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

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.

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