Gratitude and Reflection

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This is me holding my present from AJWS, a framed photo of AJWS grantees.

I have completed my internship at American Jewish World Service (AJWS) and I could not have asked for a better experience. My overall goal was to learn about the inner workings of an international human rights nonprofit organization, but I have gained more much than that. I was behind the scenes as AJWS navigated a transition in leadership, Robert Bank, the vice president, become the new president and CEO, and Ruth Messinger, the former president, became the Global Ambassador. I helped with a private AJWS event featuring Frank Bruni, the first openly gay New York Times op-ed columnist. I attended Fundraising Day in New York, the largest one-day conference in the world on philanthropic topics. I participated in AJWS’s global retreat, where I had the opportunity to meet almost all of AJWS’s in-country staff from 19 different countries, who first hand witness the challenging, but rewarding work on the ground.

I am so grateful to have had an incredible supervisor who was attentive and provided me with challenging and engaging work. Without her, this experience would not have been the same. She created a collaborative and supportive environment, but also trusted me to work independently. I worked hard and showed my deep level of commitment to each project I was given. One of the projects I worked on this summer was creating an event planning toolkit for AJWS’s website. Supporters will use the event planning toolkit to plan their own events and educate and engage their family, friends and community members about the work of AJWS. This will result in more recognition of the organization and will be used as a fundraising tool to garner more support.

I am proud of myself for grasping this opportunity and squeezing all I could out of it. I took the initiative to meet with staff members to discuss their professional life and aspects of AJWS that I thought were interesting. For instance, I was interested in the representation of oppression and poverty in published materials of nonprofits and whether guidelines for selecting images and written materials to share with supporters exist to ensure ethicality. I met with the creative director and the director of publications and editorial services, and I was happy to learn that AJWS does have some guidelines in place. I also met with staff members working in Development and Programs. These one-on-one meetings were informative and they opened my eyes to different career possibilities, but also were networking opportunities as I shared who I am and my future plans. I began realizing that my hard work and my passion for learning and improvement were noticed and appreciated when my supervisor and staff members pointed out how helpful I was being. They jokingly would ask me to quit school so they could hire me. Also, at the end of my internship, multiple people offered to be a reference for me anytime I needed. These comments are what every intern wants to hear and they made me feel like I made a valuable contribution.

My supervisor, Neely, and I.
My supervisor, Neely, and me.

One of the challenging moments of working at AJWS turned out to be a positive in the end. When the interns met with Robert Bank, I discussed with him the organization’s silence concerning the many brown and black lives lost due to police brutality. Later, when I spoke with Robert one-on-one, I was happy to hear that he appreciated my tough questions because he said they challenged him. In his opening speech at AJWS’s global retreat, Robert began by acknowledging some of the tragedies the world has seen recently and included Baton Rouge, where the brutal murder of Alton Sterling took place. This was a step in the right direction. I was so impressed by Robert Bank’s openness to hearing constructive criticism and quickly implementing change. This experience has taught me that it is okay to respectfully challenge those in leadership in order to push for improvement. I believe that analyzing and thinking critically rather than accepting how things are is a significant aspect of social justice work.

My advice for someone who wants to pursue an internship at AJWS or at another human rights nonprofit is to think about what aspect of the work you are most passionate about and find a position within that department. There are many different opportunities within one nonprofit organization. Also, be open to working on various types of projects and reach out to staff members in different departments to learn more about their work. This will not only allow you to learn more about the different roles within a large nonprofit, but it can also open your eyes to different career possibilities within the nonprofit world. Finally, do not be afraid to respectfully challenge existing practices or the lack of certain practices that you feel are important and make suggestions for improvements.  

Thank you to the World of Work Fellowship program for this incredible experience!

Marian Gardner ’18

Working with Refugees on the Path to Employment at IIB

I have so much to reflect upon about the beginning of my summer as a Workforce Development intern at the International Institute of Boston (IIB). IIB is a refugee resettlement agency, with two other locations, in Lowell, MA and Manchester, NH. When a refugee (or asylee, Cuban/Haitian entrant, or Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa recipient) is resettled in Boston, they are enrolled in Case Management, Employment Services, and English classes. I work with Employment Services. You can read IIB’s mission on their website, but to explain it in my own words, I will describe my job as a Workforce Development intern.

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This summer, IIB is in a temporary location, since their new building is under construction. Their interim space is now with the Asian American Civic Association (AACA), another non-profit with a goal of developing the workforce and promoting economic self-sufficiency.

My walk to AACA in Chinatown.
My walk to AACA in Chinatown.

I do many different projects and tasks with Employment Services. I create resumes for clients and then meet with them to review. I apply for jobs for clients after knowing their preferred positions and locations– the positions are mostly entry level, but the jobs vary on the English level of the client. I make retention calls to clients after they get jobs, and update the records, which is important for IIB to track how clients are doing in their jobs. Clients are enrolled in CRES or TAG, and both are funded by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, and you can read about them here. Something I did not expect was the amount of French I would be speaking (I took French from 6th-12th grade). I am often assigned to meet with Haitians with low-English literacy because I can translate material.

A big part of my job is teaching. On Mondays, I teach the Cultural Orientation Program (COP). New clients are enrolled in COP which runs for four weeks. This class covers living in the US, rights/ laws, education, personal finance, government, health/ hygiene, and sex ed. I never thought about these aspects of life in the US since I grew up here, but many of the clients come from countries where there are different cultural norms and expectations.I never pictured myself teaching consent to a group of young men from Somalia, but this internship always surpasses expectations.

On Fridays, another intern, Sylvia, and I lead the COP trip. Examples of the trips include the Freedom Trail, Boston Public Library, Harvard Square, and the State House. Also on Fridays, Sylvia and I teach the Workforce Orientation Workshop (coincidentally, another WOW acronym) to the same students in COP. After the trip, we give the students a break, and we prepare for the afternoon class, which also runs for four weeks. This class covers getting a job in the US, job etiquette and workplace standards, interview skills, and personal finance/ budgeting/ taxes. This class is a great way for people to learn about jobs they may have in the US, and how to apply and interview for them. It is difficult to find a job in a new country where you may not speak the language well, do not have professional references or a career network, and do not have an equivalent degree in the US to one you may have earned in your home country.

COP trip to the State House. IIB often requests this guide, Brian, who adjusts the tour for people who are new to the country and who may have low levels of English proficiency.
COP trip to the State House. IIB often requests this guide, Brian, who adjusts the tour for people who are new to the country and may have low levels of English proficiency.

My main goals for this summer were to see how this furthered my career interests and to apply what I am studying in school to my work. For my career interests, I have become more interested in non-profit management. For my academic goal, I have seen how my studies apply to my internship. I have been able to apply Politics and Economics classes, as well as certain classes like American Health Care. When I am teaching US policies, laws, and personal finance, I want to think more about what I have learned at Brandeis, and how it can help refugees who are assimilating to American social, political, and economic life.

I have already seen how rewarding the work can be– two brothers were recently resettled in Boston and enrolled in programs at IIB. From teaching them in COP and WOW, I could see how determined they were to get jobs. They were excited the day they received Social Security cards, which meant I could help them apply for jobs. I helped them apply for a job, took them to the local Citizens Bank to set up bank accounts, and practiced interview skills. In the same week, they each interviewed and were hired at the same full time job. After their first job, they can come back to IIB to enroll in the Service Industry Training Program or the Hospitality Training Program, and they can use any other employment service.

This is just the beginning. I’m looking forward to a fulfilling summer at IIB!

Emilie Kahn-Boesel ’18

Gaining New Perspectives: My First Week at The Fortune Society

This summer I am lucky enough to have an internship at The Fortune Society in New York City.  This is a non-profit organization that provides a wide variety of services to formerly incarcerated or at-risk individuals, such as housing, counseling, and employment services to name only a few.  The mission of Fortune is “to support successful reentry from prison and promote alternatives to incarceration, thus strengthening the fabric of our communities.”  This is accomplished primarily by believing in an individual’s ability to change with the right guidance.  This site is good because it elaborates on some of the most popular of services provided by the agency.  During my time at Fortune, I will be working in the housing department as well as the David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP), where one of the bigger projects I will help with is to conduct a study related to the effect of criminal background questions in New York State.  This effort is called Ban-the-Box, and can be more closely reviewed here.  This week, I spent most of my time at the housing center and orientation for the DRCPP starts next week where I will look forward to meeting the rest of the interns.  

Fortune's Harlem site, known as Castle Gardens. (photo: fortunesociety.org)
Fortune’s Harlem site, known as Castle Gardens. (photo: fortunesociety.org)

During my time at the housing center thus far, I have worked with numerous people with varying roles in the organization so I can learn about the efforts of the Center in a holistic manner. I look forward to understanding more about how to create a successful and supportive transitional housing building which is occupied by formerly incarcerated individuals.  Every client utilizing the housing services at Fortune is immediately assigned a case manager upon entry to the program who remains in close contact with the client during their time at Fortune.  

Case managers typically talk to their clients at least every other week, and through my experience so far, there seems to be an amicable relationship between the two individuals, which creates a more comfortable environment for the client.  I had the opportunity to work closely with one case manager in particular; he walked me through conducting room inspections for clients, compiling reports into the computer, and then filing the reports.  Next week I will start having one-on-one conversations with clients to discuss their progress in the program including strategizing employment opportunities, overcoming substance abuse, and addressing other issues relevant to their successful re-entry from prison.

My desk at Castle Gardens.
My desk at Castle Gardens.

Earlier in the week I also worked closely with the supervisor of residential aides; in addition to him showing me the conveniently stocked break room, which was a plus, he guided my through documenting incidents concerning clients. From what I documented, incidents can range from an ambulance being called for a client to a client’s unfortunate re-incarceration to a physical brawl between clients.  Perhaps the most shocking and dare I say uncomfortable thing I’ve done so far was administer a urine toxicology test, where I had to watch a client urinate into a plastic cup and proceed to test it for a variety of drugs.  Luckily for both me and the client, all of the results were negative.

I’m really looking forward to the rest of the summer—I really feel like I have the ability to both directly and indirectly help people.

Ely Schudrich ‘19

Concluding at the New England Innocence Project

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        Suffolk University Law School             Our New Home is on the top floor!

After almost exactly seven months, Thursday, August 13rd concluded my tenure as intake intern and case assistant at the New England Innocence Project. The end of my internship signified a new chapter in not only my life, but in the history of the New England Innocence Project, as the organization moved into its new home at Suffolk University Law School. While leaving NEIP was difficult to say the least, I left having knowing that my experience with the organization was nothing short of life changing. I started as an intern back in January hoping to gain a greater appreciation of the law, while achieving a better understanding of what life is like working for a non-profit. What I received from NEIP was extensive knowledge of the legal profession, invaluable experience communicating with attorneys and clients, and a new direction for my future endeavors.

My lovely coworkers: Nick, Jamie, Angela, Catherine, and Eric.
My lovely coworkers: Nick, Jamie, Angela, Catherine, and Eric.

Entering my summer with NEIP, my goals were three pronged: 1) gain a more robust understanding of the criminal justice system; 2) acquire some of the required skills of an attorney; and 3) positively impact those who have witnessed the pain of wrongful convictions. By and large, I can honestly say that I have achieved my goals.

In an academic sense, I have learned a significant deal about the criminal justice system on the local, and national level primarily through the reading of trial transcripts, and working with trial and appellate attorneys on the state and federal level.

In a professional sense, while my goal of learning the necessary skills to be an effective attorney was lofty, I do believe I made progress towards that goal. Through NEIP, I learned how to more effective communicator by discussing legal matters with clients, co-workers, and attorneys on a daily basis. Additionally, I was given the chance to engage in legal writing, working on “Post-CRC” Memos that concisely summarize an applicant’s case in order for the organization to determine whether NEIP should choose to represent them. While I would’ve liked to receive further experience in legal writing, the nature of the NEIP organizational structure primarily delegated that task to the legal interns. Nonetheless, I can confidently say that as an intake intern, I received a unique opportunity to learn and grow from a legal environment that few others get the chance to be immersed in at such an early stage in my professional career.

Lastly, in a personal sense, I have provided support and consolation to those who have witnessed immense pain at the hands of wrongful convictions. I have worked with inmates and their families to guide them through our case process and ensure them that as an organization we are there for them. The gratitude that I have received from inmates –many of whom have wrongfully spent decades behind bars—has brought me satisfaction that has been thus far unparalleled in my life, and in turn, I am incredibly proud of the work I have done at NEIP.

As I turn towards the future, NEIP has undoubtedly solidified my interest in the law. While I entered this summer certain of a passion for legal advocacy, and a potential career in public interest law, NEIP has directed me towards an interest in criminal law, in particular, defending individuals without the means to appoint sufficient legal representation. Witnessing the plight of low-income individuals that often culminates in legal troubles has instilled within me a passion for aiding those of less fortunate means. While I may be uncertain as to where I may turn with the legal profession, I am now convinced that law is the proper path for me.

For any student looking to understand the dynamics of the criminal justice system, NEIP would make a great internship for you. At NEIP, interns get the opportunity to form connections with inmates, attorneys, and police departments, working in conjunction to remediate the inadequacies of the criminal justice system. At NEIP, real progress is not an abstract goal, but a tangible thing that can be measured. For those passionate about assisting the least fortunate members of our society, while ensuring that every individual is treated fairly under the law, NEIP would be an incredible organization to work for.

 

Daniel Jacobson ’16

Completing my Summer Internship at the Community Day Center of Waltham

My summer internship at the Community Day Center of Waltham has greatly helped me clarify my career interests. I knew that whatever job I did I would want to work with people, but at the same time recognized the many ways bigger-picture things get done through policy reform and research. I was willing to consider working in policy reform and research, if it was going to make a real difference.  However, after working at the Community Day Center of Waltham, I realized that working with people directly was something I want to do, whether it is in a position that provides therapy or social work.  I greatly enjoy direct service and would not want to give up. In an ideal world, I would like to be able to do some kind of work working with people while also conducting research or policy reform.

Me holding up the drawing one of my clients made for me.

Me holding up the drawing one of my clients made for me.

My work has also taught me a lot about myself. Because there is only one other staff member besides my supervisor and I, there were many opportunities for me to take leadership roles. As I became more comfortable with the population and they began to appreciate and respect me, I found myself taking increased initiative in the workplace. I was able to control the floor on my own, and found myself to be stronger and more confident with my capabilities to do my work now and in my future professional endeavors. I really stepped-up and surprised myself in with the initiative I took, which ended up creating a much more meaningful and enriching work experience.

For a student interested in an internship at my host organization as well as this industry/field, it is important to go into it with an open-mind and open-heart, wanting to help and having the drive to do what it takes to get the job done. Emotionally, working in this field can be both uplifting and draining, so it important to maintain a level-headed perspective on things, appreciate small successes.  Remind yourself that even your showing up to support this population is incredibly important, as you are supporting an incredibly marginalized population where in many cases, you are their only advocate and support system.

This summer I am most proud of the role I played in some big and many small successes guests achieved. My biggest accomplishment was one particular relationship I created with one of the guests. We mutually gained each other’s trust and worked together.  Because of the strong bond created, I went the extra-mile, driving him to apartment visits and interviews, calling his family and services as needed, filling out applications, and discussing his personal goings-on. By going the extra-mile and advocating for him, I was able to get him into an apartment. This was a big success that has set him up in a stable position, allowing for him to  focus on growth in other parts of his life.

Relevant articles:

Successes at the Community Day Center of Waltham

Addresses the Emotional Toll of Being a Social Worker

-Diana Langberg ’17

Completion of Internship at AIDS Action Committee

During my eight weeks at AIDS Action Committee (AAC), I was able to learn and grow immensely from my interactions with coworkers and our clients. I am proud to say that at AAC I was able to meet all of my learning goals that I defined at the beginning of my internship. An academic goal that I had was to be able to use information that I had learned in my public health classes to further examine the health disparities that clients at AAC faced. Through the “Getting to Zero” training series that AAC facilitated, I was able to learn more about the root causes of HIV/AIDS not only through a scientific model, but also through a public health lens that focused on social, psychological, political, and economical perspectives of the disease.

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Artwork in AAC’s entrance lobby

A personal goal I had was to learn more about real estate and the housing market. Learning the housing search terminology and the procedures for obtaining property information was the most challenging, but also the most rewarding part of my internship. Towards the end of my internship, I worked on a draft for a “Housing Search Guide” that would be able to help guide future interns and employees in AAC’s housing program. Creating this guide was a rewarding experience because I had the chance to collaborate with my coworkers to create something that would benefit future AAC employees: people who all share the common goal of being social justice advocates for those living with HIV/AIDS. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to work in the housing department, as I was able to see first-hand how large the need is for access to safe and affordable housing and how acquiring this housing can drastically improve quality of life, especially for those who are sick.

Additionally, a career goal I had was to learn how to best educate and advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses. Attending the “Getting to Zero” training and helping to facilitate housing search groups provided insight on some of the most pertinent needs of AAC’s clients. One video that I watched during the training was HIV: The Goal of Undetectable, which highlighted the mechanism of how HIV acts in the body and helped me better understand how HIV treatment works. The videos and brochures presented to us during trainings were informative, engaging, and simplified enough for people of various educational backgrounds to understand. For additional information on HIV/AIDS that I used as part of my trainings, click here.

Brochure from one of the "Getting to Zero" trainings on Young Adults and HIV/AIDS.
Brochure from one of the “Getting to Zero” trainings on Young Adults and HIV/AIDS.

Working at AAC helped me to clarify my career goals, as I was able to see a wide range of services that AAC provides. Though I worked at AAC’s Boston site, I had the chance to visit Youth on Fire, which is AAC’s program in Cambridge that helps homeless youth, and I also worked at AAC’s Cambridge site in Central Square, where I got to visit the Needle Exchange Program that focuses on harm reduction for intravenous drug users. By seeing such a wide range of services and being able to engage and relate to such diverse groups of people, I relieved that my interests in public health are indeed very broad. The one commonality between my experiences is that I learned that advocacy is a field that I am definitely interested in gaining more work experience in, and that I want to pursue further opportunities in HIV/AIDS and public health.

 

One bit of advice I would give to a student interested in interning at AAC is to take advantage of the wide range of services provided here and try to experience different parts of the organization even if they are outside of the department that you are working in. This was crucial for me, and as a result, I was able to network with a wider range of people who still shared so many common interests with me. Another piece of advice would be to keep an open mind. I had a few misconceptions about HIV/AIDS and harm reduction at the start of my internship and some of the educational outlets that AAC provided me with were able to shift my understanding of different concepts and allowed me to view topics such as HIV/AIDS treatment, sexuality and contraception, drug use, and other harm reduction topics in a new light. I encourage students interested in learning more about HIV/AIDS to use internships as an educational tool by and taking advantage of hands-on opportunities to learn from diverse groups of people.

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Picture in AIDS Action Committee hallway.

 

Ngobitak Ndiwane, ’16

New England Innocence Project Midway Point

 

The best part of my commute every morning. Photo: Soul of America
The best part of my commute every morning.
Photo: Soul of America

While I’ve held steady employment since I was 14 years old, working at the New England Innocence Project this summer has been the first time in my life I have genuinely looked forward to work each and every day. As much as I love being on campus, I could certainly get used to commuting to Boston everyday, walking across the downtown area, and spending time in an office overlooking the Common. However, as much as I enjoy the scenery of downtown Boston, I enjoy NEIP not simply because of the location, but because it’s a place where I am proud of the work I do, and confident in my ability to contribute.

This week marked the arrival of the next intake intern, Freda, who will serve in my position throughout the fall and winter months after I have left NEIP. The task has been given to me to the train Freda and in doing so I now recognize how much there is to learn about the intake position. I’ll be responsible for familiarizing Freda with many of the nearly 4000 applicants that NEIP has been working with since its inception, spreading extensive knowledge about our past and present cases. In addition, I’ll need to show her how the organization functions, by instilling in her an understanding of the online databases, the system of physical files, and the interactions between directors, attorneys, volunteers, and interns. To be effective, I’ll have to transfer to her many of the skills that I have learned from NEIP over the last month, in becoming a better communicator, a more patient individual, and a more organized worker.

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One of my favorite co-workers, Bishop.

By speaking with attorneys on a daily basis, I have learned to communicate more effectively, sounding at times more like a seasoned attorney than an intake intern – to the point where I’ve been called “Attorney Jacobson” more than once. Through experience and repetition, I have become more confident and more helpful when speaking to inmates and applicants as I am better able to answer their questions, predict their responses, and provide guidance throughout our screening process. In becoming a better communicator, I expect it to pay dividends whether I am engaging in discussion in the classroom, or working behind the counter at Einsteins.

In learning the essence of patience, I have become more accommodating and more responsive in my exchanges with the family members of inmates. While I’ve often avoided conflict throughout my life, I no longer fear potentially argumentative interaction with applicants, and instead I look forward to trying to achieve conciliation through patient dialogue. While this newfound patience will undoubtedly benefit my personal life, it should also improve my ability to work with others in an academic setting.

By serving in a position that requires many hats, I have become more organized in my work. One minute, I might be performing drafting a Case Review Committee Memo for an applicant such as Clarence Spivey, the next I might be brainstorming ideas for how to improve our screening process, and the next I might be gathering statistics for a grant, such as the Bloodsworth. Without effective time management, and physical and mental organization, I would struggle to keep up. This should hopefully make me a better studier, and a more productive employee.

It saddens me to recognize that I’ll soon be done at NEIP, but I intend to make the most out of my last month here.

Daniel Jacobson, ’16

Marriage Equality and We’re Not Even Half Way There, Well I Am – Midpoint Check-In

As I approach the half way point of my internship at PFLAG National, I can’t believe how fast it has gone by. So much has happened since I began my internship in June: I’ve written 3 issues of our national policy newsletter Policy Mattersthree other amazing interns have joined me in the office with all of us working together to accomplish some serious LGBT advocacy; I’ve attended more events than I can count at places like the White House, various federal agencies, and a range of NGO’s; Pride Month ended; and oh yeah of course, MARRIAGE EQUALITY!!!

Hundreds of people gathered at the Supreme Court on June 26th waiting anxiously for the ultimately monumental decision handed down on marriage equality.
Hundreds of people gathered at the Supreme Court on June 26th waiting anxiously for the ultimately monumental decision handed down on marriage equality.

Having the opportunity to witness the historic SCOTUS Obergefell v. Hodges decision in action was incredible and to be honest, almost unbelievable. During the decision days, the entire office waited on the edge of our seats anxiously watching SCOTUSblog. When the decision came down on Friday June 26th at 10 in the morning, everyone in the office cheered and many of us interns went over to the Supreme Court to join hundreds of others in celebration. But although the marriage decision was a success, at PFLAG we also wanted to make clear that the fight for LGBT rights was in no way over.

“While we celebrate today’s victory, we are dedicated to continuing and redoubling our advocacy work to secure legislation that explicitly protects people who are LGBTQ from discrimination in the workplace, in their homes, in their schools and in their communities. Now is the time to expand federal law–law which already protects people from discrimination based on race, sex, age, ethnicity, disability, and religion–to include explicit protection from discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” – PFLAG Marriage Equality statement

Taking advantage of the White House while I was there for a Big Table discussion with Valerie Jarrett about the Obama Administration's LGBT priorities for the remainder of his term.
Taking advantage of the White House while there for a Big Table discussion with Valerie Jarrett about the Obama Administration’s LGBT priorities for the remainder of his term.

 

But in respect to things other than marriage equality, in this past month I have already surpassed all of my initial expectations and goals. By working on Policy Matters as well as various other policy-related PFLAG publications, I have not only learned so much about LGBT advocacy and policy, but also have become up to date on all LGBT current events. Similarly, by attending White House briefings, and working directly on LGBT federal legislation and advocacy, I have truly learned and received first-hand perspective on the political process and all of the research and preparatory work that goes into policy work behind-the-scenes. Finally, by attending countless events and having my supervisor Diego introduce me to more people than I can remember, I have had the opportunity to meet and form important connections with influential figures in the field of LGBTQ advocacy from across the country.

An exciting July 4th in our nation's capital while on our nation's Capitol.
An exciting July 4th in our nation’s capital while on our nation’s Capitol.

 

All of these skills, experiences, and connections will prove valuable in the future. I am doing all I can to take in and take advantage of every opportunity offered to me while here in DC and while working at PFLAG National. It has been such a beyond marvelous month so far, and I cannot wait to see what is in store for the month ahead.

– Aliya Bean ’16

 

AAC Half Way Point

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

Righting the Wrongs of the Criminal Justice System: The New England Innocence Project

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

First Week at Lawyers For Children

Monday morning was almost as frantic (if not more) than my first day at Brandeis. I am not an experienced subway-rider, so figuring out which direction the train I was told to take actually goes in was a challenge; let’s just say it’s a good thing I left 45 minutes early! Luckily I arrived early to Lawyers For Children, where I will be spending the majority of my time throughout the next nine weeks. I’d always dreamed of living in New York City, but to be able to live in New York City and do work that I’m passionate about, I couldn’t have asked for more! Before coming to college I knew I was interested in psychology and wanted to pursue a career in which I am able to help people, but I had no idea which direction that goal would take me. A mixture of psychology, sociology, and legal studies courses I’ve taken at Brandeis lead me to aspire to go into law, but with a desire to advocate for those whose voices may not be as strongly heard.

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This is the corner of where my office is located. Photo belonging to kurokatta.org

 

Since I was little, I’ve loved solving mysteries; putting together the pieces of a puzzle. Law allows me to continue that passion. I have to gather my evidence, establish the rule, and present my case. Social work adds a both meaningful and challenging component to that hobby. I never envisioned myself in social work, until interning last summer at a nonprofit that helps low-income and impoverished adults obtain housing, jobs, resources for their family, whatever it may be based on a particular individual’s needs. Before that experience, I never realized how difficult of a challenge it was to navigate (internally) the various governmental institutions that are supposed to help those in need. Who knew it was actually extremely difficult to acquire the benefits that the government rightfully owes you? With this work came immense challenges, however the reward, when achieved, is immeasurable. That’s when I knew, law with an emphasis on public service was my true calling.

That discovery lead me to Lawyers For Children: a legal firm that provides free legal and social work services to children in foster care. Lawyers For Children is unique from other organizations in that an attorney as well as a social worker is assigned to every child, ensuring that each child get the best, most effective and integrative representation and advocacy possible. Attorneys and social workers are trained differently, and therefore have different insights and perspectives to offer on each case, and you know what they say, two heads are always better than one. LFC mostly handles cases of voluntary placement: instances where parents voluntarily place their children into the system, not where the child was removed from the home against their will. To get a better understanding of what that looks like, read this New York times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/01/nyregion/despondent-parents-see-foster-care-as-only-option.html

I am a social work intern at LFC and will shadow a social worker (as well as various LFC attorneys) to get a better understanding of how the two professions come together in the field of child advocacy. I will attend meetings between various agencies working with a specific child, make field visits to their respective placements, attend those children’s cases in court, assist in writing up the result of those meetings, field visits, and court cases, and assist with generating plans-of-action and connecting children with further resources to best help them achieve their goals. Lawyers For Children prides itself on its focus on really listening to the child, thereby providing them with a space where they feel safe and respected. LFC also aims to advocate and educate the public about the many difficulties several groups, such as LGBTQ youth in foster care face. This article by the Wall Street Journal highlights the added difficulties experienced by LGBTQ youth, specially in foster care: http://www.wsj.com/articles/counting-new-yorks-gay-and-transgender-youths-in-foster-care-1433550187

 

 

ny family court

New York County Family Court. Photo by Mark Fader

 

This summer, I hope to learn more about the interaction between law and social work and what sort of balance between the two produces the best results when working with underprivileged populations and to gain experience in a legal/social work setting that advocates for human rights and social justice. Finally, I hope to gain a better understanding of how the social issues that several minority groups face, like the foster-care population, effect youth in large cities like New York City.

Final Words with ABC

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

At the midpoint with LFC

Wow, I cannot believe that half of my time at Lawyers for Children has flown by already! It’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago I was so nervous to begin a new journey at my internship. I am proud to say that I am now in a place where I have gained more knowledge than I ever could have imagined, and feel as if I have been working with LFC for ages! It feels wonderful to be doing work where I feel like I can make a difference for others.

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This is the intern conference room, where we sit each day. Look at some of my fellow interns, working so hard!

Before the summer began, I originally stated that my major goal for this process was to use this opportunity to gain insight into my future and really grow as an individual. I believe that this internship is so valuable to me in both academic and career aspects because I am able to learn about what it takes to be a social worker, as well as the more specific topic of how to work within the foster care system. At Brandeis, I am a psychology major hoping to continue on to graduate school after my senior year. However, this can seem daunting because there are so many different options and careers that can come from studying psychology. Do I want to work in human resources? Get a Masters’ degree in social work? Further my education even more for an advanced degree in psychology? Oftentimes it is difficult for those of us studying psychology to get a hands-on experience in the field. I am so fortunate that I am able to get an inside look at the life of a social worker this summer, and I can honestly say it is something I am really considering for my future. Before this summer, I did not have a great understanding of what a social worker actually did. But through working with my supervisor at LFC, I am learning the daily routines of a social worker and am able to picture myself in this position. I am even able to “pick her brain” and find out where she went to school or what courses she recommends in order to further pursue this career.

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One of the many playrooms at LFC, where interviews with clients are held. This particular room also includes a Baby Boutique where our young parenting clients can pick out clothes, books, and other necessities to bring home to their own children.

On an individual level, I am so grateful for and humbled by this experience because I truly feel that every day brings about new challenges for me. The New York City Foster Care System is extremely tough to learn about and work with…and working with these youths each day is something that I have never experienced before. It is so difficult to see kids, who are about my age, struggling to make ends meet or keep their spirits high. But each day I know that I am learning something new and gaining exposure to situations that I could only dream of seeing first hand. More than that, I know I am forming relationships with my clients and can be there for them as a much needed support system. It feels absolutely amazing when I find out that one client has finally passed her GED exam and we are the first call that she makes to celebrate; or when another client has been granted access to her own apartment and wants us to stop by so she can “show it off”. Each time that I speak with a client, not only does it feel great to actually know the specifics of what they are talking about (housing applications, insurance policies, etc.) and see that I am learning factually, but also to know I am making a difference in their lives and helping to improve their situations. I will forever use these skills, especially as I hope to progress into a social work career. I have learned what it takes to create interpersonal relationships and be a professional in this field, and I cannot wait to see where it takes me.

 

My week at Lawyers for Children

This summer, I am so fortunate to be working as a social work intern with the non-profit advocacy organization Lawyers for Children. Lawyers for Children, or LFC as everyone likes to call it, consists of attorneys and social workers that provide free representation and services to children of New York City who have been either voluntarily placed in foster care, or are involved in cases of abuse, neglect, adoption, or high conflict custody cases.

LawyersForChildren

As an intern, I work under the supervision of my assigned social worker, and I am able to be involved in her cases first hand. This includes reading the cases and writing up case notes, visiting the youth’s foster home or group placement, sitting in on client interviews, and attending court for our youths when necessary. Along with about 20 other legal and social work interns, I also am able to participate in training throughout the summer. This allows the interns to not only learn more about what LFC as an organization seeks to accomplish for the youths, but also take a deeper look into the New York City child welfare system itself and the exact situations that we are fighting for for our clients.

Though I’m sure most people feel this way on their first day, I was incredibly nervous as I was making my way to the offices. However, I was calmed as I walked through the doors and saw crafts and paintings all over the walls created by the LFC clients. Not only that, but the working environment itself was so friendly and all of the employees were beyond welcoming. All of the interns sit together in our own conference room/office space, so we have really been able to get to know each other. There are even a few Brandeis alums in the office which helped to make for an easy transition. It was incredible to me how comfortable I felt at this internship so quickly. Within the first week I, along with the other interns, were really able to hit the ground running and be completely immersed in the organization. I sat in on and observed 4 court cases in Manhattan’s Family Court for a few of our clients. During this time, I sat with my assigned social worker as she interviewed our clients to find out more about their wishes and goals moving forward in their foster care placement cases, and we then relayed this information to the lawyers representing each case. I also was able to visit a mother-child foster care placement home, where all of the residents are aged 16-21 women in the system who have children of their own.

New York Family Court

This summer, I’m hoping to learn more about the inner-workings of the New York City foster care system. I am so looking forward to assisting this organization and advocating for our clients to the best of my abilities. Because this is such a hands-on experience, I am excited to learn what it really takes to be a social worker and hopefully determine what path I may follow in the future.

 

We Start with ABC

I began my internship after being home for only one week. I moved from Paris, a city with harsh housing socio-economic divides, to my home in New York, where one block can house families of every socio-economic status.

ABC

ABC

I am interning at the Association to Benefit Children’s Echo Park location on 126th and Lexington Avenue. I work with social workers to meet the various and vast needs of our clients — families with young children, under five years of age, who are victims of trauma or domestic violence and in need. All Children’s House is the only active preventative program now using child-parent psychotherapy to resort home environments and strengthen family relations.

I learned about ABC when I did volunteer work in the Echo Park school’s classrooms for a community service program in high school. I emailed my previous director asking if there were any positions available for summer internships and I was interviewed by the director of All Children’s House immediately. With my interest in housing and education policy issues and parent-child relations I secured the internship for this summer.

All Children’s House work is accomplished through support groups, weekly meetings, housing assistance, and advocacy for the clients. Depending on the needs of the family, I attend home visits with the social workers, bring the clients to housing court or meetings with housing organizations, help find day care services for the clients’ children, and research health care and housing options for the clients.

 

DV Shelter  http://www.safehorizon.org/index/what-we-do-2/domestic-violence--abuse-53/domestic-violence--abuse-shelters-340.html
DV Shelter
http://www.safehorizon.org/index/what-we-do-2/domestic-violence–abuse-53/domestic-violence–abuse-shelters-340.html

My first week started off with a bit of office work in the morning and then my first home visits. I attend two home visits my first afternoon at work that threw me into the reality of social work very quickly. Within the week I had been to New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) apartments, Domestic Violence Shelters, Family Shelters, and low income apartments. My most engaging experience was the forth day on the job. I was asked to take a client who I had just met the day before to the Family Justice Center. The FJC helps families apply for housing, get into shelters, manage their budgets, and also offers other services such as parenting classes and self sufficiency courses. Although much the same as ABC, it has resources unavailable at other agencies, such as access to NYPD offices for documents such as orders of protection, and the legal aid services for housing court. That was what we were there for. Here, I learned that Section 8 Housing is frozen in New York and there is a 2 year wait minimum for NYCHA domestic violence priority housing, and about a 4-10 year wait for the NYCHA applicants who do not qualify for priority.

I have observed the toll social work takes on my colleagues but also the rewards we can feel by aiding families in need. The main issues in NYC right now are lack of housing, and lack of understanding between the different organizations trying to help the same people. The amount of paperwork and the variety of formats organizations “need” prevent much from being accomplished. Now that I know what work will be like, I expect to learn more about the services NYC provides to those in need, and to analyze ways policy can aid people in their daily lives who are faced with homelessness and violence. There must be more efficient and less complicated systems in place to aid those to safety.

– Alex Hall

First (Official) Week at NARAL Pro-Choice!

Directly behind me, Chelsea’s typing furiously while Celia makes her twentieth call of the day, informing a State Representative that we have decided to endorse her 2014 campaign. Our office, decked with colorful pro-choice pins, posters, and other memorabilia, provides a welcome contrast to the gray sky and browns and beiges of the modest Boston skyline outside my window.

I’m spending my summer working at NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts as their Intern Coordinator. NARAL is the political arm of the pro-choice movement and works to secure women’s right to abortion, birth control, emergency contraception, health pregnancies, and healthy relationships. Massachusetts is one of NARAL’s 20 state affiliates, located at 15 Court Street in the heart of Downtown Crossing, on the ninth floor of a building that houses an assortment of advocacy, legal, and professional offices. I interned for NARAL Pro-Choice New York last summer, and though I’ve lived in three cities in the past three semesters – New York in the summer, Boston in the fall, and Washington DC in the spring – I’ve stayed involved with NARAL throughout the year. When I explained to my supervisor, Chelsea, in January that I would be living in Boston this summer, we worked together to craft an internship that would expand upon my leadership abilities and desire to create innovative campaigns that would propel the political landscape of Massachusetts in a pro-choice direction.

Five months later I’m bunkered down in NARAL’s office, with two weeks to prepare for the summer ahead. Our ten political interns arrive on June 3, and before that date I have an incredible amount to do. In addition to composing their intern manual, planning a two-hour political organizing training, and scheduling one-on-one meetings with each intern prior to their arrival, I’ve also recently been assigned my first advocacy campaign. The Women’s Health Protection Act is federal bill that would codify Roe v. Wade the Supreme Court case that secured a woman’s right to choose, in all state law, and pre-emptively void any anti-choice legislation that would impede a woman’s right to access safe, legal reproductive healthcare. All but two members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation have co-sponsored this bill, which means that the two remaining Representatives – Richard Neal and Stephen Lynch – will be hearing from my interns and me in the coming weeks.

I, alongside my supervisor and NARAL’s Political Director, will be planning a campaign from the grassroots up – everything from collecting petition signatures from Constituents, creating social media graphics and one-liners, and directly lobbying members of the Massachusetts Legislature and federal legislature to urge Lynch and Neal to support the bill. It is precisely the sort of substantive, adrenaline-inducing work I’ve been hoping for.

It’s clear one week in that I still have a great deal to learn about the political organizing process. A great deal of organizing and lobbying at the organizational level entails building strong, reciprocal relationships with other organizations and professionals that can assist you in achieving your policy goals. As a rising college senior, my Boston rolodex is embarrassingly small, and I plan to spend my summer scheduling informational interviews with likeminded professionals in the reproductive justice sphere. I also plan to learn quite a bit about time management and leadership in light of my responsibility to hire, schedule, and directly supervise ten political interns, many of whom are my age or older. I hope to make this experience as gratifying, substantive, and inspiring as possible for my interns so that they feel like they are genuinely contributing to our movement.

Since I have two weeks until the interns arrive, I’ve had the excellent opportunity to get to better know the NARAL Staff. There are only four full-time staff members here – Megan, the Executive Director; Erica, the Finance Director; Chelsea, the Health Equity Organizer; and Celia, the Policy Director – and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the intimacy and acceptance of the office atmosphere. I am treated with respect and assigned substantive, important projects; I am privy to conversations regarding NARAL’s organizational structure, finances, and future campaigns; and, most importantly, I’m treated like a member of the team, an equal fighting for this cause we all so staunchly support.

My friends have warned me that this may be my “honeymoon” phase, and a few weeks into my internship I’ll be dreading the 9-5 grind – but somehow, I don’t think so. There is never, ever a dull moment in this office, and given my passion and visceral support for this cause, I bet I’ll be just as excited about my internship on the day I leave.

As One Internship Ends, the Work is Just Beginning

My summer internship presented me with several important goals: to get familiarized with the work of a non-profit organization, and to get involved with community organizing while developing better communication and decision-making skills. During my internship, I worked on various projects with each full-time staff member at the office. My assigned duties included sending out fundraising mailings, updating resources, supervising the housing clinic, participating in staff meetings, organizing and leading a tenant action meeting, and providing English tutoring to the Spanish speaking community. These projects allowed me to gain a wider perspective on the overall workings of the organization. One of the more successful projects this summer was the Tenant Action Group meeting, which had a great turnover of participants. During this meeting, we were able to interact with the community here in Waltham on a much more personal level and gain a deeper understanding of their personal struggles and concerns with regards to housing. It is important to remember that the organization was created for the community, and as such, should continuously strive to understand the exact needs of the community.

Some of the participants at the Tenant Action Group meeting
Some of the participants at the Tenant Action Group meeting

As a continuation of my summer experience, I am taking an internship class that will allow me to reflect on my summer internship and understand what types of things interest and engage me, and what kind of working environment could best fit me. This fall, I am also continuing volunteer work as the Housing Clinic’s supervisor. Finally, I will be working at WATCH on various projects such as their 25th anniversary gala, WATCH publicity and marketing, “Barnraisings,” and English tutoring.

Seeing a more personal side of the community and working at a small non-profit gave me a unique insight on poverty, immigration, and discrimination as viewed through the lens of housing law and tenant’s rights. In the future, I am interested in getting a different perspective on these issues – perhaps from the point of view of the legal profession or politics regarding the policy-making side of the issue. After meeting with numerous people affected by the housing law and making use of available government programs (such as Food Stamps, Section 8 Vouchers, SSDI, and RAFT) I can now understand the Waltham community’s perspective on policy making and law enactment.

To students who are interested in this type of work, I would suggest the following: first, familiarize yourself with the resources and laws around the niche of your non-profit. Additionally, work with the full-time staff to enhance your knowledge. Learning an ample amount of completely new material might be hard and takes a long time to achieve, so patience is crucial at the start of the internship. Also, in a lot of instances, I had to work independently on my own projects, setting my own goals and schedule. Being open minded and able to work independently is therefore important. Lastly, advocates that assist people should develop great communication skills and patience when dealing with real-life cases. Eventually, our entire work depends on a better-informed, organized, and assisted community, so the advocates’ job is crucial in conferring the information and aiding in difficult situations.

Working on mailings, fundraising, and invites to the tenant meeting.
Working on mailings, fundraising, and invites to the tenant meeting.

As an intern at WATCH, my social justice views were challenged daily. At each case, I had to recognize and evaluate whether the person who I am trying to help actually has a bad landlord (or actually suffers from poverty). In a number of instances, I noticed that people were not one hundred percent genuine; nevertheless, it is key to try to help everyone without judging them. On the other hand, I have seen very difficult cases of social injustice, discrimination, unsanitary housing conditions, harassment, and/or structural violence. I believe that the social justice value and perspective are correct and should be implemented widely – I have seen firsthand how people that manage to get help are able to improve their situation and live a better life; however, non-profit workers, advocates, lawyers, and politicians should bear in mind that every story has two sides, and keep a critical mind while trying to determine their response and course of action. Keeping the right perspective is what it takes to be an effective “change agent.”

I want to thank all the staff at WATCH, and especially Daria, WATCH executive director, for a fun and fulfilling summer!

– Shimon Mazor ‘16

Busy in the Small Non-Profit

Approaching the midpoint of my internship at WATCH, I can look back and appreciate the progress that I have made since it started almost two months ago. Although I had been familiar with the setting and the work at WATCH from my semester involvement with the Housing Clinic, I had made it a goal to understand and experience firsthand the work of a non-profit organization. WATCH proved to be a great place to get the right perspective about the public sector. The amount of responsibility that I am given at WATCH, as well as the degree to which I am involved with the inner workings of the organization, would have been unheard of had I been employed at a government office, big organization, or larger company. As an intern at WATCH, I have been given the opportunity to work closely with the full-time team, which is comprised of only four people: an Executive Director, Development Director, Office Manager, and Program Manager. In a big organization, I would have worked in a small department, which would have had its own niche objective, and I would not have been able to see the big picture. At WATCH, our staff meetings involve only the full-time staff and me. I am able to learn about every role in great detail, and this experience gives me a great perspective on the management and inner workings of a non-profit organization.  *maybe add an example about viewing the annual budget and having a real-life example to what I learn in my economics classes.

Here is the flyer we made for the TAG meeting
Here is the flyer we made for the TAG meeting

My other main goal was to learn more about community organizing and successfully engaging with community leaders to seek action to better the housing situation in Waltham. We decided to schedule a Tenant Action Group meeting (TAG) at the end of this month. In this meeting, community members will get educated about their rights as tenants, and we will try to address a specific housing problem that the people are facing, such as unsanitary and unsafe housing conditions. We are hoping to empower the TAG participants to actively seek change and action from their local representatives – for instance, sending personal letters to them describing the issues they face. The first step we took to schedule this meeting was to compose and send out a mailing to recent Housing Clinic clients inviting them to attend. Next week we are going to call approximately one hundred people to notify them about the meeting. I am very excited about it and cannot wait to get my first taste of community organizing. To learn more about community empowerment and organizing, please visit WATCH Community Organizing page.

I am using several methods to keep track of my personal progress and growth. I have a Google document in which I write down everything I do; projects, activities, people helped, etc. I track clinic progress under four categories: Walk-Ins, Emails, Phone Calls, and Letters that we empower tenants to write to their ward councilors, which are the representatives of each ward in Waltham in the local government. In the first period, we had 26 Walk-Ins, 9 emails, and 32 phone calls. We did not write letters to ward councilors because we are still working on implementing letter writing to the intake process.

Sending out the mailing

At the beginning of my internship, I felt overwhelmed with the amount of work, follow-ups, and resources I was told to update. At this point, however, I feel that I am finally on top of my work and I am now much more experienced than when I started. I spent a great deal of time learning about the Massachusetts housing law, and about different resources that I can offer as an advocate. I feel proud that I can assist the clients that come into the Housing Clinic and actually be able to help them with their struggles. Since I started, we have had a couple of success stories, such as a family who got their security deposit back from their landlord after two years of court disputes with the support of WATCH. Also, we helped a number of households communicate with their landlords and demand repairs to their apartments in order to improve their living conditions. Besides increasing my knowledge of the law and assisting people, I feel that through personal contact with real people and real situations, I become a better communicator and problem solver. Working at the Housing Clinic entails rationalizing, thinking critically, and assessing the problems I encounter. It is gaining skills like these that I am most proud of during my internship experience, and I believe that they will prove invaluable as my career path develops.

 

– Shimon Mazor ‘16

Week One as a National Consumers League Intern

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This summer, I am interning at the National Consumers League in Washington, D.C. as a Louis D. Brandeis Social Justice WOW Fellow. As America’s oldest consumer advocacy organization, NCL represents consumers and workers on issues including Internet fraud, child labor, and food safety. I discovered this internship through the Hiatt Career Center, and became immediately interested in NCL’s work in promoting international consumer protection and social justice. As a public policy intern, I primarily research public policies relating to consumer fraud. I will also be updating NCL’s websites, drafting content for NCL’s LifeSmarts competition, and helping coordinate meetings of the Alliance Against Fraud organization.

During the past week, I began my first extensive research project on senior fraud. By researching successful senior educational programs and individuals who have passionately argued for more online scam control, I learned about the numerous cases of financial scams specifically targeted at seniors. Although many cases are unreported, seniors are often victims of health care, insurance, telemarketing, Internet, and lottery scams. To gain more knowledge and different perspectives, I attended a roundtable discussion, where Google’s DC Public Policy Manager discussed the company’s interest in improving online safety and technology for older adults. Existing educational programs for online safety have benefited younger generations, but have yet to reach seniors who are more vulnerable to fraud.

U.S. House of Representative Marsha Blackburn
U.S. House of Representative Marsha Blackburn at
“All Eyes on Privacy: Transparency in the New Economy”

I also had the opportunity to attend All Eyes on Privacy: Transparency in the New Economy, an event hosted by Allstate, National Journal, and The Atlantic. Key speakers including U.S. House of Representative Marsha Blackburn and The Honorable Jon Leibowitz discussed their perspectives on the impact of technology and government collection of data on consumer privacy. While some panelists strictly argued that the collection of data was a violation of consumers right to privacy, others saw the government’s decision as a necessity for the protection of the country against potential threats and attacks. According to the Allstate and National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll, the biggest risk associated with data collection was identity theft, one of the biggest concerns associated with senior fraud.

In addition to my research on senior Internet fraud and privacy, I am also studying the impact of high airline cancellation and change fees on consumers. In 2008, airlines began charging consumers to check bags in response to high fuel costs. Since then, airlines started charging consumers with fees on food, drinks, priority boarding, seating arrangements, and extra leg room. Some airlines have even created policies that require overweight passengers to purchase an additional seat. Recently, major airlines have increased ticket change fees from $150 to $200. Airlines are profiting immensely from these fees while consumers continue to struggle to meet the already high airline prices. The government has carried out the three-hour flight delay law to protect consumers from long delays, but has yet to find solutions or alternatives to rising fees.

I am impressed by NCL’s over 100 years of advocacy and the positive changes NCL has made in many lives. This past week has been a truly new experience attending conferences and events. Fellow interns and I had a wonderful time helping out at NCL’s Child Labor Awareness Film Event, where we revealed some of the brutal conditions children are forced to work under. Many children sacrifice their education in order to support their families. I was once again reminded of my responsibility to make efforts to eliminate child labor internationally. I strongly believe that every child deserves an education, and I am proud to say that I am part of an organization that provides opportunities and protection for underprivileged children, seniors, and consumers. For the next upcoming months, I desire to use my international experiences and leadership skills to learn how to accentuate the rights of consumers and workers using public policies by performing detailed and through research and gaining first hand experiences at hearings and conferences.

Fellow interns and I (middle) at the
Child Labor Awareness Film Event

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After NCL

Since finishing my internship at the National Consumers League in Washington, D.C., I’ve had time to reflect on the amazing experience. One of my learning goals was simply to learn about the federal policy process. By attending congressional hearings and regulatory commission meetings, I had the opportunity to learn about this firsthand. In addition, I learned about a nonprofit’s role in federal policy. NCL influences many laws and federal regulations, and works with agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the FDA.  Before working with NCL, I did not realize the prevalence and importance of regulation for food, product safety, and the internet, among others. While groups such as NCL defends the need for most times of regulation that protects consumers, other groups and policy makers express concerns about the cost of implementation of such safety standards.

We attended a hearing at the House, which was broadcast on CSPAN 2

I had great opportunities to connect with NCL staff and network in D.C. I felt the staff was very warm and welcoming toward interns, and I had numerous opportunities to connect with leaders in consumer, labor, and policy fields.

Interns and staff with president of umbrella federation for labor unions, AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka

I also worked on my research and writing skills, and I am especially proud of my blog posts, such as this one, which have been published online on NCL’s website. As I learned about various issues that NCL works on, and the tools they use to progress their cause, my understanding of social justice has been reinforced and enhanced.

After interning at the National Consumers League, I want to learn more about labor issues and food safety. I would love to continue working on these issues at Brandeis and even in my career. In addition, I loved the experience of working with a progressive nonprofit, and that is also something I would like to pursue after graduation.

I would advise a student interested in interning at NCL to take advantage of every opportunity to attend hearings and events. They are extremely enriching, and unique to a D.C. internship. For students interning at a nonprofit, I think it’s important to find an organization or cause that matches your interests and passions. I also would advise anyone to connect with staff and seek out networking opportunities. I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity—it truly was amazing.

– Lili Gecker ’13

 

 

 

Finishing up at FVLC

I’d imagine working permanently at a nonprofit can be tiresome, a thankless job where one finds oneself working 12-hour days for a single client. My supervisor seldom took time off for lunch, others snuck bites of sandwiches in between calls.

It’s definitely a hard job.

Nonetheless, at FVLC I noticed that when things got that rough, it would be the people whom you were surrounded by that got you through.

It would be the California sunshine on your walk to work the next day and the farmer’s market blueberries someone brought in to share with the office.

Perhaps most importantly, it would be the check-in call with that client the next day that really helps- when she says, “thanks”.

Interning at FVLC has taught me an incredible amount about the resiliency of people in the face of trauma. Many of our clients entered our office feeling disempowered, angry, hurt, bitter, and ultimately frustrated. Sometimes the staff felt the same way. The goal was for everyone to leave with the same feeling: you will get through it. This summer, it was my job to take the primary steps in ensuring our clients would make it through whatever rough situation they were experiencing.

Having now completed this experience, I don’t know much about where the future will take me other than that I want to continue in this vein of work. In the fall, I will be interning with Massachusetts Citizens for Children, where I will be facilitating trainings around the Boston area to adults regarding how to protect children from child sexual abuse. I will also be working with the organization as a whole on strategic planning, learning more about the gears that shift and propel the group as a whole. I am excited to continue to immerse myself in this world and, in doing so, potentially carve a place for myself after college.

I would definitely recommend interning at FVLC for anyone with an interest in this field. They provided a warm, caring environment that allowed me to learn in a tremendously productive manner. Here is an informational video that FVLC recently created that explains further what they do and how they aid survivors throughout the legal process.  Someone on staff was always available to lend an ear and an opinion. I would definitely recommend receiving your 40 hour domestic violence training prior to beginning the internship because it enabled me to really make the most of my time there. As mentioned in my first post, they did not waste any time in putting me to work because they trusted that I was already competent, which was very helpful.

Ultimately, I had a wonderful, enriching summer interning with FVLC and feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to do so.

Ashley Lynette, ’13

 

Commission Update

The interns from the commission come from all kinds of backgrounds, some are local Rhode Islanders but there are quite a few out of staters or local students some in undergrad RI schools, and Law students. Everyone is very friendly and motivated to work.

My first few weeks were difficult, I had some struggles with my workload at the commission. There seems to be a high expectation of self sufficiency that I had conflicts with, for example Interns are responsible for reviewing cases of discrimination that are filed with the commission as they progress or reach a conclusion. This means that I can either receive a fresh new case that needs investigation or a case that has been going on for years and requires final review for closure. Whatever the case may be along the way interns are responsible for finding out what is missing in order to progress in the case and sending out those requests for information to all parties involved. We write our correspondence using few templates that are saved on USB drives and the rest comes through comes as you go through asking questions and getting exposure to legal language in your interactions with other investigators at the commission.

 

Interns also get access to what are called PDC’s, which refer to pre-determination conferences. PDC’s occur when an investigator is having difficulty reaching a recommendation as to whether or not there is sufficient evidence suggesting the legitimacy of the claims that the complainant alleges. All parties involved are invited to attend a hearing in which they can explain both sides of the story and it is the only time we get to meet the people involved in each case. I really enjoy the PDC’s because it brings each case to life and makes your work feel more validating. At the end of the PDC the commissioner usually stays for a few more minutes to give the interns law advice, for those who might be thinking of attending law school after college. There are about 10 commissioners appointed and so far I’ve met about 7. I find it interesting that some of the results of our involvement in these cases as interns will most likely never reach us seeing as they will outlive our internship stay.

 

The work can be very intimidating at first, but I noticed that the long work days provide interns with lots of practice and soon one gets used to the workload. It’s very reassuring when it comes to thinking of future work experience. For now it’s got me thinking of law school, since the majority of interns at the commission are currently enrolled in law programs.  Here’s a link to the commission website 

here’s also a link about attorney Cordona, an appointed commissioner who advised us about law school.

Midpoint Evaluation at Family Violence Law Center

Working with Family Violence Law Center has certainly been a tremendous experience thus far. Not only have I had the opportunity to learn about California Family Law, but this kind of work inherently includes a constant reminder for personal reflection. When working with individuals in crisis, it is imperative that one puts aside one’s own personal biases or primary reactions. If a client says their partner is physically abusive but they do not want to leave the house they share, it is not my job to tell them that they’re wrong, but rather to safety plan and meet them where they are emotionally. I can offer to help them find a domestic violence shelter or a program that will help them financially to relocate, but ultimately their subsequent actions are solely their decisions. This can be frustrating, but it also fuels a fascinating internal dialogue that I have noticed emerge not only in myself but also in my coworkers: that which we say aloud and that which we wish we could say. Occasionally the two diverge when a client decides to take part of one of our services (restraining orders, counseling).
Answering crisis calls!
My position entails taking them through these first steps towards recovery, by removing the client from contact with their abuser (e.g., restraining orders). In my learning goals, I had included a wish to challenge myself, which I have certainly found here. Each client provides a different unique challenge, with each challenge posing a new entanglement that keeps everyone on their toes. I can see my own growth by virtue of how others in my office treat me. My supervisor has been increasing my workload; other co-workers let me answer the crisis hotline without supervision; they have begun to give me new volunteers to train, who shadow me on the hotline or when doing legal screenings (intakes).
One of our past clients sells tacos to the entire office building every Wednesday. She’s lovely and a wonderful chef!
My coworker/professor of the hotline arts Becki, enjoying tacos!
I am most proud that I can actively feel myself learning how better to help others in traumatic situations. In the past month, I have begun to rely less on advice of other advocates in the office because I am able to problem-solve given the facts available. Clearly I still have a lot to learn, but it’s exciting to be in this relatively fast-paced environment of California family law and I am excited for the opportunity to continue growing in this field.
Ashley Lynette, ’13

Midpoint at NARAL Pro Choice

Photo source

It’s been a little over a month since the beginning of my work here at NARAL and I’m enjoying it more and more as we get further into the summer. Many of my goals were focused around gaining experience in the non-profit world, making valuable connections, and really taste-testing to see if this is something I’d want to pursue in the future With this in mind, I think I’m progressing well.

For me, politics, as in running for office, doesn’t seem like the medium of change I want to pursue. I want to be part of the most effective way of making change. My supervisor’s job includes both the legislative and political side by lobbying for legislation, working in the statehouse, making valuable connection with senators and representatives, and really being on the front lines of passing effective and necessary legislation. In addition, he spends a lot of time working to get pro-choice candidates elected. These two aspects of change are not only essential for progressive initiatives (working from both the policy and elected official sides) but also are part of a job that I really feel interested in.

My academic goals of learning more about pro-choice legislation, the act of lobbying, what it takes to run a non-profit, and actual reproductive rights have also been coming along. Everyday I feel like I’m learning more and more about the topics themselves, but also how they fit into my life.

In addition, I’m building a lot of skills related to this type of work. I’m becoming familiar with grassroots organizing techniques, constituent relations, working with state legislators and aides, and campaigning. Campaigning has been a really large portion of my skill set because campaigns are complicated and almost take on lives of their own. There is just so much involved. First, one must get a large volunteer base and intern base if they want to run a successful campaign since campaigns rely on manpower. Secondly, they require a lot of organization and planning to run a successful campaign, which includes door knocking, phone banking, and data entry as the main components. All of these activities are not simple. They require a lot more than face value. The hours are long, the jobs can be tedious and intense, and the response isn’t always ideal. But running an effective and credible campaign is extremely important, and I feel very lucky to be able to be part of so many incredible campaigns.

All of these skills will absolutely transfer into both future academic and career pursuits as I’m building a large skill base, getting experience working for a non-profit, and learning empirical knowledge about women’s health and reproductive rights.

One thing I’d like to quickly address is the misconception that NARAL is a pro-abortion organization. In fact, NARAL and it’s employees are routinely called “baby killers” and other things that are just as vulgar and untrue. NARAL works for women to have choice, access to medically accurate information, and a full range of control over their bodies. It does not promote one option over the other, it does not deny that abstinence is the most effective way to avoid pregnancy; it does not promote abortion as a form of birth control. It works for women to be able to have full control over their own bodies. You don’t want an abortion? Don’t get one. It’s as simple as that. But every woman, regardless of race, class, sexual orientation, or age, should have full control over her body. Being pro-choice, is not anti-child, anti-family, anti-religion, or anti-anything. It’s being responsible and respectful. There are so many undeniable correlations between access to reproductive rights and increasing education, health, financial independence, and aspiration outcome.

As a young woman, I understand what is at stake in this election – at this time. The fact that reproductive rights are even still in question is an absurdity that boggles my brain daily. I understand that fighting for the right to have control over my body is essential and something that cannot be taken lightly. Even with waning faith in the political system, I understand that voting in this election (both state and federal) are essential in the promotion of my rights as a 21 year old Brandeis student who wants to be able to decide if, when and how I have a family. If you are reading this post, male or female (because this is important for men and fathers as well), remember that this election is really important and regardless of your own personal views, choice is choice – and a constitutional right that is being threatened and must be protected.  Please vote pro-choice in 2012. In my next blog I will be attaching a Massachusetts Voter Guide, which shows which candidates are standing behind this fundamental right.

Sorry for the bleeding heart speech, but I feel if I’m going to be writing about my goals, it’s important to state what it really all comes down to: getting the community together to help protect choice.

For a snapshot on some of the legislation I’m working on, visit these sites:

Photo source

– Rebecca Miller ’13

First Week at NARAL Pro-Choice

Photo credit: Ruth Weld

It’s been a few weeks since I began my work with NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, the state affiliate of NARAL Pro-Choice America. I have really been enjoying my time here and am sad at how quickly it is going by.

The main mission of this non-profit organization is to create, build, and maintain a grassroots constituency to protect every woman’s right to make her own decisions regarding her reproductive choices, whatever they may be. NARAL does many things to protect women and their right to choose including mobilizing supporters, working to elect pro-choice candidates, passing pro-choice legislation, conducting research on reproductive topics, and leading initiatives to improve the reproductive health equity within Massachusetts. Given this summer’s extreme importance as an election summer and the significance of reproductive issues within the campaigns, this summer is an exciting and crucial time to be working with NARAL.

My internship is basically divided into two parts; office work and campaign work. My role in the office consists of many different responsibilities like data entry, sitting in on endorsement interviews with candidates for the Massachusetts legislature and various other tasks. I am also responsible for tracking Worcester County state elections and following all the local politics to keep track of our endorsed candidates. In addition, I work as the legislative intern which entails keeping track of NARAL’s priority legislation, writing fact sheets, following policy in the statehouse, and working to prepare for the next legislative session as this one comes to a close in July.

The other main part of my internship is working on the campaigns of the candidates we endorse.  This is really exciting because I get to work on multiple campaigns; meet a lot of incredible people, network, and get important experience being part of a campaign. When I’m on a campaign I’m doing everything from making constituent calls, going door to door, and yes, more data entry.

I became interested in NARAL when I referred to their database for help with a research project, showing the link between the oppression of women and access to birth control and abortions. I was impressed and inspired by their research and policy initiatives. I knew that I wanted to work for a non-profit dealing with social justice and women’s studies, so after researching NARAL’s functions and the opportunities available over winter break, I applied for an internship to test the waters in the non-profit world.

Photo Credit: Ruth Weld

My first week was wonderful. It involved an all day-training with other interns at local non-profits like MassEquality and Women’s Political Caucus. I learned a lot about NARAL itself, but also the goals of small political non-profits and how they work. Later that week, we had one of our biggest canvassing events at Gay Pride Boston 2012. It was an incredible experience. The main goal of the day was to increase our membership. This event was really fun, action-packed, and a great introduction to the internship. It’s also just a really wonderful experience to be surrounded by people who are all coming together to fight for equality.

My learning expectations are based around my desire to further figure out which medium of advocacy for justice I want to pursue. This internship will help me to clarify my career path and allow me the opportunity to test the non-profit world.  As a rising senior, I’m really looking forward to using this internship as a way to further my understanding of my career goals and potentially make vital connections for the future.

Before I close this first post, I think it’s really important to share something I learned within my first week at NARAL. Massachusetts has always been seen as an extremely progressive state and many people are proud to live here. While this is true, sometimes the legacy of Massachusetts being progressive allows us to take a backseat and assume things about our laws. Despite Massachusetts’ extreme leadership in healthcare and commitment to public health, Massachusetts is one of only four states in the entire country that still has an outdated law on the books, from the 19th century, that bans all abortions. In addition, there is another provision that bars all birth control to unmarried couples. These archaic statues have not been enforced for many years especially given federal cases like Roe v. Wade, which is potentially why there has been little to no movement to get rid of them. Yet in the wake of recent attacks on reproductive freedom, Roe v. Wade does seem like it’ll be threatened in the near future. If this becomes the case, and it is overturned, abortion and birth control will become illegal in Massachusetts. We cannot stand for this. One of NARAL Massachusetts’ main legislative priorities is working as hard as possible to get this archaic and unjust legislation repealed as quickly as possible. Be on the lookout for ways you can reach out to your state legislators to make sure this legislation is repealed.

Sorry for the detour! Overall my internship has been incredible and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the summer.

Check out NARAL:

To see if your legislator is pro-choice, click here.

– Rebecca Miller ’13

 

Tweeting for Social Change: My First Weeks at American Jewish World Service

I remember first hearing about American Jewish World Service (AJWS) when I was fourteen years old and participating in a philanthropy project at my local Jewish Community Center. The organization’s mission and the way it uses Jewish values to inspire Jewish communities to help marginalized people across the globe deeply resonated with me. As I aged and discovered my passion for human rights work and international development, I never forgot about one of the first organizations to inspire me. Therefore, I truly see it as a privilege to be an intern in American Jewish World Service’s communications department this summer.

AJWS’s mission is: “Inspired by Judaism’s commitment to justice, American Jewish World Service works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world.”  Through service projects, educational programs, advocacy, and grants to grassroots partners in the developing world, AJWS works to empower marginalized peoples across the globe and pursue justice.

On the opening day of the Rio +20 conference, 300 indigenous people occupied the dam to spell “Pare Belo Monte,” meaning “Stop Belo Monte”. The Belo Monte Dam, which will be the third biggest in the world, will flood their homelands and destroy wildlife. By posting this on Facebook, I help share their work.

I am fortunate to not only be a WOW intern but to have gotten my internship directly through Hiatt. AJWS partners with Brandeis every year to offer placement for one WOW intern. This year, it was me! I wanted to apply for an internship with AJWS for a while and was thrilled to learn that there was an expedited process for Brandeis students. It’s an amazing opportunity!

AJWS has fourteen total interns this summer. I am the lone intern in the communications department. My responsibilities include content development for the blog, social media work, media monitoring, and video making. Although I am not directly furthering AJWS’ mission, I hope that through the writing and social media work I do this summer I can leave even a small contribution to an incredible cause.

These sunflower seeds were delivered to Capitol Hill and the White House to represent the 18,000 people who signed the Jewish Petition for a Just Farm Bill. During the delivery, I shared our success through social media.

I see this internship as a unique opportunity to combine my academic passions – global human rights and peace-building – with the writing and social media skills I gained through my extracurricular work. I hope to improve my writing skills, and particularly want to learn how to craft my tone for different audiences. In addition, I am eager to learn about effective outreach and audience retention. I also hope to see how the different components of nonprofit work interact in order to help a larger cause. I am most nervous about working from nine to five and sitting behind a desk all day.  I am excited to experience working in a nonprofit, particularly since it will allow me to discover if this is a good route for me when I graduate Brandeis next spring.

After my first two weeks, I still am growing into my role in the communications department and establishing a routine. I spend the bulk of my day managing the Facebook page, generating content, and researching articles on current events related to AJWS’ work. Unlike other college students, when on Facebook or Twitter, I am not procrastinating, but doing my job! The most meaningful project I have worked on so far was interviewing and recording an event with a leader of one of AJWS’ partners in India. His stories were incredibly moving and displayed the profound struggles, beauty, and potential in India.

Often times, when I am compiling spreadsheets and writing Facebook statues or tweets, it is hard to remember the “why” behind my daily tasks and feel motivated by my work. However, after hearing from about our partner in India’s work firsthand and realizing that I can use my voice to share his stories, I remembered why what I do is of value and how it contributes to the bigger picture. As my internship continues, I aspire to remember to always work with intention and complete awareness of my global partners in the universal struggle for justice.

– Erica Shaps ’13

My First Week at The Center for Ethics and Advocacy in Healthcare in Techny, IL

I was lucky enough to secure a summer internship at The Center for Ethics and Advocacy in Healthcare in Techny, Illinois. The Center is a small, non-denominational, community-initiated nonprofit and NGO that educates and supports people regarding their right to make well-informed decisions about their healthcare needs regardless of religious beliefs, age, and gender. In addition, The Center offers educational programs on healthcare ethics issues; some topics include: spirituality and end of life issues; conflict resolution; learning to live with pain/suffering; and decision-making. Lecture series and guest speakers frequent The Center regularly. The Center also offers individual counseling for those people who want to talk to someone about a current medical dilemma.

The Center for Ethics and Advocacy in Healthcare is located in Techny Towers, Techny, IL.

(Image Source)

I wanted to intern at the Center because it’s mission fits well with my interests. I am a Philosophy major, and I am very interested in ethics – specifically, bioethics. With each person that asks for assistance, the Center has to be able to comfort the person and guide them through whatever problem they are facing. This decision making process is what I am very interested in. In addition, this internship will teach me about healthcare on the local and global scale and how near-future Medicaid and Medicare cuts will affect people and their decisions about healthcare.

To secure the internship, I went to the Center’s website; I was so excited with what I read that I called the Director herself. She took a liking to me, as I did to her, and the rest is history! I also was able to find someone at Brandeis who had this internship a few years earlier, so I talked with her over coffee about her experience.

Another reason why I wanted to intern at The Center is because of the woman who runs it. The Director exudes so much joy, kindness and warmth. After talking with her a few times, I knew I could and would want to learn a lot from her. She is a nun and was a nurse in the Boston area for a while, until she chose to pursue Ethics. Her passion for helping people get through tough medical situations led her to found this nonprofit, which I think is an extremely laudable path to take, if you ask me!

The view behind Techny Towers.

(Image Source)

My internship responsibilities include: clerical work (filing, printing, photo-copying, answering phone calls and email requests, cleaning), learning about the current healthcare climate on both local and global levels from the speakers who will speak to us, and learning how the Director helps people make tough decisions during trying times. She will teach me how she has helped people in all different situations get through whatever medical or financial dilemma they faced. Lastly, one of the employees at The Center will teach me how to apply ethics theories to real life, everyday situations. This is my main goal for this summer- to learn how to apply theoretical ideas to real situations.

My first week was great! I got to meet the Director and the other two interns, who are very nice. I did not realize how small the office would be, but it makes sense now, knowing that it is a nonprofit and that it exists only because of the people who donate money to help support it. A lot of people in the area donate to the Center because they think it serves a real need in a very personal way.

We met with a couple of people who work at the New Trier Township in the Health and Social Services department – a social worker and director of community services – to learn more about all the different social services being offered in the area to people who either do not have health insurance or who are unemployed and have few or no health benefits. We learned how the Township assists these people and how much of a need there is since the state of Illinois, not to mention the entire country, is in dire financial straits.

Also during the first week, we learned how some philosophical ideas tie into viewing healthcare. We discussed theories about how people think it best to approach healthcare decision making. One theory is beneficence, which states that we should always aim to do good and eliminate evil. But when one agrees with the idea of Respect for Autonomy, (s)he thinks we should respect whatever decision the person will make. We also talked about the two different views of Justice – Distributive Justice and Justice “as desert,” or Deserved Justice.

After meeting everyone and learning a lot already, the first week was a great introduction into the internship program and I’m really excited for the coming weeks!

My goals for the summer are to learn how the Director helps people get through tough medical situations by examining her decision making process, to learn more about the current state of healthcare on the local and international level, and to learn how to apply philosophical theories to real life situations.

To learn more about some of the issues within bioethics, look here!

– Emily Breitbart ’13