I am a Waltham Group coordinator at Brandeis. I help run the Hunger and Homelessness program, which serves food at the Waltham Community Day Center and holds drives each semester to collect food, clothing, and personal care items for individuals experiencing homelessness in the Waltham and Boston area. The Waltham Group is the most incredible organization at Brandeis, and I have learned so much from being a part of this program. I also got the opportunity to take a Community Engagement Practicum, reflecting on my work as HnH Coordinator in an academic setting. In this class, we focused on centering the population we’re trying to serve: listening to their voices, involving them in the planning and administration of our programs, and never patronizing them just because they have less societal privilege than we do.
I have been thinking about Waltham Group, and this class specifically, lately during my internship. A great aspect of most microinsurance companies is that they are often formed in response to needs from community members. This gives community members the ability to explain what they need and what would actually help them. This is powerful; it gives agency back to individuals experiencing hard times. This is what I want to do when considering the blog posts and promotional materials I am in charge of developing.
So far, I have been building up a collection of blog posts about microinsurance, fun facts about umbrellas, and more. (Right now, the website is just a landing page with basic information; the section where my blogs will be posted isn’t there yet.) The basic message of most of these posts is about doing good and being kind to the people around you. I love this central conceit, but I have also been trying to focus specifically on people around the world who are looking for agency and power in very difficult times. Many have lost jobs, homes, and family, but they continue fighting for a better life for themselves and their children.
By focusing on the stories of these real families, I hope not only I am personalizing microinsurance and international poverty issues, but that I am letting individuals experiencing poverty tell their own stories as much as possible. As we learned in my Community Engagement Practicum, there’s no need to be a “voice for the voiceless”. People aren’t voiceless unless you’re speaking over them. I hope my work with Umby uplifts and centers these voices in every blog post.
I am spending this summer in Chicago at a startup called Umby, which is a peer-to-peer microinsurance platform. Microinsurance is just like regular insurance, except that it targets at individuals living in poverty internationally, mostly making less than $4 USD a day. To address their needs, the premiums and coverage for this type of insurance are relatively low, but it provides an important safety net for families trying to escape the poverty cycle. Umby works by selling umbrellas to consumers, with the money then going to insure one family (of the consumer’s choice) for a full year.
The main social injustice that Umby is redressing is global poverty. In developing countries around the world, individuals are especially vulnerable to the financial hardships which affect all of us at one point or another: health problems, property damage, and the like. However, for someone who is making barely enough money to get by, these hardships can be absolutely devastating. Studies have shown that individuals facing these hardships will do things like selling off their assets, dipping into (quite small) savings accounts, and reducing their food consumption. The problem is that these short-term solutions actually reinforce poverty in the long run: without money-making assets like livestock, it can be difficult to pay for the next hardship; without building up savings, it can be impossible to do economically advantageous but expensive activities such as sending children to school; reducing food consumption to the point of malnourishment or undernourishment can result in long-term health problems that will cost more money later. This is where insurance comes in. If a family has the ability to use insurance to pay for these hardships, they no longer have to deplete their assets or savings, ultimately helping to break the poverty cycle in the best cases.
Further, according to the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, climate change is affecting the poorest countries in the world the most. Many forms of microinsurance help protect against the power of global climate change, including catastrophe insurance and many forms of livestock or crop insurance. This is another social justice issue: the wealthiest people in the wealthiest countries have the ability to ignore the effects of climate change, but those living in poor regions around the world do not have the infrastructure or the funds to recover from natural disasters.
I am specifically in charge of marketing for Umby. Umby will be officially launching at the end of the summer, so I am developing blog posts and social media strategies to ensure that people will hear of it and will be interested in donating or buying an umbrella themselves. Without the effective marketing efforts, we may not be able to provide microinsurance at all.
We are working inside of 1871, which is an incubator in downtown Chicago for startups, most of which are related to tech. This is a really cool environment to work in, as there are a ton of other young people working on a variety of new ideas, many of which are related to social justice. Most of 1871 is taken up by a huge, open workspace, where dozens of people sit on their laptops or talking to one another. It is a very artistic environment, with one side of the room taken up by this huge sculpture of downtown Chicago. There are also murals on the walls of the building done by local artists. It is definitely way cooler than your average office.
By the end of the summer, the major event that will be happening is the official launching of the company. I hope by then I will have raised awareness on social media and provided some helpful blog posts that spark interest in the mission and work of Umby, and are entertaining and fun to read.
Wow, it’s been over three weeks and I am still having difficulty processing this incredible summer. Throughout the 10 weeks of interning at Roots, I have met the most inspiring people, learned tremendously, and contributed to an organization I believe is making real strides towards peace in the land. I have increased my knowledge, humility, faith, hope, and passion.
One of my many goals for this summer was to determine if non-profit work in a peace-building organization in the region was something that I might like to pursue as an eventual career. While I still have not decided in which direction I would like to head professionally, I am still strongly considering the non-profit world, perhaps even more than I was before. What is definite is that this experience strengthened my resolve to work toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians through dialogue, activity, and action, in order to improve lives on both sides. I believe that this grassroots work can only truly take hold on a local level, so my desire to move to Israel after graduation has been strengthened as a result of this experience.
In this blog post, we were asked to talk about what we are proud of accomplishing this summer. I am most proud of not being afraid to go to new places, often thought of as “dangerous” by various communities, and to talk to people with backgrounds and opinions very different from my own. I am proud of myself for having an open mind, for asking questions, and for seeking to learn as much as I could. I am glad that I took risks and jumped into unknown situations – including the internship itself!
If I were to give advice to someone thinking about going into this field or interning for this organization, I would give them the same advice I received: be proactive and make the most of your time. Be flexible and ready for anything. Most of all, don’t be afraid to put yourself in new situations, talk to people, ask questions, and share your own ideas. Being the only intern can be very lonely, but you also have the opportunity to have a real impact on a small young organization – and that is priceless.
I realized that I join organizations like Roots and bVIEW (Brandeis Visions for Israel in and Evolving World), which have no specific political agenda, because I myself do not have a specific political solution in mind for this conflict. What I do believe, however, is that no political solution can achieve peace while we are all arguing with each other. Dialogue, mutual action, and a transformation of perceptions of the other must precede, coincide with, and continue after a political solution is enacted. At Roots, I sat with a group of Palestinians and Israelis (settlers, no less!), of different ages and backgrounds, as we went around the circle, articulating which political visions we support. With unbelievable calm and respect, every individual gave a different answer – almost half of them including the words “I don’t know.” This was quite a departure from the usual Israel/Palestine conversation on campus, wherein individuals enter conversations with set opinions and perceived facts. I learned from this summer how important it is to be okay with not knowing all the answers, to be open to discussion and changing perceptions, and to working with people you disagree with to resolve conflict. If Israelis and Palestinians living in the Gush Etzion area and from Bethlehem to Hebron can do it, surely we students at Brandeis can too.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
The Fundacion Cultural Cofradia, is a non-profit organization that promotes and preserves the Afro-Dominican and Dominico-Haitiano traditions in the Dominican Republic. Cofradia is located in Santo Domingo, the capital, but their mission extends throughout different regions of the country. They work closely with the portadores de cultura, which are the people in the community in charge of keeping these traditions, in order to provide support in the areas most needed. This support comes in different forms, such as the creation of schools, workshops and festivals centered on these traditions.
I contribute to their mission in two different ways, the office and field work. As part of the office work I file documents, communicate with el Ministerio de Cultura, (the government office in charge of approving the projects and providing the monetary support) and follow up in the updates of previous projects. During the fieldwork, the Cofradia team and I travel to diverse parts of the country and visit the communities that most need our support. Here, I interviewed the portadores de cultura on their traditions and how they function in the communities. I also document events by photography and videos which are later used as documentation to create new projects.
Last summer I traveled to the Dominican Republic to visit some family members. As part of my visit I wanted to learn more about the Afro-Dominican traditions. When I expressed this to my aunt she put me in contact with the Director of Cofradia, Roldán Marmol. Director Mármol invited me to a fiesta de palo, a religious practice that mixes African and Taino religious beliefs with Catholicism. Later I expressed my interested in learning more about these traditions and religions. He told me about his organization and we discussed the possibility of an internship.
During my first week of work I met the entire team of my co-workers and learned about the projects they been working on. I was provided with books and articles that talked about the diverse traditions of the Dominican Republic. That week we participated in the celebration of San Antonio sponsored by the Brothers Guillen in Yamasa. There I photographed the event and first experienced Gaga, a tradition born out of the sharing of cultures between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. For me, it was the first time, since I arrived to the island, that I have witnessed such a harmonious and unifying manifestation of the two countries traditions living as one.
The more I work with Cofradia the more I realize the importance of providing visibility to the Afro-Dominican and Dominico-Haitiano traditions. One cannot set apart these traditions with their communities, which means that if the traditions remain invisible and unappreciated the community suffers the same condition. These traditions are rich in knowledge, dance, music, art and history. I want to learn how to work with both the communities and the government to create projects that support the preservation and changes, that come naturally with time and new generations, of these traditions.
Me documenting the inauguration of La Escuela de Gagá in the Romana
This week marks the midpoint of my internship at Streetlight Schools and Leopard Tree Learning Centre. Even though I’ve had five weeks so far to get used to my internship and how the organization works, this week, my internship also changed quite a bit.
Monday marked the first day of our holiday program, which is the time of year during which we have students at the Learning Centre for the full day instead of just from 3:00 to 6:00 in the evenings. Now, we are hosting between 25 and 35 kids in the Centre each day, from 10:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening. While research isn’t as big of a component at my job any more, I am still continuing with a few minor projects in the office before and after the Centre is open.
Before, my main project was literacy assessments. I started out by doing research, and then ultimately created several literacy assessments for different grades to gauge the English level of each learner. The process showed me a lot about how kids respond to different approaches as well as how to engage with students on an individual level in order to receive the most informative responses. I’ve essentially finished the assessments and now we are using my findings to create the English schedule for the holiday program.
So far, I’m enjoying full days with the kids quite a bit. I think it is much more up my alley than office work — but I’m still glad to have had the experience in the office, as I was really looking for a balance between the two through this internship. The best part is, my interactions with our learners is unlike any other experience I’ve had working with children. I’m constantly learning from them, which is probably due to the unique set up of the Centre. Right now, we are learning with new teaching practices, which is all a part of experiencing new, innovative methods of education. Some of the practices include: student collaboration, older learners teaching younger learners, learners working on their own, and (somewhat) traditional instruction from the teachers. What I like most about these practices is that they engage each student, so that we can really see where they’re at (without having to test all the time) rather than just speaking in front of a group of kids every day.
During the holiday program, we balance the morning between Math and English, and then have other activities in the afternoon, which change day to day. Some of the activities include traditional singing and dancing, sports, painting, clay, paper mache, and theatre. We are also taking some time to plan our Mandela Day project, which is a service project that we will do on July 18th in honor of Nelson Mandela’s birthday. The purpose of Mandela Day is for everyone in South Africa to take 67 minutes of their day to serve others, in honor of Mandela, who served the South African people for 67 years (27 years in prison, and 40 years outside of prison). For more information on Mandela Day, click here.
Another extracurricular that we do in the afternoons is Sky Farms. Sky Farms is a project that Streetlight Schools and Bjala Properties (our partners, mentioned in my previous post) started on the roof of the building next door to the Centre. There, we teach the kids about growing food, about how plants work, and they get to see the entire process. Right now, we have onions, spring onions (scallions), cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, herbs, cherry tomatoes, and more. For more information on Sky Farms, click here.
Today we even had a Treasure Hunt in the park outside of our building. The kids picked up everything, from old bottle caps to pinecones, leaves, acorns, each of which were different and unique (as all of the trees in that park seem to be different kinds). They had a lot of fun, and it was also a valuable experience for the tutors as it provided an amazing opportunity for the learners to take the lead and show us new things.
At the end of each day, no matter what the activity, the learners all sit around one of our classrooms and receive juice and biscuits as a reward for doing well. All in all, I am really excited about the coming weeks of the holiday program and I’m looking forward to all that we learn in this new setting, spending time in the Centre all day.
Its a beautiful sunny day and I have no idea where I am going, navigating criss-crossing high-ways into the heart of the city. I pull up to the entrance of UMass Boston and the whole city falls away, melting into the edges of the bay. There is a girl hoolah-hooping by the water in the shade of the trees. You can catch glimpses of the bay through every window I walk by in the Campus Center. I am looking for the door labeled “the Center on Gender, Security, and Human Rights” (CGSHR) (genderandsecurity.org)
The Center on Gender, Security, and Human Rights is an organization devoted to the dual goals of building knowledge around gender and security to inform policy-makers and practitioners, as well as creating feminist gendered analyses to promote justice and sustainable peace. Founded in 2002, the CGSHR is still a small organization with just three official staff members. It is a great place to learn the inner workings of a small NGO, as well as become familiar and well-versed in the latest research into peace building, armed conflict, and the work of the UN. The CGSHR is currently a member of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security and helped to get passed UN Security Council Resolution 1325. This landmark resolution,
“reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.”
The CGSHR is also currently working on the development of a Research Hub on their website – genderandsecurity.org – with the aim to make this the world’s most comprehensive and publicly accessible database of scholarly research on the topics in this field (gender, armed conflict, peace building, security, and justice in post-conflict societies). The Research Hub can be used to inform policymaking, empower women activists from conflict zones lacking access to this important research and information, and help foster new collaborations between scholars in the field.
At the moment, all the interns at the CGSHR are working on entering resources into this Research Hub online. We have been taught how to use a bunch of awesome software tools, such as Zotero (creates citations and stores your research for you!) and SmartSheet. At the most recent staff meeting, however, we were given a list of Annotated Bibliographies that the CGSHR still needs work on, and we made a list of those that we were most interested in. We will find out our assignments soon – the ones that I signed up for had to do with gender analyses of peace building, peace negotiations, corruption (in governments) with a focus on the Middle East. Once assigned a topic, we will be searching for current research within our topic, creating annotated bibliographies, and posting these to the website. I am looking forward to reading widely on these topics, for they will help me to narrow in on what I want to pursue for my senior thesis in politics next year!
The first week here has been full of information and insightful conversations. The staff meeting taught us all about the methods of doing a gender analysis (of anything!) by always remembering to ask questions (What perspectives and viewpoints is the negotiation missing without involving women in the peace process? What different needs/capabilities/and aspirations do women bring to a post-conflict situation? etc.) and what certain key terms in the field mean (DDR, TRCs, CSOs, and the like). Every day (if it is sunny), the interns each lunch together by the bay. And since the office is small, we are encouraged to work either from home or a nearby coffee shop together a couple times a week. The Social Chair at the CGSHR will soon be planning events and finding free concerts/events/things to do in Boston for us all to get to know each other. And I am lucky to get to work with these two girls, also from Brandeis!
Week one leaves me excited to get more involved in the research in this field! Next on my reading list: the IASC Guidelines for Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings
See you later, East Timor! The 9 weeks I spent in East Timor went by so quickly. I cannot believe that summer is over!
Over the course of my internship, I shadowed many of Bairo Pite’s staff. I followed the doctors around during their rounds and when they went to examine the patients. They discussed treatment plans amongst each other and let the nurses know of any changes on the patient’s status chart. This is how rounds typically run in the morning and in the afternoon. Some days I hung out with the laboratory staff. I watched them run lab tests. I have also worked with the clinic manager at the clinic organizing in her office and the stock room so we know what supplies we have.
At the clinic, I learned how to use an EKG machine. I admit that I cannot truly read the EKG results, but I know where to place the electrodes and run the test. With the medical students, I also learned and practiced taking blood pressure with a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff. Sometimes to check on a patient, I took their blood pressure. Sometimes I helped take patient histories; I asked them how they were doing and ask if they have certain symptoms in Tetun. I learned how to assess the patient by looking and examining the patient’s hands, face, and just getting a general look at the status of the patient to see if they are breathing heavily or any other acute problems that needed to be looked at. Other tasks I did included taking patients to the National Hospital to get chest x-rays or to get consultations with the specialists working there. I let the patient know where we were going and accompanied them for their visit.
To build off of this experience during the rest of my time at Brandeis I will continue to promote the Bairo Pite Clinic with Project Plus One on campus. I will share my experiences to club members and to members of the community at activities such as the Millennium Campus Conference. I am continuing to pursue a career in healthcare and learning more about global health. I want to learn more about the politics involved and examine the differences. I also want to learn more about the current policies of disease treatments such as the WHO guidelines for tuberculosis (TB). I hope to return to East Timor to the Bairo Pite Clinic (in the processing of becoming a hospital) with more knowledge and education.
If a student is interested in an internship at the Bairo Pite Clinic, I advise them to take advantage of the opportunities available. Because a lot of people visit the clinic, there are a whole range of cases to learn from. There are also mobile clinics (scheduled doctor visits and health education to villages in East Timor) which students can go on. The people that organize the mobile clinics do really great work and it is a great opportunity to see how and where most people of East Timor live. I believe they will have the ability to really make the internship their own at the BPC. My advice for a student interested in this field is to not be afraid of saying no to things that they are not comfortable doing or that they do not know. They do not want to cause more harm than good and it is important to be honest.
My concepts of social justice have been enforced. With the sad and violent history of East Timor, they need healthcare to repair some of the damage and to help East Timor rebuild and stand up strong again. Listen here for an interview Dr. Dan, the founder of the BPC, recently gave a few weeks ago during a trip back to US about his experience. However, I have learned, like with all things, change takes time. It would take time for East Timor it implement changes and to learn what would work for their country and what would not.
I had an amazing internship experience at Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children Global Headquarters. Summer went by so quickly! Looking back to my first day at FIMRC, I got lost finding the office and was anxious about not knowing anyone. In two and a half months I’ve grown into a more self-assured worker, and made friendships and connections that will last a lifetime.
I remember feeling overwhelmed at the beginning of my internship when I received my first assignment: compile 16 months worth of numerical data for FIMRC’s sites in seven countries. At Brandeis I’m used to getting detailed guidelines for projects and assignments, but this task was so open-ended that I didn’t even know where to start. This project challenged me to make decisions and be a self-sufficient problem solver, effectively fulfilling my learning goal of becoming more independent in the workplace.
Admittedly, I did not initially see the connection between crunching numbers and FIMRC’s mission of improving pediatric health around the globe. When I first learned about FIMRC, I imagined people digging wells in exotic locations, giving health education lessons, and delivering medical supplies. Working at headquarters exposed me to the extensive coordination and planning that is required to make things happen on site — it’s a lot of work! I have a new-found admiration for the administrative work that nonprofits do.
Now that I understand the operations side of a nonprofit organization, I want to learn more about what happens in the field. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to work in a foreign country. Reading reports from the field, working with photos from FIMRC’s sites (check out FIMRC’s Flickr page — it’s amazing) and talking to staff members in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic made my itch to go abroad much stronger. I’m excited to study Community Health and Social Policy in South Africa next Spring as my first real exposure to working in healthcare in a another country.
My fondest memories of FIMRC include the wonderful people I worked with. My supervisor and the other staff members were an incredibly passionate and tight-knit bunch who were eager to help the interns reach our goals. I would encourage future interns to interact with other interns and staff members as much as possible, especially because everyone is so helpful. Also, be sure to take advantage of FIMRC headquarters’ awesome location in center city Philadelphia. Eating lunch and sharing with my intern friends in Rittenhouse Square was one of my favorite memories!
After my internship I am much more aware of the health problems that plague the people in nine communities across the world. Learning that over 20% of kids in Peru suffer from stunted growth as a result of malnutrition, among other statistics, was shocking and heartbreaking. To me, social justice means seeing as many kids as possible obtain the healthcare they desperately deserve, and FIMRC showed me how a nonprofit organization achieves this goal. FIMRC is a small organization with a big impact, that is effectively “doing” social justice. To me, Margaret Mead’s quote sums up FIMRC perfectly: “Never doubt that a small group of passionate, driven citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” With persistence and passion, real change will happen, a lesson I know I will remember at Brandeis and beyond.
Diak ka lae is used in Tetun, the local language of East Timor, for “How are you?” The literal translation is “Good or bad?” In response, people usually reply “diak”, meaning good, or “lae”, meaning bad. Diak ka lae is one of the many Tetun phrases and words I have learned here in my time in Dili. Although I am far from being fluent, I know enough phrases to understand some of the patients and to get a basic patient history. As I go on rounds with the doctors and follow up with the patients, I am getting more comfortable in a health care setting. Most importantly, I am also getting comfortable interacting with the patients. Being familiar with the language is one big step in communicating and interacting with patients and their families at the clinic.
After spending over a month at the Bairo Pite Clinic, I am definitely seeing how a health clinic in a developing country like East Timor operates. I work almost daily with the staff and volunteers in providing health care for its patients. I observe and interact with a variety of staff members vital in running the clinic. However, the BPC is steady changing as health care in East Timor progresses. As I am working, I am witnessing the failures of the system and the improvements being made. I believe this knowledge I am gaining is important in becoming better informed as a future primary care physician.
Since I have started working at the clinic, I have been exposed to many medical procedures used to diagnose and evaluate patients. As I am picking up the language here, I am also becoming familiar with the medical techniques and tools being used during these examinations. I am able to understand why these techniques are being used when a doctor uses them and I am able to provide these tools when a doctor needs them. These skills would be useful in the future for work in a health care setting and for facilitating patient care.
I am most proud of everything that I have learned so far at the BPC and the fact that I am able to make myself useful around the clinic despite my lack of knowledge. Most of the volunteers at the BPC are medical students with some medical experience. In the beginning, I was worried that I would not be able to get the learning experience I need or be able help out. However, the doctors and medical students have been very willing to explain and teach me if I had questions. This in return helped me understand what was going on and be able to help them and by extension, help the patients.
There are few people I know who have not watched Quentin Tarantino’s film “Inglourious Basterds”. Most of those who watched it enjoyed the film, which depicts a fictional American commando unit during World War 2, made of Jewish soldiers only, working behind German lines to gruesomely avenge the Nazi crimes against Jews. Interestingly, not even one person who watched the film, told me he sided with the German soldiers, despite the incredibly violent and cruel behavior of the Americans. We all, after all, know that Nazis are bad. That is, until I watched the movie a few weeks ago for the first time with a Chinese person who barely ever studied the Holocaust and World War 2.
The said person’s reaction – in support of the Nazis who are attacked in the film – provides a glimpse into the main challenge for Holocaust education in China, the challenge I have been facing together with my colleagues at the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre since I began interning here a month ago. How do you explain the Holocaust to local Chinese students who know little of anything about it? For them, the Nazis are not automatically bad, as they are for the vast majority of people who were educated in the west. The first answer to this question is creativity.
The first learning goal I feel I am constantly progressing on so far is, thus, creativity. The most recent example, which I am particularly proud of, is an application my supervisor and I submitted to hold a large exhibition in a very crowded public space downtown Hong Kong. To address the issue of a lack of context described above, we thought it would be powerful to exhibit the artwork of Jewish children who died at the Theresienstadt concentration camp next to artwork created by Hong Kong students in response to studying the Holocaust. Children are easy to connect and identify with everywhere, to anyone. By bringing their sets of artwork together, we can create a connection that will place the distant Holocaust in a local and more relevant context. Fortunately, the selection committee agreed with us, chose our application over many others, and the exhibition will be presented in October, to the eyes of thousands Hong Kong residents who pass by its location every day.
The same sort of creativity was also necessary as I worked with my supervisor and a paid web designer on creating a new and more relevant website for the Centre. The website was launched this week and has received many positive comments (check it out here!). Expanding the Centre’s outreach also naturally required finding ways to make its social networks more relevant, such as posting in Chinese with the help of other volunteers. Overall, since the HKHTC is a new organization, there is much to create and a lot of creativity to develop.
Another learning goal I set for myself was experiencing with educational work and learning more about education as a career. Being that the HKHTC’s work is all about education, I constantly feel like I’m achieving this. Be it while speaking or lecturing to students on different occasions or while learning about local curriculums and devising lesson plans that could suit local students with the HKHTC’s education committee members.
Last, but not least, coming here I was hoping to improve my discipline and organizational skills. Since the HKHTC is, as mentioned, a new and small organization, much of my work is independent, and requires both skills. From larger projects, like the ones mentioned above, to smaller ones, like cataloguing the Centre’s resources, creating a Wikipedia value and more, I am constantly required to show initiative and work on my own to get things done.
As I set out for my last few weeks in Hong Kong, I already feel that I have learnt a lot and can be proud of some of my work. I look forward to continuing my work, and feel that my time here left made a true contribution – both to the goals of the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre, and to my skills and experiences.
“Hello? Hello Ladies?” We had finally made contact with Camilo, FIMRC’s Community Health Coordinator in Alajuelita, Costa Rica. This was one more reminder of how things we take for granted, like internet connectivity, pose a challenge for FIMRC’s remote locations around the globe. After six weeks interning at FIMRC Headquarters in Philadelphia, I am still amazed at how much I learn every day. This morning’s conversation between Camilo, Gauri (another Brandeis student intern) and me was no exception.
Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children, or FIMRC for short, provides healthcare and health education for mothers and children in under-served areas around the world.
“Hi Camilo, how are you?”
“I am very well ladies. It is so good to speak with you.” It became apparent that Camilo treats everyone with the utmost respect and care—not just us, but the patients he treats at the San Felipe Soup Kitchen in Costa Rica as well.
Camilo explained that his role at FIMRC is to provide health education to the Costa Rican residents and mostly Nicaraguan refugees who come through his doors. He teaches them about everything from nutrition to cancer to what to do in an environmental catastrophe. FIMRC puts a huge emphasis on health education, and in the past 6 weeks of interning I’ve come to understand why. The local residents at FIMRC’s seven project sites and other underserved areas around the world suffer from conditions caused by the lack of things we take for granted, like clean water and sanitation. Camilo teaches them basic concepts, such as the value of hand-washing, the food pyramid, and first aid. Prevention, especially in rural areas where the nearest hospital may be hundreds of kilometers away, is critical.
Camilo learns everything he can about his patients—their home situations, children, families, jobs, likes and dislikes—all before being able to treat them. The importance of building personal relationships with the people in the community was reinforced by my supervisor, Taylor, who said that the best way to have an impact is to let your guard down, be able to laugh at yourself and show people that you are invested in learning about them. Thus, a very valuable lesson I have learned from FIMRC is “seek first to understand.”
I asked Camilo how he makes health education fun. I mean, if you ask a child from the United States if they want to sit down and learn about Dengue prevention, they will probably respond with a confused look and an emphatic, “No!” Camilo countered that the people at San Felipe are always interested and engaged, because the living situation in Alajuelita is “very sad.” The people are poor. Many of them come to San Felipe for three meals a day. Some of the mothers are very young, and husbands do not always treat their wives well. So any small, kind gesture makes a difference. The women in Alajuelita know Camilo cares about them and their health, and that show of concern and respect makes the women and kids want to listen.
At FIMRC Headquarters the other interns and I have been engaged in many interesting and important projects for the organization—crunching data, creating surveys, doing cost analyses, and revising a fundraising packet. But it seems to me the victories in each of FIMRC’s sites, where FIMRC implements its mission, are achieved in a more humanistic way. Kindness and an open mind can mean the world to people, and this is a lesson I can apply in the future when I hopefully work abroad in healthcare… maybe even at a job like Camilo’s.
Camilo did an incredible job answering Gauri’s and my questions regarding his job and experiences in Costa Rica, but he seemed to have some difficulty formulating answers. Some feelings, experiences and situations just can’t be put into words. “You’ll understand when you get here. When are you coming?” he asked us. There seemed to be a slight miscommunication in that Gauri and I weren’t actually planning to travel to Costa Rica, as much as I wanted to. I feel that I’ve achieved my goal of learning so much about each of FIMRC’s sites by speaking with FIMRC staff, reading reports, and doing other research, but I’ve come to realize there is only so much I can learn secondhand. I will only truly understand the system once I experience it personally, which reinforces my desire to work abroad in public health someday.
I asked Camilo, “What’s the most rewarding part of your job?”
“My job…how do I say this in English…Seeing that every day people’s lives are improved. FIMRC means the world to them. When they smile, say thank you…they come with open arms and are so happy that FIMRC is here. …Having this work…they humanize you, and they really show you to be grateful for what you have. The kids will bring you small things like bread, or toys, or a smile, invite you into their homes. Working there is reward enough.”
To see Camilo take so much care in a community, while he himself is privileged just having obtained his law degree, was one of the most humbling experiences I’ve had at FIMRC. It’s amazing to see someone do this kind of work, not for money, not to impress others, but because he genuinely cares about the well-being of these people and knows he can make their lives better.
I’m proud and pleased about how much I’ve learned and grown through my internship at FIMRC. Not only have I become comfortable in an office environment and forged amazing relationships with my peers, I’ve learned to see the big picture—that an open mind and heart can go a long way in enriching people’s lives. I believe I have found my purpose in life: to serve and to help those less fortunate than myself through healthcare. This internship is the first step in hopefully a long line of adventures and experiences working in healthcare abroad.
“Alright ladies take care, and see you soon.”
“Yes Camilo, we’ll see you soon,” Gauri and I joked…but part of me hoped we actually would.
Around the world, millions of children and mothers lack proper access to healthcare. Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve health “one child at a time” through a multifaceted approach; outpatient clinics, health education, and partnerships with IGOs and NGOs combine to address the comprehensive health needs of each population. Currently, FIMRC serves 9 specific communities in 7 under-served countries: Costa Rica, Uganda, India, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Peru.
This summer I am interning at the FIMRC Global Headquarters in Philadelphia, PA, working on administrative tasks involved in the coordination of FIMRC projects abroad. This is quite a different perspective from when I volunteered in Peru on a FIMRC trip last February. Organizing volunteer programs takes a lot of work! My current project is compiling statistics from each of the seven project sites. These statistics (which include measures like number of patients treated in FIMRC clinics per month and top causes of clinic visits and number of volunteers) will help us gauge the success of FIMRC’s global health initiatives.
Each health program is uniquely tailored to fit the needs of the community. In Peru, Dengue virus, malaria and other water-borne diseases are common, but they are also preventable. Volunteers give health education talks to children about sanitation and hygiene in order to promote knowledge and prevent disease. In Alajuelita, Costa Rica, the community’s needs are much different. Due to lack of clinical services, FIMRC built a rural health clinic in Alajuelita, and volunteers participate by staffing the clinic (taking measurements, assisting doctors and distributing medication). While their parents work, children age 2-5 in Kodaikanal, India, spend the day in crèches, which are like a combination school/daycare/health center. The children’s families survive on less than $1.50 a day, and as a result many children suffer from malnutrition and consequent illness. FIMRC helps by monitoring child health in the crèches, holding health education sessions for teacher and mothers, and has successfully implemented a dental hygiene campaign and supplemented the children’s diets with protein, like chickpeas and eggs. I was excited to learn that since FIMRC’s intervention, crèche attendance has increased… and the lack of attendance had been largely due to illness! Watch this awesome video (video credit: FIMRC) to experience the unique health needs of Limón, Nicaragua, and how FIMRC projects are helping.
I learned about this internship opportunity through a friend and fellow Brandeis FIMRC chapter e-board member, who enthusiastically told me about her internship experiences at FIMRC Headquarters two summers ago. After applying and visiting HQ over winter break, I was offered an Ambassador position and gladly accepted!
Orientation was on Thursday, May 16. I was pretty anxious, but everyone—the CEO, my supervisor, the 3 other interns—are all super friendly, and my nerves were eased right away. There is even another intern from Brandeis! I’m excited to continue to get to know each of FIMRC’s project sites and understand the process of implementing a global health project, from initial research to the final product, execution of a successful and flourishing health program. In the future my ultimate goal is to work in international healthcare. Even though it has only been a week, my internship at FIMRC has provided me with invaluable insight on global health. I cannot wait to see what the weeks ahead bring.
I imagine that every final post on the WOW blog will be tinged with sadness. And it only makes sense. These internships that we’ve all taken part of have helped all of us grow as professionals, as adults, as human beings. If anything, we’ve discovered more about ourselves and perhaps even figured out what we’d like to do with the rest of our lives. The people we’ve met and the things that we’ve learned have changed us for good.
The final days of my internship were a whirlwind of activity. I’d never felt so busy during my stay. I was flying around making calls, desperately making checklists for the museum’s archives, choosing some works to present in one of the rooms, etc. It seemed that despite everything I did for the museum during my internship, there were always things on my desk that needed to be completed. Even with another intern working with me in the curation department, it was an incredibly trying time. I never did get to finish all my cataloguing on Gustave Charpentier. In the end, I had some assignments that I couldn’t possibly finish without working overtime for four more hours each night and regretfully left them for the next intern to deal with. The Musée de Montmartre’s work is never finished.
My final day in Paris was a sad ordeal as well. I spent it running around, saying goodbye to all of my new loved ones and friends, purchasing trinkets for family at home, and jotting down contact information from everyone I could. There were no tears, though I did sigh a lot thinking about how near my departure was. And as it always goes, as one part of your life ends, you start thinking about what lies ahead.
The internship was over. My time in Paris, a period of my life that feels like a slowly disappearing dream now, was over. And knowing myself, I would start forgetting some of the French that I learned, some of the names of my friends, some of the faces of my past. But what I learned from the internship and my time there will stay with me for a long time. I learned how to deal with a fast-paced work environment. I learned the value of a good day’s work and that a well-oiled team is the most important aspect of a successful operation. I learned more about the inner workings of a museum and the importance of celebrating, not just preserving the past. But I also learned patience, gratitude, and how better to deal with what life throws me. So in the end, I realize that I have achieved my goals that I set out to reach when applying for the World of Work funding. I believe I am more organized, more confident about what I would like to do after my undergraduate career at Brandeis, and more mature as a person.
The exhibition I had been so fervently working on has now started. “Autour du Chat Noir: Arts et Plaisirs à Montmartre 1880-1910” is now on display at the museum and I couldn’t even get to go to the opening. But I never like to keep loose ends. I know I will be back in Paris someday, and that exhibition will be the first thing to cross off my list.
I’ve now been working at Ostional National Wildlife Refuge for more than two months and things have been going great! I’m really starting to get into the flow of things here and feel that I’ve already learned a great deal.
One of the new experiences I’ve had in the past few weeks was the opportunity to see Olive Ridley sea turtle hatchlings during the day. Sea turtles generally hatch at night when fewer predators are on the beach and without the hot sun that can hurt the sensitive hatchlings. Sometimes, however, the hatchlings also emerge around sunrise and I was able to snap the picture below. Seeing how small (fits in the palm of your hand!) and vulnerable the hatchlings are makes me think about how incredible it is that any of these little guys survive long enough to grow to 45 kg. (100 lb.) as adults. For more information about sea turtles, including nesting and hatchling behavior, see this website.
Although I’ve always thought I would enjoy studying biology in the field, this internship has reaffirmed my desire to pursue some sort of biological fieldwork in the future. I am looking forward to applying some of these skills to my work in the Environmental Field Semester JBS program this fall. My other goals for this internship are to learn about the local community and to improve my Spanish vocabulary. I have been able to make a great deal of progress towards these goals in a short period of time.
I am most proud of how well I’ve come to know the beach here at Ostional. Before coming here, I didn’t think much about factors such as the tides, sand texture, vultures and feral animals or beach debris. However, after being here for a few months, I have become increasingly aware of the many facets of the environment here. Much of my work here entails leading groups of volunteers on nightly beach patrols in search of turtles. In my first few weeks as a patrol leader, I struggled to orient myself on the beach at night. Now that I’ve gained some experience, I can recognize many landmarks on the beach, even at night, and know where I am on the beach without having to check with a light.
On July 25th, the province of Guanacaste celebrated the Anniversary of Annexation into Costa Rica. This region of Costa Rica was part of Nicaragua until 1824, when it was annexed by Costa Rica. This event is celebrated every year in the province with a huge festival including traditional dances and a rodeo. I took this photo from the side of a bull ring in the city of Nicoya. For more information about the Annexation of Guanacaste, visit this website.
Even though my future may or may not include sea turtles, the skills I’m building in my work here are definitely applicable to my future. Most importantly, I’ve begun to understand what it takes to undertake science in a field setting. When compared to a laboratory, there are simply so many factors which are beyond scientists’ control, including weather, feral animals, and interference by people. Although work in the field has many challenges, I am excited to continue my internship at Ostional National Wildlife Refuge as I consider engaging in my own field investigations one day.
My mid-point was a time of a turbulent renewal of the social justice protest movement that began in the summer of 2011. At this time, marches calling for social change, specifically for a socially-conscious governmental budget, were organized and highly attended. At Shatil and on the street, there was a feeling of anticipation for another summer of social action. I personally felt excited for Israel and the potential for change, and also about being so involved in the social justice world at a time of change and action. Reading organization-wide conversations about the movement participating in Shatil conferences at the Knesset made me feel meaningfully involved. I felt more than just the high of marching in a protest, I had the feeling of being part of something greater, that had large impact on Israeli society. Shatil’s work with a variety of organizations, truly enables it to have strength in numbers and make meaningful contributions on a range of issues.
Above: Photograph at the one year anniversary of the social justice protest movement in Tel Aviv
One of my learning goals this summer was to learn about the spectrum of civil society organizations and movements in Israel. Through the emails, and renewal of the social justice protest movement, I was able to learn about a range of civil society actors and organizations. Beyond this, I began a new assignment to write short examples of work Shatil has done with various organizations. Through this task I was able to talk both with Shatil consultants and leaders of organizations about the work Shatil and the various organizations do.
One of the skills that I am building right now is writing skills. Many of my responsibilities include writing, either writing for the newsletter (check out this week’s newsletter here) and writing reports for donors. Because of this, my writing abilities have greatly improved. Another skill I have improved is communication. Many of my responsibilities, including writing for the newsletter, updating a volunteer database (check out the database here) and writing case study examples, forced me to call and talk with a range of people. This has helped improve both my language skills, as most of the conversations were in Hebrew, and my communication skills. A skill that I have gained is translation. There have been a few opportunities for me to translate documents from Hebrew into English, which I have enjoyed greatly. Through this I discovered my own gratification from doing translations. These skills are skills that I hope to bring with me to whatever my future job will be.
I am most proud of participating in a Facilitative Leadership seminar. The two-day seminar was taught entirely in Hebrew (although I was also given English materials), and I am very happy that I was able to follow, participate and learn from the seminar. The seminar included the seven practices of facilitative leadership, below.
I have officially begun the countdown until I leave Israel, and although I will miss it dearly, I look forward to returning back to Brandeis. My most important learning goal this summer was to strengthen my skills in research, specifically clinical research. I was able to do this by contributing to two literature reviews on preventive interventions for dealing with violence and trauma. With the goal of eventually working toward my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, gaining this experience was crucial for my career development, and went much beyond my previous experience. I surpassed my original expectations because instead of doing one literature review, I ended up working on two. I was also given the opportunity to help out with a study on designing an intervention for building resilience for at-risk youth, the latter being one of the populations I eventually want to focus on as a psychologist. This has given me insight into cultures other than America and Israel, which was not exactly one of my original learning goals but nevertheless appreciated.
Photo Credit: Traumaweb.org
I am also learning more about evaluating the work of other psychologists, by observing my mentors here in real-time.
The work I have done at the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma this summer will fuel the rest of my time at Brandeis. Specifically, it will put me in “research mode” as preparation for my Honor’s Thesis. It will also inform my academic work as I take courses in the areas I have researched this summer.
There is still a lot left to learn before I am prepared for the next step in my career. I want to gain more experience in research, which I will be able to do with my Honor’s Thesis this year; I also want do get more hands-on work with a clinical population, especially children, adolescents, first responders, and others affected by trauma. Whether working at a medical facility or with children in general, I know that to truly engage myself in this field, I must engage it at all levels, not just research.
For anyone interested in interning at the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, I commend you for your decision to volunteer, and think you will have a blast. The Center does, however, get very busy with many projects. I would therefore advise interested students to research the Center’s work first, which can be viewed here. Once there, see if there is any program or type of work (i.e. research) that most interests you. Then contact one of the psychologists, someone in public affairs, or send them an e-mail. (Contact page located here). Keep trying if you do not hear back at first. And before you reach out, also think about one main project you can focus on. Every volunteer is required to contribute sometime to PR, but the rest can be decided by you and the staff members. While at the Center, I would definitely try to check out the various “Units” of the Center. You will learn not only about trauma and resilience, but all the different ways one can contribute through research, programs, therapy, marketing, and more.
I would not have thought that eight weeks could have gone by so quickly.
I think the experience went above and beyond in fulfilling the learning goals I set at the beginning. Everything, from my tasks in the office to living in Kiev, contributed toward fulfilling those goals. One such goal was to gain professional experience. I was, and still am, interested in working for the U.S. government in some capacity, preferably doing something involving nuclear issues and Eastern Europe, and this internship was excellent. It gave me the opportunity to work for a State Department program and meet U.S. government officials. Through talking with colleagues, I learned how different working for the U.S. government was from working for a Ukrainian government organization, in terms of transparency.
Another of my learning goals was to learn about Eastern Europe. I talked to colleagues at lunch about all sorts of things from Russia’s meddling in the Crimea to the large amount of corruption in the Kiev’s city government. I sampled borsht and vareniki (dumplings) and salo (the national dish, which is pretty much lard), which are cornerstones of Ukrainian cuisine. I had the opportunity to practice speaking Russian, but at work my colleagues spoke very impressive English, so there were no communication problems. Having the opportunity to travel to Moldova offered a unique chance to travel to another former Soviet republic and to learn about Transnistria (Moldova’s eastern territory has declared its independence, but no country recognizes it). This is an excellent Economist article about Transnistria and other similar conflict zones in former Soviet republics. I ended the summer with a much deeper understanding of Ukrainian culture and politics. I won’t forget the excellent summer I spent there or the kindness of the friends I made. Ukraine in the world today
The summer has helped to further cement my interests in nonproliferation and the former Soviet Union, and I hope to continue to interweave those interests with my studies at Brandeis and future internships and jobs. To someone with similar interests, I would say, be willing to take risks. If you are really interested in certain issues, find an organization that deals with them and contact the organization. Even if there is not internship program, inquire about a possible internship. There are a lot of other people interested in international relations-related careers, so I think it is important to build up an impressive and unique resume, something to make you stand out.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to spend the summer in Ukraine. I returned to the US with so many stories and experiences that I will always treasure.
The summer is coming to an end, and I find myself back at home in the US after having completed an amazing experience interning at the art therapy center in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Having completed my internship, I now realize the immense growth that has come along with it. I arrived in South Africa alone, without knowing anyone, and I left with friends, new ideas, and a new culture. The time I spent there seems completely unreal. I alone was in charge of organizing and executing the Holiday Programme. I prepared all the logistics in advance and during the program made sure everything ran smoothly. I then wrote a report that I presented to my supervisor, the director of the organization, which will be sent to all the funders who supported this program. Throughout the duration of it, I was also privileged to see great facilitators at work with a group of mixed adolescents from all over the city. Some were HIV+, others were orphans, and the rest were living in a condemned building. Seeing these children and the energy they bring, makes you question how and why so many of them have been abused.
My goals were to learn about art therapy and the ways it can be applied. By watching different counselors and observing several ranges of age groups, I did just that. I also wanted to figure out if this could be a potential career choice and I now realize how much more I connect to art therapy as opposed to art education. Working with these specific children going through such difficult circumstances makes me realize how much work still needs to be done to improve their lives. Two months of work, is not nearly enough to transform their whole living environment, which is what I most want to do for these groups. It made it difficult to come back, knowing that the work with these groups is only beginning, and I still want to be a part of it. As I look to my course schedule, I will have to factor in more psychology courses in order to be better prepared to enter into an art therapy masters program. I want to learn more about art therapy, in order to be as skilled as the facilitators with whom I worked, and come back to Lefika with a degree and be able to lead my own groups.
To a student interested in an internship at Lefika, I have several suggestions. Before coming, be sure to research more about art therapy and the different approaches to it. Almost all of the past interns have come with a masters degree in art therapy, which means that the directors are used to being able to hand over entire projects to interns and have them manage them. This was one of the hardest aspects for me because of the immense responsibility with little supervision. Another suggestion is to try to organize your trip around one of training workshops the center runs and the Holiday Programme. The workshop gave me an introduction to how art therapy is done at Lefika, which prepared me for working with the actual groups; and the Holiday Programme has groups running from 8 AM to 3 PM every day versus regular school sessions of only a few hours of therapy groups each week.
Traveling through Johannesburg is in itself another mission- there is no safe or reliable public transportation and distances in the city are quite far from each other. I managed to get around by making good friends who would pick me up, an amazing host family who really welcomed me, and occasionally calling taxis. You can rent a car, but driving is on the other side of the road and some areas are dangerous to even pass through.
All in all, however, my time spent interning at Lefika La Phodiso and living in Johannesburg were completely unbelievable and unforgettable! I learned so much and am so thankful to have been given such an amazing opportunity! If you have any more questions feel free to ask!!
Having fully adjusted to the Thai work ethic of ‘sabai sabai’ (which roughly translates to: chill! relax!) I have quite a few weeks of art class under my belt, and loads to report!
In the developing stages of my project (recap: teaching art as a method of creative emotional expression for at risk youth in northern Thailand), I was told by mentors, peers and fellow travelers to keep my expectations low. Between the vast cultural differences, trials and tribulations of monsoon season in Thailand, and a lack of previous exposure to creative thinking, most people I spoke to before starting off were skeptical that my plans would carry through as expected. That being said, I entered into this project with the lowest expectations I could muster, and I have been beyond rewarded as a result. Not only do the kids leap at the opportunity to start new projects and share their work, but the depth of the meaning and communicative quality of the art is astounding.
The way my internship is scheduled, I get a few hours every day to lead an after school program, unfolding small tips and tricks for translating thoughts and feelings into color and form. So far the kids have completed the first part of the curriculum “Exploring the self”, which included collages on the cover of their ‘artist journals’, using patterns to explain their personalities on their ‘magic wish boxes’ (a small box where they keep written reminders of their wishes, hopes and dreams for a rainy day), and most importantly their symbloist+expressionist self portraits, where they had to combine a portrait like Frida Kahlo (showing ‘things I like’) and Picasso (showing ‘things I feel’). The outcome of this last project was extraordinarily rewarding for both the kids and myself. Many of them talk around after school carrying the portraits around to show their friends and whatever visitors and volunteers stop by. We’ll be sending the portraits over to Sold’s gallery in San Francisco to raise awareness for the project.
Now we’re knee deep into the second area of curriculum ‘Express Yourself!’ Last weekend we learned about different music genres and the ‘colors and shapes’ different kinds of music can generate. The kids were divided into groups and had to paint their feet the ‘colors’ of the music and dance on giant sheets of paper. At the end of the day, every smiling face was covered with paint, but there’s no better evidence of a good art project than a big mess!
In my Wow application, most of my learning goals and hopes for the summer revolved around developing a way to communicate with the children I was working with, and to get my purpose across in a culture to which my lessons are entirely foreign. So far, between my growing connections with the students and staff members, the marvelous work the kids are creating with me and on their own, and the (often heartbreaking) stories that are beginning to unfold themselves, I’ve discovered that cultural barriers don’t stand a chance against the inherent ability to express creative thought. I can’t wait to keep this train going as I think up more ways in which to share the gift of creativity with those who need it most!
A lot has happened during these past weeks. In the Economic Section, I finally finished working on a fundraising project I was helping manage for the Embassy’s annual 4th of July party. The project was a huge success. We raised more that what we needed to cover the party’s expenses. The remaining funds will be used for the Embassy’s Election Night celebration in November. The party was also a huge success. Over 3,500 people attended, and there was live music, performances, and a lot of good food and drinks! The nicest moment of the party was when a combined group of U.S. and Spanish Marines presented both countries’ flags to the Ambassador and his wife.
Photo: US Embassy Madrid
Now that the project is finished, I have been assigned new and exciting tasks like writing meeting briefs for the Ambassador and writing reports about economic laws. Meeting briefs are used to orient the Ambassador and give him relevant background and context before an official meeting, informing him about the person and organization. To compose the briefs, I go through press articles, official websites, and use other information resources to research the individual. I have also been working on copyright and intellectual property legislation issues, researching and writing reports for the Embassy’s deputy economic counselor about American and Spanish laws, and cooperation in the field between the countries.
Photo: US Embassy Madrid
Last week, I transitioned from the Visa unit to the American Citizen Services (ACS) unit in the Consulate. A lot of the work in ACS is related to law. I am in charge of the emergency telephone line, which is the line that Americans can call if they find themselves in distress. The purpose of the calls are very varied and interesting, and require me to respond in a quick and effective manner, and know a lot about Embassy resources and Spanish law. It has been my responsibility to follow up with a variety of agencies, such as the police or international law organizations, all the while keeping clients up-dated about their inquiries.
Time is going by so fast – I can’t believe I only have one month left! Feel free to ask any questions about my work, the Embassy in general, Spain, or anything else!
This June and July I am interning/volunteering with Unite For Sight (UFS) in Ghana.
Unite For Sight is a non-profit organization that empowers communities worldwide to improve eye health and eliminate preventable blindness. UFS partners with local eye clinics in three developing countries: Honduras, India, and Ghana. Patients receive free eye care and surgeries funded by UFS so that no patient suffers due to lack of financial resources. In addition to being a leader in providing cost-effective care to the world’s poorest people, UFS’ Global Health University trains and nurtures the next generation of global health leaders.
As a Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow, I am to assist the local eye clinics with any of their needs and participate in urban and rural community outreaches. My specific responsibilities include: registering patients (taking down introductory information like name, age, gender), conducting visual acuity screenings (testing the seeing power of each eye, one-at-a-time), distributing eyeglasses alongside the dispensing optician (reading glasses, distance glasses, sunglasses), writing receipts for patients who purchase eyeglasses and/or medications, and entering said patients’ data into the eye clinic’s database for tracking and referral purposes (chief complaint, primary diagnosis, doctor’s prescription, etc). We are also required to fundraise monies for surgeries, collect eyeglasses for the eye clinics to distribute, and complete Global Health & Impact training in preparation for our travels abroad.
I came across Unite for Sight on the “Pre-Health Advising” page of the Brandeis University website two summers ago. I discovered that at least three other Brandeis students had participated in this same program and so I reached out specifically to one of these students and asked for his thoughts. He could say nothing but great things about UFS, and recommended that I apply…and so the rest is history!
My first week with Unite For Sight was not too much of a surprise. I was required to complete the Global Health & Impact training long before I even stepped foot on the plane, so I was already familiar with many of the eye clinics, their staffs, and their global health delivery models. I spent my first week engaging in outreach work with North Western Eye Centre and three other American volunteers. We worked with communities in the Greater Accra and Central Regions of Ghana and saw anywhere from 50 to 80 patients a day. I quickly learned the difference in diagnosing many of the eye pathologies I encountered in training, (i.e. a corneal scar versus a cataract), and bonded with the team of optometrists, nurses, interns, drivers, and other volunteers.
My learning expectations for this summer are to engage in my coursework through hands-on experiences in the field of public health. As a Health: Science, Society, and Policy major, I am expected to fulfill a “hands on experience,” which grants me the opportunity to engage academic material experientially in a setting related to either health or health care. After venturing to and from Ghana, I will have come away with a stronger understanding of the social determinants of health and disease and the impacts of social inequality on health in Ghana, by having become part of a global health organization that initiates sustainable health care frameworks in the developing world.
Want to learn more about Unite For Sight and/or Ghana? Please check out the links below:
It’s been about a month since I first started my internship at the trauma center, and since then I have been exposed to many activities that have allowed me to work on my goals for this summer. Academically, I started the summer knowing I needed more experience doing clinical research in order to properly prepare myself for a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology later on. I have been able to measure my progress through the number of studies I have found, analyzed and included in my literature. So far this number has climbed to over 100 articles, and I am sure it will climb higher over the next few weeks.
The trauma center has given me opportunity to interact with professionals across the trauma field, from psychologists to fellow volunteers, to people working the public relations front. I am learning a lot about each of these sectors and how they interact to form a complete organization aimed at preventing, treating, and building resilience to trauma. I have tracked my progress in this area by the amount and length of interactions I have had with the various professionals at the Center.
My personal goals are probably the area where I have met with the most success so far. With such kind people, I see more and more why I love my time at the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma alone. For example, last week we held a fund raiser and I was assigned the role of “camera guy.” I knew a little about film, thanks to a class offered at Brandeis University, but I still had trouble with the technology. The ICTP staff’s response was immediate, and they offered not only help but feedback that was constructive and positive. They also drove me part-way back home, even though we finished our day’s work after 10:00 P.M. that night.
Photo Credit: Amos Nachoum
I think I am most proud of the fact that I have come to a place that affords me not only the type of career I want to have, but the type of individual I want to be: professional yet humble, conservative with evidence yet open-minded to creative ideas for trauma interventions. I have worked and wished for years for a place where I could find even one of these. Now that I have both, I feel that a serene sense of balance has taken over.
My work at the trauma center has helped me build new skills in storytelling through video, helped me improve my Hebrew, allowed me to work on research skills, honed my filming skills originally learned at at a class at Brandeis, and has bolstered my ability to pitch ideas. My improved Hebrew will also help me with my coursework, as I intend on taking at least one Hebrew course in addition to the amount required. My film skills will help me secure other ways of helping out at future events of the trauma center, and will also help me in searching for jobs that require a variety of skills. Lastly, to build a career in research, or even to give myself a voice in any campus, being able to effectively pitch and communicate my ideas will be an invaluable skill.
Shalom from Jerusalem! I am just about to finish my first week of interning for the Jewish Eco Seminars and so far it has been a fantastic experience!
The Jewish Eco Seminars engages the Jewish community by educating people about the powerful outcomes of combining ecological innovation, Jewish values, and modern Israel. The organization reaches people in Israel, as well as North and South America. It is one of the branches of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, which works to foster dialogue between the religious leaders and communities in Jerusalem on the topic of environmental issues. The Jewish Eco Seminars provides a great deal of opportunities and information. They offer many programs and trips ranging from exploring Israeli organic farming and learning about the country’s water problems to learning how to build with mud and much more!
Jewish Eco Seminars is based out of a small office (converted apartment) in the Nachlaot neighborhood in Jerusalem – less than a 5 minute walk from the Machane Yehuda Shuk (open market – see photo)! Most of the work that I have been doing this week is inside the office, though, occasionally some of the work involves going out a bit.
At the beginning of the week I was given the option of many possible tasks to work on. They ranged from publicity to research to video editing and more. I chose to spend my week focusing on fundraising because it was something that I’d never experienced before. This week I have been researching potential donors and providing my supervisor with information about them. I look for information such as where people and foundations already donate their money and what their interests are, and from this determine whether I think we may have a connection. Next, we get in touch with the groups who seem interesting and set up a time to meet with them. Before each meeting, we do more research on the group or person so that we will have a complete background knowledge of their previous actions in order to connect on a higher level and better understand them. I have learned so much just in this one week! Next week I plan on continuing some of the fundraising work and also exploring more projects!
On a different note, two years ago, the Jewish Eco Seminars was founded by PresenTense, an organization that helps Jewish innovators to use “their ideas and energy to revitalize the established Jewish community.” I came across Jewish Eco Seminars while speaking with a friend who is involved with PresenTense. I emailed the director expressing interest in interning with them and after a meeting/interview we realized that we were a great match for each other. After college I hope to become a Jewish environmental educator so I quickly realized that this internship would be great for me to gain experience in my field!
In addition, I’d like to share with you a great video that the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development released last week in conjunction with the Rio+20 UN Earth Summit. Click here to watch One Home!
After a week of roaming around and getting acclimated to Thai time, weather, food and extremely relaxed atmosphere, I am finally all settled in at my home-stay in Chiang Rai. Before I begin gushing about my experiences, let me give you a short debriefing on The Sold Project, and my own ambitions and responsibilities for the summer.
The Sold Project is an NGO here in Chiang Rai that works to provide scholarships for local children who cannot afford the cost of education. Additionally, Sold has a resource center very close to the main school systems outside of Chiang Rai where children are exposed to extracurricular opportunities in English, computers, writing and local social justice issues. Through scholarship money paid by Sold’s donors and the constant dedication and hard work of the on-site staff, Sold’s scholarship recipients are not only receiving an enriched education, but a ticket out of being sold into human trafficking as a means to support their families. Here’s a page explaining the facts of human trafficking in Southeast Asia.
I was invited to intern at Sold after developing a program for teaching emotional expression through visual art. Though many of the students come from traumatic and abusive backgrounds, Thai culture does not allow for any external indication of negative feelings, anxieties or experiences. My objective for the program this summer is to introduce Sold’s students to the possibility of using art as a vehicle for expressing their feelings in a culturally acceptable manner. If all goes according to plan, by the end of the summer program participants will have an ‘artistic toolbox’ to carry forward and use to express themselves in the future.
Yesterday was my first day on site. Though the day was mainly focused on planning logistics and meeting the Thai staff, it was full of adventure and excitement nonetheless. First, the Thai staff put their heads together to come up with my Thai nickname that would be easy for the kids to say and remember. After quite a few minutes of deliberation, they named me Nam Wan, which is Thai for sweet water. After I’d been initiated we all did some brainstorming for how the program would begin, and deciding which Thai staff member would be giving me morning Thai lessons. We then briefly met the kids at the school. At the first sight of ‘Phalong’, or foreigners, the kids’ eyes lit up and we immediately became lumbering jungle-gyms for masses of 4 and 5 year old girls.
We walked with the children up to the village where many of them live. The village is small, incredibly rural, and nestled cozily into the mountainous jungle. There are gorgeous butterflies and flowers everywhere- it was hard to believe that the families in these homes would consider selling their children.
This next week I will continue to plan my curriculum and meet the enormous community of creative and artistic travelers that have come to this city and never left. I’m incredibly excited to see how the kids (and community) respond to the art program, and can’t wait to navigate the unexpected twists and turns in the road that are sure to arise!
After 20 hours of travel, three flights, two layovers, and one baby to throw up on my shirt, I finally arrived at my apartment in Asuncion, Paraguay. Despite the lengthy trip and an urgent need to shower, I felt profoundly excited and humbled by the thought that all the planning and effort I had committed to this internship was finally coming into fruition; that is, that I was actually here and about to begin this opportunity to learn and work in a different country and language.
I am working for an organization called “Fundacion Paraguaya,” and its mission is to, “promote entrepreneurship, enabling people of limited resources to create jobs and increase their family income.” Fundacion Paraguaya, or la Fundacion as it is referred to here, was formed in 1985 out of the desire of civil leaders to take action to combat the severe poverty that plagued much of the nation – a problem strongly perceived as having been too long neglected by the government. This non-profit organization has three distinct programs to help families improve their economic situations – Microfinance, Junior Achievement, and the Agriculture school. While the details of each program differ, essentially each one teaches basic business theory and responsible decision-making to enable participants with the skills and confidence needed to start a business. Through training and eventually financial assistance through microloans, the ultimate goal is that each participant can create a sustainable source of income and free themselves from day-to-day struggles (read more).
Due to my interest in economics, I have decided to work within the Microfinance department. In my first few days in the office, I have been reading materials and accompanying co-workers in their activities to improve my understanding of how the program is organized and functions. The most powerful experience so far has been attending a meeting of a group of women entrepreneurs. The 15-20 women who comprise the group have all received business education and microloans from la Fundacion to start their own operations, and are assigned an advisor for guidance. The group requires that each woman have a distinct business, so that in the case that one of the members in unable to repay her microloan that meeting, the other members, working in different markets, are more likely to be able to assist her in repaying her due.
Aside from a practical purpose, the group also functions as a support system as the women share the challenges they face as well as positive moments in their lives. At this meeting I had the chance to see how the meetings are conducted as well as to speak one-on-one with women about their experiences in the group. I am still processing all that I have learned from this experience, but it was profoundly humbling – the warmth and friendliness that was tangible among these women was incredible, and I am finding that these aspects seem characteristic of almost all the people I have met in Asuncion in general.
Next week, I will be looking to form my own project for the summer. Ideally, I would like to follow the model of the micro-franchise program already established at la Fundacion to find a business model that is simple enough to understand quickly, generate income for entrepreneurs, and in some way promote good health for its users. Until next post!
By this time, I have completed almost two weeks of my internship at the Asia Tea Company Limited. Asia Tea Co., Ltd. is a leading tea manufacturer and exporter in Vietnam, after three months of searching for internships in the tea industry. Asia Tea Co., Ltd. processes and produces fresh tea buds as well as high-quality black tea—the most popular type of tea sold in the world. It exports over 7,000 tons of tea each year to more than twenty nations in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. It owns numerous tea plants and factories in the highland region of Vietnam, and employs thousands of workers. The company is unique among Vietnamese tea corporations because it not only aims at making high profits, but also strives to promote Vietnamese tea culture abroad and foster the domestic tea industry.
I spent about three months last year, from October to December, searching for an internship in the Vietnamese tea industry over the summer. Fortunately, last November, I came across the website of Asia Tea Co., Ltd. In December, I submitted my resume for a summer internship position as a Market Analyst. After reviewing my application, the CEO interviewed me via phone. We discussed my interests in economics and tea, and how I would contribute to the company. Several days later, the CEO offered me an internship.
As a Market Analyst at Asia Tea Co., Ltd., I will collect and analyze empirical data about foreign markets, and write weekly reports for the company. I will also build complicated charts about supply-demand and cost-revenue. In the modern business world, quantitative methods and computer skills are extremely important. I hope to master statistical and econometric techniques as well as advanced software applications such as STATA, Excel, and XLSTAT-PRO after the summer. I also want to learn to negotiate contracts in a professional way under the supervision of the CEO.
On the first day of my internship at the company, I was both excited and worried. I did not know how everything would go and how people would think about me. But the friendliness of the CEO and other members of the company impressed me. Everything went so well. The CEO introduced me to the staff and provided me basic information about the operation of the company. During the first two weeks, I primarily learned to use computer software programs, and to collect and analyze empirical data about foreign markets. On the following week, I would work on the project of analyzing a foreign market the CEO chooses.
After the first weeks at the company, I have learned a great deal about the tea industry and the methods of analyzing empirical data in the real world. After the summer, I want to have a deeper understanding of the tea industry in Vietnam, expand my networking contacts in the industry, and learn more about the art of management. In the future, I hope that I can contribute to the development of the Vietnamese tea industry.
My first week in Israel brought with it a hot environment outside, but a warm one inside my internship site. The staff at the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma are some of most humble, kind, and compassionate people I have ever met. And, being from Brandeis, this is saying a lot!
The mission of the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma is multifold. Besides offering direct treatment to survivors of trauma, they also implement programs to help individuals and communities build psychological resilience in the face of great trauma. Based in Jerusalem, Israel, the Center’s work extends across the globe. Within Israel, they work with an array of survivors, from survivors of terrorist attacks to medics and soldiers who served in elite combat units. Outside Israel, they help implement programs for children as well as adults survivors, including countries such as Haiti and the United States following Hurricane Katrina. On top of all this, a large part of what they do involves researching intervention strategies.
As an intern at the Center, my primary responsibility is to assist with research in the Child & Adolescence Clinical Services Unit. I am working on my own research project as well as on a special YouTube video the Center is creating. In addition, I also assist with PR activities.
The process of securing my internship was straightforward. I had worked at the Center before, and was still in touch with my former supervisor. After corresponding via e-mail for a few weeks, we worked out a plan for a main project and supplemental work I could do for this summer. After that, it was only a matter of staying focused on my goals and securing funding. Thanks to WOW, I am here now, doing exactly what I hoped to be doing.
My first week involved very little turbulence. I struggled a bit with jet lag and had to fight to stay awake on at least one afternoon, however my passion for this type of work (and dousing my face with a little cold water) literally washed my fatigue away. Getting a grasp on my Hebrew has been challenging, but day by day I become more comfortable with the language.
The summer has already proved to be an exciting one, and I am still only in its first stretches. I expect to increase my research experience this summer, but also to gain new experiences in combining media with psychology and meeting other volunteers at the Center. Also important, I hope to correspond with several people in the Center, and learn more about this type of profession, psychology in Israel, and what my career options are for the future.
My name is Ivan and I am a rising junior majoring in Economics and International & Global Studies. This summer I am interning for the United States Department of State Foreign Service at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, Spain. The Foreign Service carries out American foreign policy around the world. Its mission is to promote peace, development, and democracy abroad for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.
I have wanted to intern for the Foreign Service since I was a senior in high school, when I learned about the internship opportunity through the Department of State website. When the application period opened last November, I worked closely with career counselors at Hiatt to make sure that my application reflected strong candidacy. I applied to the internship online and was offered a position in December upon receiving security clearance. After completing extensive paperwork and being interviewed by federal investigators, I successfully received my security clearance and a final offer during early March. The Embassy in Madrid is divided into five different sections: management, economic, political, public affairs, and consular. I am working at the consular and economic sections.
The consular section is divided in the Visas unit and the American Citizen Services unit (ACS). Visas is in charge of processing both immigrant and non-immigrant visas for foreign nationals who wish to travel to the United States. ACS takes care of American citizens in Spain, from processing new passports to going on prison visits and handling abduction cases. I am currently working in Visas assisting consuls in processing an average of 200 daily visa requests. I work with the general public receiving cases, entering passport data, and taking fingerprints.
The economic section works mainly with the Spanish government to handle the current economic crisis, but also works on issues of energy, sustainability, economic development, and elaborates reports on the economy that are later sent to Washington. I am currently working on a fundraising project for the Embassy’s annual 4th of July party. This is the largest and most important event of the Embassy, with around 3,000 attendees ranging from World War II veterans to Spanish government officials and foreign diplomats. I work with an Economic Officer soliciting financial support from both American and Spanish businesses. I organize and update all information using a spreadsheet and personally speak with business executives on behalf of the Embassy about the event and financial support. I also contribute to the daily economic press report that is sent back to the U.S. by reading articles from local newspapers and summarizing them.
So far, my experience at the Embassy has been absolutely wonderful. During the first week, I met with officers from all around the Embassy. These meetings, which ranged from health unit personnel to diplomatic security special agents, were a great opportunity to ask a lot of questions and to understand the bigger picture of how the Embassy carries out its mission. All officers are very nice and approachable, and they really make an effort to integrate interns and answer all of our questions. I had the chance to meet with the chiefs of the Visa and ACS units, the Deputy Chief of Mission, the Consul General, and many other very experienced officers who were highly interesting to talk to. It was also especially interesting talking to the General Services officer, who explained how housing for U.S. diplomats is arranged. With regards to work, I was fully integrated into the staff and was working in a fairly independent manner. I feel I have already gained a lot of valuable and insider knowledge about the Foreign Service and American diplomacy in general. I have also improved my multitasking, data analysis, communication, and customer service skills. Hopefully, I will have a deep understanding of the mission and dynamics of the U.S. Foreign Service and a clear view of what a career as a Foreign Service Officer is like by the end of the internship. I will network across every Section of the Embassy to better understand its functioning and its overall mission in Spain, and will continue to develop my work skills.
Feel free to ask any questions about the Embassy, the Foreign Service, Spain, or anything else!
Last week I began my internship in Lefika La Phodiso: The Art Therapy Centre. It is a non-profit organization in Johannesburg, South Africa that focuses on aiding individuals affected by racism, abuse, trauma, and violence through art therapy. Lefika’s mission is to reduce violence, dependence, and poverty, and whatever else comes their way.
Securing this internship is a story on its own. My search criteria focused on diverse locations that could incorporate my passion for foreign cultures and working with children. I knew I wanted to work in the field of art therapy; however, most organizations did not offer internships or summer employment opportunities. Eventually, I found Lefika La Phodiso: The Art Therapy Centre, an organization that encompassed everything I was looking for. After sending my resume, cover letter, and speaking over Skype; I was offered a summer intern position beginning in May.
There is so much that can be done at Lefika, that I have the opportunity to work in many different sections. Every week I will be receiving weekly trainings with other art counselors. Each counselor runs their own group and I will be helping them with their projects as needed. My main focus though, will be running and managing the School Holiday Program. This is a two-week-long program that runs daily from 8 am to 4 pm while schools are on vacation. It addresses a time when children are out of school and receive less adult supervision, and they are as the center states, “most vulnerable and at risk.” The children who attend this program are living in a condemned building and come from environments where issues of racism, HIV and AIDS, violence, and abuse are present. This Holiday Program will not only give them adult supervision, but also allow them to express themselves through the medium of art, an important outlet when facing difficult times. I will also be working with the guardians and siblings of these children throughout my stay.
Mural from a Previous Holiday Program
My first week was an amazing experience. I arrived and immediately began training with therapists and psychologists who came to Johannesburg especially for this course. It was an intensive five day all day course, in which as a group we explored the possibilities of art therapy. We connected theory and practice in an experiential learning environment (very Brandeisian). Being in a new country alone, it also introduced me to local South Africans. I have found Joburg (as they say here) to be a very friendly place. In the group, almost everyone offered to take me out and show me around the city, and the other day as I walked to the supermarket to buy food for the week, everyone in the streets waved and said hi.
Art Therapy Training Workshop
I tried to come without many expectations and only an open mind. I do however hope to have fun, explore Johannesburg, meet new people and learn about the range of art therapy and how it can affect others. I look forward to the experience that awaits.