Goodbye, Miami. Hello, Social Justice!

My main goal for this summer was to gain some insight and basic understanding of the non-profit field. Fortunately I was assigned various tasks that allowed me to do so – even though the internship was originally for community organizing, I ended up doing lots of administrative tasks as well. My main accomplishment was working on a brand new website, which came a very long way from the original version. (!) Though this would be the perfect example of the kind of administrative work that all interns fear – since, to some, it’s not the most exciting stuff – the process included a lot of behind-the-scenes information which allowed me to explore how non-profits operate. For example, I was the liaison between my organization and the website company, communicating between the two different-minded groups of people. I updated the content for the website which included both formatting and researching the issues we stand for. I was also responsible for contacting and following-up with clergy to request quotes from them which then got included in the website. In addition, as we were trying to figure out how to manage donations through the website, I learned some new things about online-fundraising. If IWJ were a big, well-funded and established organization, the work I was doing might have  been delegated to the logistics, communications and development departments, respectively. However, since my organization had a one paid staff member, I, as the intern, had insight into all these different parts of running a non-profit.

Upon returning to Brandeis, I’m hoping to do a couple things to continue my professional development that started this summer. First of all, I’d like to organize and partake in a social justice or political campaign at Brandeis. Now that I have a clearer understanding of strategizing and organizing people, I think I could be a valuable member of a campaign-team. University campuses are actually the most fitting place to start social justice campaigns because students are still enthusiastic about social change (unfortunately real adults are often jaded…) so people are happy to get involved, and the size of most college campuses is small enough to raise awareness among the whole school. And if the school administration decides to change something due to a student-led campaign, other campuses as well as the media and local groups of people could notice. A small community brings change and then other communities follow- this is how change happens on a societal and ultimately global, level. In addition, I’d also like to find a semester-long internship for the spring to work in a more established non-profit.  I’ll have to do my research yet to find the perfect fit.

If someone would approach me and ask about my specific internship, the most important advice I would give them is to be very flexible (or, only take the internship if you’re flexible or want to learn how to adapt.) I would also tell them to push their supervisor even if she’s busy, because she has a lot to offer and to teach. In addition, I’d tell them to have as many one-on-ones as they can. Talking to clergy, workers, and people in the field is the best experience one could have.

In terms of the non-profit field, the advice I would give to someone is similar to the advice I got during my training: 1, You’re going to see things that make you want to cry and you will ask yourself if there’s even a purpose to all this social justice talk when the majority of the country clearly doesn’t care. Don’t give up. Carry one. Don’t let these moments ruin your experience, or your ideologies!
And 2, Remember, that every small, administrative thing you do, every cold-call you make, and every door you knock on, is ultimately furthering the greater cause you’re fighting for. Just because you’re not protesting in front of McDonalds or negotiating a worker’s contract with a CEO does not mean your work is not valuable.

With all the positive and hopeful advice that I described in the former paragraph, I will say that this summer gave me a reality-check, even though most of my ideologies and values have been there since long as I can remember. My values have been reinforced and even furthered throughout the summer. If I had any doubt before that injustice is structural, the remnants of those doubts are definitely gone now. But while most of the injustice that I saw growing up was on TV and in the newspaper, seeing it first-hand transformed my attitude towards social justice. It became much more of a lifestyle and outlook on life rather than a potential carrier. I recognized that I constantly have to be aware of what I buy, where I travel, what I eat, who I work for, because everything I do affects other people. In fact, meeting people who don’t work in non-profit and still do social justice related work proved to me that there’s many ways of being a social justice advocate. Some of the most efficient ways to change the world are to work as lawyer for a big firm and donate your free time to people who really need it, or to become a clergy member and convince your congregants to donate to causes that are important. I’m not what my path or place in this is yet. However I do know that this past summer I’ve developed a much deeper connection to social justice, and I’m eternally grateful to WOW for that.

– Viki Bedo ’15

3 thoughts on “Goodbye, Miami. Hello, Social Justice!”

  1. Hi Viki,

    I can really relate to many of the things you said in your post, and it’s nice to know that others have had the same thoughts/questionings I had over the summer. Working for a non-profit this summer really exposed me to the not-so-pretty side of that world… all the bureaucracy, paperwork, calls, etc., the not so exiting but still necessary administrative work behind making “social justice” possible. I definitely agree with your two points: the work can be discouraging at times, especially when you’re not able to see tangible results no matter how hard you work, and that administrative work can be dull – but you can’t let either of those things discourage you from giving your gran of sand, as little as it may be!

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts, and encouraging others like myself to keep going on!

  2. Dear Viki,

    I could strongly identify with your concluding words, since a large part of my work was also office-based. I would like to add another encouraging point to yours and Andrea’s – often time we, as members of the Internet age, can truly make a difference for an organization by doing these kind of “boring” jobs. Let me explain: I too built a website this summer as part of my internship. At first I yearned to be done with it and get on with my other, more “hands-on” responsibilities. With time, however, I realized that as young people working in organizations directed by “adults”, our knowledge of the internet and how it works is invaluable. In that sense, at least in my case, I felt that the job was not only given to me because I was an intern, but because as a internet-savvy younger person I could make a real difference when it came to building a website. Not to say that we should not be more passionate about getting out there into the field and getting our hands dirty, but rather to emphasize that the dirty work can sometimes be a real platform to make a real change. Sounds to me like your case, it definitely was.

  3. “I recognized that I constantly have to be aware of what I buy, where I travel, what I eat, who I work for, because everything I do affects other people.” Yes – a great realization to have, and one that will change the course of your life (it sounds like it already has). It sounds like your internship gave you profound things to consider and has shaped you in big ways. Whatever direction you go next, good luck to you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *