When thinking about internships, one of my first thoughts was what Social Justice really is? In all honesty, it is a difficult question. Brandeis takes pride in the fact that it was founded on principles of social justice. Our name itself comes from a key proponent of social justice. But even still, I wonder how am I impacting others with my internship, and what kind of change am I making? That is when I realized something. The definition of Social Justice is in the end, determined by how the individual views it. For it, social justice is about making a difference for someone with less opportunity, and seeing them pay it forward.
I am an intern with United Way, a nation wide non-for profit who focuses on the community. United Way’s mission is based on three essential parts of a community. Education, Income, and Health. Through the United Way, I am currently working with PRONTO, a sister non-profit that operates out of Brentwood, New York.
PRONTO is primarily a food pantry, which uses a thrift store within the complex to help raise money to afford food for the pantry. The typical customers for PRONTO are lower income people, oftentimes Latino or African American, and typically not many of them speak English. These are people with little ability to even afford their own houses, as Long Island is notoriously expensive. Every little bit we are able to contribute makes a difference at least from my perspective.
Here, let me share a case. There was a girl around my age. She’s Latino, recently immigrated to the US, and just had a daughter. She is a single mother and it is hard for her to make ends meet. This was her first time at PRONTO. I was working the front desk at the time, and when she was called by one of the staff for her interview, I could see the giant smile on her face from my desk. In a way, that’s what the work is about. Making a little difference, one person at a time.
In all honesty, people are scared right now. There has been a decline at PRONTO ever since Donald Trump got elected. People are scared that ICE is waiting in the bushes, intent to grab them as soon as they approach PRONTO. They face the fear of being deported just because they left the confines of their homes and apartments to get food. It’s terrible, and is what our reality looks like. I guess the next challenge for me, as a student of Brandeis and someone who focuses on social justice, to combat that fear. I think I can do this.