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

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

Working at the Community Day Center of Waltham

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

Me editing and uploading the Day Center's intake form
image2 Editing and uploading intake forms

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

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

Community Day Center of Waltham

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

– Diana Langberg ’17

 

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

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

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

Starting at WATCH

This week was the beginning of my summer internship. Unlike most of the other WOW interns, my internship is located a short walk from Brandeis University. Right on Moody Street in Waltham, Massachusetts, lies the office of WATCH CDC. WATCH CDC is a non-profit (501c-3) established in 1988 committed to promoting fare, just, environmentally-healthy living conditions for the low income, immigrant community in Waltham through advocacy and community empowerment.  WATCH Housing Advocacy Clinic serves as the go-to place for the local community for housing issues such as evictions, rent assistance, tenant-landlord conflicts, and unsanitary living conditions. The clinic advocates are students trained in housing rights and equipped with knowledge on local sources for legal assistance, financial aid, and shelters. In addition, WATCH is involved in community organizing projects that build confidence and leadership skills within the Waltham community.

As an intern, I will be in charge of the housing clinic, in which I will help tenants resolve tenant-landlord conflicts, eviction proceedings, sub-standard housing conditions and other housing problems, as well as inform them of their housing rights, empowering them to be their own advocates. As part of my work at the clinic, I will be identifying tenants with leadership abilities and creating a network where they can effectively work together to address the communities housing needs. In addition, I will be building relationships with the community and connecting community members to ongoing community empowerment projects at WATCH.

I first got involved with WATCH’s Housing Advocacy clinic the 2012 fall semester when I joined Professor Laura Goldin’s practicum. As part of the practicum, we volunteered at the clinic throughout the semester.  After the semester, I was eager to continue my work at WATCH and Professor Goldin offered me a supervising position at the clinic, in which I had to organize, train, and mentor Brandeis student clinic advocates. This spring, Erica Schwartz, executive director of WATCH, offered me a full time internship for the summer, which I accepted enthusiastically.

During my first week at WATCH, I began to get accustomed to the everyday working environment of a small non-profit. Luckily, I already knew most of the staff from volunteering here throughout the year. WATCH had recently moved to a new address and I had to assemble a new office for myself – now I have my own desk, computer, and phone.  I met with Daria, my supervisor and the new WATCH executive director, and established short- and long-term goals for my internship. I finished following up with clients that called the office during the short transition between the semester and my summer internship, during which the clinic was closed. I also started working on a letter-writing project that we wish to integrate with the clinic. In this project, clients will be able to identify their ward councilor in the local government and send them personally tailored letters that advocate for a safer and more affordable housing.

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As part of my long-term goals, I wish to learn about the inner workings of a non-profit organization and specifically I wish to engage in community organizing around housing issues, which include advocating and lobbying for our local community. Extensively working with tenants, helping in cases from start to finish, and participating in community empowerment, would help me reach a new perspective and identify my career path within the public sector.

– Shimon Mazor ‘16

WATCH CDC

Last week I began my internship at WATCH CDC right here in Waltham, Massachusetts. WATCH is a non-profit founded in 1988 dedicated to providing housing justice in the Waltham community through empowerment and advocacy. Here in Waltham, those issues primarily deal with affordable housing and immigration.  WATCH offers a Housing Advocacy Clinic open Monday and Thursday evenings that is staffed with students trained in Massachusetts housing law and equipped with information on local resources for financial, food and fuel assistance, legal services and shelters. Clients come in to the clinic faced with evictions, inability to pay rent and unsanitary conditions and the clinic helps them to demystify the laws, know their rights as tenants and connect them to affordable and helpful resources, meanwhile building confidence and leadership skills required to resolve future issues. In addition, WATCH has English language courses and participates in community organizing in attempt to create and maintain more affordable housing in Waltham.

As an intern, my duties are to run the clinic and train tenants on tenant-landlord law, aiding them in resolving their housing issues. I also update and maintain the database of tenant cases and connecting appropriate clinic clients to WATCH’s community organizing in order to pursue collective action.

I was first exposed to WATCH in the fall of 2011 when I participated in the Environmental Health and Justice JBS with Professor Laura Goldin.  As part of the class, we were required to volunteer so many evenings in the clinic as advocates.  What I found at WATCH was a connection to the Waltham community that transcended our Brandeis bubble and a realization that social injustice happened close to home. I continued working in the clinic as a Housing Advocate and volunteered weekly in the ESOL classes and this spring was offered a full time internship for the summer.

My first week has involved getting to know the full-time aspect of the office, as in the past I have been in only to work the evenings of the clinic and English classes.  But since I have already been trained in housing laws and know how to interact with inquiring clients, I was able to jump right in to helping clients who stop by to ask questions during the day.

Looking towards the rest of the summer, my projects include researching resources in order to update WATCH’s community resource guide and calling past clients to follow-up and get them to participate in WATCH’s community organizing campaigns, since they have faced housing issues face on.  I look forward to learning how to create action through community empowerment during my summer interning at WATCH.

– Mollie Lortie ’14