Todos Somos Esperanza: A Summer of Social Justice in San Antonio

I finished my summer internship at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center in San Antonio, Texas last Friday, August 19th. It was a (dare I say) fun and educational experience that taught me about San Antonio, myself, and social justice.

I met my learning goals in that I learned more about water justice and environmental issues in San Antonio. I especially learned how communities interact, shape, and benefit (or not) from the many aspects of “environment”—health, schools, safety, neighborhood cohesiveness, and gentrification, along with natural elements such as water and air quality. While I went in with a general context of my home city, I explored causes and effects of various environmental issues by working with people and policies.  This meant that I needed to do extra research, and push harder to keep informed about various topics like affordable housing rates, San Antonio’s history of ‘urban renewal’, impact fees, and more.

screenshot of the SA Tomorrow hearing
Screencap of my presentation, 8/11/16.Video

I’m most proud of my growth in public speaking. I have always dreaded public speaking and I managed to avoid it for part of the summer, despite the encouragement from Esperanza’s director from the get-go. I avoided saying anything at the first few community meetings, including the one that I helped plan. Eventually, I had to start phone banking and reaching out to community members for events. Then, I had to prepare to speak about affordable housing and the SA Tomorrow Plan. I was nervous speaking both times in front of the Housing Commission and even more nervous my first time in front of the San Antonio City Council.  I ended with a presentation on impervious cover, something I believed needed to stay in the already weakened SA Tomorrow Sustainability Plan. The director of the Esperanza told me that every time we speak to advocate for change, it is a gift to the community. I’d like to think that my voice along with those of other allies helped push for community and environmental justice in San Antonio.

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Staff and interns at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, Summer 2016.

I think my summer internship at the Esperanza Peace & Justice center helped affirm my interest in community organizing and social justice work. I enjoyed working in a collaborative community with other interns and with other staff members. The work reflected communities we were trying to serve (and that people were from). On a personal note, I learned intersections of my identity such as class, being Mexican-American/Tejana, and queerness. I also learned that community members must be included in social justice work and must be empowered to make change in affected communities; otherwise, those trying to advocate for change follow the same pattern of patronismo—saying that they are doing things for people’s “own good” without actually consulting those affected—as the current forces in power. I learned that while I like working well in a collaborative setting, I should structure my own time a little better.

My advice for someone seeking to work at the Esperanza is that flexibility is key. Oftentimes, Esperanza and our team of interns had to work with various people. Sometimes people would side on progressive issues, who usually would not; other times we watched presumably liberal city council representatives vote for more conservative measures. Dealing with community members often required all sorts of flexibility, like speaking Spanish or talking about another event that wasn’t originally on the phone banking script or trying to explain the concept of privilege. Time-wise, we would often have to drop or focus less on certain projects if other events came up, such as votes on an affordable housing bond or even building maintenance. Everyone had their own schedule but we would share what they were working on, either at staff meetings or debriefs with the intern supervisor.

Also, the nature of the Esperanza Peace & Justice (and hopefully other community/social justice organizations) is to acknowledge and fight against oppression from all angles. This means it was difficult to focus on a single issue—I was involved in “Queer Corazones” outreach, a gentrification event called “Take Back Our City, affordable housing meetings, phone banking for different cultural performances, along with my “primary” focus on SA Tomorrow. I went in thinking that I would focus on one issue, but I ended up with a taste of different types of experiences.

Overall, my summer at the Esperanza was an amazing one. I learned different skills that I can take with me on campus and beyond and hopefully I will be able to return next summer and for years to come.

Anastasia Christelles, ’18

Social Justice WOW Fellow

11 Weeks Later

Two and a half months after setting foot on the University of Massachusetts campus for the first time, I’m back at Brandeis for my senior year. From everything, I believe that I have gained an immense amount of knowledge about how a small non-profit runs. Going into this internship, I had little idea about the amount of work that each staff member puts into the organization every day. And although I did not conduct much research, from staff meetings, talking with other interns, and all the work I was coming in contact with, I learned a lot more about the field. I learned about new wars, masculinities, peacekeeping operations, and micro-finance, among many other interesting topics relevant to my studies at Brandeis.

The experience I had this summer was also the first time that I had the chance to work in the non-profit sector, and it has solidified my belief that working in a non-profit sector is something that I would like to pursue after graduation. Working at this internship for the summer was also the first time I had the responsibility of maintaining a full-time position. I executed my tasks to the best of my ability and believe from that I gained time management skills and a greater sense of responsibility.

From working with the Consortium, I had the chance to fine-tune my organizational skills. I was on the Cloud Organization team, which I happily signed up for after hearing about the project at the beginning of the summer. More importantly, I have become more detail oriented after working on many of the projects that required me to do so. For example, I was on the Website Accuracy team, which performed checks on website nodes that are part of the Research Hub on the Consortium’s website.

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One last lunch with the interns

 

One part of the internship that I really enjoyed was when we took the time out of a staff meeting to discuss application processes, which were relevant to many, if not all of the interns. Fellow interns and the staff shared advice on applying to various positions, whether it’s a job or an internship. Entering my senior year, and seeking employment after graduation, I’m grateful to have picked up resume and interview tips that will be helpful very soon.

After having had this experience with the Consortium, I’m interested in working with another nonprofit. I would like to gather even more new experiences and see how work is being done in different organizations within the nonprofit sector. If there is anyone interested in gender and security issues or working closely with a small nonprofit organization, I would highly recommend that they apply to intern with the Consortium. Particularly for international relations students, the Consortium presents issues that are very relevant to their field, but rarely discussed.

From participating in this internship, I know that the nonprofit sector is in my future. I saw the passion and the drive that the staff at the Consortium had that they applied to their work and hope to one day also be part of the change for greater social justice.

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View overlooking the water outside UMB

Thank you WOW for such a great summer!

Iris Lee ’15

As One Internship Ends, the Work is Just Beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Shimon Mazor ‘16

My Last Week at Stepping Stones

My last week at Stepping Stones was quite interesting. We organized a summer camp for a group of college students from the US. They had the opportunity to teach five English lessons to migrant children in west Shanghai, take the children on a field trip, learn Shanghai opera and calligraphy, and interact with local youths. One of my responsibilities was to organize a field trip. We chose to go to the Shanghai Auto Museum. The museum offered guided tours, but we also wanted to design extra activities that could bond the migrant children with the American students. I designed a scavenger hunt. We divided the children into fourteen groups of four. Each group was led by one American student. Each group was given a worksheet. They needed to find the corresponding cars in the museum using the clues from the worksheet. I wrote the rules of the activity a week before and had them approved by my colleagues and the museum. I announced the rules before the activity started, stressing that safety was the priority. The activity was very successful. Every child was involved, and some of them were very excited. I saw groups of students running up and down the museum to find the cars. At the end of the activity, we gave prizes to the winning teams. Other children got souvenirs from the museum. I prepared some extra questions for the scavenger hunt, so Stepping Stones could use them in their future trips to the Auto Museum. From the written feedback, I know that the American students loved the activity as well. However, a few of them complained that the activity was a bit disorganized. To avoid this problem, I could have gathered the American students before the activity and given them tips on how to organize the children effectively.

Besides the field trip, I was also involved in the youth meeting and the opera class. I acted as the translator. While translating, I also learned that, despite the difference of educational background, Chinese and American young people have many in common. For instance, their topics of discussion ranged from online shopping to the urban development. They are interested in food as well as fairy tales.

The end of the summer camp also marked the end of my ten-week internship at Stepping Stones. In these ten weeks, I coordinated a summer program, helped to edit a documentary for the organization, wrote lesson plans for volunteers, helped a professor to conduct her research, met lots of people, and explored my area of interest. These projects have improved my working skills. I learned how to coordinate a program, how to use Premiere Pro to make a decent video, and how to interview a person effectively. By observation, I also learned how to write a newsletter and an annual report for an NGO. All of these skills may come in handy in my future career.

Interning with Stepping Stones offered me the opportunity to see an NGO from an insider’s perspective. It is fascinating to see how a small organization helps thousands of disadvantaged children with their English studies. It is also excited to see that many of the children’s English grades have improved significantly after they participated in Stepping Stones’ programs. This internship has reinforced my belief in social justice. Children, no matter where they are born, should have equal access to education. If the government cannot reach that goal, the civil society, including corporations and nonprofit organizations, should play a major role. Since I enjoy working with Stepping Stones so much, I am considering working in the NGO or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) sector in the future. The director of Stepping Stones forwarded us an invitation from the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai to attend a CSR seminar organized by them in July (this summer). The keynote speakers included the CSR managers from Citi China, WalMart Global Sourcing, and Abbott China. I learned how multinational corporates operate their CSR programs in China and what their achievements are. Since I learned about CSR in my year abroad, I had the opportunity to apply the theories in real world and take in the seminar critically.

My suggestion for those who are also interested in working with NGOs is that they should not come to an NGO with nothing but a determination to “help others”. They should research about the field that the NGO works in beforehand. That is why Stepping Stones require all volunteers and interns to attend a mandatory 4-hour orientation. In this orientation, we learned about the general situation of migrant children in China as well as teaching techniques. In addition, it is likely that the people who work for NGOs gain more than the beneficiaries do. Therefore, one should be modest when working with the beneficiaries. After all, it is a great field to work in. The fulfillment that one gets from working with NGOs and other charity programs is priceless.

Now I am back in Brandeis. I miss every bit of my time in Shanghai. I will stay in touch with Stepping Stones and the lovely people I met there. This internship is definitely one of the highlights of my college life.

Thanks for the Memories, FIMRC!

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.

-Erica Granor ’15

“Working There is Reward Enough”

“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.

FIMRC Interns and Staff at HQ
FIMRC Interns and Staff at HQ

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.

A mural painted by FIMRC volunteerson the wall of the FIMRC clinic in Alajuelita
A mural painted by FIMRC volunteers on the wall of the FIMRC clinic in Alajuelita

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.

A child enjoying an ice cream cone outside of the FIMRC clinic in Alajuelita
A child enjoying an ice cream cone outside of the FIMRC clinic in Alajuelita

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.

-Erica Granor ’15

The End to an Amazing Journey

M.A.S.O’s Banner

It is so crazy to think that I have finally completed my internship with Massachusetts Survivors Outreach. This will have to go down as one of the hardest summers of my life because of the high expectations and short turn around time to get all the work done. I met so many incredible people this summer who I will continue to connect with even though we are all leaving back to school. Within the span of three months, M.A.S.O has taken huge strides. We have become a non profit organization, fundraised over $5,000, and even secured an office space in Quincy. M.A.S.O has gone from a small organization into a huge Non-Profit organization that is recognized by other organizations such as Dove.

The Interns at the State House

This experience will help me throughout my Brandeis career because M.A.S.O has showed me first hand how hard work can trump over all other factors. Brandeis has taught me to question all things, even how straight forward the concept and this has made my experience with M.A.S.O much more fulfilling. Combining these two life long lessons, I feel, is an ideal that people strive to learn but never get the chance to learn first hand but I have.

After completing this internship however, there is so much more I want to look into and learn. I want to become more familiar with the court proceeding process in all kinds of courts. Since I spent all my time in family court and working with victims of domestic violence, my experience with with diverse kinds of victims and proceedings is limited. I want to know how criminal and juvenile court proceeding work as well.  I also want to try and complete my research that I started with M.A.S.O on the Economic Strain Within the Family Court System and maybe even write a thesis. All of the knowledge that I have soaked-up through out the summer makes me want to write it all down. I guess all of these Brandeis courses have drilled that kind of process in my head so where I actually want to write a long paper. HA HA!

The best advice that I would give a perspective intern is to be open to new ideas and get as many jobs you can handle during your internship. It will make the experience so much more fulfilling at the end of it all. I was hired as the pre-health intern but I did not only do research. I worked with the Business and Law students and helped them out as much as I could and from that experience, I was able to utilize not only my pre-health knowledge but also work on other areas that I could be interested in.

One of the main things that I have learned this summer is that action, even for a good cause, starts with one person. Just because you do not have the big following or the recognition that you expected, you must keep moving forward. I did not understand the concept of good organizations that help fight for great causes failing before it gets started. No matter how good your cause, you must keep fighting for it even when you think everything is going to be okay.

– Johnny Wilson ’13

Summer Protests

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.

Seven Practices of Facilitative Leadership

Tamar Schneck ’13

After NCL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Lili Gecker ’13

 

 

 

Halfway Point at The Center for Ethics and Advocacy in Healthcare

A wide variety of speakers have visited The Center for Ethics and Advocacy in Healthcare because they want to educate the next generation of young people, specifically about what is going on in our healthcare system. All of the speakers deeply respect the Director of my internship, along with the internship’s mission, for they present usually every year and never ask for compensation. This speaks to the quality of the internship program I am in.
One day, a school nurse came and talked with us about healthcare in the elementary school she worked at. I learned that 1 out of 3 students in her school visited her – in one year. Calling parents, filling out paperwork and nurturing 33% of her school’s population is quite a demand. I learned that widespread sickness endures because not enough is being done to help prevent diseases from spreading. Childhood obesity and bullying are on the rise, and the disparity in wealth in her town is obvious.
From speaking with a Nursing Home Administrator, I learned that nursing homes around the country are suffering badly. The recent cuts in healthcare are the main culprit, along with the lack of resources coming from the government. It’s also hard for many nursing home residents to pay the monthly fee nowadays, which make nursing homes hard to afford for them. Meanwhile, in today’s culture, fewer and fewer people want to live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities because they prefer to stay at home or move in with family. This is becoming the trend around the country.
I learned from a community activist that the poor are the ones who are suffering the most when it comes to healthcare cuts, and they suggest what we should be doing is coming together as a community and pitching in to help those in need. Volunteering at local clinics, donating food and clothing to the local shelters and planting trees and flowers around neighborhoods are all things community members should think about doing.


Those were just three experiences I’ve had at my internship. There are many more I could talk about but I think this gives you a good idea of what I’ve been learning about. Healthcare is becoming more and more a community issue.
We’ve also met with Quentin Young of the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, the Director of The Center for Faith and Community Health Transformation – a woman who wants to incorporate religious and spiritual habits into hospitals, a biology professor who teaches her students about natural medicine and the process of harvesting plants and transforming them into synthetic medicines, and a couple of other directors from other local non profit agencies who also want to work on a grass roots level to help their communities be healthy and stay healthy. It’s been a wonderful experience getting to listen to all of these intelligent, passionate and highly respected people – who all hail from the Chicago area.
Here’s a link to an article from Time Magazine about selling one’s bone marrow.  It’s something we talked about in one of our in-services. Read more to learn more.

This is a link to a very helpful video which breaks down what you should expect from the newly upheld Affordable Care Act.
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How am I progressing on my goals I outlined in my WOW Scholarship Application?
Academically: I have without a doubt learned immense amounts about bioethical issues and how to talk about them with other people. This experience has given me insights I never would have gained otherwise. Through talking with the Director about how she goes about resolving tough medical problems with patients (a word she hates because it implies a power hierarchy) I have learned how she deals with the issues and how she helps people overcome their own problems. In addition, I now have a better idea as to how to help others when they are conflicted.
Professionally: I have also been exposed to a nonprofit work environment which fights for social justice in and around its community. With this experience under my belt, I will be a better candidate for a nonprofit administrator position, if I choose to pursue that path in the future.
Personally: This internship has taught me that I need to identify what my true, honest values are. From this internship, I’ve learned that values shape our opinions. Once I realize my values, I will be able to take the next step and gain insight into possible career paths.

 

 

Of what am I most proud? Why?
I am proud of myself for delving in and learning about the Healthcare scene, on both the local and national levels – because now that I have so much more knowledge about healthcare in today’s world, I am now responsible for keeping up with the issues and standing my ground. Having this knowledge now puts pressure on me to act and fight for what I believe is right.
How am I building skills in this internship?
This internship has in practice made me a better listener and analyst of information. At all times, I have to be able to listen to whomever is speaking (the other interns, the director, a speaker), synthesize what they’re saying, and transform this information into knowledge. My listening and analyzing skills are enhancing because those are the skills I’m utilizing everyday.
I’m also learning how to function in a nonprofit setting – how to communicate professionally, work independently, ask questions, etc. People operate differently in different environments, and now that I’ve had experience working at a nonprofit, I know how this nonprofit operates day to day.
All of these skills will help me in the future, for I will be a better candidate if I choose to apply to jobs in the nonprofit sector, but also, I will be a better candidate for any job having had ample experience listening and analyzing information. Having had the chance to improve my listening and analyzing skills, I will be a better thinker, reader and speaker after this experience.

 

– Emily Breitbart ’13

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The view behind Techny Towers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Emily Breitbart ’13