and aims to prevent new infections, support those infected with HIV/AIDS, and address the root causes of HIV/AIDS. AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts advocates at the city, state, and federal levels for fair AIDS policies and also hosts HIV prevention programs and health services for people living with HIV. Some of AAC’s programs include HIV counseling and testing, mental health counseling, a needle exchange program, a housing program, a health library, client advocacy and case management, and more. Learn more about AAC here.

The #ConnectedBoston Campaign is a collaboration between Fenway Health and AAC to reach out to black and brown gay, bisexual, and queer men in the Greater Boston area. The campaign emphasizes the benefits of connecting holistic health resources.

The #ConnectedBoston Campaign is a collaboration between Fenway Health and AAC to reach out to black and brown gay, bisexual, and queer men in the Greater Boston area. The campaign emphasizes the benefits of connecting holistic health resources.

At AAC, I am working as an intern in the Housing Search and Advocacy department as a Housing Search Associate. It is my responsibility to research affordable housing options available to AAC’s clients. I call housing managers to help update AAC’s affordable housing database for its clients. Later in my internship, I will start to provide direct service to clients by helping to lead housing search groups, and I will also work individually with clients who may have low literacy or speak English as a second language to help educate them on the housing options that they have available to them.

For my internship, I have different academic, career, and personal goals. An academic goal is to be able to use information that I have learned in my public health classes to further examine the health disparities that my clients at AAC face. I want to be able to think deeply and critically about possible policy recommendations that could be developed and implemented to help alleviate some of the issues that people with HIV/AIDS face when trying to access safe and affordable housing.

One career goal is to learn how to best educate and advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses. In my future health career, I will work with patients who have illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, and I want to learn more about some of the biggest problems that these people face on a daily basis so that I can get a sense of how to best cater to their needs. Health care providers and educators often treat the patient’s disease, but forget that the individual is more than just their illness and that there are psychological, emotional, and social factors that contribute to one’s experience of illness. I hope that some of the testimonies that I hear over the summer will help shape me into becoming a more culturally competent future health care provider.

AIDSWalk

On June 7th, I participated in the annual AIDS Walk in Boston. The event is New England’s largest HIV/AIDS awareness fundraiser. The walk supports AAC and its work to prevent new infections, maximize the health outcomes of those infected, and end the epidemic in MA. To learn more about the walk, click here.

A personal goal is to learn more about real estate and the housing market. My internship entails being able to navigate the housing system by talking to and negotiating with property realtors and housing managers. Through this difficult task, I want to learn more about the housing market and how to get the best deals, as this would be a useful skill to have for the future when I want to buy or rent my own house or apartment. I look forward to the rest of my time here at AAC and I am very excited to learn more about HIV/AIDS advocacy.

VocaliD, Inc. holds a very modern place in the business world. There is some amount of trouble capturing the operation in a succinct way, because paramount to VocaliD’s service to the augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) community is the data gathered from voice donors. The term “Socially-Oriented Company” has been getting thrown around more and more recently, and it is the most apt description of VocaliD’s nature, taking donated voices and using data from them to create ones for others in need.

The office is located on the third floor of the old firehouse in downtown Belmont, with a Pilates studio directly below and an Italian restaurant at street level. I love the location. There are plenty of places to grab good food for lunch, and the Fitchburg line station is a short walk away. On cooler mornings I bike in, which takes under a half hour.

I’ve been working alongside Rupal, the founder of the company, who is very easy to work with and a great supervisor. Most of my time this first week has been spent doing what I fully expected to be doing: examining, annotating, and editing speech data, in order to prepare it for the morphing algorithm VocaliD uses to create voices. However, we also launched a crowdfunding project on Indiegogo this week, and a lot of work went into designing and revising the campaign. I’ve also been writing portions of the various outreach emails that go out as part of the campaign and VocaliD’s business as usual. Going forward, tasks like these will continue to be part of my responsibilities this summer, so it looks like this internship will be getting me some interesting communications experience, from marketing to end users to forging relationships with other AAC companies.

If this week has been any indication of how the rest of the summer will be, then interning at VocaliD will be an incredible way of satisfying my WOW goals. I have the opportunity to work in a field that bridges signal processing and phonetics, two things I am familiar with from my two majors; I’m getting exposed to audio programming and code writing in a vocational setting, helping me to gain an understanding of programming and its place in computational linguistics; and VocaliD’s work presents a major, tangible service to those whose voices literally aren’t heard, and so I’m helping to eliminate inequalities faced daily by the AAC community.

Lastly, I’d like to talk about the logo and how well designed and appropriate it is, in addition to being tasteful and in line with current graphic design sensibilities.

the VocaliD company logo

The VocaliD company logo

At first glance, it’s a “V”, standing for all things vocal. Upon closer looking, the overall shape of the V is remarkably similar to that of human vocal folds. The graphic also consists visually of a small V inside a larger one, representing the way VocaliD blends just a few seconds of vocalization from a recipient along with several hours of donor speech to create the final product. The way in which these are overlaid, with alternating horizontal lines, is also very similar to the way waveforms of human vowels look, with secondary peaks and troughs layered inside.

waveform from a stereo recording of a young girl saying "thrown"

A waveform from a stereo recording of a young girl.

The logo has a whole lot of symbolism and information packed into it. It was partially designed by the founder herself, which is a great example of the interdisciplinary atmosphere of the whole team. This will, after all, be quite an interdisciplinary summer.

-David Stiefel ’16

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Six months ago, if you had asked me what my plans were for the summer, I would’ve answered very simply, “To make some money.” But my focus shifted completely when I saw an internship posting for the Social Innovation Forum: this internship would be a chance to try out my dream job of working at a foundation. SIF acts as a bridge between nonprofits and funders. Through a two-year program, SIF works with a group of innovative nonprofits (“social innovators”) to help them establish connections, gain funding, develop their leadership, and maximize their social impact.

Ever since I took a course on Social Justice and Philanthropy (sponsored by the Sillerman Center), I have been fascinated by the idea of “effective giving.” The course taught me that identical amounts of money can have drastically different effects on social change when spent in different methods, and I became interested in the analysis that goes into an allocation decision. My internship with the Social Innovation Forum is an incredible opportunity to learn about the skills and tools used to measure social impact.

My first week at SIF has flown by. I arrived at an exciting time: SIF has just opened nominations for the next group of social innovators, officially launching the six-month selection process. At the same time, the “impact entrepreneurs” are wrapping up their twelve-week program. Impact entrepreneurs are for-profit businesses that have a positive social impact and their twelve-week program is a crash course on business development that allows them to get their feet off the ground. Just a few days into my internship, I got to witness the culmination of their work: an Impact Showcase where each business pitched their model to SIF’s investing community. The groups were inspiring, combining innovative ideas with a passion for improving the world. Whether or not my future career lies in the non-profit sector, it was exciting to see how private, for-profit companies can do their part for the betterment of society.

A Social Entrepreneur presents at the Impact Investing Showcase

A Social Entrepreneur presents at the Impact Investing Showcase

Since so much has been happening, I’ve had the chance to see a wide variety of my coming responsibilities, including database management, event preparation, and research. Everyone at SIF has been incredibly welcoming, showing me the ropes and making me feel comfortable within the office. I’m lucky to be working alongside an incredibly capable intern who has mastered all of the ins and outs of the job, and has been an amazing teacher. I hope that by the end of my time here, I can feel as comfortable with all of the procedures as she does. If nothing else, I expect to leave SIF with innumerable skills applicable to any office environment.

Throughout the summer, I will be sorting through innovator nominations, researching nonprofits that could be a good fit for SIF, and assisting in day-to-day office operations. I can’t wait to keep diving into this internship, and I have no doubts that it will be a great summer!

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Emma Farber, 16

Brandeis University

Social Justice WOW Fellow

My internship abroad has thankfully taken off smoothly and my first week at Hospital Pablo Arturo Suarez has been an incredible learning experience so far.

imagePablo Arturo Suarez is a public hospital located in the north end of Quito, Ecuador.  The significance of this hospital is the fact that it is indeed public and therefore many people from all over Quito and the surrounding areas come if they cannot afford private healthcare. Most of these public medical institutions are highly understaffed due to the shear amount of people that are constantly coming in and out. The mission of the hospital is to promote quality care by educating patients on the necessity of preventible care, recovery, and rehabilitation of all peoples regardless of status or ethnicity. This dedication to social justice in Latin America really inspires me to pursue learning about the injustices of the health care systems both internationally and at home-in America. If interested in knowing more about the hospital and all of the departments it offers, you can click here.

Looking down on Quito from Pichincha Volcano

Looking down on Quito from Pichincha Volcano

One of my goals this summer is to observe the Ecuadorian healthcare system, and to compare and contrast this system to the United States healthcare system. An important cultural aspect in Quito which is very unique, is the presence of an indigenous population(s). Many peoples seek healthcare from these public institutions; Pablo Arturo Suarez has made a point to label most signs in the native language. This brings up an issue that is often faced in America: cultural and language barriers and their effects on quality care. I hope to understand how doctors in Ecuador try to effectively communicate and explain certain treatments while ensuring the understanding of all patients. The indigenous population still very much treasures traditional and alternative medicine and it will be interesting to see how this coexists in a very modern city. If you are interested in Ecuadorian culture and the synthesis of peoples who live here I recommend visiting this site which gives some historical background.

Another goal for the summer is to become fluent in Spanish medical terminology and gain confidence in effectively communicating to Spanish speakers in regards to their health and treatment. As mentioned before, language barriers can cause detrimental effects on patients. In the United States, the second most spoken language is Spanish. I felt that as someone pursuing the medical field I should be bilingual-if not more- in order to be able to give the best care possible.

As far as my duties go at thIMG_5713e hospital, I generally assist in places that are understaffed and undertake projects of the day that need to be done. This includes taking patients vital signs, assisting doctors during procedures and surgeries, and organizing paperwork. I will hopefully get a well-rounded view of the way a public hospital runs in Ecuador and how a healthcare system works as whole.

– Paulina Kuzmin ’17

After arriving at Louis Armstrong New Orlean’s International Airport, a nice warm humid hug welcomed me into New Orleans. This warm embrace was the beginning of many as I met so many warm souls all over New Orleans and at my internship site, New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC). Located near the Mississippi River, NOVAC was started by a group of AmeriCorps VISTA fellows who wanted to see an organization in New Orleans that fostered the creation of socially conscious independent films. Although NOVAC’s mission has evolved over the years, NOVAC still provides New Orleans’ filmmakers with workshops and the resources necessary to create their own idiosyncratic pieces. Aside from aiding the independent filmmaking community, NOVAC connects New Orleans’ youth with people in the film industry and NOVAC also allow these teenagers to enhance their visual storytelling skills, whether through NOVAC’s digital storytelling camps or through their new exclusive HBO/Cinemax Quarry internship program that gives 15 local teenagers the opportunity to work on the set of Cinemax’s new series, Quarry, for three weeks!

NOVAC's teen members presenting their work at the Sundance Film Festival!

If my first week at NOVAC is any indication of the work that I will accomplish this summer, then I know I am going to return to Brandeis in the fall equipped with advanced editing and design skills and an appreciation for community-based film projects. As junior year approaches, I worry about potentially leaving Brandeis without the technical skills necessary to enter the film industry. In the past couple of days, I have been developing my design skills by creating promotional materials for NOVAC’s sponsored documentaries. Documentaries under NOVAC’s fiscal sponsorship program can use NOVAC’s non-profit status to apply to more grants and to appeal to individual donors. As an incentive, individual donors will receive a tax reduction if they donate to film projects under this program. Raising money for film projects can be a troublesome task for independent filmmakers, since they usually don’t receive support from entertainment conglomerates. This past week I created website banners for two documentaries and one film in NOVAC’s fiscal sponsorship program: Flotsam; Battlefield: Home; and Easy Does It. Since this was my first summer project for NOVAC, I was eager to display my creativity. However I was also scared of not meeting their expectations. My resourceful and encouraging supervisors were there to guide me through my first assignment and my anxiety soon went away. As I was creating these banners, I gained a more in-depth understanding of NOVAC’s sponsored projects and I was inspired by the way these filmmakers were using film to ask questions about their environment, society, or an issue that they feel is underrepresented in the media. For example, Flotsam is a documentary that looks past the common depictions of Mardi Gras as a glorious celebration to reveal the amount of debris left behind when everyone grabs their beads and leaves the party. Flotsam just unleashed my thirst for finding new content that questions the things that I look past.

The website banner I designed for one of NOVAC's sponsored documentaries, Flotsam.

Flotsam and NOVAC’s sponsored projects allow me to peek behind the curtain and discover the ways our local filmmakers are engaging with their community to raise awareness about their concerns. Soon, I will start converting videos in NOVAC’s archive to a digital format. After we digitize the videos, they will be available online for the public to access. NOVAC’s video archive managed to survive Hurricane Katrina but through NOVAC’s digital preservation efforts, NOVAC’s archive will be safe from New Orleans’ next natural catastrophe. Their archive encompasses over 40 years of original content produced by NOVAC and its affiliates. Recently, NOVAC digitized a video produced during one of their workshops in the late 80s that focused on the struggles battered women face. The video is called, Ain’t Nobody’s Business, and it displays the testimonies of women that were victims of domestic abuse. Although this video was created several decades ago, these stories are congruent to the stories told by women affected by domestic violence today.

Aside from cultivating my interest in visual storytelling, NOVAC allows me to meet with so many talented people in the film industry, like my supervisor, Biliana Grozdanova, who recently screened her film, The Last Kamikazes of Heavy Metal, at New Orleans Film Festival and just returned from Cannes Film Festival (as a volunteer). Hopefully, I will continue to meet more people like my supervisor through the many workshops NOVAC offers throughout the summer. By the end of the summer, I want to increase my editing and design skills and uncover more analog videos that are still prevalent today. I also want to produce my own material for NOVAC’s Virtuous Video program. Through this program, community organizations partner with local filmmakers to create videos that highlight their mission and their contributions to their community. Since this year is the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, NOVAC partnered with the Greater New Orleans Foundation to involve New Orleans’ youth with the Virtuous Video Program. This fusion gave birth to Project 10: a digital storytelling undertaking that asks New Orleans community members and organizations about their thoughts on the city’s development after Hurricane Katrina. I am currently researching and watching Hurricane Katrina documentaries to prepare myself for the next component of my internship, but you will find out more about that in my next blog post!

-Karen Seymour ’17

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My first week as an intern at Legal Outreach, Inc., in Long Island City, New York has been been filled with exciting and important work and interaction with many incredible individuals. Legal Outreach, Inc., is a legal education non-profit organization that has been successfully teaching and preparing urban youth from underserved communities all over New York City since 1983. The organization does so through its various college preparatory programs, many of which emphasize the law and developing an understanding and appreciation of the legal system. The program that I will specifically be working with is the Summer Law Institute (SLI).

Legal Outreach, Inc. Website

 

The Legal Outreach Logo

The Legal Outreach Logo

 

Legal Outreach’s SLI is held in partnership with six different law schools in New York City from the end of June to the end of July. In each law school, there are about 22-30 rising ninth graders who were selected from a pool of applicants for this program. At each law school where the SLI is held, there are two co-coordinators who are current law school students and an intern. Together, these three are the instructors for each SLI and are responsible for teaching the students and managing their SLI.

Legal Outreach, Inc. Office (Source: Google Maps)

Legal Outreach, Inc. Office (Source: Google Maps)

At SLI, students are engaged in a criminal justice legal course and gain an understanding of the legal system and how laws are applied. Almost every day of the week, there is a guest attorney speaker and weekly field trips to law firms and other legal sites. At the end of the program is a mock trial competition which takes place in front of a real judge. The aim of SLI is to help these students grow academically and personally to give them the confidence and skills for success in high school, college, and beyond.

Legal Outreach Celebrating 30 Years (source: http://legaloutreach.org/?page_id=16)

My main responsibilities as the SLI intern at Columbia Law School include both administrative duties, to ensure that the program runs smoothly, and teaching lessons. The administrative duties include preparing handbooks and ID cards for the students, inviting the guest speakers, ensuring that parents and students complete necessary forms, and booking field trips. This is all to make sure that the technical and structural aspects of the program are intact, so that in the end of June when SLI commences, everything is ready.

My teaching responsibilities include developing four lesson plans that will be presented to the students during SLI. The first two will be on study skills and essay writing, which will be useful for the students in studying for their weekly exams and writing their assigned essays. Since part of the purpose of the program is to prepare these students for high school, these skills will be particularly important and assist them in achieving academic excellence.

Through my administrative and teaching responsibilities, I will play an important role in making sure that the SLI runs smoothly so that the students get the most out of the program. I will also, through my role, be able to accomplish the learning goals I had set coming into this internship. For example, through the training exercises and meetings we have been doing, as well as through actually teaching the lessons later on, I will be able to develop stronger communication and public speaking skills. At the same time, through my administrative duties, I will improve my research and writing skills as I communicate with potential guest speakers and develop lesson plans. Likewise, by working in a legal environment with colleagues who are in law school and supervisors who are attorneys, I have the unique opportunity to further explore my interest in having a career in the legal field. I look forward to the days to come and for the SLI to begin.

– Aditi Shah ’17

 

Today marks the end of my first full week as an intern at the Harvard Semitic Museum in Cambridge, MA (free admission!). The museum gets its name from its focus on the Ancient Near East, which was inhabited mostly by Semitic-speaking cultures. Semitic languages include languages spoken today, such as Hebrew and Arabic, but also include some ancient languages that are no longer spoken, such as Akkadian, which was the lingua franca for much of Ancient Near Eastern history.

"SemiticMuseumHarvard" by John Stephen Dwyer. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SemiticMuseumHarvard.jpg#/media/File:SemiticMuseumHarvard.jpg

The museum has been in its current location for over 100 years. Photo Credit- “SemiticMuseumHarvard” by John Stephen Dwyer. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The museum’s collection includes many cuneiform clay tablets, pottery, other archaeological finds, and a full scale model of a typical Ancient Israelite four-room-house. The Semitic Museum also has an impressive collection of plaster casts of Ancient Near Eastern monumental stone inscriptions and wall reliefs. Among the casts that the museum has on display are the Code of Hammurabi, an 18th century BCE Babylonian law code, and the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, which displays a king of Israel bowing to Shalmaneser.

Most of my work at the museum will be put towards two long-term projects. The first, which I am working on with another intern, is to systematically go through storage cabinets, and record the items and their locations. We are currently going through artifacts that were found during archaeological excavation at Nuzi, a site in North Eastern Iraq. Nuzi was a provincial capital under Hurrian rule during the 15th and 14th centuries BCE, and that is when these artifacts are from.

This is what happens when you search "Nuzi" in Google Maps

This is what happens when you search “Nuzi” in Google Maps

My other primary focus will be working to catalog and organize archival materials that belonged or where related to Theresa Goell, an archaeologist who did a lot of work in the 1950s. Goell excavated sites in modern Turkey, including the sites of Tarsus, Nemrud Dagh, and Samsat. The files need to be organized and documented, in order for them to be properly stored, and easily accessible. Currently, I am working through maps, plans, charts, and other materials related to Nemrud Dagh, which is a mountain site that was probably a royal tomb built for King Antiochus of Commagene.

"Mount Nemrut". Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Colossal statues of men, gods, and animals were found at the site. Photo Credit- “Mount Nemrut”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

 

My workspace in the museum’s seminar room.     Photo credit- Noam Cohen

 

My main goal for this internship is to learn through hands-on experience. This is not something that I can easily do at Brandeis when I am learning Ancient Near Eastern history through lectures and readings. Handling ancient objects, and even more modern works – such as Goell’s maps, plans, and diagrams – will expose me to more tangible aspects of archaeology, history, and the Ancient Near East. I hope to gain a new and intimate appreciation and understanding of what life was like for people living in the Ancient Near Eastern world–what sites did they see, how their pottery looked and felt in their hands…

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My internship thankfully started smoothly and without much trepidation because I will be spending my summer working at an institution that I am already familiar with – The Rose Art Museum.

 

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Photograph by Mike Lovett.

 

The Rose is a university museum located on Brandeis’ campus that specializes in post-war contemporary art. A key part of its stated mission is to affirm and advance “the values of freedom of expression, academic excellence, global diversity, and social justice that are the hallmarks of Brandeis University.” This dedication to social justice and engagement with making the museum more accessible is the reason I was able to work with museum staff to craft an internship that would help do just that.

I hope to provide a way for people who are unable to visit the museum physically to explore the museum space virtually. I will do this by first modeling two galleries of the museum in 3D using a program called Blender. If you would like to take a peek at what this might eventually look like, here is a picture of a draft I created for a class called 3D Animation.

 

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Later I will be recreating sculptures that will be on view at the Rose in the future. The finished models of the sculptures will be 3D printed at the MakerLab, which is a space in the Brandeis library that encourages creation and the use of new technology and new ways of making. The printed replicas of the works of art will allow people who are sight impaired to touch them and experience the art in a different way. Some other institutions have also been engaging in a similar practice. For example, there is currently an exhibit in Madrid called “Touching the Prado”, which is made up of famous paintings recreated in relief so that they can be experienced through touch. To read more about the exhibit you can take a look at this New York Times article about it.

 

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A visitor experiencing in relief a copy of the “Mona Lisa” at the Prado. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

 

Finally, once I have both the galleries and the art works mapped in virtual space, I will then work on discovering productive ways to translate this project to an online format that would allow virtual visitors to walk around and explore. This portion of my work will continue into the school year in the form of an Independent Study in the Computer Science Department.

By working on this project I will be making the museum accessible both to people who previously were unable to touch any of the work and to people could not physically visit the museum. I hope that by the end of the summer I will have all of the modeling done and that I will be well on my way to learning new ways that the model might live online.

Through this internship and project I will also be combining two of my main passions – art history and computer science. This is a really unique and instrumental moment in my career development because so few other places provide opportunities to students to combine these two fields. I am really grateful that I have a chance to do this work!

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The Rhode Island Foundation (http://www.rifoundation.org), founded in 1916, has a rich legacy. It is one of the nation’s oldest and largest community foundations. The foundation serves multiple initiatives in Rhode Island, which range from learning in public schools to off-shore wind energy development, patient-centered medical home, high-tech workforce development…etc (http://www.rifoundation.org/InsidetheFoundation/OurBlog.aspx). It is Rhode Island’s only community foundation and the largest funder of Rhode Island’s nonprofit sector. In 2014, the Foundation made grants of more than $40 million to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs.

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As I walked into the Foundation on the first day of my internship, I could not shake feelings of nervousness and a sense that I had gotten myself into work that was over my head. However, when my supervisor, Alison, approached me with an outstretched hand and a warm smile, I immediately started to feel at ease. Alison showed me to an office she had set up for me to work. I had an email and Google calendar set up already and was told me to check it immediately, as I was scheduled to be in several meetings throughout my first week. During the meetings, I was greeted by the Foundation’s team and learned about the projects I would be assisting on this summer.

Throughout the summer, I will be researching possible grant opportunities for the Foundation. The Foundation is partnering with the State of Rhode Island for their centennial celebration and I am helping to formulate research for the celebration. In addition, I will be researching some of the Foundation’s signature initiatives such as educational success, economic security, healthy living and inspiring philanthropy. The development and data and operations teams I am working under are welcoming and supportive of my learning goals. I trust that I will be able to reach my goals of applying my classroom knowledge of philanthropy, creating new professional networks and sharpening my analytical skills. I cannot wait to keep you posted!

 

Best,

Lauren Nadeau

Social Justice WOW Recipient

After changing my clothing the requisite ten times, trying to figure out whether I was supposed to be going uptown or downtown, and waiting in a clothing store because I realized I was forty five minutes early, my summer internship at AVODAH began.

 

 

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Most of my life I anticipated that I would be working in theater when I grew up, so it was surprising walking into a building that was not lit with spotlights, or barren in preparation for a dance rehearsal. It took me awhile to come to this place, where I realized that maybe my interests are not completely in a world hidden and protected from the outside world. Theater was always comforting for me in its acceptance of all types of people into this haven, but was it really what I wanted a profession in? The truth of it was that as much as I feel at home in the theater; I craved a challenge, and being in situations where I had to advocate my opinions not just be appreciated for them. Theater is certainly difficult within its own merit, but after almost 10 years of performing I knew I needed a change. This was part of the reason I chose to pursue technical theater in college to get a different exposure to the theater setting I know and love, but I soon realized that I needed to start including my other main interest: creating a safer and friendlier environment for everyone. As scary as it was walking into the AVODAH office building, I knew that this would be an opportunity for my passion for social justice to be tested, which made it all the more appealing.

 

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I am no stranger to the community service and non-profit world, but from the context of a volunteer. Whether it be a soup kitchen, library, tutoring service I have worked for them all, but I never thought twice about it. I would come in, do my work, and then leave without thinking about my contributions, and also how much had to be completed behind the scenes for this program to exist. Walking into AVODAH, and being assigned to post job listings for other non-profits on their website right away was sort of a wake up call. AVODAH is an organization that is located in New York, Washington D.C., New Orleans, and Chicago that sends adults in their mid twenties to work in various non-profit organizations all across the world for a year. AVODAH helps support these adults through providing housing and a small stipend, so that they can achieve this beneficial work, while still supporting themselves. http://www.avodah.net They do a lot of fundraising, so that they can continue to provide this service consistently.

After every new assignment, I was shocked at how many emails have to be sent, how many phone calls need to be made, etc. to sponsor just one fundraising event. In two weeks, AVODAH will be holding three separate events for their Partners in Justice fundraiser. Which will help raise over $30,000 dollars from alumni of the organization, part of my job is making sure all of the logistical aspects behind receiving and soliciting these donations is completed correctly. This summer I will be working a lot with alumni of the AVODAH program to ensure their website is maintained, job listings are frequently posted, and that everyone is connected to the right list servs and people. It seems like mostly organization, which it is, but without so alumni would not know who to contact about prospective donations, where their next job would be, and making sure that the incoming members of AVODAH have sufficient funds, mentorship, and knowledge to complete their project to the fullest. My goal for this summer is to continue expanding my knowledge of the non-profit world, but from this background logistical model, and I have no doubt that I will achieve this. I spent almost all of my life performing and being in the spotlight, but college and hopefully this opportunity will let me discover what the backstage is like.

– Jessica Star

I began my internship at Alliance for Justice in Washington, D.C. this Monday. The office is located in the beautiful Dupont Circle. For those who are unfamiliar with DC, Dupont Circle is in the Northwest quadrant of D.C. It’s a location with a number of businesses, tourists, offices and not to mention culture and architecture. Here are some pictures of Dupont Circle, just so you can see my view every day:

Dupont Circle 1

Dupont Circle 2

My office shares a building with a number of other organizations, such as the National Women’s Law Center, the Public Leadership Education Network and the Equal Rights Center, to name a few. We share a floor and office space with organizations such as the Center for Popular Democracy. This is our office:

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My second day on the job, we hosted a talk with John Paul Stevens–yes, that is the retired Supreme Court Justice. Journalists Dahlia Lithwick and Jonathan Capehart kept the conversation going with questions for Justice Stevens. Although I spent a majority of the time working the event–setting up, greeting guests and passing out programs–I did get to watch a bulk of the event. It was an incredible opportunity to hear him speak about his experience as a Supreme Court justice.

My third day on the job I attended a gala an the Newseum. The gala was held by the Center for Popular Democracy, an organization that shares space with Alliance for Justice in its Dupont Circle location in D.C. Congressman Keith Ellison, President of the National Education Association Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Program Officer of the Panta Rhea Foundation Janet Shenk and Nobel Laureate Economist Joseph Stiglitz were among the honorees. The gala was definitely a new experience for me. It was an opportunity to network that I had not really been exposed to before. 

As someone interested in education, disabilities and civil rights law, it was really amazing to hear these individuals speak so passionately about a vision for a better America. They spoke about voting rights, fair wages, ensuring everyone gets an education. I also had the opportunity to meet Lily Eskelsen Garcia.

Not to mention, the view from the Newseum balcony was amazing:

Newseum View

 

In the office, we have been working to plan a summer intern luncheon, to which we invite all of the D.C. interns. We are hoping to bring in a special guest speaker. A lot of the work over the past few days, however, has been related to the Justice Stevens event.

I am so grateful to be back in D.C., one of my favorite cities. Of course I am enjoying my internship, but no internship here would be complete without the full D.C. experience. I am living in an apartment, enjoying the history, taking walks and enjoying all of the activities here. Of course I have visited the White House, among other notable locatins. I also attended a Nationals baseball game against the Phillies on Friday night. I am so looking forward to the rest of my summer, and all of the opportunities and adventures that await.

– Marissa Ditkowsky

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.

 

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

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

 

“… 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

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

 

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

 

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

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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.

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My summer in Timor has come to an end.  I am happy to say that during my time at the Bairo Pite Clinic I did meet most of my learning goals.  I’ve talked in my previous posts about the DTS program and how rewarding it has been to see how a program is implemented almost from the very beginning.  I’m ecstatic to say that the program is up and running and is already reaping the rewards of all the hard work staff at the clinic have put into it.

The other facet of my internship at the BPC that helped me meet my learning goals, which I haven’t spoken about yet, is the clinical side of my experience.  Though I’ve always been interested in medicine and health care in general, I’ve never been certain about whether or not I want to actually practice medicine.  One of my hopes for this summer was that my time at the clinic would inform my future career choice and I am happy to say that it has done just that.   This summer I observed a number of fantastic doctors as well as medical students at work.  It’s admirable how dedicated they all are to trying to deliver the best care they can despite all the obvious obstacles they have to overcome on a day to day basis.  I learned a lot about the compassion and patience needed in order to be a good physician which I’m sure is a constant no matter what setting you’re in (developed vs developing country for example).  However, I also learned a lot about practicing medicine in a developing country where every step of obtaining health care is more challenging than it would be here in the United States. For example, the difficulty begins with accessing care in the first place, to obtaining a diagnosis, to actually having the resources to treat a condition once it has been diagnosed, to then completing treatment obtained.  I’ve seen and experienced myself how frustrating it is to have to fight for your patient to get an x-ray or a CT scan and to fail or to not be able to help a patient who is in such terrible condition because he/she did not have adequate access to care to begin with.  There were instances where it didn’t matter how much we wanted to help, we simply could not.  In the end you just do the best you can, which is what I saw the physicians and med students do at the clinic.

After this experience, I am more determined than ever to do the best I can in my studies in order to achieve my career goals and also to help PP1 grow and develop as a club.  After this internship I feel I want to gain more experience both in clinical medicine in the U.S and in other developing countries.  Perhaps I’ll look for an internship at a hospital or clinic and apply for health-related programs abroad for my upcoming gap year.  For anyone who may go to Timor to work in health care I would advise they pay close attention to the national health system there and why it is exactly that Timor is struggling with such low health outcomes in many different areas of health.  I think anyone in this field should at least consider an experience abroad that will help broaden your perspective of health care and help learn what makes one system more efficient than another.

All in all, my concept of social justice as it pertains to health care equity has been strongly reinforced.  We know health disparities are present within the U.S and other developed nations but they are less striking (though not less important) compared to global health disparities   I think that the most important thing to keep in mind in order to address this issue is that no life is more important than another.  As long as you believe that some people deserve better care than others, health disparities will continue to prevail.

This, is a short documentary filmed during my time at the clinic.  It does not adequately represent all of the work done at the clinic or go too much into the struggles within the Timorese health system as a whole but it does give an idea of some of the cases the BPC encounters.

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Receiving my farewell Tai from Dr. Dan

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One last picture of the clinic

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Hi everyone!

I hope your summers have been treating you well! Recently I have begun to work at AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, interning in for the director of Alumni and Community Engagement. Before I get too far into my experience this summer, it is best I outline my thoughts and goals going into this new workplace.

First of all, this is my first internship lasting over a month, and I am most looking forward to having the time and opportunity to become better acquainted with my work environment, including all of the people I will meet of the duration of the internship. I likewise hope to learn a lot about non-profit management, office culture, and work ethic from my co-workers and mentors.

Even further than that, I would venture to say, I am determined to also better understand the work of the organization as a whole. AVODAH has two programs running currently: the Service Corps and the Fellowship. The Service Corps is a post-college gap year program in which young Jewish adults engage in serious antipoverty work in four US cities. While working for separate organizations, the Corps members live together and learn about the Jewish ethical motivations for pursuing social justice. The Fellowship has brought in crowd of Jewish adults based in New York who are already working for antipoverty organizations and gives them the opportunity to get to know one another and similarly learn about social justice through a Jewish lens. I anticipate having the opportunity to meet some of these incredible AVODAH participants (which you’ll hear more about below). Through my department and daily tasks, I am interested in learning about the paths alumni take following completion of the program, and how much they bring their work into their adult lives and Jewish experiences. So far, I have done a lot of data organization to better reach our alumni.

The first exciting event to take place since I have started was the launch and success of the 48-hour flash-fundraising online #BeGenerous campaign. The idea was to ask alumni to be actively involved in funding alumni programming. In just that short period of time, the goal of reaching $10,000 was met, to our elation. Now we’re up to the “Thank You” notes for everyone’s tremendous efforts!

During my first week I had two very unique experiences that had me jump right into the work at hand. The first of which was an assignment to create a logic model for alumni programming, which will be included in a grant application in the near future. In the process of creating the chart, I had to outline the purposes and goals of the alumni network, as well as project statistics of what could be considered successful outcomes with respect to the goals. After only one full work day I had a pretty good idea of scope and aims of the program; namely to encourage alumni to get to know one another and bring the larger Jewish community into the world of antipoverty work and community organizing from a Jewish lens.

The second of these instances was on my third day, when I had the opportunity to go to an evening program for the Service Corps and Fellows, discussing faith-based community organizing. My supervisor and a representative of the Micah Institute facilitated a conversation regarding their own experiences in the Jewish and Christian communities, respectively, and addressed the questions of the audience. After the panel, I joined the smaller group discussions, focused how each of the participants planned on bring social justice and antipoverty work into the Jewish community. The diversity in Jewish background added much nuance to each of our answers, and I was honored to have the opportunity to get to know the corps members and fellows who were in my group. This was also valuable to my understanding of what the outgoing participants would like to see from AVODAH after completion of the program, and how we can better equip them to be leaders and teachers in the Jewish community who move their peers and constituents to work to alleviate the causes and effects of poverty in the US.

My supervisor claims that the most pressing question in the world of community organizing is “what keeps you up at night?” This, she believes, is the ultimate way to tap into the motivations and energies of a social justice activist. I’ll be honest and say that at this point, unlike many of the AVODAH participants, I don’t know enough about the causes and effects of poverty in the US for that to be what currently “keeps me up at night.” I would like for that to change, as I am learning more about the facts on the ground and the work that can be done to improve the situation in the United States.

I look forward to sharing more with you later this summer! Enjoy, and keep your eye out for my next post!

 

– Hannah Kober ’16

 

 

I finished my internship at United for a Fair Economy last week. I was working on my projects up until the last minutes (literally!) and on my last day I wrote a list of my projects and any next steps to be taken on each one.

In the final analysis, I ended up doing more than I expected to this summer, and learning a lot. In the last couple of weeks, I launched my donor survey (first via email blast to a certain segment, then another to another segment, and then made postcards to send to donors whose email addresses we did not have on file).

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I analyzed the results that had come in already, was able to determine a portrait of the average UFE donor (of those who had responded to the survey — of course there is response bias) and shared the conclusions with the UFE staff. I discussed what these results tell us about how we’re doing in terms of responsiveness to donors and what UFE can do to keep it up and improve in the future.

I got the Spanish versions of my blog post and brochure edited, approved and finalized. I also created a card to put into regular mail appeals requesting that people make bequests to UFE.

Finally, I had a meeting with Suzanna (my supervisor) to discuss the summer. I came to the conclusion that this has probably been my best internship yet. I felt supported, respected, and like I was learning almost the entire time. The staff was wonderful, friendly, and clearly passionate about their work. They even held a goodbye celebration for me, with ice cream and a card and gift (a baking cookbook because I told them that I love to bake!)

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I learned a ton about development, about inequality, about how people work towards social justice every day, and about how non-profits function. These are absolutely important lessons that I will carry with me in my future studies and career. I plan to go into the non-profit sector, and this experience has both solidified that choice and given me a lot of the tools and knowledge necessary to do so.

I wrote a review of this internship on the Brandeis Internship Exchange, and when asked to give advice to other students considering this internship, I wrote:

“This was probably my best internship yet (and that’s saying a lot). It’s not all fun and exciting all the time (what job/internship is?) but if you’re willing to do some boring database stuff for part of the time, it will be rewarding. It’s a great group of people and it was clear that they care about their interns’ growth and well-being. Try to learn quickly and work independently, but don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. Talk to all the staff members and learn about what they do – it’s really interesting stuff! My biggest piece of advice is to be ambitious and choose at least one project that you DON’T completely know how to do, then learn how to do it (ask Suzanna for resources or find your own). This is the best way to learn a new skill or technique, and they will be understanding and supportive during the process.”

Thanks, UFE, for making my summer great!

Well, my last assignment for AFJ is finished. My office is packed. My good-byes have been said. It’s really strange to think that I won’t be researching foundations in areas where we are expanding our Bolder Advocacy Initiative anymore. I find it bizarre that I am done with critiquing how our organization can promote a particular fundraising platform on social media. As proud as I am of my participation in our Justice First! and intern luncheon, it’s a little sad that I won’t be at our gala in New York in December that I’ve evaluated spaces for. But the good news is that even though my internship with Alliance for Justice is over, I can continuing developing my skills in development at other organizations. I want to continue learning more about grant writing and foundations and their relationship with nonprofits. Fortunately, one of my supervisors pointed me into the direction of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Their resource center can be found here: http://www.afpnet.org/ResourceCenter/?navItemNumber=502. I intend on using this organization to improve my skills and understanding of fundraising as a profession. My internship at Alliance for Justice has really inspired me to search for more development internships this year so I can continue building my development resume.

After working in development for three months, the advice that I would give to someone who was interested in this field is to take advantage of the fact that you live and work at a non-profit. Brandeis University is a non-profit organization and thus has lots of opportunities for people interested in fundraising. All of my friends who have worked at Phonathon have had a wonderful experience and a better understanding of what individual fundraising entails. I am really excited to examine how Brandeis uses development in its mission in my final year here. As for advice specific to this internship, I would highly recommend getting to know the people in the office. I guess this probably applies to any internship, but you never know what kind of journey someone has had to their current position until you talk to them and those conversations can be so informative and helpful. Just taking someone out to coffee can provide more reassurance and resources than a hundred Google searches.

I think that when most people think about social justice and the courts, they tend to think of public defenders, or victim’s rights advocates, or other people who are using the law to directly empower people, usually in criminal law. My summer at AFJ has taught me that in addition to those issues, we must focus on making sure the very institution of the courts are fair at all. This focus on systematic change has altered my opinion on how to approach social justice writ large and the importance of legal institutions. I am really excited to continue my work at AFJ by promoting their upcoming documentary on forced arbitration. People don’t generally consider what they are signing themselves up for when they click yes on a terms and conditions agreement, but chances are they are agreeing to a mandatory arbitration agreement. These clauses deny people access to the civil court system when they are wronged and create horrible externalities for consumers and employees. If you want to learn more about mandatory arbitration clauses, you should check out AFJ’s work on them: http://www.afj.org/our-work/issues/eliminating-forced-arbitration. I’m intending on bringing a film screening of the documentary to campus, so you should also definitely come to that if you’re as outraged as I am that these things exist.

Just in closing, I want to give a shout out to Hiatt’s World of Work program for giving us this amazing opportunity. Taking on an unpaid internship for the summer is such a privilege and that fact that Brandeis facilitates this demonstrates how committed it is to its students.

My summer internship at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies proved to be an extraordinary experience for me both intellectually and professionally. I was afforded the ability to write and conduct research on a daily basis,  greatly sharpening my researching skills. Moreover, I received continuous constructive feedback on all my work from my supervisor, which helped me to identify flaws in my writing and gaps in my political analysis. Finally, I was tasked to work on a range of issues, including many subjects in which I had not had previous experience. Researching unfamiliar topics was both challenging and enlightening, as it pushed me outside of my comfort zone and forced me to rely on the skills I had acquired over the summer as an analyst. As such, I can point to two published reports as tangible examples of the work I have produced over the course of the summer semester.
The experiences that I had and the skills that I developed over the course of the summer will undoubtedly be critical for me as I return to the academic environment at Brandeis. I expect that I will be able to make a seamless transition back to college work because of all of the writing and research that I had to do during my summer internship. In particular, I believe that my journalism project this upcoming semester will benefit tremendously because I feel that I have developed new theories and analytical resources as a result of my work at FDD that I will be able to apply to my independent study.
Now that I have had numerous internship opportunities at think tanks and academic research centers, I would like to have an opportunity to work inside the government and see how foreign policy is articulated and implemented within the national security industry. Interning at think tanks has given me a valuable outside perspective and I think that would be a valuable asset within the policymaking apparatus. I also look forward to future opportunities to publish my work, especially in academic journals and prominent foreign policy magazines. One could certainly say that, having had the chance to publish this summer, I have caught the publishing bug. I would also like to learn more about the inter-agency policy making process, which is something I feel somewhat ignorant about at this point in my professional career.
Interning at a foreign policy think tank such as FDD is a valuable experience and I would highly recommend such an opportunity to aspiring political analysts and policy wonks. That being said, I think that those going into the field should be aware that the work varies from day to day and may not always be as exciting as one would hope. Moreover, interns must be versatile and flexible in responding to the demands of their supervisors. Most importantly, I would exhort future interns to reach out to senior fellows and professional analysts, not just for professional advice but also for constructive feedback and criticism on their work. The most valuable experiences that I had over the summer came when I submitted my work to my supervisor and received feedback that helped to shape and focus my research and writing.

Since I began at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office with Victim Services department, I have learned an extensive amount of information about the criminal justice system from the many different types of case that come into our office. I have the opportunity to meet with many victims and their families. It has been an eye opening experience to see the emotions of the victims. With victim services, the advocates are there to help the victims in every step they need during court, searching mental health treatments, and being the liaison with the assistant district attorney.

In court, especially with sensitives case such as homicides, domestic violence, and sexual assault, the victim is very vulnerable and it’s victim services job to provide the support. The advocates assist the victims with emotional support when a victim must testify, reliving relive the incident during a court proceeding. While seeing many court cases proceed, you realize that there is still a backlog in cases because most of them are from previous years. In San Francisco, this just demonstrates the increase of violence that has been occurring in the county.
There are many Latinos in the community and most of them do not speak English. I am always glad to assist them because it is very difficult for them to understand the criminal justice system. Many of them come in with information that is in English that is vital to their case, needing an explanation of the forms that are given to them. Some of them are undocumented immigrants who are terrified to speak about their incident because of the constant terror of being deported. Some of them who have been a victim of a violent crime have the option of applying for a U-visa but have to demonstrate that they were cooperative with law enforcement and during court.
I am most proud that I can answer many questions that our clients come in with and that I have been able to assist them. For example, I do intake interviews with victims without supervision, assist in filling out the California Victims of Violent Crimes application.  It is great that the advocates trust me to be able to explain the program and services to our clients as well as to help them with information they need because of the language barrier. It is great knowing that the clients appreciate us assisting them with basic services such as reading letter and  explaining the process of the application and the case.
I am building skills that I can take to further my interest in the legal system. I have learned from the advocates and assistant district attorneys the importance of communication within the justice system. Without having communication with one another in a work environment it is very challenging to have a resolution. For example, someone from the advocate team would talk with the victim to be their support, but the assistant district attorney would give the same person different information. This would confuse the victim and frustrate the common goal of providing assistance. I will be able to use this in academic life because while focusing in my classes I need to communicate with my professors and peers to be able to succeed. If I don’t then I will not be able to get the best grades that I can achieve. I will need their assistance to make sure that I fully comprehend the material. In my future career, I would like to communicate with my co-workers to share a common objective for all of us to thrive. Within the justice system, it is key to have communicated because it creates conflict and there is no resolution for those who have been affected. The main goal is for the victim to feel safe and supportive. The justice system is there to help the victim find a closure that will help them move forward.

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I cannot believe that my time at Lawyers for Children has flown by so quickly. As each week passed, I truly believe that I became more and more integrated in this incredible organization and felt so comfortable there. While I feel like I accomplished many things throughout my summer, my proudest accomplishment is the new children’s “give-and-go” library that I started for the office. At the beginning of my internship, my supervisor told me that one of her dreams was to create a literacy project within the organization, and more specifically, to help young mothers bring literacy home to their own children. While sometimes it may be hard to get teenagers to begin reading, it is always important to stress literacy with children from an early age. Oftentimes our clients did not have the specialized knowledge or tools to support fully their children’s burgeoning literacy skills, so it was incredibly important to my supervisor and myself that we help our clients help their families. Reading has always been a passion of mine, and I was more than happy to take on this task. Over the course of the summer, I was able to gain support for this project from my family, friends, and community members–and ultimately we collected over 2000 books. It was wonderful to me to not only have so much support from everyone, but also for me to get involved in a project that I felt so strongly about. Additionally, I was able to create a partnership for LFC with an amazing organization on Long Island called The Book Fairies. The “fairies” collect gently used and new books, organize them into age group/genre, and donate them back to those in need across the greater New York area. Now the clients at LFC will have access to wonderful books for a long time!

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I feel that I can use my experience this summer to not only further foster relationships with my coworkers and peers, but also use the incredible amount of knowledge that I have gained in my endeavors both as I enter my senior year at Brandeis and in my future. I am so fortunate to had been placed with an amazing supervisor who was always more than willing to teach me new skills or answer any question I may have had. As I move forward on the social work path, I want to learn more about one-on-one personal interactions, and possibly have the opportunity to interview clients on my own one day. I have greatly valued all of the interviews I sat in on, but I would love to get involved too! Additionally, this summer has taught me so much about social justice and the foster care system of New York City. I have learned how important it is for every individual, including children, to have a voice and have their wishes heard. Being a part of an advocacy group such as Lawyers for Children has shown me how vital these organizations are to the betterment and happiness of so many children.

For students interested in a social work internship or working at LFC (yay!) I would suggest finding a passion and sticking to it. I believe it is really important in social work to get involved in a specific task; whether that be a specific client base, a project you want to work on, or both! I loved being involved in the foster care system but also homing in on literacy. I think it is very important in this field of work so that you keep busy but also keep interested in the work you are doing.

This summer has certainly been an experimental test of my strength in the humanitarian aid world of work. Thanks to the WOW I have successfully been able to have an internship opportunity that expanded my horizons and opened my eyes to the bureaucracy and intensity of social work and humanitarian aid in NYC. My goals were thoroughly accomplished through the wide range of tasks I was set to do at ABC. 

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Everything from my tasks of referring children for early intervention education programs to doing child therapy with the kids helped me reach my learning goals for this internship. I would say that every task I had, even if it sounded as simple as getting a medical record for a child, taught me the hardships of working in and with public assistance groups. I learned what those dependent on public assistant programs have to go through in order to receive the services “our government provides to those in need.” It is no simple task to get a child in school, receive services for children with learning disorders, or get one’s monthly food stamp to buy food for their family. Learning how policies created on a city wide level effect those they are supposed to be helping was the most interesting aspect of my internship for me. I want to build off this experience at Brandeis by taking classes that teach me more about policy creation, implementing policies on a ground level, and discussing with professors the corruption that exists in US government. Beyond Brandeis I will hopefully continue to have my eyes opened to the world of policy making and humanitarian aid projects that help people in my community. It is amazing how much attention is often focused on international humanitarian aid efforts when there are thousands of people within 5 miles of my home in New York who need just as much aid and care, who are suffering from starvation and whose children have witnessed trauma and violence before the age of five and need counseling. 

For anyone interested in social work I would say ABC is the best place to intern. Social work is a balance, you must maintain self care and be effective in the office. As one of my co-workers said: if you don’t feel well yourself, you can’t help anyone else. 

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My ideas around social justice have most definitely been challenged. I have seen how difficult social justice is to accomplish in a world where organizations are run by money and public assistant groups make it difficult for anyone to accomplish anything quickly with the piles of paperwork required for even the most simplest of requests. I have learned that having connections in the world of social justice workers is vital because it helps get paperwork through the system faster and speed along the process of helping those receive aid who need it. I have also learned that although there are many people out there working for social justice, it is an exhaustive and draining task to bring about justice in today’s world. Although I already knew this, seeing how it effects people is quite depressing. Accomplishing social justice is still what I am going to work for in my future and this internship definitely helped brace me for the reality of working towards this goal. Dedication and passion are the two most vital attributes needed to accomplish social work. 

– Alex Hall ’15

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Sadly, my summer with American Jewish World Service has come to an end, but as I think back on my time with the organization, I cannot believe how much I have gained from this internship. Over the summer, I completed numerous large projects, including developing several lesson plans to teach and inspire American lay leaders to advocate for the developing world. One of the greatest lessons I learned at my internship is how to work collaboratively with people more experienced than I am. At first, I really struggled to speak up during meetings because I felt that what I had to say could not possibly be important. However, after much encouragement from my supervisor, I found my voice at team meetings. I realized that I was able to bring a new and unique opinion to the team, as I came in to meetings with a fresh pair of eyes. I gained self-confidence and made a better impression among my colleagues when I started speaking up. This is a skill I will bring back to Brandeis with me. This semester I am taking two classes with which I have no experience, and I know there will be people in those classes with more things to say than I have. Nonetheless, I will feel confident to speak up and share my opinions because I know that what I have to say is (usually) worthwhile.

This internship has opened up a lot of doors to new ideas for me. Now that I have completed the internship, I would like to learn more about the issues facing the developing world, and how they come about. I would also like to learn other ways people can get involved in helping out with these big issues without devoting their whole lives to solving them. I would strongly recommend interning at a nonprofit social justice organization, and especially AJWS. I would tell students planning to intern at a social justice nonprofit to be prepared for some feelings of helplessness – you will learn that there are so many issues that need fixing and there is no way that you can come in and fix them all. Just remember that you are there to help in whatever way you can – and that is enough! Also, be enthusiastic about any task you are given. Most organizations will need some very mundane things to be taken care of, like file-sorting or shredding or making copies. Hopefully this won’t be a big part of your internship, but it is important to take on these jobs with as much enthusiasm as the more interesting tasks. These are all important things that help the organization to run smoothly, and your taking them on means that more social justice can be achieved in the world. Also, your employers will notice if you have a positive attitude.

To students interning at AJWS specifically, I would recommend making time to get to know as many people in the organization as possible. I set up hour-long slots to meet with several of my colleagues, including department managers and vice presidents who were all more than happy to take time from their busy schedules to meet with me. I learned so much from these amazing individuals and forged strong relationships with some of them too.
AJWS has challenged by assumptions about social justice by showing me the importance of a human rights-based approach to development. Before the internship, I assumed that the biggest task facing the developing world was access to resources such as water, arable land and food. AJWS showed me that this kind of resource-based approach is not effective. In order to assist the developing world, we must focus on human rights, because no matter how many resources a country has, it is not helpful unless women and marginalized communities have access to those resources and are not being abused or persecuted. AJWS’s work to end violence against women, child marriage, and persecution of LGBTQ people has shown me what it really means to be a change-maker and reinforced my own passion to work for real change.

– Jessi Puterman ’15

My final days at ETE Camp and in Hinche were filled with last lessons, performances and emotional see-you-laters. After a full month of teaching and playing for hours a day, it was easy to become closely connected with the children. Despite the difficulty in language we learned about each others personalities, interests, temperaments and experiences. Many of the children adjusted so well to the language differences that they developed their own form of communication to interact with me and the other volunteers such as grabbing our arm and pointing to the vacant seat next to them at meal times or using the few English words they knew and the few Creole words they knew we knew to form a completed thought.

During the last week of camp, we spent class time and activity time gearing up for our three big closing activities: The parade around Hinche, The Alumni Show and the Closing Ceremony. The parade was an amazing experience and consisted of all the ETE campers, volunteers and alumni marching through the city singing the songs we had learned at the top of our lungs. The city dwellers were exposed to a small piece of what these people and kids wearing matching t-shirts had been up to for the last month. The lyrics of the songs consisted of a mixture of English and Creole and were both original melodies created by different volunteers as well as lyrics adapted to the melodies of songs such as “I Can”, “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Survivor”. The ETE Camp versions of these songs were “Mwen Konnen Kapab- I Know I Can”, “I Believe I Can Fly” and “I Am A Scholar.”. These songs as well as presentations of all that the students learned this year were all a part of the Closing Ceremony (as seen in the links above). The family members of many of the scholars came to watch them display their English, Leadership and Math skills through skits, songs and mini-lessons. This was truly a moving event that brought the feeling of a “proud mama” to my heart in seeing how much these students had developed their skills and how brave they were to stand on stage and perform the way they did. The students also came up individually to receive their ETE Camp graduation certificates, a moment that brought tears to our eyes. It was the perfect ending to an amazing month of seeing the accomplishments of 60 young leaders and scholars.

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Students receiving certificates from myself and the other volunteers during the Closing Ceremony.

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The 2014 ETE Campers proudly holding their certificates during the Closing Ceremony.

 

Coming home meant being shoved face first into the recognition of my comparative wealth and place of privilege. Even as a family who immigrated from Brazil with almost no money and spent most of our time in Brazil and the US financially struggling, I have to acknowledge that this is no longer where we stand due to the privileges and blessings living in the US has afforded us.

What this means is getting picked up at the airport in a relatively new, full functioning luxury SUV after communicating with my parents through our overly priced iPhones. The engine wasn’t roaring loudly and I did not fear that the car would breakdown. Their is A/C and heat in the car for a comfortable ride regardless of the weather outside (which happened to be about 65 degrees, a temperature that I consider cold after a month in 95 degree weather). Inside it I feel safe. The roads are not bumpy, they are smoothly paved. Dust and dirt are not flying into my face, hair and clothing. I do not feel nauseous from the ride home.

At home, I am greeted by a new, brand name watch and a Pandora charm titled, “The Journey of Life” to celebrate my return home. My dad shows me his new toy, a Bluetooth speaker for his phone that not even he fully understands how to use. I use the bathroom and I do not need to use a bucket of water to make the toilet flush. I take a shower and I do not fear that a cockroach will come out of the drain. I do not fear that the shower will stop because the rain water supply has been exhausted. I open my mouth and let the water in, I do not fear that it will make me sick. I do not fear that the lights will go out in the middle of my shower. The water is warm, I control the temperature I want to shower in instead of the steady stream of cold water I had showered under for the last month. 

I eat fresh homemade food left for me on the stove containing all the essential nutrients for my body. A colorful arrangement of vegetables, protein and grain. I brush my teeth. I do not need to find filtered water to do this but instead brush my teeth with faucet water for the first time in a month. I go to bed. It is a full size bed that I can sprawl out on either side of. It is warm, clean and incredibly comfortable and high enough that no unwelcome guests will crawl on me at night. I do not spray myself with bug-spray before bed since all the windows of the house have screens. There are no mosquitoes inside the house and if there were, they would be a slight nuisance but I would not fear that they are carrying illnesses such as Malaria or Chikungunya. 

Tomorrow I will unpack and do my laundry. I will not need to hand wash my clothes with limited water. I will not need to wait for sunshine to hang them up to dry. I will not be without clothes until they are done as I have I several clean options to change into while I wait for the machine to finish what is in many places, still the job of human hands.

In the fall I will return to my senior year at one of the best universities in the US and complete my nearly fully scholarship funded education. I do not fear that my school will get shut down or run out of vital resources. I will use fast pace and readily available internet and phone to make both my social and professional life much easier. I trust that my degree will add to my ability to grow socioeconomically and help to secure an even better life for myself and my family. My classroom is not too hot nor too cold. There are no illness carrying mosquitoes or flies to swat off as I learn or sleep or eat. The electricity and water does not frequently shut down. It is an excessively funded institution and a safe place to study and live. 

To say my life is “better” is a judgment call I neither agree with nor have any interest in making. To say my life is easier in many ways than what I experienced and witnessed for the last month would be accurate. To say that I am at a place of privilege over others that I do not deserve is the pure and troubling reality. I got to personally know and fall in love with over sixty beautiful, intelligent, loving and happy children who are at a systematic disadvantage from my own, despite my being an immigrant and a woman of color in the US. Logically, there is no reason why I should have these privileges and they should not. I am not a better person. I am not more intelligent, more beautiful, more loving, more in touch with God, more deserving of blessings, or more worthy. Essentially I am who they are and they are who I am. This privilege however is provided by one main, crucial factor; I am a beneficiary of the same system that has and continues to keep these and millions of other people in poverty and without many things we (probably anyone with access to this blog post) often take for granted. This acknowledgement doesn’t change the lives of anyone suffering from this system but it does remind us of who and where we are, not for the purposes of containing guilt but of realizing what each of our lives cost others. The course of action beyond that is an individual but crucial decision. 

This was my first but will not be my last trip to Hinche, Haiti and among volunteering, there are many ways to get involved with ETE Camp, simply because we can and because every child deserves the best chances to succeed in this world that they can get.

I can hardly fathom that I have, in fact, completed my internship with the Department of Public Health’s SAPSS Unit! This internship has been an incredible learning opportunity for me, with chances to grow intellectually, learn more about my selected career field (and state government in general), as well as challenge myself and my previously help assumptions about social justice work at large.

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My tasks throughout the summer were varied and stimulating. My main job was being the primary point person for a Governor’s Council committee, The Higher Education Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Working Group, as I’ve mentioned in past blog posts. This was the task that most encompassed my main learning goal for the summer: I got to truly see how my two passions, social justice and gender studies, combined through the work of the dedicated professionals on this committee. As a staff-person for the group (charged with organizing meetings, taking minutes, and a few research projects), I got a behind-the-scenes look at how sexual violence activism takes place among campus leaders. This is a project I’ve been very involved in at Brandeis throughout the past few years as a student, and it was inspiring, as an activist myself, to see how passionate these professionals also were about this issue.

The DPH Building, at 250 Washington St., in Boston!

The DPH Building, at 250 Washington St., in Boston!

Working at the DPH also taught me a lot about the inner workings of state government: that is, all the details of their privacy policies, various leadership positions and management. If I had to give advice to another student looking to intern at the Department of Public Health, I would tell them not to be discouraged if things move slowly! For example, for my research project (collecting and analyzing data from rape crisis centers about their prevention work), it took much longer than expected to actually receive the information I was tasked with organizing and reporting. According to my supervisors, however, this is all part of the job.

This sometimes slow-moving aspect of my internship also challenged my previously held ideas about social justice. Before interning with the DPH, my vision of social justice consisted purely of on-the-ground activists, who only could “affect change” in communities by face-to-face interactions with survivors, perpetrators, and the Big Guys in charge. I envisioned the student leaders, the hotline workers, and the protestors; I took on many of these roles myself, thinking this was the only way to make a noticeable difference in my community. The Department of Public Health taught me that social justice could also take on a much different form. Through this internship with the SAPSS unit, I learned that activism can (and does) exist even within bureaucratic systems like state government, and it can happen behind a desk… even behind an excel graph.

Through my internship this summer, I had the chance to learn so much about my desired career path, my academic and extracurricular passions, and myself. I would strongly recommend an internship with the SAPSS unit at the Department of Public Health to any other student who is interested in sexual violence prevention work, state government, and is willing to take on both leadership and research-based responsibilities. In my remaining year at Brandeis, I have no doubt that my experience with the Department of Public Health will inform my career choices (as I begin to make them!) as well as my academic understanding of research. I hope to build further on these research skills I’ve learned at my internship this summer, both in a scholastic and professional capacity. I am very grateful to my devoted, enthusiastic supervisors at the DPH, as well as the generosity of Hiatt’s World of Work grant for making this opportunity so truly great!

Since my last update, we had a Sao Joao (St.John) celebration. We ordered food for the festivities and had a coordinated square dance. It was organized by the department I am primarily interning with, and everyone participated, including management. A raffle was drawn, where one of the custodians won a ticket to that Sunday’s World Cup game, she was extremely delighted. Another major employee event was a conference call with all the regional offices, where the Director gave a report on the point at which the organization is, and all the changes that are taking place, so that everyone could understand the current strengths and weaknesses of the organization. It was interesting being part of that presentation and listening to the comments from people in other regions of the country.

I was then assigned to work with the organization’s Sponsorship department for a day to work on translations. There I translated letters from sponsors to the children who are part of World Vision Brazils ADPs (Area Development Program), ´A distinct geographical area where World Vision partners with local stakeholders to improve the well-being of children through multiple sector projects aimed at root causes of issues that negatively impact children.´. I also translated the Annual Progress Reports, mapping a child’s progress, in health, education, and extracurricular activities of the child to the sponsor. My work there exceeded a day, and I now help there every week for about 12 hours.

 

The numbers on the map show the locations of World Vision´s Area Development Projects in Brazil.

The numbers on the map show the locations of World Vision´s Area Development Programs (ADPs) in Brazil.

 

Doing this has had a profound impact on me, seeing the children’s photos and reading the progress which proves their fight for a better future, took my mind back to growing up in developing countries, Mozambique, Malawi and Swaziland. In these countries, I saw poverty everywhere. In rural areas, and in the urban areas where street children surrounded the city. Poverty was so prominent that people even became numb to its reality. As I read the  letters and reports that I translated, it was like getting to know the children and their circumstances. I found that things most take for granted, such as the act of sending a birthday card to a child is something so special to them. What has also impacted me is the dedication of the sponsors, who are everyday people. They have inspired me to realize that anyone can take part in being a positive change in this world, and we can all change lives in major ways. Working for an organization such as World Vision, which hopes to eradicate child poverty, has shown me the innocence that accompanies those in impoverished conditions. People don’t choose to be extremely poor, and children lack the opportunity to remove themselves from the poverty cycle.

In the department of Pessoas & Cultura, I usually perform day to day tasks such as filing and sorting through employee data that is submitted to the office.

During my internship, I have been seeing what my supervisors tasks are, which are ongoing because she deals with not only the planned systematic employee needs but also all the issues that occur on a day to day basis. For my internship, I had hoped to learn how human resources works in a new and different environment, and to immerse myself in a new cultural reality. With about 60 employees here, it has been great to learn from my colleagues about the organization, and having the opportunity to interact with newly appointed employees. I write weekly notes, which help me analyze my experiences and what I have learned.

At this point, I am mostly proud of being able to be integrated into the organization and of the relationships that I have had the pleasure of forming with employees and other interns. Forming relationships with people especially of different cultures is at the core of what I would like to do in whatever my future career may be, therefore, building on these interpersonal skills is very important to me. Nothing can substitute these experiences because I know I will be able to utilize what I have learned not only professionally, but personally.

The Logo for an Area Development Project in Brazil. ´Novo Sertão ´ which means New Sertão´  Sertão is a place in the North East of Brazil, but when translated it means Backyard or Outback.

The Logo for one of World Vision´s Area Development Program locations in Brazil. ´Novo Sertão ´ which means New Sertão
Sertão is a place in the North East of Brazil, but when translated it means Backyard or Outback.

– Linda Phiri ’16

 

The past eight weeks have gone by in a blur. Amidst a flurry of projects and public events, my internship was nothing short of an incredible experience. In the waning weeks of my time at NCL, I made visits to the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center as well as a NGO conference regarding consumer internet security and privacy. The visits and conferences greatly enhanced my understanding of the challenges and issues that ordinary people face on a daily basis in the field of internet privacy and the confidentiality of their personal information. In addition to the conferences, I also contributed to and edited a consumer Bill of Rights with regard to data security in the public arena. The project that my fellow interns and I completed has significantly improved my written skills as I learned to compose carefully-worded amendments for the Bill. The frequently-assigned research projects and reports have also helped me gain a deeper insight as to how public policy affects the general consumer population.

This internship has given me a very solid groundwork on policy research and analysis. I seek to integrate the skills I have developed and honed in the classroom when I return to Brandeis. I want to continue to build on those skills in the classroom. The research skills that I have developed will be extremely useful for writing papers in my courses because the majority of my classes will be writing and research-intensive. I believe that the research skills that I have acquired from this internship will also serve me very well in my professional endeavors as I seek to become an international lawyer in the future, a profession which requires well-developed writing skills.

 

Me at an NGO conference regarding the National Security Agency's practices of espionage on citizens.

Me at an NGO conference regarding the National Security Agency’s practices of espionage on citizens.

Working at the National Consumers League has given me a first taste of researching domestic policy and how it affects the general consumer population. I want to expand the scope of the research that I do to include international policy and law. Moving forward, I would like to gain experience in foreign policy analysis and research. In addition, I would like to work at an international organization so I can gain experience in the inner workings of international governance and law making. I believe that additional experience in the areas of international policy and governance would be extremely beneficial for my future career.

In my personal view, the National Consumers League’s work atmosphere is balanced and not too uptight . For those who are interested in working for the League, one piece of advice that I can give (which I learned from my supervisor on my first day) is to always ask all your questions before you start a project. This makes your work go much smoother and faster, and also makes the director’s life easier. In addition, making connections with your fellow colleagues is also very important. From my experience, the League’s staff are all extremely approachable and easy to talk to. Those interested in working at the League should take the opportunity to get to know all the staff. The field of consumer advocacy and public policy advocacy and analysis is a very stimulating field of work for those interested in policy analysis. Students who are interested in doing policy research and reaching out to policy makers will find working in this field  to be very fulfilling. It may seem to be difficult at times due to the fact that you’re trying to influence the upper echelon of the federal government, but I have also learned that advocacy groups are actually quite influential when it comes to affecting public policy; they reflect the public sentiment, which policy makers definitely take into account.

Me at the Panel on Industry Self-Regulation with regard to protecting consumers' sensitive personal data.

Me at the Panel on Industry Self-Regulation with regard to protecting consumers’ sensitive personal data.

After working at the League, I believe that my fundamental philosophy with regard to social justice has been dramatically reinforced. Through the research projects and papers that I completed, I have had the opportunity to examine the nuances of a plethora of policy fields including technology, health, and child labor policy. The work that I have done has shown me just how much ordinary consumers need advocacy groups. The research that the League and other consumer advocacy organizations do is critical in helping to create a more informed society. In addition, through the various projects that I completed, I have learned much about how to effectively advocate through writing. After learning from the League, I believe that I can become a more effective citizen by informing others about the effects of policy and its implications. I believe that pushing for collective action amongst the citizenry to influence government policy can be extremely influential. To be a more effective citizen of society, I need to let others know about the important issues that affect them. The time that I have spent at NCL has taught me much about the issues that pertain to ordinary citizens, and I plan to take the new knowledge and expertise that I have gained to make my friends, family, and community more knowledgeable about issues that affect their daily lives and well-being.

The Truth about “Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity.”

People have always been fascinated by individuals with mental illness. Legal movies have especially glamorized mentally ill criminals who plead not guilty by reason of insanity. They are portrayed to do the crime and not do the time. But in real life, it appears that NGI clients are doing anything but “getting away with it.”

The truth is, NGI clients have it bad. But before I get into the details, here’s a brief summary of how it works. When someone is brought to criminal court, they have the option to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. This means that if the court finds them not guilty by reason of insanity (NGI), it opens a mental health case. Subsequently, NGI clients are committed to a hospital for psychiatric treatment. This commitment is indefinite.

Let me clarify what “indefinite” means; the patient stays in the hospital for an undefined amount of time, meaning that for the foreseeable future they are given a sentence without an expiration date. The point of this type of commitment is the treatment for the defendant’s illness, as opposed to punishment for a crime.

The minute this happens, the legal rights of the mentally ill shrink to a mere opportunity to petition the court for release every 6 months. In reality, this petition rarely works for the advantage of the NGI patient. One of my mentors informed me that in the Public Defender Service for the past 30 years there have been 2-3 NGI patients that won through petitioning. So the chances of an NGI patient being released because of one of these hearings are minute.

 

The “Other” Death Row

Committing people who are not dangerous for a week or a month seems unjust.  So then what do you call it when people are committed for what is practically a life sentence without even knowing it? During my training at the Public Defender Service , my supervisor Carolyn Slenska, Investigations coordinator at the Mental Health Division, informed me that the average stay for an NGI client is 30 years. Throughout my internship, I have read about and even met NGI clients who have been committed for 30 years and counting.

Last week, there was a film showing on NGI patients in the D.C. Superior Court. In the documentary, “Voices from Within,” Joy Haynes follows the commitments of four NGI patients at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. She and her crew gave cameras to patients at St. E’s who volunteered to participate in a video diary project. They trained them and asked them to record their stories. The documentary presented the real lives of 4 mental health patients who collectively spent 160 years in commitment after being found NGI.

Click on the image for the "Voices from Within" documentary trailer For more information, visit the project's FB page: https://www.facebook.com/SEHVFW

Click on the image for the “Voices from Within” documentary trailer
For more information, visit the project’s FB page: https://www.facebook.com/SEHVFW

When you sit down and watch the documentary, you forget that you’re following the lives of patients who are supposed to be dangers to themselves or others. You see four high functioning, coherent, cooperative, funny, and relatable human beings. You see men that don’t belong in the hospital. So why are they there? And until when do they have to stay?

Lew, one of the NGI patients, said, “I’m sitting on death row, I just don’t know it.” Tragically, after 47 years of commitment, Lew passed away at 71 years of age. In fact, three of the four men featured in the 2010 documentary have since passed while still in commitment.

 Lew also shared a disturbing conversation he had with one of the staff members at the hospital. He states that a staff member told him, “You just stay crazy, you’re putting my kid through school.” All four men featured in the film wanted their freedom. The commitment in the psychiatric hospital is supposed to be about treatment. But after these men get better, after they no longer pose a danger to themselves or other, why are they still there?

 

Which Side Are You On?

Source: http://www.jemeksolicitors.co.uk/

The other day I noticed there is a quotation framed on the walls of the Psychiatric Institute of Washington (PIW). It reads: “Take my will and my life. Guide me in my recovery. Show me how to live.” (Note: Coincidentally, I recently visited PIW and after certain renovations, the plaque is off their walls!)

Then I read the quotation in the back of our business cards: “The mission of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia is to provide and promote quality legal representation to indigent adults and children facing a loss of liberty…and thereby protect society’s interest in the fair administration of justice.”

It then became so clear that the mental health system has not escaped the grasp of the adversarial system. There is a clear application of the adversarial process in mental health cases – as in any type of case. On one side, we have the Public Defender Service who tries to get its clients out of the hospital, and on the other side, we have the hospitals that detain and commit people as psychiatric patients. One fights against the loss of individuals’ liberties and the other fights because they know what’s good for the patient. It’s the ultimate battle of lawyers vs. doctors.

An Impossible Burden — Michael Jones v. United States (1983)

Attorneys around the office often bring up this monumental court case, Michael Jones v. US According to this Jones v. US, a patient “has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that he is no longer mentally ill or dangerous.” (Source: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/463/354). The significance of this case, however, lies in the decision that the length of the commitment to a psychiatric hospital is not related to the length of time that the defendant would have spent if he were convicted.

Here’s an example: John Doe steals bubblegum from a candy store and the court finds him not guilty be reason of insanity. He gets an indefinite sentence at a psychiatric ward. In an alternate reality, Mr. Doe would have been found guilty for the misdemeanor. Let’s say Mr. Doe is a repeat offender and gets jail time for 2 years. Regardless of the fact that his criminal conviction would have yielded a 2 year sentence, the psychiatric commitment can “until such time as he has regained his sanity or is no longer a danger to himself or society.” (Jones v. US, 1983). This decision makes sense — the whole process sounds fair enough on paper. Well, in reality the burden that is placed on the patients is immense and nearly impossible to meet.

I see the process as having 3 stages. First, an NGI patient has to be examined by his or her treatment team. If the treatment team recommends the patient’s release, we move onto the second stage. On the second stage, the clinical board reviews the patient’s case and makes a determination. If the clinical review is for the release, we move to the last stage. On the third stage, the clinical review board submits the petition to the court asking for the patient’s release.

The three stages of NGI commitment and release ( This is a graphic that I created, this is not a publication of the Public Defender Service)

The three stages of NGI commitment and release ( This is a graphic that I created, this is not a publication of the Public Defender Service)

Here’s where things get complicated: NGI patients have committed crimes. This means that the government is involved in their case. On the third stage, the government can agree or disagree with the hospital’s recommendation to release the NGI patient. If they agree, then it’s up to the court to decide whether the patient can be released or not. If they disagree, it’s still up to the court, but it’s practically impossible to win release. In other words, the government’s agreement is integral for a real chance at NGI patients’ release.

A Necessary Battle

It would be easy to see the situation as a black and white, good vs. bad, where what we do at PDS is good and what the doctors do is bad. But that’s simply not the case. In the real life of mental health cases, lawyers vs. doctors is a necessary “battle.” PDS has developed strong relationships with the majority of psychiatric and medical doctors in D.C. mental health hospitals and psychiatric wards. The adversarial process is set so that each side fights for the client’s best interest. The attorneys at PDS are assigned to represent the clients. Many patients want to be free, many of them want to get out no matter what. So the attorneys do the best they can to advocate for the clients’ decisions. On the other side of the system, if the patients are in risk or hurting themselves or others, someone has to fight to keep them in the hospital until they get better. So medical staff members do the best they can for the clients’ well being.

Source: http://www.practicelink.com

In conclusion, when an individual with a mental illness is in court, the judge or jury should be deciding between the two best alternatives for the client – that’s what the adversarial system is supposed to accomplish anyway. Sometimes the court deems it necessary to detain a patient until their mental illness is not a danger. Other times, there is no danger and the court honors the patients’ choices and freedom.

Even so, it seems that NGI patients are giving up their entire lives just waiting to “get better.” There also seems to be no standard for what “better” looks like — it’s a very subjective evaluation with very little accountability attached to the evaluators. In NGI cases, the necessity of a vigorous advocate is evident. After a month at the Mental Health Division of PDS, I have come to appreciate the attorneys’ ability to advocate for exactly what a client asks for, without the insertion of their personal beliefs, the doctors’ recommendations, or a subjective bias. In order for the system to work, I guess each player must do what he or she does best – lawyers fight to get clients out, and doctors fight to keep them in – in the hope that the adversarial process is saving more lives than it condemns.

 

-Gina Gkoulgkountina, ‘15

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I’m past my midpoint here at GRAG and thinking about the learning goals I put down two months ago.The summer has been a good one, both because of the sunshine sweeping down on Dakar and the office atmosphere that’s always so positive. Even the long afternoons during the holy month of Ramadan, always slowest around the usual time for lunch, haven’t done much to deter the assorted GRAG staff. July was full of completed program funding bids and new projects to take on.

My academic and career goals have become intertwined because of the nature of my internship. GRAG is first and foremost a research organization, so my academic goals (augmenting my classroom knowledge of West-African development with firsthand involvement) and my career goals (gaining more experience in crafting advocacy materials and promoting NGO/research findings) are being met every day that I sit at my desk and draft a proposal section or edit a survey questionnaire.

I’ve read a lot about the different ways to go about international aid and over the past 2 months I’ve seen a lot of them in action. GRAG builds a knowledge base by doing its own studies based around target populations, but it also evaluates projects being done by other NGOs and government offices. Working on the outside evaluations has been especially helpful. I’m gaining more of a logistical look into the realities of aid programs and the various things that can go wrong, ways they can be improved, and in general more of a scope for understanding these ventures. Academically, this glimpse into the industry has answered a lot of questions I had about projected versus achieved results. There are more factors going in than I had thought or read about and now I know more about the multitude of difficulties that can and do arise during implementation.

Senegalese Initiative for Urban Health; one of GRAG's current evaluation projects

Senegalese Initiative for Urban Health; one of GRAG’s current evaluation projects in conjunction with the Senegalese government

I have farther to go before I’m prepared for an actual career in an organization like this one — assuming I even choose to work in this industry — but I’ve taken big leaps in some areas. My technical writing skills have definitely improved and I’ve gained a lot of experience drafting different proposals — for funding, for proposed projects, and for proposed evaluation reports. A lot of elements go into each document, and details are especially important for the advocacy materials and the study questionnaires that we distribute. Tact is essential, plus simplicity of questions and language use. Many of the materials go to poorer communities outside of Dakar so they don’t necessarily have access to the French education in public schools here. There are as many as 7 local languages at use in some regions of the country and many people here are bilingual or more, so a lot of translation work happens at the office. And sensitive issues like gender roles or sexuality can quickly cause a problem if confidentiality agreements don’t hold. I’m still learning exactly where to toe the line with subjects like that but it’s been an interesting education on the topic.

In terms of personal goals, it’s been interesting seeing the amount of focus everyone maintains in the office while working on sensitive subjects. Just yesterday my supervisor was telling me about the implementation of a project that was started before I got here on integrated health services in Senegal, and he spoke about how he is now suggesting that they take out the issue of domestic violence from the study. Researchers understand that many of the issues afflicting poor communities are intertwined, but there’s also the danger of over-saturating a survey and losing the focus of a particular research mission. In attempting to tackle too many issues at once, you run the risk of too little in-depth analysis and in fact not helping to solve any problems in a major way.

One of my learning goals was to find that emotional balance necessary for NGO work, especially during fieldwork, to juggle the heavy subjects that are the center of such studies. The GRAG team doesn’t completely separate themselves from the human elements of their research or else they wouldn’t be able to fully account for the needs of the target populations. Instead, attention is shifted to concentrate on the particular issue at hand and take the larger socioeconomic problems case-by-case. I’ve been doing the same in a lot of ways. There are always smaller pieces of a problem to work on and each project brings us closer and closer to bigger changes. My contributions don’t look like much on a day-to-day basis, but they’re part of a bigger whole and it helps to keep that in mind.

I wasn’t certain that I could do much in an international research organization back in May. When the Francophone nature of the office was added in I was almost positive that I was jumping into a place that I might not be able to keep up with. It was a surprise to discover that GRAG could teach me a lot about the field, but also that my supervisor and co-workers took my opinions to heart and my intermediate language skills didn’t end up being a problem. I am proud of the fact that I took the initiative to dive into a new experience without as much surety as I’m used to and still managed to have a great time and learn so much in the past months.

Only a few more weeks to go in Dakar until I pack up and leave both GRAG and Senegal! Things here have been heavy and confusing at times, but they’ve also taught me to keep on my toes and work on tight deadlines. Overall I’m enjoying my time in the city and trying to take in everything I can. This summer has definitely been an interesting one and I’m sure August will bring its own flavor to the mix.

-Natasha Gordon ’15

I hop in the car and pull out of my house on Shakespeare Road, driving past Brandeis and onto the interstate as I make my way into Boston. The early summer sun shines hot through the windshield. I look out the window at the highway, shimmering upwards in convoluted waves, and I feel a surge of appreciation for my interns who will be spending three hours outside today canvassing for our endorsed candidates.

Six weeks after my first blog post, my job at NARAL has swelled to encompass a new set of managerial responsibilities. In addition to doing substantive work – helping my supervisor brainstorm creative field operations, draft LTEs, and strategize political campaigns – I now manage a team of nine interns, and am responsible for distributing them to our four-plus priority campaigns. This task is surprisingly complicated; I have to take into account more variables than I initially thought when I began drafting my interns’ schedules. On a daily basis, I have to consider whether or not the interns have a car, how far away the campaigns are and whether or not they are accessible by public transportation, how many hours we should be devoting to each campaign based on its priority level, etc. I spend the better part of my office days with my eyes glued to Google Calendar, attempting to utilize our interns as best we can.

Last week, I finally managed the interns’ schedules such that they are traveling to work on each of our priority campaigns at least once a week. This is no small feat; NARAL’s Political Director reported that our Political Committee was thrilled that we are able to assist our endorsed candidates in such a way. Today is the first day that our interns are traveling throughout the state in groups of two or three. Two are in Bedford, knocking on doors for Representative Kenneth Gordon; two will be in Cambridge making calls for Representative Marjorie Decker; and two will spend four hours this evening traveling to Methuen to phone bank for Representative DeCologero. I am acting as a chauffer for the Bedford folks, and will bunker down in a coffee shop to work remotely while they are in the field.

Of course, this is just a typical Monday. Tuesdays are similar, with interns in the field; Wednesdays begin with a weekly intern meeting, facilitated by me, that features a brown bag lunch and guest speaker plucked from the ripe Boston political scene. On Wednesday evenings, our intern team helps conduct research for NARAL’s (c)(3) committee; on Thursdays, our interns are in the field, collecting signatures for our campaign to have Massachusetts Congressmen Lynch and Neal sign on to the Women’s Health Protection Act. On Fridays, interns are working for campaigns yet again. Sometimes, we break our typical schedule to participate in special events, like tabling at Boston Pride or having organizing and canvassing trainings with Planned Parenthood.

It is an utter whirlwind, and I am consistently amazed by the amount of organization and attention to detail my job requires.  Serving at NARAL in this capacity has increased my managerial abilities tenfold. I have grown to feel comfortable delegating tasks to my intern team, although some are older and more experienced than me. The staff has been exceptional in their eagerness to accommodate my needs and treat me as one of their own. I sit in on staff meetings, assist in building strategy and blueprinting campaigns, and am privy to exclusive conversations among the Political, Communications, and Field teams.

More than anything, this internship has given me an in-depth look at the machinations of the political non-profit sector. Though I previously worked at NARAL for a year, I have never understood the extent to which fundraising and membership building are critical to the maintenance of a non-profit. Sometimes I become disenchanted by the reality that a significant proportion – if not a majority – of NARAL’s work is dedicated to maintaining the structures that already exist instead of directly propelling forth a pro-choice agenda. In this field, progress comes more slowly than I expected, and victories are few and far between. (It becomes even more discouraging when the Supreme Court strikes down laws and provisions that were originally NARAL victories, like the Buffer Zone Law and the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that private employers coverage of birth control.) Though the fight for reproductive justice was and is my foremost passion, I often find myself wondering if the political non-profit venue is the most effective means of pursuing electoral and legislative success.

Doubts aside, my internship is precisely what I had hoped for. Though the headaches that comes as a result of managing nine interns are quite real, the successes of doing so – the gratification of knowing that we are helping four pro-choice champions get re-elected throughout the state – make it all worth it. I make an effort to check-in with my interns consistently to ensure that the internship is meeting their expectations. Although they tell me that spending hours canvassing isn’t always the most enjoyable task, they understand its significance and understand that without their boots on the ground, NARAL wouldn’t have the clout it does among elected officials and special interests alike. I hope to make this experience as challenging as rewarding for them as it is for me.

Wow, I can’t believe I’m over halfway through my time with United for a Fair Economy.

It’s been a very interesting, educational, and positive experience. I really enjoy interacting with all of the other people at UFE. They make me feel supported and appreciated, and I can’t stress enough how important that is at a job or internship. They are also supportive in teaching me things, giving feedback on my work, and collaborating to accomplish tasks.

After the end of fiscal year gift processing died down, I was able to accomplish a lot more on my individual projects – the projects I chose at the beginning and some more that came up along the way!

MataHari, with whom we share an office and consider a “sister” organization, had a great success recently with the passage of the Massachusetts Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights! We went to the signing and I wrote a blog post about it.

DWBoR1I also created a donor survey to find out more about who our donors are, their feelings and thoughts about UFE, what we’re doing well and what we can do better, etc.  Suzanna, the Director of Development, gave me some materials on donor surveys and helped me formulate questions. We’ll be launching that soon and tracking the results.

I also got to design a one-panel info card to replace their outdated brochure! It’s double-sided: English on one side, Spanish on the other (I even got to create a Spanish version of the UFE logo, which was quite a challenge! I’m still not sure I completely understand how paths work in Adobe Illustrator, but I managed). We tried to keep it simple and informative, attractive, and readable. After my first draft, I sent it out for feedback from the staff and worked with the new Communications Coordinator to make it consistent with UFE’s branding. I’m proud of the final product. And the Popular Education team is heading to an event this weekend, and bringing copies of my info card to hand out!

New UFE Brochure 3 New UFE Brochure 3-p2

I’ve learned more about the economy, as well. Suzanna lent me a copy of Inequality for All, the new documentary by Robert Reich on income inequality in the U.S. In meetings and other conversations, I’ve learned about interesting ideas such as post office banking. And one day, one of the Program Coordinators screened this great clip from John Oliver about the wealth gap.

I can’t believe I’m approaching the end of my time at UFE. Certain people have already started trying to convince me to stay instead of going back to school. :) Although I won’t be able to do that, I’m appreciating the time I do have left.

Hello everybody! Hope your summers are still incredible and refreshing, and you’re gearing up for the upcoming semester (which for me, as a new CA, is actually right around the corner). My time at AVODAH has really changed its course since I have arrived. In my first post, I outlined a flash-fundraising campaign and my exposure to non-profit management, but now my experience has been centered around alumni outreach and programming from more of an educational standpoint.

During the third week of my internship, my supervisor began to teach a morning class as part of the List College (the joint program of Columbia University and The Jewish Theological Seminary) pre-college program, “JUSTCity.” This program gathered 18 high school upperclassmen to discuss issues of social justice and inequality in New York City through a Jewish lens. My supervisor’s daily sessions provided a Jewish textual context for exploring and aiming to solve these issues, as well as an open space to dabble with personal experiences and inexperience with antipoverty work and current events. I primarily functioned as the TA of the class, giving a hand to my supervisor and interjecting relevant information pertaining to areas about which I know a thing or two. These 16-18 year-old kids engaged in a remarkably thoughtful, sophisticated discussion about racial, economic, and environmental justice, as well as the escalation in Israel and Gaza. The conversation that struck me most followed their reading of excerpts from “A Case for Reparations” by Tanahisi Coates, an article featured in The Atlantic hashing out an unprecedentedly non-radical approach to reparations for Blacks in America. Admittedly, aside from all I learned from simply sitting and listening, it was also great to see my cousin who was a participant in the program. No worries, everyone- I made sufficient plugs for Brandeis with this group of college-searching kids.

Following this two-week stint, I have been spending much of my time managing the alumni database, and transferring bios of alumni from a large spreadsheet into the new online system. Since I haven’t really met very many alumni, I’m glad I can at least take this route to learn about them and what they did after the program. I even found someone who really is very similar to myself, and am planning on contacting this person to as how she got to her current job! I did not expect bio-transferring to be a networking opportunity!

I am under the impression that my internship will comprise a similar set of tasks for the duration of the summer, and that I will be exposed to a greater arsenal of Jewish texts on issues of social justice, that I will interact with more alumni material, and that I will get to know my co-workers better.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to updating you at the conclusion of the program.

Hannah Kober

It’s been a very eventful couple of weeks for the TB department at the Bairo Pite Clinic.  The TB team and I have been working to create training materials for our 4 new health care workers who will be carrying out the Doorstep Treatment Support (DTS) program.  As I mentioned in my previous post, the DTS program aims to increase adherence and completion of TB treatment for those with active TB and to provide preventative treatment for children under 5.  I have learned so much about program implementation; how difficult it is to translate an idea onto paper and then into a practical setting, and then how time consuming it is to translate all this from English to Tetun.

One of my goals for this summer was to apply what I have learned in the classroom as an HSSP student in a more practical manner, particularly as it pertains to implementation of community health projects.  First, the needs of the community had to be gaged.  Given the high incidence of TB in Timor, it was clear that there is a need to reduce the incidence and prevalence of TB by identifying those with TB more efficiently,  by increasing adherence to TB treatment, and by trying to deliver more preventative treatment (http://www.who.int/countries/tls/en/).  Then, the clinic had to determine what resources, in the form of money, facilities, and human capital were available for the program.  Foreign grants were obtained and 4 new workers were hired for the program.  Once we knew the program had proper support we began creating materials for a 6 day training for the new workers.  My colleagues and I created scripts and videos, scenarios for role play, and other written and verbal activities for the two days of training that pertained to effective communication. Learning points included recognizing verbal and non-verbal signs, and active listening through paraphrasing, summarizing and reflection (http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/nonverbal-communication.html).  We collaborated with many wonderful Timorese volunteers who were willing to act in the videos, translate the work we had done and then deliver a lot of the materials in Tetun.  Working as a group was essential for the success of the training and it was also a great opportunity to build new friendships.

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Ready…set…roll!

I think one of the most important things I’ve learned through all of this is that if you want anything to be successful you must be able to keep the big picture in mind while being extremely detail oriented.  Every little detail matters and you must try to go the extra mile with every assignment you are handed.  I am very proud of myself and my colleagues, particularly our ring leader, Paul, and all the hard work we have put into our work.  We have been forced to do things we have never done before that have taught us to be more resourceful and also to draw from each other’s skill sets. I hope to take back everything I’m learning here related to teamwork, planning and program implementation to PP1 so that we can grow together as a club and organization.

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A few members of the TB team

Kathelyn Rivera, 15

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It’s 5pm and I’m standing at the head of a conference table in a downtown Boston law firm. In the room are lawyers, injured workers, and advocates. Another intern and myself are about to facilitate a bilingual meeting. Everyone in the room is older and mostly everyone is male. Our supervisor coaxed the attendees to the meeting, now it was left to up us to gain their respect and insight.

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The purpose of the meeting was to determine the substance of our report on the workers’ compensation system. We are seeking a balanced perspective of a complicated and convoluted system that treats participants unequally. During my time at the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health I’ve met with lawyers, doctors, advocates, and low-wage workers. Each interview has its own flavor and end goal, revealing a different view of the workers’ compensation system.

Everyone believes the system is broken. Everyone believes it isn’t them.

I feel my confidence grow after each one-on-one and group meeting. I and the other intern prepare and debrief after each interview to hone our approach. I’ve learned to employ open-ended questions and to not shy away from critical ones. We’ve also come to recognize the importance of language and setting to gain the trust of both professionals and laborers. We’ve developed relationships and fought to demonstrate that we are knowledgeable and determined, despite the generally disparaging and transient connotations of being an intern. With each connection we make, I know I am gaining valuable professional tools for my future career.

A major goal at the beginning of the summer was to meaningfully contribute to my community. MassCOSH has successfully advocated for several pieces of legislation that benefit injured workers. Most recently, they were part of successful campaigns to raise the minimum wage in Massachusetts and to increase burial allowances for workers killed on the job. Next, MassCOSH intends to pursue changes in the workers’ compensation system to ensure low-wage and non-English speaking workers can equally access their rights. Our report will inform what specific changes MassCOSH lobbies for. Having seen the organization’s previous policy successes I know my report is a meaningful piece of the process rather than something that will be put in a drawer come September.

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Compiling a report for MassCOSH has led to more practical skills than I could have imagined. Knowing this report is a serious document that will precipitate greater change makes even the hours researching in front a computer fulfilling. In the short run, I’m looking forward to our next step of passing around the draft to receive feedback from various contributors. In the long run, I’m looking forward to a radical overhaul of Massachusetts’ workers compensation system.

– Mia Katan ‘15

Six weeks after my first blog post, my job at NARAL has swelled to encompass a new set of managerial responsibilities. In addition to doing substantive work – helping my supervisor brainstorm creative field operations, draft LTEs, and strategize political campaigns – I now manage a team of nine interns, and am responsible for distributing them to our four-plus priority campaigns. This task is surprisingly complicated; I have to take into account more variables than I initially thought when I began drafting my interns’ schedules. On a daily basis, I have to consider whether or not the interns have a car, whether or not the campaigns are accessible by public transportation, etc. Last week, I finally managed the interns’ schedules such that they are traveling to work on each of our priority campaigns at least once a week.

I embarked upon my journey this summer hoping to learn how to effectively negotiate varying relationships in the workplace. Many of my interns are graduate students, and I was initially worried that I would not be respected in my supervisor role, given the age differential. However, through conversations with my supervisor and other members of the staff, I have learned how to act and how to speak so as to seem an older, more confident supervisor. In my first few weeks here, I would apologize to my interns for making strict demands. Now, three months in, I have gained my footing and have realized that, although my interns may be older than I am, my three years of experience in this field has given me the qualifications I need to be an effective worker and supervisor. I have learned to unapologetically set high expectations. During one-on-one conversations and midpoint check-ins with my interns, I make sure that I am offering strong, constructive feedback. In the office, during meetings, I am firm and assertive. During lunch breaks, walks to the T, and coffee runs, I allow my more informal, personable side to show through; I inquire about the interns’ weekends, offer tricks of the trade, and share a bit about myself. By balancing the “friendly” and “professional” moments in and out of the office, I am able to command the respect I need while also showing my team that I am approachable and understanding.

Throughout the summer, my work has included holding one-on-one meetings with community leaders and lobby meetings with elected officials. I have met with a variety of elected officials on the Public Health Committee in support of our Healthy Youth Bill (which would implement comprehensive sex education in public schools). Armed with research and statistics, I quickly learned in my lobby meetings that elected officials will only fully support a bill if the bill will directly improve the lives of those in their district.

Similarly, my one-on-one recruitment meetings with community leaders have shown me that, while organizations are willing to coalesce, they will only do so if the impact on their clients is tangible. I recently had a one on one with a staff member from an organization that raises low-income women of color out of poverty by providing jobs training, peer mentorship, and professional development services. Only when I explained the impact of Crisis Pregnancy Centers on communities of color specifically was I able to garner her support for our initiatives.

Through these meetings, I have grown to understand that true coalition and relationship building must be founded on reciprocity. Organizations like NARAL are too pressed for time to engage heavily in an initiative that does not cater directly to their membership. In future lobbying and meeting efforts, I will be sure to come armed with facts, data, and anecdotes that directly address the constituencies of those I meet with, be they geographic districts or a certain demographic of people.

I am consistently amazed by the amount of organization and attention to detail my job requires.  Serving at NARAL in this capacity has increased my managerial abilities tenfold. I have grown to feel comfortable delegating tasks to my intern team, although some are older and more experienced than me. The staff has been exceptional in their eagerness to accommodate my needs and treat me as one of their own. I sit in on staff meetings, assist in building strategy and blueprinting campaigns, and am privy to exclusive conversations among the Political, Communications, and Field teams.

More than anything, this internship has given me an in-depth look at the machinations of the political non-profit sector. Though I previously worked at NARAL for a year, I have never understood the extent to which fundraising and membership building are critical to the maintenance of a non-profit. Sometimes I become disenchanted by the reality that a significant proportion – if not a majority – of NARAL’s work is dedicated to maintaining the structures that already exist instead of directly propelling forth a pro-choice agenda. In this field, progress comes more slowly than I expected, and victories are few and far between. I often find myself wondering if the political non-profit venue is the most effective means of pursuing electoral and legislative success.

This doubt is bolstered by the hyper-partisan nature of the choice debate. Upon accepting my summer internship, I stated, “I hope to use my duties at NARAL…. to learn how the organization makes the pro-choice debate less partisan using creative messaging and framing.” Interestingly, my experience at NARAL has taught me quite the opposite. NARAL is a non-partisan organization, but our political inclinations are clear in the work we do. As the choice debate has become more polarized in light of the Supreme Court rulings in the Hobby Lobby and Buffer Zone cases, Republicans that we had once considered allies have begun to vote against our bills in the state house. We cannot endorse legislators with an anti-choice record, so although the staff does not want to endorse electeds along party lines, we find ourselves doing just that. Nonetheless, I am still searching for ways to make the debate less partisan in my conversations with others. I hope that continuing to work here, and having one-on-one conversations with community leaders and stakeholders more often, will teach me how.

While sitting at my desk working patiently on data entry and file review, I can’t help but hear my HSSP professor’s words echoing in my mind… “prevention, intervention, and follow-up of patient cases are essential to health care!” Professor Conrad’s course Health and Society reflected on the various forms of illness, how society defines and perceives illness, and the methods by which illness can be treated. As I read files from the 1970s, I can see how our nation’s mentality has shifted over the decades regarding mental illness and treatment. HSSP courses usually begin with a review of the historical timeline of health and health care in the United States, and so it’s basic knowledge by senior year for HSSP students that the taboo surrounding mental health persisted in our country up until 10 or 15 years ago. Recently, this trend has abated in light of the development of legislation that mandates health insurance coverage for mental health services and grants funding for non-profits focused on mental health services.

When looking through files dated before 1985, I am reminded of the lack of support for individuals who require some form of counseling or therapy, and the faulty networking between agencies involved for that matter. Initially, Emerge adopted a political agenda, operating on the belief that the response to domestic violence should be social action rather than medical or psychological intervention. The creators of Emerge were activists, not medical administrators or health care providers. Therefore, the majority of these first case files are not standardized, meaning that the folder contains errant papers, scribbled notes, and blank/missing information. Some vital information, such as the client’s date of birth or social security number(important for identifying clients who are also on probation or have pending court cases) are not even required fields on some of the older forms.

The forms Emerge uses to keep records have changed drastically since 1980. The referral source in 1980 was more likely to be a family member, informational pamphlet, or co-worker. Abuse history is brief, especially in comparison to the modernized form.

The forms Emerge uses to keep records have changed drastically since 1980. The referral source in 1980 was more likely to be a family member, informational pamphlet, or co-worker. Abuse history is brief, especially in comparison to the modernized form.

The forms Emerge uses to keep records have changed drastically since 1980. The referral source in 1980 was more likely to be a family member, informational pamphlet, or co-worker. Abuse history is brief, especially in comparison to the modernized form.

Furthermore, not all clients were interviewed in the same manner, and so information that would otherwise be useful in identifying the socio-economic status of the client was consistently left blank, which created a gap in quality of service in many cases. The purpose of the program was geared towards providing support services for victims and partners, but the consequential development of a client-base who sometimes require long-term counseling meant that Emerge had to adapt.

In contrast, the newest intake forms require personal identification information such as DOB, SSN, and car make/model. This information is relevant for clients who have been referred by a Probation Office or DCF Agency for violence against a partner or abuse of children. This form, in comparison with the 1980 version, allows clients to record the number, names, and ages of their children, in addition to the other biological parent. The older forms did not account for non-traditional families.

In contrast, the newest intake forms require personal identification information such as DOB, SSN, and car make/model. This information is relevant for clients who have been referred by a Probation Office or DCF Agency for violence against a partner or abuse of children. This form, in comparison with the 1980 version, allows clients to record the number, names, and ages of their children, in addition to the other biological parent. The older forms did not account for non-traditional families.

In contrast, the newest intake forms require personal identification information such as DOB, SSN, and car make/model. This information is relevant for clients who have been referred by a Probation Office or DCF Agency for violence against a partner or abuse of children. This form, in comparison with the 1980 version, allows clients to record the number, names, and ages of their children, in addition to the other biological parent. The older forms did not account for non-traditional families.

It is clear that a significant amount of progress has been made since the founding of Emerge. All new files have a comprehensive background on all clients – today’s files are so detailed that we request partner contact information for not only the “victim” and “current partner” but also 2-3 ex-partners. Sometimes, to provide better services for the client, we investigate incidences of violent and controlling behaviors in previous relationships. The increased demand for accurate information ensures that Emerge can follow up with victims and partners to get firsthand reports of incidences of violence or abuse. The agency also contacts victims regarding the status of the client: whether he has been attending, has completed, or has been terminated from the program. Clients can use group sessions as a form of social support, to continue to work on themselves in a familiar, comfortable setting among men who can relate, either through cultural identity, family history, or lifestyle, etc. Emerge still emphasizes a focus on abusive behavior and not on the psychopathology of the abuser. Its relevancy in the field of social services and mental health services is evident.

This unique lens of being able to see the real-time applications of my HSSP courses for the coming semester is a huge motivator. I can attest to Professor Conrad’s principle that prevention and intervention are major elements of confronting the issue of domestic violence and other mental health problems, such as co-morbid substance abuse or long-term anger/violence. I recall another HSSP course, “Perspectives on Behavioral Health: Alcohol, Drugs, and Mental Health,” which provided me with an academic background of the current problems that Emerge clients deal with: ending addiction, understanding their own behavior, coping with past traumas and current stressors. I am enthused that I can apply information from my past classes to gain a greater understanding of the clientele, such as the impact of drug use on self-esteem and interpersonal relationships. Using this knowledge will allow me to conduct thorough personal history interviews and deduce key concerns related to the individual’s progress. Streamlining my own methodology will only allow me to better serve the needs of the client and victim, which is paramount to improving the nation’s Social Services in future decades.

Reflecting on the progress that Emerge has made as a pioneer domestic violence counseling center, it is obvious that there are still a few hurdles to overcome. Emerge offers services in Spanish and for other minority groups like LGBTQ individuals, and has a much higher completion rate than in decades past. Still, client attendance records suggest that we have yet to truly validate mental health care services as irrefutably necessary in today’s world. Social stereotypes still exist that may prevent clients from continuing group counseling, as many men believe that “real men don’t need help.” Agencies like Emerge have minimal influence to enforce attendance and participation. By examining Emerge’s past, and observing the present group sessions, I believe that I have a clear picture of where we have come from as a nation and where we are looking to go in the next few decades to improve the quality and image of mental illness and health services in the United States.

Elsie Bernaiche ’15

It has been two weeks since I arrived in Hinche, Haiti and began my experience at ETE Camp. These two weeks have been filled to the brim with new experiences and lessons learned. The first week was one of adjustments. The heat here is unlike what I have experienced anywhere else. Even after living in the northeast of Brazil for six months. Although I prefer the heat to any other weather, it took my body some time to adjust to the constant heat of the Caribbean sun especially during the day or on long car rides. Food and mosquitoes have been another adjustment. Hinche is a small town a two hour drive through the mountains from Port-au-Prince and is calm and laid back. Our first interaction with the students was Opening Day when over 100 parents and children came to try to take part in this free and educational opportunity. We registered and met the 60 children that I would be working with and learning from the next month.

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Myself and the other volunteers walking to Opening Day.

From 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., Monday- Friday nothing, including the mosquitos or the heat, matters besides the 60 wonderful, intelligent, creative, loving and energetic ETE camp scholars. A day in the life consists of Morning Motivation, breakfast, teaching three classes, lunch and an afternoon activity. There are four subjects being taught in one day: Math, Science, English Writing and Leadership and each teaching pair is off for one period. I have been co-teaching English Writing, and I have never met such eager to learn children who are so excited to be in school. They are always doing the best they can to learn as much as possible. Once in a while there are discipline issues to take care of as with any children but for the most part they are extremely well-behaved. The daily chorus of “Good Morning, Miss Amanda” has proven to always make me smile, as have the moments during meal times when the children sing their prayers in unison or someone grabs my arm and asks me to sit next to them.

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The language barrier was another adjustment as I spoke no Creole and only some children spoke a couple of words in English. We have however come to an understanding and a rhythm of how to communicate without words or with the few we know of one another’s language. Both I and the students learn new vocabulary each day through interactions and in English class with Daily Words. In many instances words are not even needed to communicate as every child knows what a stern look means when they have done something wrong or what a smile and a sticker means when they have successfully completed a task. Through this they are also learning how to communicate with all people through a common language we all speak that doesn’t include words. Theses exchanges and their classes are contributing greatly to their growth into the leaders of Haiti and of the world that they all have an incredible potential to be.

Amanda Pereira ’15

The most advantageous aspect of interning at MCAD is how much interns are able to observe and become directly involved in the process. Throughout the course of our internships, we are scheduled to attend an investigative conference, a mediation conference, and an appeals hearing. These opportunities have allowed to me progress through my defined learning goals. Not only do I get a chance to read dozens of different cases, but I also get to see how different processes and steps work. During the mediation conference, I got to see a complainant and a respondent settle on a monetary amount after the complainant’s case was found by MCAD to have probable cause of discrimination. While I cannot go into great detail about the cases or the conferences, it has been great to get a chance to observe and ask the mediators and attorneys questions afterwards. Everyone is very willing to help and explain how the organization deals with differing situations. I am becoming more and more familiar with discrimination law, both on the state and federal level, just from my work with cases as I am usually the first person to see a case when it is sent to the housing department.

My goals for this internship included not only learning about discrimination law, but also figuring out if I am interested in pursuing a career in this area.   I already know that I want to go to law school and that I am interested in civil rights, but I wanted to see if I liked both working in anti-discrimination law and working for the state. As far as working for the state, I have found it a bit difficult to deal with the bureaucracy in general but admire the work that is done. I am learning that working for the state means being connected to different state and federal organizations as well. For example, when MCAD takes a housing case, we also have to file with HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development). This means entering the case both into our system and HUD’s system (TEAPOTS), then waiting for approval. As the case goes on, there are tons of different steps that have to be taken. This allows the case to be reviewed by different organizations such as HUD and the BFHC (Boston Fair Housing Commission).Department_of_Housing_and_Urban_Development[1]

As far as working with anti-discrimination law, it still may be something I am interested in pursuing, but not at the state level. Cases tend to take an extremely long time just to be investigated because of how many cases each investigator is assigned to. I also want to be able to do other types of law and litigation along with anti-discrimination law.
Despite some reservations, I still find the internship to be enjoyable. Because there are so many interns, I have gotten a chance to become very close with some of them and we have lunch and go out all the time. I also feel that because I am in the housing department which is smaller, I have had to work harder to adjust and learn how to do things. This was difficult at first, but now I see it as a new skill (thinking on my feet) that I have had to develop as a result. This is something I believe will help me greatly in future internships and jobs. I also am honing skills in my attention to detail. At MCAD, it is crucial that everything be entered correctly. Even in intake, if we do something wrong when writing the complaint, often we cannot just change it but have to go through an amendment process because we are working with legal documents. This has taught me to be extremely cautious with my work, especially when people’s cases can be effected by the complaint I write for them.

Finally, I am most proud of the work I have been able to do on intake. As I mentioned in my first post, I am on intake for one full day a week and have to see clients and write complaints for them. First, the attorneys who review the complaints I write give me great feedback and have told me that my complaints are very well written. Also, I am especially proud of one of the complaints I wrote. The complaint went to the housing department so I got to enter it in and one of the best investigators took the case. She has scheduled an investigative conference in August so that I will be able to attend. I think the case is very strong for the complainant and I am looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

Veronica Saltzman

Taking a break from my internship, I sit in the campus center on the UMB campus. In front of me is an expansive array of flags overlooking the atrium. And also across from me, a fellow intern is hard at work, reading through articles related to her research project. After settling in with the organization, I split my time working in and outside of the office. Outside of UMB, you can usually find me at the Boston Public Library or various coffee shops around the area.

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UMB Campus Center Atrium

Just yesterday, I had my probationary interview with the staff at the Consortium. Since our first meetings after orientation, I have not had the chance to talk to the staff one-on-one. I looked forward to meeting with them again after spending the last few weeks getting to know each other. Talking with my supervisors this time around, I felt much more comfortable sitting in the office and discussing my work with the Consortium. In addition to the probationary meeting, I submit weekly updates to check in with the staff and create a plan of action for each new project that I take on. To keep a record of all the work I do with the organization, I also keep an individual plan of action for my time with the Consortium.

Since starting my internship, I have decided to take on projects that are less researched based, which was my initial focus when applying to the Consortium this summer. After completing an independent study project abroad, I had spent plenty of time researching and decided that I wanted a break from this type of work. The flexibility of the Consortium’s internship program allowed me to continue honing my research skills, while mainly focusing on non-research based projects. From completing budgeting documents to organizing the cloud storage space, I spend the majority of my time with administrative tasks for the organization. The nature of the internship requires however that every intern take on a research project and shortly after beginning my internship, I received my research topic, Gendered International Political Economies of War and Post-Conflict! My research topic relates well with my study of anthropology and economics at Brandeis and has shown me a new side of issues related to gender and armed conflict.

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Intern bonding at the Franklin Park Zoo! – Photo courtesy of Madochee Bozier

Aside from my main projects at the Consortium, I’m really proud of the way that the interns and staff have been bonding these past few weeks. My fellow Networking Director and I make sure to create plenty of opportunities for everyone to interact. We have planned lunches, trips to the zoo, and even yoga! My favorite type of event that we’ve had is definitely the intern and staff lunches outside. Overlooking the harbor, both intern and staff sit outside under the trees and picnic by the water. Already over a month into the internship, I cannot believe that in a few weeks I will be leaving the Consortium! Although a short period of time, that’ll be more than enough to have a few more lunches outside with my fellow interns and the staff.

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View of the waterfront from UMB!

Iris ’15

It’s been an exciting summer, to say the least.

During my first week I jumped right into action at MataHari, a Boston-based women’s social justice nonprofit organizing to end gender-based violence and exploitation.  The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights passed the Massachusetts Senate only a few weeks prior, and the Bill was on the slate for the MA House of Representatives the following week.  The excitement and energy in the office was huge.  MataHari had been organizing for the past four year with several other groups like the Massachusetts Domestic Workers’ Coalition on the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights to reach a vote in MA State congress.  Additionally, International Domestic Workers’ Day was the following Monday (June 16th) which added an extra layer of pressure to the big event.

In the midst of all the excitement, I began my work the Hacker in Residence Intern by developing a plan for MataHari’s new website, hoping for a timely launch near the prospective passage of the DWBoR.  I worked closely with my supervisor to discuss the essence of MataHari, the target audience, and other aspects necessary for developing a solid sitemap for a new website.  We both began to layout design suggestions as I looked into developing the requisite code for creating features to meet what we determined to be MataHari’s specific needs, a process during which I started to greatly improve my project planning skills, client communication skills, and technical (design and coding) skills – which are all part of my career and classroom goals I planned to hone this summer.  Perhaps the most invigorating part of this process, though, was talking with my supervisor Monique about what MataHari’s members (many of whom are domestic workers, caregivers, and women of color) were looking for in a site, what resources and information they wanted to see, and what their vision was for the organization.  One of the most enriching aspects of this work, and this internship in general, is just the ability to ask questions – of my supervisor, of other interns, and of community members – and to learn their thoughts on different social justice issues, such as the integration of community organizing, advocacy and legislation – and how they best see the intersectionality addressed in the realm of technology.

My enthusiasm and enrichment only grew the second week when we held the International Domestic Workers’ Day Celebration at the MataHari office.  As the interns and small staff prepared for the evening celebration, I began to learn a lot about our different working and communication styles – an aspect of having coworkers I hadn’t had to think so carefully about before.  It was a great learning experience, though, as throughout the late afternoon we started to communicate more effectively what we did and didn’t need in terms of instruction and organization.

I was in charge of the Karaoke, which according to my supervisor was to be the focal point of the celebration!  I was fairly nervous setting up the equipment and the technical details as I prepared to DJ in front of a crowded room of our sister organizations as well as community members and domestic workers whom I had not yet met!  As the other interns and I ushered folks into the room, I sat down and began to take requests.  Monique, our supervisor, told all the interns that as part of our “initiation” we had to sing!  While she said so jokingly, she did make the point that putting ourselves out there did help create a safer space for everyone to put themselves out there — and that “leadership” is, partially, reliant on demonstration, creating comfort for all other parties to step up and feel safe, and then stepping back as parties begin to feel confident in that space.

Karaoke was a true blast.  My fellow intern Chrystal and I sang the Spanglish version of “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan and David Bisbal, and the room went wild.  MataHari members, caregivers, and children sprung up waving their hands back and forth, people sang along with us, and the energy among us was amazing.  Next, person by person and group by group people came up to me to request songs, and there was something beautiful about each performance.

While we were focused on celebrating International Domestic Workers’ Day and the passage of the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights in Congress, we also laughed, danced and sang together as a community, and that was when I saw the real power in the work we do.

 

 

– Emmy Calloway, 2015

 

I have been at my internship with the Greater Valley Area Health Education Center (GVAHEC) for just over a month, and it is incredibly gratifying to reflect on how much I have already accomplished.  I have taught four weeks of classes at the Maricopa Integrated Health Systems’ (MIHS) Family Learning Centers, helped implement a new program at GVAHEC that provides children with free meals, and also conducted data extraction and analysis for all individuals that came to GVAHEC within the last couple months.

The classes I have taught at MIHS clinics covered a range of public health and safety topics including Fire Safety, Firework Safety, Germs & Handwashing, and Bike Safety.  Next week I will be teaching a class on Sun Safety.  In addition to expanding my range of topics, I was given the responsibility to develop the curriculum and lesson plans for this next class on my own, from the ground up.  I am excited to see my hard work in action!  Most days, we have about 10 kids at each class, but every location is different, with different demographics and children of different ages.  Developing a curriculum for children aged 0-14 is difficult because of the large age range, but it has already been extremely rewarding.

On the campus of GVAHEC, we have begun working with Kids Cafe, a national movement to help give anyone under 18 free, healthy meals.  You can learn more about Kids Cafe here.  GVAHEC runs Kids Cafe on Tuesday and Thursday from 12:00-12:45, and on Wednesday nights from 5:30-6:15.  It is an amazing feeling to be able to hand a child a Kids Cafe package and to know that I am helping to feed a child that would otherwise go without a meal.  My fellow interns and I are leading this program.  In just a few weeks we have fed hundreds of children. Nothing has felt better than knowing I am improving the health of these kids.

A typical Kids Cafe meal. Last Wednesday, we gave out 75 meals in one night!

A typical Kids Cafe meal. Last Wednesday, we gave out 75 meals in one night!

My boss was out of town last week, so my fellow interns and I buckled down and did some intense paper work. When an individual comes into the center, they fill out a face sheet with demographic information and the resources they need.  We extracted this data into excel documents and analyzed the results.  This was a truly eye-opening experience.  For example, we discovered that in May 2014 only 3% of people that came through the center were ineligible for the Working Poor Tax Credit.  In other words, 97% of the people we help are living in poverty.  Crunching numbers and assessing data is vital to our work.  I personally learned about the full range of work and services we provide, and by assessing our efforts we yielded results that can now be used to receive more grant funding and to validate how much GVAHEC is doing.

I cannot choose just one thing I am proud of this summer.  Everything I am doing helped me confirm how much I truly want a future in Public Health, as well as how badly systemic changes are needed to improve the health of the individuals and communities we serve.  It is truly a great feeling to finally be comfortable in my work and to work alongside people who share my passion for service and change (and even to pig out sometimes with my fellow interns).  I also have the opportunity to meet regularly with my supervisor to discuss my work and expectations for the week ahead.  It is a little sad knowing I will be leaving GVAHEC in a few short weeks, but I am thrilled that I still have a lot to do before then!

One of my fellow interns, my supervisor and I collaborating (with snacks!)

One of my fellow interns, my supervisor and I collaborating (with snacks!)

 

 

I’m a little more than 50% done with my summer internship and I can’t believe how fast time has flown by! This summer has already been incredibly educational and I’ve had chances to develop myself professionally and personally. Knowing that I only have 5 and a half weeks left makes me even more motivated to make the absolute most out of the learning experiences I’ve had.

So far, the Consortium has given me the chance to expand my research skills, improve my work ethic and meet a few really interesting people! I am currently working on an extremely extensive research project on Gender and Environmental Security. I inherited over 100 PDFs on the topic and my job is to make sure the entire database is organized into subtopics and to further expand it with up-to-date scholarly materials. Once this is done, I will write an annotated bibliography in which every document has a proper citation and notes! While this task sounds pretty daunting, I can’t wait to be able to say that I am quite familiar with a really important topic and that I’ve organized all this information in an accessible way for those who may need it – namely NGOs all over the world that will hopefully apply scholarly information to their grassroots organizing.

On top of this research project, I am also dealing with a few documents that contain very specific UN language and topics, such as country background reports. Being part of the NGO Working Group on Women, we create materials that are to be used as reference for all other NGOs in the group. This mostly means updating documents reflecting the UN’s progress in applying resolution 1325 to a variety of countries, in a variety of settings such as post-conflict.

While all of this seems like a lot to balance every day, work life has been made easier by the wonderful group of fellow interns I’ve been lucky enough to meet. With only 3 paid staff members, the Consortium runs almost solely on interns. Due to the nature of our organization, we mostly end up being female rising seniors from excellent Universities all over the country, all interested in NGO work, research and gender analysis. I didn’t think I could find that many people interested in all of these things!

For the second half of my time at the Consortium, I hope to continue to develop relationships and skills. Most importantly, I look forward to tying this learning experience to time I have left at Brandeis, developing a senior thesis topic, preparing to apply to grad school, jobs, etc! Let’s hope it doesn’t fly by way too fast because it has truly been a wonderful summer!

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This is my view from the place I spend the most time in – The UMass Boston Campus Center.

 

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As the mid point of my internship is here I cannot believe how fast the time has gone. Looking back on my goals outlined in my application for the WOW Grant it is amazing to see how this internship has allowed me to reach my goals and inspired new ones for the next half of the summer. I hoped to expand my knowledge on housing and education inequality in New York City and I most certainly have done that. I have, and continue to, reach my goal to understand how policies created by the mayor and New York Government effect people on a day to day basis. I have also been able to accomplish learning about social work degrees and grad school options through conversations I have had with my co-workers. I can tell I have learned a lot on the issues at hand because in the first couple of weeks at work I would have to research a lot of the resources discussed daily between social workers and now I can participate and even suggest using certain tools in my discussions with the social workers based on research I have already done.  I have learned exactly how much the NYC system creates a sometimes tedious process for many families to receive the needs they request due to the piles of paperwork I have helped them fill out simply to receive benefits and home services. I have also become much quicker at navigating the New York City government resources website and compiled resources for the social workers to use in a Resource Guide on our shared hard drive in the office.

 

Example of a resource tool for our clients on staying safe from the Family Justice Center flyers

Example of a resource tool for our clients on staying safe from the Family Justice Center flyers

I am most proud of my idea for ABC to become partners with corporations to receive donations of goods our families need. One of the things many New Yorkers take for granted in the hot summer is the fact that when they go home they get to be in the AC. Many of our clients live without AC in small apartments, over crowded with many family members. Another large donation request we have is for baby items, leading me to do research on baby stores the generate donations from overstock or returned goods. We will hopefully become partners with corporations before my time at ABC is over so that I can personally handle the paperwork and applications needed to go forward with this proposal. I am most proud of this research project because I feel it is something that will last after I have to leave, and could be a long term solution to many of our clients requests. For example, the organization Good360 creates year long contracts between NGOs and the providers.

I am building skills to conduct quick research and find contact information that is normally hidden on websites in order to contact people personally when trying to access information for a client. This is a good tool to have in future jobs as finding personal contacts when dealing with large organizations is often a tricky task. I have also become extremely self aware of my limits on how much trauma I can listen to in one day, and also of practicing self care – a very useful tool in social work and humanitarian aid jobs. Balancing aiding others while taking care of one’s own mental and physical state is a vital skill.  I now know how I affected I can be by secondhand trauma stories and how not to get overly emotionally attached to clients, while caring for them at the same time. Through the research I am doing on corporate partnerships, I am also learning how to write grant applications – a skill I know I will need in future jobs and on my own grad school applications. Overall I feel like everything I have done from research to self-learning will aid me in the future as I have learned a lot about myself through this internship and the kind of work I am / am not interested in pursuing.

 

The colorful school hallways on the lower floors of the building are lovely to walk through when stressed at work!

The colorful school hallways on the lower floors of the building are lovely to walk through when stressed at work!

– Alex Hall

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