MCAD – Midpoint Check In

So far, I’ve done about a dozen presentations in locations that range from neighborhoods in Boston – such as Chelsea, East Boston, Roxbury and Dorchester – to suburban areas including Newton, Waltham and Brookline. I recall how nervous I was for my first presentation back in June, but I have come a long way. The goal of my presentations, which on average last between one or two hours (and sometimes more), is to spread education to help end discrimination.

The first picture is of a presentation that contained between 10-12 people, while the second picture is of an audience with about 80-100 people. I’m have three coworkers and they are all undergraduates in college. They are very helpful and intelligent people. Fortunately, I have them by my side when I present to larger audiences – that way we help each other out and at the same time are able to give better presentations to more people.

 

The Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination is the state’s chief civil rights agency. The Commission works to eliminate discrimination on a variety of bases and areas, and strives to advance the civil rights of the people of the Commonwealth through law enforcement, outreach and training. As an intern, I work closely with not just with staff members and other interns at MCAD, but my specific role is to educate the public about their rights in Massachusetts.

I’ve come to learn that there are many people in the city of Boston as well as the greater Boston area that either confused about or are not too familiar with the housing, employment, and public spaces laws. This is why I’m very grateful to have this wonderful opportunity to not only learn discrimination laws and work alongside lawyers and other legal professionals, but more importantly to share this wealth of knowledge with disfranchised communities in Massachusetts. It brings warmness to my heart when I see people learn what I present to them. I understand how focused they are when I’m asked specific and very detailed questions. Fortunately, I’ve had good audiences so far and everyone has been kind and tentative (with the exception of one person whom I won’t write about today).
Moreover, I have given these S.E.E.D (Spreading Education to End Discrimination) presentations in both English and Spanish and sometimes even in Spanish only. This has helped reach my learning goals because it has fortified by ability to speak proper Spanish, and not simply the Spanish I speak at home with my mother. Also, I gave gained a lot of confidence and I’m no longer timid when it is my turn to speak to an audience. I’m sure I will take this confidence to the classrooms this fall semester. I am excited to continue learning, growing, and gaining more experience in the legal field here at MCAD.

I look forward to learning so much more from the rest of my time at MCAD.

The following two links are MCAD’s website homepage and the other is for individuals.employees.

http://www.mass.gov/mcad/index.html

http://www.mass.gov/mcad/forIndividualsEmployees.html

 

Midway and so much still to do!

I am now halfway through my internship at the National Immigration Project. I can’t believe that the summer is flying by so fast, but I am very happy with the vast amount that I am learning.

When I applied for WOW, I wrote that “I hope that working directly with attorneys on research projects and legal issues will help me assess the impact I could have with a legal education.” I think I am well on my way to discovering this about myself. Through the research projects that I have done, I have gained the confidence in my critical thinking and attention to detail skills that I know I would need if I decide to go to law school. I have definitely learned a lot about immigration law and the broad scope of careers that I could have with that degree.

This experience has made me more aware of the immigration issues that this country is grappling with, and I am even more motivated to keep myself informed. During staff meetings in which we discuss immigration law issues and its impact on our clients, I am able to participate a lot more than I was at the beginning of my internship. I have also been discussing law school options with the other intern who is a law student, and one of my supervisors, who is a staff attorney.

I really enjoy working on both the legal and advocacy sides of the NIPNLG. During my internship, I have been involved in many projects, but I am especially proud of creating an alert for the National Immigration Project’s website that raises awareness about the current action in Congress about the Violence Against Women Act. It is important for us to encourage our members and the general public to speak out against legislation that could impact them and those around them.

In another meaningful research project, I assisted in the writing of an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the case of Chaidez v. United States. The NIPNLG writes these briefs in order to help immigrants win their cases by providing supporting legal arguments.  For the brief, I compiled a list of resources used by my supervisor to strengthen his supporting legal brief. I am proud of it because I spent a lot of time learning new legal research skills.

I also went to a rally for immigrant rights last week in the Massachusetts State House. As you can see below, it’s very convenient to get there and you could practically throw a rock at it from where the NIPNLG office is located!

The MA State House

Boxes Beyond Boxes

“It’s constitutional!”

A loud cheer erupted from the break room at Partners in Health.  Employees were laughing, hugging, shouting – excitedly calling friends and family.

“It passed! I know – I couldn’t believe it either. Hold on, I’m getting another call…”

The controversial passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was celebrated at PIH.

In the kind of excitement and noise one would expect from a win at a football game, a hundred or so PIH employees celebrated the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; affectionately Obamacare. As an organization that promotes health equity for all, focusing both in the United States and around the world, the idea that access to healthcare would become easier and more accessible for many in the States was a big win.

 

  ———————————————————————————————————————

In preparation for my WOW internship, I had set out a few learning goals for myself during my summer with Partners in Health. I had hoped that I might gain stronger insight on how non-governmental organizations with an international focus operate from far away. Partners in Health operates in twelve countries around the world in addition to hosting several programs in Roxbury, Boston. How was it that they could manage, evaluate, and amend so many programs that were so distant?

Boxes.

The response to PIH’s overwhelming number of programs in such demanding capacity is boxes. The entrance to the PIH office on Comm Ave is always a bit of a fortress as the receptionist’s desk is barricaded by mountains beyond mountains of boxes. In these cardboard boxes are everything that PIH clinics need; EKG machines, clothes, alcohol wipes, ultrasound machines. These boxes, shipped in from around the US, find brief refuge in our Boston office, before being sent off to the site where it is needed. Some of these materials are donated, others are purchased – in either case, the materials are always of high quality and are safely kept away under layers and layers of bubble wrap. There are uses for all materials that line PIH’s hallways, something that I am made aware of as I climb over these piles to get to my work area.

So, why the boxes?

Partners in Health, an NGO that prides itself on transparency and efficiency, is able to host all of its programs by keeping their overhead costs unprecedentedly low. With a whopping 94% of all revenue being rerouted to health-related programs, 6% remain to being distributed for administration and fundraising efforts. That 6% supports the entire Boston office in terms of salary of employees, the office and its ability to run smoothly, as well as PIH’s campaigns online and in person.

 

 

Ratio of PIH’s expenditures by direct programming, administrative costs, and fundraising efforts.

 Having low overhead costs mean that PIH is strapped for space and funding. So in lieu of a warehouse or separate floor to store all of our materials, PIH chooses to store its materials around the office – making sure that the best medical supplies get to the its programs. Low overhead also means a lot of improvisation; mismatched chairs surround the tables in board meetings, clunky computer monitors donated from Harvard sit in rows. It’s all part of keeping the NGO honest and making sure that majority of donations get to the right place – where health infrastructure is in the most disrepair.

 

 

PIH’s income, largely based in fundraising and grant writing, charted against PIH’s expenditures.

 ———————————————————————————————————————

I think one of the interns I work with said it best when asked to describe what exactly the culture of Partners in Health is;

“We’re a bunch of serious development nerds, doing what we love.”

The best thing about any work or internship experience is when you find that the people in the office are just as academically obsessed with the same things you are. That’s what I am finding at Partners in Health. Every individual, both in and out of the office, is so committed, so dedicated to the fight for global health equity that many employees are here from early, early in the morning to very late into the night, simply because they feel so devoted to the work that they do. Volunteers dedicate weekends and evenings towards working on projects, many from home during their spare time. And the more time I spend at Partners in Health the more I feel myself growing, both in my knowledge of development work as well as my commitment to it.

 

One of Partners in Health’s recent campaign to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS treatment.

The rewards employees and volunteers reap from working at PIH is in the knowledge that we are each taking small steps towards global health equity. And in the face of big changes, like the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we cheer with the excitement that the notion that healthcare is a human right is being recognized on a global scale.

My big question of how an NGO like PIH functions so efficiently in so many countries lies in these answers; low overhead, investment of most donations into programs for health infrastructure, and gathering dedicated employees who find engrained in their hearts the need for the prioritization of healthcare for all. In channeling this passion into sustainable programs for the poor, small steps on the path for global health equity are taken.

“Equity is the only acceptable goal… And that’s when I feel most alive, when I’m helping people.”

– Paul Farmer

 http://www.pih.org/news/entry/reflections-from-nepal/

http://www.pih.org/news/entry/revolutionary-cancer-care-in-rwanda/

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/14/opinion/14kidder.html

– Sarah Van Buren ’13

National Consumers League Midpoint

           It’s hard to believe I’m already more than halfway done with my time as a public policy intern at the National Consumers League. Through my work at NCL, I am learning a lot about the process to change regulations on the federal level. One way I experience this is through events I have the opportunity to attend. For example, I watched the executive director of NCL testify at the Consumer Product Safety Commission on issues such as the safety of table saws, an issue for which she has been a leading advocate.

testifying before CPSC

           I also attended a hearing where the NCL Executive Director testified before the Aviation Consumer Protection Committee at the Department of Transportation. She argued that airlines violate privacy by collecting personal information on passengers, and consumers consistently suffer due to increasing fees when they have to change the time of their flights or for seat assignments.  After my supervisor testified, we had the opportunity to meet committee member Lisa Madigan, who is my Attorney General from Illinois. Watching experts testify before commissions such as these allowed me to learn about the process through which new regulations are passed, and the power of advocacy groups.

Interns and staff with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan

          One of the things I am most proud of is blogs I have written for the National Consumers League’s blog. So far I have written three: one on gender equity bargaining and legislation that limits equality in the labor force; one on student loan relief for college students; and one about the marketing of food to children and its health impacts. The blogs can be read online here. Through my work on these blogs, I had an opportunity to work both on research skills, as well as writing skills. I was able to connect a lot of dots based on articles from news sources, legislation, presentations from many of the events and hearings I attended, and work that organizations like NCL and partner groups do. In the future, I will be able to use these blog postings to show one of the ways in which I contributed to NCL this summer, and as writing samples for futures job opportunities.

            One of my goals was to learn more about issues I am passionate about, including labor and food policy. I have had several opportunities to do so through events, hearings, and research. I attended the Trans-Atlantic Consumer Dialogue, where leaders in food safety and policy from both the United States and Europe met to discuss and compare current policies for addressing food safety. It became clear that despite the recent Food Safety Modernization Act, which shifts an focus from responding to contamination to  preventing it, the U.S. is still significantly behind Europe in terms of inspection, safety procedures, and clear labeling standards.

            An issue that relates to both food and labor safety that I have had the opportunity to work on is the USDA’s proposed change in poultry inspection, which would privatize inspection—so that instead of government inspectors, companies can hire their own inspectors. Studies have shown that defects are more likely missed when inspectors are company employees, most likely because the company wants to produce more, whether or not the product is safe. In addition, the proposal increases line speed to 175 birds per minute, which breaks down to 3 birds per second. It is nearly impossible to safely inspect at this line speed. Poultry workers have little control because they are only 30% union organized, which means weak contracts and poor security—especially considering many workers may be recent, or undocumented immigrants. This new policy will also not require inspectors to be trained. I learned a lot about this issue through meetings with leaders in labor and food policy, and had the opportunity to take action by handing out fliers at the Folk Festival on the National Mall. I talked to many people about the issue, and encouraged them to make calls to their Senators or Representative in Congress. I think this issue connects with almost everyone because it impacts the safety of our food.

Talking to a family about poultry inspection at the Folk Festival

– Lili Gecker ’13

Shaping young minds; young minds shaping me

I’m halfway through my internship experience already, and I can’t believe it! The youth I’ve been working with are just fantastic, and we’ve been growing closer and closer. There is a total of fifteen youth in the Youth Building Communities program and three interns/counselors. They were split up into three groups of five to one counselor and got to choose a name their crew would be referred to for the duration of the summer. The youth that were assigned to my group choose to be called “team goat.” What “goat” stands for is Greatest Of All Time, I couldn’t help but laugh and be impressed by their creativity. Needless to say, I am very proud to be the sixth member of team goat!

 

This is where all the fun happens!

Every Thursday we take a field trip around Boston, and last week we took a trip to Roller World in Saugus. I hadn’t been skating since I was about sixteen; so almost as young as they are. A few of them stayed with me while I practiced and showed me some pointers. Then, it was time to hit the rink! We skated for over two hours while they whipped around the rink dancing, laughing, and sometimes poking fun at my less than superior skating skills. They called me over to eat because a small group had been saving a seat for me. I always enjoy these times the most because they ask me about my life and try to figure out who this girl is that comes in everyday all the way from Waltham. They seem to be unafraid of the world, excited about whatever it is to come, and they never seem as if they’re worried about tomorrow, because right now is all that matters to them. Sometimes I sit back and wish that adults were more like these twelve year old children, seeing the world through their eyes is a privilege I definitely appreciate.

YBC (youth building communities) also takes part in a community service initiative every Tuesday. This past Tuesday we were working with members of the Emerald

Necklace Conservatory. The kids helped weed the bushes, mulch the floor, and pick up around the park. We split them into two different groups, and got to work. We played a name game with the members before starting the project of the day, which served as a way for everyone to learn everyone’s name. The youth warmed up to the members rather quickly and started gravitating to them while they were working. I was really happy that we got to participate in such a positive program, and give back to the community at the same time.

Tuesdays are also our pool days were the youth are permitted to swim for an hour and a half. During this time, whoever doesn’t want to swim can lounge around or play UNO, the card game. At RTH Uno is a very serious game, none of the youth take it lightly. We actually play elimination rounds and the last person in the game isn’t permitted to play the next round. We do this until we get to a “championship round.” I made it to this round and ended up winning the title of “Uno Champion of RTH.” My title has since been challenged but I’m holding the lead. The youth are exceptionally good at this game, so I don’t know hold long it may last.

– Alyssa Green ’15

Little over with Massachusetts Survivors Outreach!

It is crazy to think that I am over half way with my summer internship. This summer has been a whirlwind of fun, stress and accomplishment. Starting a Non-Profit Organization from the ground up is definitely an experience of its own. The time and effort collecting paper work took over a month to complete but the end result was so satisfying. I can finally say “I helped and created and Non-Profit Organization in Massachusetts.” We are still applying for the 501c3 so that M.A.S.O can be recognized all throughout the United Sates. In order for that to happen, however, we need funding. In my last post, I discussed the fundraisers that we had inline during the summer to help us achieve our full Non-Profit status. “Psychics, Reiki, Massage OH MY!: An Evening of Fun and Healing for a Cause” was a complete success. We raised over $2,000 which pushes us so much closer to our goal.

Flier for Cagney’s Event

The next fundraiser is this Saturday, which I am in charge of. MASO will be hosting a Dance party in Quincy and all proceeds will go towards our Non-Profit status. I have worked late nights to get all of the details finalized in order for this event to be ready. The event will be held at Cagney’s Restaurant in Quincy. The bar has recently been completely renovated and they have a free function room available for charity events. Now that it is only a few days away, I can only sit back and wait for it to finally arrive. I am nervous but I know that I tied all of the loose ends and the night is going to be a great success.

As of recently, I have been put in charge of the hiring process for the fall and spring. My boss told me that I have complete control of the whole process, which even includes hiring the prospective interns. I have only been apart of a this process once before at Brandeis University but, even then, I did not have this much control. I have been reading over countless resumes/cover letters and have finally been able to finalize interview slots for 20 candidates. From that 20, I can only select 9. This has been a very important process for me because it has been the first time ever that I have been put into an area that I have not been fully comfortable and confident in, but have been doing a great job. I guess I can give myself a pat on the back for that.

Volley 4 Victims Filer

The summer is almost over and I have only about a month left with my internship. We have many other fundraisers planned like, Volley 4 Victims, but we have also been making headway with our cause. We have been compiling information on the economic strain within the family court system. I am not allowed to farther discuss the information that we have compiled but overall, the information is crucial and will help victims of domestic violence throughout the United States. This summer has completely flown by. I can’t believe there is only a month left until I am back at Brandeis!

– Johnny Wilson ’13

Leaving South Africa

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.

Sketch of Mural
Mural painted with the adolescents on the third week of the Holiday Programme

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!!

– Nicole Bortnik ’14

To be an American Muslim. Or Muslim in the United States

To be an American Muslim. Or Muslim the United States. I put the other as an afterthought because it seems like they are very two different things really.

I think that this is one issue that I am grappling with regardless of what I have been accomplishing at this internship. This dilemma has been reinforced particularly today as the Executive Director of AIC, was featured in today’s Washington Post Style section!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/moderate-american-muslim-tries-to-navigate-a-deeply-divided-community/2012/07/10/gJQAq4htbW_story.html

It really is astounding to come to terms with not only the diversity of Muslim-American viewpoints but really how much needs to be done in the community. I am deeply interested in interacting with the Diaspora in the US and reflecting on the openness of the civil society of the US, that has allowed us to be able to accomplish some of the goals that I have worked on.  I am thinking about how these programs could be translated to Muslim-majority countries, like my homeland Pakistan… so in effect I am a Muslim in the US because I am not American, and the work I do is informed by this identity, unlike Muslims who are born American and/or identify as both…

It is 4.5 weeks already at my internship – time flies! It has been crazy, ups and downs, days of ecstatic change, and accomplishments and then days when you feel like nothing can be done or accomplished. In the past 4.5 weeks I have co-curated a show, which has drawn with its related programming over 150 people to the Cultural Center and been reviewed in WGBH Arts and Artscope Magazine!

The artists’ talk was mind opening, and is definitely the type of programming that I am excited to maintain and grow in the traveling arts exhibit initiative.


Which leads me to the next part of my internship responsibilities: planning the art exhibit. I have realized it takes a VERY long time, more than I expected, for long-term initiatives to even hit the ground. The big (and first) component of this initiative was the creation of a viable concept paper and executive summary that could then be converted into a Letter of Interest to send to fundraising targets. I went in thinking this paper would take a week to write; it took about 3 weeks, because so much had to be changed and approved, people had to be contacted, and prospecting done, and research conducted. For example, I want to counter stereotypes of Muslims in the US through art – so we had to find PEW or other research that shows that stereotypes of Muslims exist in the US. Very specific. Also, since a concept paper is a distillation of a larger mission and strategy, it is hard to translate it into 3 pages – we started with a great idea, but we didn’t have a clear mission or strategic focus on how it tied into our greater organizational goals. Being able to navigate and work on this project has been equally fulfilling and I am excited that it is moving forward.

One of my very specific goals was to work at the intersection of culture and civil society, and see how economics and art work in tandem. I believe that by curating shows, and organizing initiatives for this cultural center and organization, and participating in funding prospecting is definitely in the intersection.  I am learning how the different systems work together to make a project successful. While art can be theoretical, it has to be translated to the funders into something practical and pragmatic for it to be able to go forward.

I have also created marketing plan, and am helping with long term initiatives for the arts programming in our space – working on creating a 2012 – 2013 arts and culture calender – which will allow us to be able to identify themes, apply for funding, create and market to target audiences, and also see what Muslim-Americans in the US want us to represent. The skills I am building through developing business plans, marketing plans, marketing materials, fundraising, and working with groups of people who have different strong ideas, being able to navigate a competitive and innovative sphere, and being successful makes me feel so much more positive about myself and my abilities!

I also proposed a series with AIC on programming highlight Minorities in the Muslim world – sexual, religious and ethnic, and to my great delight, they were very enthusiastic about it. So I will also start devoting some time to doing some initial concept planning and prospecting for that! We also have our Muslim holy month starting on July 20th – until the 19th of August and we will have four open to the community iftars (breaking the fast at 8pm) – one in partnership with American Jewish Committee, one South Asian, one Bosnian and one Interfaith, so it promises to be a very exciting and engaging next 4.5 weeks.

Until the next time we connect,

Khuda Hafiz

Abdul Aziz Sohail ’13

Mid-Point with the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project

It is hard to believe that I have already been in Kenya for four weeks and that I will be back at Brandeis in less than a month. My time with the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project has been extremely rewarding so far.

 

After completing the arduous selection process I have settled into teaching classes to help the students improve on the SAT, TOEFL and writing. As a prospective law student I plan to take the LSAT this fall. Teaching the skills required to succeed on the critical reading portion of the SAT has improved my ability to perform similar tasks that are required on the LSAT. As I prepare for the LSAT in my free time I encounter difficulties that are similar to those that my student’s face. This has helped me improve as a teacher and a test-taker.

 

Students at work in the classroom

One of my main goals with this internship was to immerse myself in an entirely new culture. I have been able to achieve this with more success than I had previously imagined. Whether it is shopping in the local market or sharing meals with students I feel like I have begun to truly understand and appreciate this unique society. The students in the program actually live at the camp with me for the duration of the program which allows for me to get to know them particularly well. This consistent interaction has been invaluable for me and will undoubtedly help the students’ transition into life in an America when they arrive at college.

 

I have been surprised by how much I have enjoyed teaching. I had little experience with teaching before I arrived, but have adjusted quickly. The class is a teacher’s dream. It is made up of fourteen highly intelligent and motivated individuals who participate readily. The students respect each other’s ideas and ask pertinent questions about the lessons. Outside of class the students can often be found with a book in hand going over the notes from the day’s lectures. I have found it enormously gratifying to see the students incorporate methods and ideas from my lectures into their work. It has only been a short time, but this internship has certainly sparked an interest in pursuing teaching for a career. The skills and experience I will acquire from this internship will certainly benefit my future academic and professional endeavors.

 

View from a nearby tea farm

Working with such a small program has given me the opportunity to see everything that goes into a program for improving social justice. I have often written idealistic papers in support of various social justice projects. This internship has given me insight into the realities of this type of program. My experience so far has reinforced my conviction that social justice can be improved through programs like KenSAP.

I am very excited to see what the next few weeks hold. The internship has already gone by too quickly, but I feel like I am making the most of it.  -Alex Kramer ’13

 

Midpoint at Conflict Kitchen

The summer has been progressing and I have been learning a lot through my time at Conflict Kitchen. I’m finding it very useful to journal in order to track what I learn and be able to reference my thoughts later in discussions.

I have been busy doing research for Conflict Kitchen, which switched to its Cuba iteration in June. My various tasks have included finding articles for the kitchen staff to read so that they are informed about Cuba and revising the food wrapper that features interviews with Cubans both in Cuba and the United States. I have also helped with preparations for future iterations by finding contacts who can help with research and developing questions to interview the contacts. I have also been working at the kitchen and interacting with customers, engaging them in dialogue about Cuban culture and US- Cuba relations.

Cocina Cubana, the Cuban iteration of Conflict Kitchen
The food wrapper for the Cuban iteration

Keeping to my learning goals, I have learned that successful facilitation of cross-cultural education should provide a means for the education to continue. I’ve realized through this internship that there tends to be a backup of knowledge between the information we gather on the country and what we can share while interacting with customers. The interactions with customers can be so short that there is hardly any time to truly engage in dialogue or share an interesting piece of information. I felt like the kitchen should offer some way for people to continue educating themselves, and therefore dispelling stereotypes, after they leave the restaurant.  I suggested that I could develop a recommended reading list of books about Cuba and novels by Cuban authors. My supervisor liked the idea and it became my project. I partnered with the local branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh down the block from the Conflict Kitchen to learn how to make an effective booklist.  The library was excited about the project and agreed to display the featured books and to work with the Conflict Kitchen in the future. This project is the part of my internship of which I am most proud. It has truly been my own project to develop and implement. It has not only allowed me to work towards my learning goals but also taught me new skills. Being able to put together a list of recommended reading will be useful in future jobs that deal with cultural education. Furthermore, developing a partnership with another community organization is important for any non-profit position.

With only a few weeks left of my internship,  I know that I have learned many things and look forward to the remainder of it while finishing research and putting everything in place so the partnership with  the library continues after I leave.

 

-G. Killian, ’14

Learning to Teach: Midway point at the SJDS Biblioteca

It’s funny to remember how before I left for Nicaragua two months seemed like a long time.  Now that I’m here, I’d do anything to have more time.  A week after I arrived, another volunteer came down who was also interested in teaching English.  Together, we have set up English classes and are currently teaching three classes: beginner, intermediate, and advanced that are each offered twice a week.  English classes are provided in the schools in town; however because there is only one teacher for all of the schools the children do not end up getting a lot of English instruction.

Within the past twenty years or so, San Juan del Sur’s primary revenue has shifted from fishing to tourism so now more than ever learning English is an incredibly useful skill for students to have.  In the beginning, the English teacher recommended students for our English class.  Students were recommended based on the fact that they were struggling in school; however as word spread, students brought their friends or others who wished to learn English.

One of my main internship goals was to improve my Spanish.  It’s one thing to stumble over your words when speaking with your host family and another doing it in a classroom full of your students.  This made the first couple of days of teaching a bit overwhelming.  However, I soon realized that it doesn’t matter if I have perfect Spanish because the students are all here to learn English.  Plus some of my students really got a kick out of getting to correct me, their teacher.

We are now starting our fourth week of class, and I can really feel my confidence growing.  At this point, I have no problem speaking Spanish in front of a classroom full of 25 students.  Whether explaining instructions, grammatical rules, or simply asking the students to quiet down, I really feel like I am able to lead a class.  I try to speak English as much as I can with the students, but there are some students who need extra help and often require information to be repeated in Spanish.

Helping a student in the intermediate class

I’m most proud of developing my leadership skills and with the trust I have begun to build with many of the students.  At the beginning of classes, many of them were too shy or embarrassed to admit they needed help but now students have no problem asking their questions.  I have worked very hard to make sure students feel comfortable and safe in the classroom.  Now seeing them feel comfortable joking around or just talking to me is very rewarding.  With each class, I get to know more about each of the students and their individual learning needs.  I only wish that I had more time to spend with them.  Since this is such a small town I often see students outside of the classroom.  I love it when one of them takes the time to shout to me and say hello.

Part of my internship learning goals include improving my communication and leadership skills within a classroom setting and to practice my Spanish language skills.  So far, almost every day has provided an opportunity for me to hone these skills.  Since I am living with a Nicaraguan family and most of my co-workers only speak Spanish, I feel myself getting more and more comfortable with the language.  Considering I intend to use my Spanish language skills in whichever career path I end up choosing, the practice I am getting now is extremely beneficial.

My co-teacher and I have been responsible for creating our own lesson plans in which we try to provide a mix of vocabulary, grammar, and conversational skills that are appropriate for the ability level in each class.  Being an Education major, learning how to construct a lesson plan and thinking about the types of activities that are feasible and effective in the classroom will help me if I choose to pursue a career in teaching.

The independent nature of this internship has given me a lot of freedom to explore my interests and grow as both a teacher and an individual.  As I continue teaching, I look forward to discovering what other surprises and challenges the remainder of the summer will bring.

The verb of the day. During each class, students learn a new verb and practice conjugating it into different sentences.

 

 

Commission Update

The interns from the commission come from all kinds of backgrounds, some are local Rhode Islanders but there are quite a few out of staters or local students some in undergrad RI schools, and Law students. Everyone is very friendly and motivated to work.

My first few weeks were difficult, I had some struggles with my workload at the commission. There seems to be a high expectation of self sufficiency that I had conflicts with, for example Interns are responsible for reviewing cases of discrimination that are filed with the commission as they progress or reach a conclusion. This means that I can either receive a fresh new case that needs investigation or a case that has been going on for years and requires final review for closure. Whatever the case may be along the way interns are responsible for finding out what is missing in order to progress in the case and sending out those requests for information to all parties involved. We write our correspondence using few templates that are saved on USB drives and the rest comes through comes as you go through asking questions and getting exposure to legal language in your interactions with other investigators at the commission.

 

Interns also get access to what are called PDC’s, which refer to pre-determination conferences. PDC’s occur when an investigator is having difficulty reaching a recommendation as to whether or not there is sufficient evidence suggesting the legitimacy of the claims that the complainant alleges. All parties involved are invited to attend a hearing in which they can explain both sides of the story and it is the only time we get to meet the people involved in each case. I really enjoy the PDC’s because it brings each case to life and makes your work feel more validating. At the end of the PDC the commissioner usually stays for a few more minutes to give the interns law advice, for those who might be thinking of attending law school after college. There are about 10 commissioners appointed and so far I’ve met about 7. I find it interesting that some of the results of our involvement in these cases as interns will most likely never reach us seeing as they will outlive our internship stay.

 

The work can be very intimidating at first, but I noticed that the long work days provide interns with lots of practice and soon one gets used to the workload. It’s very reassuring when it comes to thinking of future work experience. For now it’s got me thinking of law school, since the majority of interns at the commission are currently enrolled in law programs.  Here’s a link to the commission website 

here’s also a link about attorney Cordona, an appointed commissioner who advised us about law school.

Mid-way at Centro Presente

Hi All!!!

I can’t believe it’s been four weeks already since I started my internship at Centro Presente. Time has gone by so fast!!! In these four weeks, however, I have learned so much  and participated in so many activities that I feel I have exceeded my expectation for this internship.  During these four weeks, we have been working in many different events. One of these events was to inform people about the deferred action that President Obama gave to the Dreamers.  The rest of the events have been more concentrated to inform people about the Secure Communities Program implemented in Massachusetts since May 15, 2012.

Two weeks ago, we went to the State House to present the statewide commission to monitor the implementation of Secure Communities.  At this event, we had people from many different organizations in Massachusetts who support the creation of this commission. We had the presence of Somerville Representative Denise Provost, who told the stories of so many children who are being separated from their families because of secure communities and how there is need to stop the implementation of this program in our state. This past Friday, we went to Waltham where we talked to people about the effects of this program and how people can protect from it.

 

My days at Centro Presente have been different every day, something that I really enjoy.  Some days I spend time doing translations and planning events including creating the fliers, contacting people to reserve the place, and calling allies and members to invite them to the events. Other days, I spend time organizing the events that we have for the week.  Occasionally, I am in charge of the reception where I answer the phone and help the people who have appointments for the day.

Something that I feel very proud of is the time I have been teaching English to adults in Centro Presente.  Teaching is something that I thought I would never be able to do, however, when I was asked by the organizer of classes at Centro Presente to teach, I did not hesitate to say yes. This experience has taught me how hard a teacher’s job is since they have to spend so much time outside of teaching time to prepare classes. I think teachers deserve more value than what society gives them.

Reflecting on the goals that I set for this summer, I feel that I have been able to accomplish them thus far. Working with people and listening to their stories, I have been able to give them a different perspective. I think that because I have taken Psychology and Sociology courses, I am more able to listen to people and to find way to assist them in the best way that I find suitable.  Another goal that I have been able to accomplish is to acquire more work experience. Being a full-time intern at Centro Presente has been a way for me to learn what it is like to be in a work setting; experience that I did not have before so I am very thankful to the WOW committee for this opportunity.

I. Moreno, ’13

 

 

Midpoint of My Summer in the Tea Industry

I have almost finished my summer internship with the Asia Tea Company. This is incredible. I have learned so much from my internship program that I love every day at work. People are so friendly and understanding. They always give me valuable advice and guide me through work carefully. My job is primarily to collect and analyze data about foreign tea markets. During the first weeks, I was not used to the analytical method used by the company. By this time, my number-crunching skill is much better. I have almost mastered the XLSTAT-PRO software besides traditional applications like Excel and STATA. Writing weekly reports has sharpened my writing and analytic skill and increased my understanding of the tea markets.

Vietnamese Sidewalk Tea Culture
Last week, I accompanied my supervisor on a trip to tea manufacturing factories in the provinces of Phu Tho and Yen Bai. These two provinces provide the best tea leaves, from which we can make the best black tea for domestic consumption as well as exportation. I really enjoyed the trip because I was exposed to a whole new different world. I learned how to sort different types of tea and examine tea quality. I also learned to negotiate prices and create network. My boss told all his friends that I am an excellent employee and that I have the potential to become a future CEO. His compliments not only made me so happy, but also helped me attract more attention from managers of tea companies during my time in the highland. After the trip, I have a few good contacts in the tea industry.

The tea hills that I saw on my trip to the province of Phu Tho

I am very proud of being the administrative assistant for the CEO when he meets with foreign partners. I take notes and write an analysis of the meeting afterward. Based on my notes and analysis, the CEO will have more idea about future contracts with his foreign partners. Being his secretary is supposed to be part of my education experience in the summer internship program. But I am very glad to have a chance to show my English proficiency as well as analytic skill, which I gain from my college education in America.

Most Popular Types of Tea in Vietnam

After every day at work, I feel that I learn more about the business world. My number-crunching, analytic, and writing skills have been much improved. I have also gained tremendous knowledge about the Vietnamese tea industry. Being a Market Analyst, I have acquainted myself with foreign markets in the Middle East and North America. Those markets have a great potential for being the primary future markets for Vietnamese tea. Thanks to my trip to tea manufacturing factories in the highland area, I realize how tea is actually made from raw tea leaves. Thus, my understanding of the supply of tea is much better. After this summer, I realize that the business world is not always fun. However, I believe that after my experience in Asia Tea Co., Ltd this summer, I am fully prepared for a career in the tea industry and have acquired many transferable skills that will help me regardless of my ultimate pate. I hope to become the CEO of a tea company in the future and contribute to the development of the Vietnamese tea industry as well as the promotion of Vietnamese tea culture abroad.

 

Seeing Music and Hearing what’s on your mind: Midpoint at The Sold Project

Hello All!

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!

This student was in the first dancing group. Their assigned genre was ‘classical’, which many of them found ‘sad’ and ‘like a heartbreak’. The song was WATERMARK by Enya, and most of the kids’ feet featured various shades of blue.

– Zoey Hart ’13

 

Midpoint at United for a Fair Economy

These first few weeks at United for a Fair Economy have been incredibly stimulating and rewarding. Having not really come from a background in economics, one of my main goals was to become more well-rounded and educated on various issues and topics such as progressive taxes, responsible wealth, and the fundamental tasks associated with fundraising and development in order to sustain a non-profit. My supervisor has been really helpful with all this, as she often has great articles and other various readings to share and help educate me on the greater goal of working towards a fair economy. 
I have had the opportunity to work on many very different projects, which has helped to shape the full picture of development and fundraising. I have conducted grant research as we enter a new fiscal year and hope to find some new prospects for potential funding sources.  I am also currently working on the design for a postcard to be sent out to past donors. [Fun fact: 71% of our funds come not from other foundations and organizations, but from individual donors!] That, I thought, is astounding! So if I had to pick one thing I have learned about most it would be the role of stewardship and maintaining positive donor relations, though I have found that it seems one of the trickiest, but most important factors. Thinking about it logically, why would anyone want to donate to an organization if they only heard from the organization when they were asking for money? This brings me back to the current project of creating a postcard. In light of our recent move (see my first blog post), we are making a postcard to simply share our new address and to help maintain our relationships so that things don’t get disrupted with the move. 
Surprisingly, the other UFE interns have been especially helpful in reaching my goals. UFE currently has 10 working interns, all dispersed among UFE’s programs. We recently began organizing weekly “Brown Bag Lunch Intern Meetings” where we gather the entire staff and organize short presentations to sum of the work we’ve been doing. It has definitely been interesting to see how all of our projects tie in together and help to carry out the greater, overall mission of UFE. It’s a really dynamic and fun group of student interns, all energetic and motivated to learn as much as we can in the short span of summer.  We even have started scheduling various members of the staff to come and give presentations on subject matter that might  not otherwise have come up. Check out this blog posted by one of the other interns concerning the Robin Hood Tax. 
Some of our upcoming programs include “writing for the web” where we’ll learn about blogging on behalf of organizations, understanding webinars, and learning more about creating htmls. Each time someone volunteers to present, they get a nice little star burst as a reward (below)! 

I know that I’m learning here because I feel much more confident researching and looking things up on my own. In the beginning I found myself asking a lot of questions and trying to keep all the abbreviations and different projects straight in my head. Now, I can come across articles in the paper, or snippets on the radio and not feel lost among all the jargon. I can grasp concepts quickly, which provides a huge boost in confidence because I can feel my goal of becoming more well-rounded is proving applicable in the real world.

Having worked in other small non-profits in the past, I have come across a lot of great individuals, but what I love about UFE is that everyone is awesome AND really seem thrive in each other’s company. It is a true team effort which clearly establishes an upbeat and healthy work environment. Now that I’ve seen this culture in action, any future jobs are going to have a tough act to beat… especially since the next Intern Outing is getting gelato in the North End!

– Gwen Teutsch ’14

Halfway Through

It’s hard to believe that I’m already halfway through my time at the Lifespan Emotional Development Lab at Northeastern University. Although I feel like time is flying, I have also learned a lot since I started. I have become much more involved in the study we are conducting. I have had the chance to understand many of the steps of psychology research, from literature review to running subjects to entering and coding data to data analysis. At first, I only observed my supervisor and other research assistants (RAs) running participants, but now I lead multiple participants through our study daily, asking for assistance only as issues arise. The picture below shows me and another RA practicing the proper way to apply the sensors that we use to measure physiological responses in our participants.  I know that I’machieving my goals here at the LEDlab,  not only because of the fact that I have learned more specific research skills, but also because I have learned more about why psychology research works the way it does. For example, the physiological data that we gather supplements the survey and eye-tracking data by giving us concrete data on how the person’s body is responding to the stimuli. Thus, we do not have to rely only on what the person reports about how they are feeling, because we have evidence of the physical processes at work.

As a psychology major, the chance to have such hands-on experience in conducting a study has been invaluable in making the concepts I have read about in my classes come to life. For example, I remember completing countless problem sets for my Statistics course about hypothetical studies. These problems often required the use of SPSS, a common statistical program used in psychology. As I went through the steps of each problem, I sometimes had a hard time really understanding what to do. Where in the spreadsheet should particular data go? Which statistical test should I perform?  While I certainly do not have all the answers to SPSS, working with others to calculate those statistics for the study that I’ve been working on for weeks makes the concepts “come to life” for me. I think that this new understanding of SPSS will be helpful in future lab experiences and even job interviews, as well as in classes that will require research methods and statistics.

My main personal goal for the summer was to see if I wanted to pursue research or clinical psychology. Speaking with other RAs about their co-op experiences has been illuminating in this regard. Co-op is a Northeastern University program in which “students alternate semesters of academic study with semesters of full-time employment in positions related to their academic or career interests” (Northeastern Co-Op). Many of the other RAs spent their Co-Ops in clinical settings, working in hospitals and mental health centers. Talking to them has given me some insight into what it is like working on the clinical side of things. Talking with them inspired me to look into more experiential learning opportunities in the Brandeis psychology department, especially the Clinical Practicum Program. So, hearing about my colleagues’ co-op experiences has inspired me to look into ways to gain experience working in different sectors of psychology through my university.

– Leah Igdalsky, 2014

Summer Midpoint with Fundacion Paraguaya

Hello WOW bloggers. A month has past since my last post, meaning that I have, amazingly, already passed the half-way point in my internship with Fundacion Paraguaya. I am very fortunate to say that, in this time, I have found my niche in terms of my work; that is, I have really been enjoying what I have been doing on a daily basis. After switching my area of work from the micro-finance office to a department that focuses on business education called “Educacion Emprendora”, I have been learning in ways that reinforce many of the learning goals that I outlined prior to my internship.

At a Paraguayan Business Expo where students from different companies display and sell their products.

Within the “Educacion Emprendedora” program, I am specifically working with Junior Achievement – an international program that helps high school-aged children in groups of approximately 30 start and manage their own businesses for a year. The students work in groups referred to as the “company” to develop a product or service to offer, sell stock within the company to generate capital, purchase any necessary production equipment, develop a business plan, produce their product or service, execute public relations, and finally enter the local economy to sell. The defining characteristic of Junior Achievement is an emphasis on learning by doing; in other words, the students have the chance to put into practice the theory they have learned in the classroom. The program often an exciting experience, and students come to realize an intimate understanding of the issues executives face throughout the year by personally facing the challenges and questions that arise in various areas of the business such as marketing, production, human resources, etc.

To help guide the students in this process, each company receives a detailed program manual outlined with weekly goals as a guideline to complete, attends a day-long business organization session, and can access support from me and my co-workers whenever they have questions.

One of the aspects I have enjoyed most about my work is my ability to travel. On a typical day I will travel to a high school which can be located in or outside of the city of Asuncion. As one of my learning goals was to experience Paraguayan culture, these trips outside the city allow me to compare elements between urban and rural life. Even seemingly mundane elements such as riding the public transit open my view to larger cultural ideas.

A beautiful view crossing the Rio Paraguay while traveling to one of the high schools.

When I arrive at a school, I work with the five elected executives of the highschool’s company and help them realize a detailed business plan. Together we elaborate their company’s fixed costs, costs per unit of production, equilibrium point, sales goals based on earnings per share, and more. By the end of our exercises, the company knows exactly how many units of their goods/service it must sell per month, per week, per day, and per person to reach their goal. While the process sounds complicated, the underlying concept is fundamental in nature; the objective is that each student learns the skill of breaking down seemingly overwhelming and complex goals into smaller, achievable ones, ultimately instilling in him the confidence that he can pursue any professional or personal goal.

One of the company’s goods, decorated sneakers, has been a popular product.

Working within the program has been a learning experience for me as well. First, in addition to refining the above mentioned organizational techniques, I am continuing to deepen my understanding of entrepreneurship and managing a business. Second, one of the most important growth factors for me has been gaining more experience speaking Spanish. Through speaking, listening and interacting in Spanish frequently and in new contexts my comfort and confidence in the language is growing. Third, the most rewarding element of my job is feeling as though I am making a tangible difference in these students’ lives, especially after sessions when the students leave saying “I feel that I have really learned.”  I am humbled to think that I am giving them some confidence, especially in the case where some children come from difficult backgrounds.

To be learning something new everyday is a gift, and I thank the WOW committee for this opportunity. Until next time!

– Brandon Frank ’14

Learning About Homelessness Throughout First Half of Internship

Sign outside of St. Francis House building

The first several weeks of my internship at Boston’s St. Francis House have flown by, and in this short period of time I have learned volumes about homelessness and the criminal justice system. Going into the internship, I was hoping to connect classroom learning about social justice issues to a work setting. Now that I am several weeks into my internship, I feel that I have connected my past knowledge to a “real world” setting, but what I underestimated was the amount to which seeing issues play out in people’s lives would be a form of education for me. My background knowledge has simply been a jumping off point for me to continually explore how individuals experience homelessness and how their experiences are related to a variety of policies. The experiences at my internship have demonstrated the complexities of social justice issues in ways that classroom learning could not have fully conveyed; meeting with individuals who have experienced homelessness and, often times, incarceration and hearing their stories is endlessly informative regarding social policy questions.

This summer I hoped to gain greater direction in my own life in regards to career interests and understanding what skills I possess that could be useful for the workplace. While I am still unsure of what career path might be the best option for me, I have learned that I enjoy working with people and particularly hearing their stories. As a result, I might pursue a field such as counseling or social work, or at least find work that incorporates interaction with people in some capacity. While I enjoy working with people, I also have gained a deeper understanding of policy changes that could greatly impact individuals. Later in the summer I will have an opportunity to take action regarding specific policies through work with the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition, so this work should help me discover if activism surrounding policy change is the direction I wish to take in the future.

Conducting a great deal of research at my internship has honed my research skills and grant-seeking skills, which could be applicable to a wide range of non-profit work that I may pursue in the future. My interpersonal skills have also improved this summer; observing my supervisor and counselors interact with St. Francis House guests has enhanced my ability to communicate with and assist populations that I previously had no experience working with. I am proud of my ability to actively listen to others and affirm their experiences while also keeping in mind what guidance they might need. Many of the guests we serve simply need someone to talk to, and I feel that one of my most important roles this summer has been to be a source of support through listening and engaging with people. This could be invaluable experience for any kind of future work I might do, whether it be directly counseling people or simply communicating with others in the workplace.

I have also learned about what it takes to start and run a social enterprise. The bag-making business that I am assisting my supervisor with entails attention to a wide variety of details and logistics. The work takes brainstorming to come up with ideas, and then a great deal of networking, paperwork, meetings, and planning to execute the ins and outs of a business. I have never had exposure to the business world and what it takes to produce, market, and sell a product, so this experience has been eye-opening for me. Here is a photo of what our bag workshop looks like, a workshop that only came together after much planning.

Bag workshop for bag-making business

In future weeks I imagine that I will expand upon the skills I am developing and gain more clarity on what careers might be of interest to me in the future. With several weeks left I look forward to working with people and working on policy change, as well as observing the various services and programs contained within St. Francis House.

– Sarah Schneider ’13

This Summer is Flying Faster Than a New York Minute

From reading the other WOW blogs, it sounds like everyone is having an amazing summer. As for me, I would have to say that my internship has definitely met and exceeded all of my expectations thus far. As an aspiring lawyer, the goal I was most excited about fulfilling this summer was getting an opportunity to experience the actual courtroom proceedings that take place in Manhattan Family Court. I expressed this desire to my supervisor at the onset of my internship and she has been quite accommodating in allowing me to gain exposure to a wide variety of different proceedings. It has been a great learning experience for me to observe courtroom procedure and to pick up on the often subtle nuances that distinguish the more refined lawyers from their peers. I was relatively familiar with how criminal courtrooms are run from previous experience but this internship has allowed me to broaden my perspective and such knowledge will be quite useful when the time comes for me to decide which type of law I would ultimately like to pursue.


Being a Sociology major, another goal that I had for the summer was to gain some real-life experiential learning to contrast with the theoretical knowledge I’ve acquired in the classroom. It is one thing to read about how social infrastructures, such as the legal system, can affect people’s lives but it is another thing entirely to experience first-hand the profound impact that even seemingly minute legal decisions can have on a client’s life. I have been fortunate in my short time at LFC to witness a broad spectrum of outcomes: from triumphant victories where families have been reunited to tragic cases where children are separated from their loved ones and placed in less than desirable living arrangements. The capricious nature of judges makes predicting such outcomes almost impossible;  some are uplifting and others are heartbreaking but I’ve learned that, regardless of how invested I am in any particular child’s case, it is best to never take any decision personally. This is a piece of advice that was given to me by one of the veteran attorneys at LFC and I believe it to be absolutely imperative to maintaining one’s sanity in such a potentially overwhelming career. Such is a prime example of why interning at a place like LFC is truly an invaluable experience: having the opportunity to apply the sociological ideology I have acquired at Brandeis to real people’s lives has added a human element to my perspective that simply cannot be conveyed in any textbook.

At this juncture in my internship, what I am most proud of is the interpersonal connections that I have made this summer. I feel like my relative similarity in age and background has allowed me to establish common ground and to build a nice rapport with the clients with whom I have worked.  I think being able to communicate and build relationships with all kinds of people is a fundamental skill that has been augmented significantly by this experience and one that I will be able to apply to both my future career and academic pursuits.

I can hardly believe the summer is halfway over already. I hope everyone enjoys the month or so we have left and I look forward to reading all about the awesome things everyone else is doing in their blogs.

 

A. Bray, 2013

Midpoint at AVODAH

As I reflect on my academic, career, and personal goals created for the summer, I realize how much I have already learned at AVODAH. I started my internship when the organization was having their big NYC event and initially thought that the rest of my summer was going to be as fast paced and interactive as my first few days there. I soon understood that this was not true and was put to work the next week creating surveys, evites, and sending out emails using mail merge. Although this wasn’t as vigorous as helping with the fundraising event, I learned more about the inner workings of AVODAH. The most prominent of what I learned is the amount of time, energy, and commitment required to achieve the transformative results of such a wonderful service program.

My academic goal for the summer was to gain knowledge on how to create social change after participating in a service corps. One of the responsibilities I have as an intern is to read and update many of the Alumni biographies. Through this I recognize how one is able to create social change after a service corp; they continue working with organizations that are dedicated to social justice. Although now the answer seems obvious, it is through this internship that I really understand how those who join AVODAH are able to find their own way of continuing to fight for change.

My career goal was to learn how to utilize certain aspects of the service corp and apply it to social entrepreneurship.  An article that I was given to scan spoke about social entrepreneurship and how it can exist in the non-profit, for-profit, or corporate sectors. I was unaware of the complexity of this career path. While at my internship I discovered another type of job that was appealing to me. Another intern at AVODAH is part of a program called CLIP, which takes students and places them in non- profit internships. The students meet once a week for a panel and discuss how one can use their Jewish identity to create social change. I was able to attend one week where my boss was speaking on the panel. A Brandeis alum was also a speaker, and told us about his job at JP Morgan working with philanthropists to find organizations in order to donate money to. Because of this, I have become more aware that there are other jobs that are just as fitting for me as social entrepreneurship.

 

What was made clearer to me this summer is the strong connection that exists between Jewish values and social justice. Both aspects have played important roles in my life, and to be able to experience this daily is exciting. I am already truly satisfied with all that I have learned up to this point and believe that I contributed to the growing organization in a positive way. Right now I am proud of being able to give meaningful input during our AVODAH meetings. I am more confident in presenting my ideas and realize the importance of detail and organization in any given task. I continue to learn and appreciate the amount of skills I am gaining and am excited for what is to come.

– Danielle Mizrachi ’15

Week One with the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project

Hello from Iten, Kenya. I have finally gotten settled and found a way to get internet access here in Kenya.

The Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project works to send gifted Kenyan students to elite universities in the United States. The program selects a small group of particularly deserving students to guide through the complicated process of standardized testing and college applications. Since being founded in 2004, KenSAP has placed 89 students among the best colleges and universities in the United States including two at Brandeis. Located in Iten, Kenya the area is world renowned by track and field enthusiasts for the distance running it consistently produces. For village of only 4,000 people the area can account for an inordinate percentage of world-class distance runners. As an avid distance runner and member of the Brandeis Track and Field team this area is particularly interesting to me.

My internship with KenSAP has several major responsibilities. Along with two other interns I will be an instructor for classes on standardized tests and writing. The students will take the TOEFL exam in August and the SAT in October. While these are extremely gifted students, English is typically their third language which makes the critical reading section of the SAT a difficult task. The students have studied English in school and speak well, but the intricacies of the SAT are much easier for a native speaker to understand. Luckily, this is the section that I performed best on so it will be easier to help. Interacting with the students on a consistent basis helps them to improve their understanding of English and American culture which is essential to their success in applying to college and adjusting to a new lifestyle.

After a difficult 48 hours of travel I finally arrived in Iten excited to start despite the jet lag and seven hour time difference. The first week was particularly exciting because I was a major participant in the selection of this year’s students. This year, 77 students applied for the program, all of whom received an A on the national high school exam. I had been reviewing applications for about a month before departing for Kenya which prepared me for a busy week. After discussing each applicant with the small group of selectors, we interviewed each candidate. This is obviously a nerve-wracking process for the potential students who are hoping to be given the opportunity of a lifetime. As a soon to be job applicant, it gave me some perspective of what goes on from the other side of the interview. After several days of interviews and deliberations the group was narrowed down to 14 students who will be this year’s KenSAP class. I will begin teaching courses to help the students prepare for the SAT soon.

I am very excited for the possibilities this summer may hold. Having spent the majority of my life in the northeast this immersion into an entirely new culture has already been quite an experience. The feeling of being stared at for being a minority is completely foreign for me and will certainly change my perspective. Teaching the SAT will undoubtedly improve my own critical reading skills which will help me in my own preparations for the LSAT this fall. Overall, I expect this internship to leave me with an unparalleled experience and an enlightened perspective.  – Alex Kramer ‘ 13

Where do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?-Mid point in Joburg!

            This first month in Johannesburg, South Africa has flown. I feel as if I just got here, yet I am already half way done with my internship at Lefika La Phodiso, The Art Therapy Center. Lefika is involved in so many different projects that it is hard to keep track of everything that is being done.

            Each week, I meet with a group of community counselors training to be art therapists. Each of them then leads her own art therapy group, which I have been fortunate enough to visit. Each visit gave me the opportunity to witness a variety of techniques they use to lead their group. For one of the projects, I went to help teach art classes to three and four year old children living in a township. Another group I observed were the adolescents, living in a condemned building. Some of these children do not have parents living with them and there are others who do, but have never emotionally attached to them. These adolescents are going though so much hardship; they are basically taking care of themselves and looking after younger children who live in the building. For this group, art was an extension of their voice. They would go and create images and then discuss what the images meant to them in a group setting. Safety and a hygienic living environment were the two major issues that kept re-emerging. As a result of these meetings, another facilitator and I, have begun a new project to help empower these children to renovate where thir building.

malaika
The sign used at one of the fundraisers organized to raise money to give the children running water

One more project, which completely amazed me, was the work being done at the boarding School for Visually Impaired children. The therapist explained that many of the students’ fine motor skills and senses had never been fully developed, and most of the families were not even aware of their child’s disability or how to take came of him/her. This was very different to the type of art therapy I had seen before where art acted as an expression of one’s feelings; for this project the art therapy consisted of playing and using one’s hands to develop the senses.

Braille typewriter used at the SIbonile School for Visually Impaired
Braille typewriter used at the SIbonile School for Visually Impaired
Braille closeup
Braille closeup

These are only a few of the projects I have been a part of so far; each is completely different environment and the facilitator leads the group accordingly. This has allowed me to see the possibilities of how art therapy approaches can be applied, one of my main goals for the summer. As I work and participate with these groups, I have come to realize the immense growth that has come from learning from these amazing therapists and the work they do.

            As of right now, we are in the middle of the Holiday Program, a three-week-long program that involves helping children during the time when they are most at risk, school vacation. I have organized meetings, planned the schedules for different age groups, prepared activates and materials, and was in charge of organizing and finding different volunteers for the duration of it. It has been quite a handful of work, even before the program began. For the first week we worked with a  group of 2-5 year olds, and one of 5-11 year olds, as well as adolescents and some of the guardians, all living in the condemned building I wrote about earlier. The second week will be an open studio where the children can come in and create and will be ensured a proper meal. The third week will consist of a week for adolescents only. They will be coming from the condemned building, an orphanage, an HIV+ clinic, and a children’s home. The theme will be taken from Gauguin’s famous image, Where do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? I greatly anticipate the projects and working with these adolescents.

– Nicole Bortnik ’14

First week at UNITE FOR SIGHT in Ghana

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.

Unite For Sight: That’s the motto!

Photo Source

I feel more and more Ghanaian everyday…check out my colors!

Photo Source

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:

http://www.uniteforsight.org/

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/ghana

– Darrell Byrd ’13

Midpoint at NARAL Pro Choice

Photo source

It’s been a little over a month since the beginning of my work here at NARAL and I’m enjoying it more and more as we get further into the summer. Many of my goals were focused around gaining experience in the non-profit world, making valuable connections, and really taste-testing to see if this is something I’d want to pursue in the future With this in mind, I think I’m progressing well.

For me, politics, as in running for office, doesn’t seem like the medium of change I want to pursue. I want to be part of the most effective way of making change. My supervisor’s job includes both the legislative and political side by lobbying for legislation, working in the statehouse, making valuable connection with senators and representatives, and really being on the front lines of passing effective and necessary legislation. In addition, he spends a lot of time working to get pro-choice candidates elected. These two aspects of change are not only essential for progressive initiatives (working from both the policy and elected official sides) but also are part of a job that I really feel interested in.

My academic goals of learning more about pro-choice legislation, the act of lobbying, what it takes to run a non-profit, and actual reproductive rights have also been coming along. Everyday I feel like I’m learning more and more about the topics themselves, but also how they fit into my life.

In addition, I’m building a lot of skills related to this type of work. I’m becoming familiar with grassroots organizing techniques, constituent relations, working with state legislators and aides, and campaigning. Campaigning has been a really large portion of my skill set because campaigns are complicated and almost take on lives of their own. There is just so much involved. First, one must get a large volunteer base and intern base if they want to run a successful campaign since campaigns rely on manpower. Secondly, they require a lot of organization and planning to run a successful campaign, which includes door knocking, phone banking, and data entry as the main components. All of these activities are not simple. They require a lot more than face value. The hours are long, the jobs can be tedious and intense, and the response isn’t always ideal. But running an effective and credible campaign is extremely important, and I feel very lucky to be able to be part of so many incredible campaigns.

All of these skills will absolutely transfer into both future academic and career pursuits as I’m building a large skill base, getting experience working for a non-profit, and learning empirical knowledge about women’s health and reproductive rights.

One thing I’d like to quickly address is the misconception that NARAL is a pro-abortion organization. In fact, NARAL and it’s employees are routinely called “baby killers” and other things that are just as vulgar and untrue. NARAL works for women to have choice, access to medically accurate information, and a full range of control over their bodies. It does not promote one option over the other, it does not deny that abstinence is the most effective way to avoid pregnancy; it does not promote abortion as a form of birth control. It works for women to be able to have full control over their own bodies. You don’t want an abortion? Don’t get one. It’s as simple as that. But every woman, regardless of race, class, sexual orientation, or age, should have full control over her body. Being pro-choice, is not anti-child, anti-family, anti-religion, or anti-anything. It’s being responsible and respectful. There are so many undeniable correlations between access to reproductive rights and increasing education, health, financial independence, and aspiration outcome.

As a young woman, I understand what is at stake in this election – at this time. The fact that reproductive rights are even still in question is an absurdity that boggles my brain daily. I understand that fighting for the right to have control over my body is essential and something that cannot be taken lightly. Even with waning faith in the political system, I understand that voting in this election (both state and federal) are essential in the promotion of my rights as a 21 year old Brandeis student who wants to be able to decide if, when and how I have a family. If you are reading this post, male or female (because this is important for men and fathers as well), remember that this election is really important and regardless of your own personal views, choice is choice – and a constitutional right that is being threatened and must be protected.  Please vote pro-choice in 2012. In my next blog I will be attaching a Massachusetts Voter Guide, which shows which candidates are standing behind this fundamental right.

Sorry for the bleeding heart speech, but I feel if I’m going to be writing about my goals, it’s important to state what it really all comes down to: getting the community together to help protect choice.

For a snapshot on some of the legislation I’m working on, visit these sites:

Photo source

– Rebecca Miller ’13

First Week at NARAL Pro-Choice

Photo credit: Ruth Weld

It’s been a few weeks since I began my work with NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, the state affiliate of NARAL Pro-Choice America. I have really been enjoying my time here and am sad at how quickly it is going by.

The main mission of this non-profit organization is to create, build, and maintain a grassroots constituency to protect every woman’s right to make her own decisions regarding her reproductive choices, whatever they may be. NARAL does many things to protect women and their right to choose including mobilizing supporters, working to elect pro-choice candidates, passing pro-choice legislation, conducting research on reproductive topics, and leading initiatives to improve the reproductive health equity within Massachusetts. Given this summer’s extreme importance as an election summer and the significance of reproductive issues within the campaigns, this summer is an exciting and crucial time to be working with NARAL.

My internship is basically divided into two parts; office work and campaign work. My role in the office consists of many different responsibilities like data entry, sitting in on endorsement interviews with candidates for the Massachusetts legislature and various other tasks. I am also responsible for tracking Worcester County state elections and following all the local politics to keep track of our endorsed candidates. In addition, I work as the legislative intern which entails keeping track of NARAL’s priority legislation, writing fact sheets, following policy in the statehouse, and working to prepare for the next legislative session as this one comes to a close in July.

The other main part of my internship is working on the campaigns of the candidates we endorse.  This is really exciting because I get to work on multiple campaigns; meet a lot of incredible people, network, and get important experience being part of a campaign. When I’m on a campaign I’m doing everything from making constituent calls, going door to door, and yes, more data entry.

I became interested in NARAL when I referred to their database for help with a research project, showing the link between the oppression of women and access to birth control and abortions. I was impressed and inspired by their research and policy initiatives. I knew that I wanted to work for a non-profit dealing with social justice and women’s studies, so after researching NARAL’s functions and the opportunities available over winter break, I applied for an internship to test the waters in the non-profit world.

Photo Credit: Ruth Weld

My first week was wonderful. It involved an all day-training with other interns at local non-profits like MassEquality and Women’s Political Caucus. I learned a lot about NARAL itself, but also the goals of small political non-profits and how they work. Later that week, we had one of our biggest canvassing events at Gay Pride Boston 2012. It was an incredible experience. The main goal of the day was to increase our membership. This event was really fun, action-packed, and a great introduction to the internship. It’s also just a really wonderful experience to be surrounded by people who are all coming together to fight for equality.

My learning expectations are based around my desire to further figure out which medium of advocacy for justice I want to pursue. This internship will help me to clarify my career path and allow me the opportunity to test the non-profit world.  As a rising senior, I’m really looking forward to using this internship as a way to further my understanding of my career goals and potentially make vital connections for the future.

Before I close this first post, I think it’s really important to share something I learned within my first week at NARAL. Massachusetts has always been seen as an extremely progressive state and many people are proud to live here. While this is true, sometimes the legacy of Massachusetts being progressive allows us to take a backseat and assume things about our laws. Despite Massachusetts’ extreme leadership in healthcare and commitment to public health, Massachusetts is one of only four states in the entire country that still has an outdated law on the books, from the 19th century, that bans all abortions. In addition, there is another provision that bars all birth control to unmarried couples. These archaic statues have not been enforced for many years especially given federal cases like Roe v. Wade, which is potentially why there has been little to no movement to get rid of them. Yet in the wake of recent attacks on reproductive freedom, Roe v. Wade does seem like it’ll be threatened in the near future. If this becomes the case, and it is overturned, abortion and birth control will become illegal in Massachusetts. We cannot stand for this. One of NARAL Massachusetts’ main legislative priorities is working as hard as possible to get this archaic and unjust legislation repealed as quickly as possible. Be on the lookout for ways you can reach out to your state legislators to make sure this legislation is repealed.

Sorry for the detour! Overall my internship has been incredible and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the summer.

Check out NARAL:

To see if your legislator is pro-choice, click here.

– Rebecca Miller ’13

 

First week at Roxbury Tenants of Harvard (RTH)–Youth Development Internship

 

I have just completed my first week as a youth development intern at the Roxbury Tenants of Harvard. On my first day my supervisor took me on a tour of the Mission Hill property and explained to me how their organization is run. We also discussed his background in Non- Profit work and the skills one needs to acquire in order to hold a senior/executive position.

One of my personal objectives for my summer internship was learning about the business aspects of Non-Profits. I’m interested in social services as well as business. This is why I thought it would be beneficial to get some hands on experience at a Non-Profit organization this summer. My supervisor has agreed to go over the budget with me, as well as allow me to sit in on staff meetings so I can see how executive decisions are made. I feel incredibly fortunate to be working with someone who is invested in my experience and wants me to get everything I possibly can during my time here.  He told me he would share all he knew with me, and he has been keeping his word. Every morning I report to him and check in, he asks me questions and makes sure I have help completing the necessary objectives for the day.

This sign is near the entrance of the RTH property

 

I work directly with two youth development staff during the day in the Teen Department. I’m also finding that it isn’t difficult to connect with the youth, I’ve kept the conversation generally casual and I think they appreciate that. I don’t crowd them but let them come to me instead, and I’ve found that this is a effective way to connect with most of them. The girls seem so much more shy than the boys, so I’ve gone a little out of my way so that everyone knows I’m available to them, while still being approachable. I’m so happy that things have been going as smoothly as they have, and that the staff as well as the youth have welcomed me into their space. Looking forward to all the good things to come over the summer!and we’ve been creating an agenda for the summer. So far, we’ve scheduled field trips, basketball tournaments, job readiness workshops, and fun activities for the kids to do during the day. I’ve met quite a bit of the youth I’ll be working with throughout the summer and I was surprised to see how quickly they have warmed up to me. The kids in the program (youth building communities) are between the ages of 11 and 14, so this is a critical age for them. I’m very much looking forward to working with them over the summer and building relationships. At first I was a little concerned about the relatively small age difference between the kids in the program and myself. I’m sure to them I seem young, and sometimes teenagers can see this as a reason to see me as one of their peers. Thankfully though, the staff has introduced me to the youth as well as their parents as part of the staff so I haven’t had any issues with my authority thus far.

I’m also finding that it isn’t difficult to connect with the youth, I’ve kept the conversation generally casual and I think they appreciate that. I don’t crowd them but let them come to me instead, and I’ve found that this is a effective way to connect with most of them. The girls seem so much more shy than the boys, so I’ve gone a little out of my way so that everyone knows I’m available to them, while still being approachable. I’m so happy that things have been going as smoothly as they have, and that the staff as well as the youth have welcomed me into their space. Looking forward to all the summer has to offer.

– Alyssa Green, ’14

Midway point at the States Attorney’s Office

These past four weeks have really flown by! My responsibilities at the States Attorney’s Office have grown and I feel much more comfortable in the office.  When I walk into the office every morning, I now feel prepared to handle any task that comes my way.  Before I began my internship, one of my main goals was to learn more about the judicial system. That included better understanding the court processes, the inner workings of the states attorney’s office, and the specific role of the victims advocate. I feel that I have already learned so much about each of those things and I hope to learn even more.

While monitoring court proceedings I feel that I understand more and more of what goes on. I now understand the difference between a status conference and a jury draw status conference. I have discovered which court proceedings interest me to watch and which are monotonous. Even though I prefer certain court proceedings to others, one of my responsibilities is to watch whichever one my supervisor needs me to and then I report back to him on the outcome. This has taught me to pay attention and understand the process and outcome. I have also learned a lot from the attorneys who have encouraged questions and taught me a lot about the work they do.  I was even able to sit with one of the attorneys during one court proceeding.

I also better understand the role of the victim’s advocates because that is the department I specifically work with.  One of my main responsibilities is to assist with restitution paperwork, which I now feel very comfortable doing. My supervisor will hand me an assorted pile of papers knowing that I understand what to do with them. I now have enough experience to use the database in a way to find the appropriate paperwork, print it, and then file it.

 

File Cabinets
Restitution Folders!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My supervisor actually calls me his “chief-of-staff”! Every time he says that, I feel proud of my work and that I am really helping him. I enjoy being able to walk into his office, with him knowing that I am capable of doing anything that he hands me.  His confidence in me has shown that I have learned a lot. I feel more confident in my work for him and my overall ability to work in the office.

Confidence is just one skill that has grown since my internship began. I also feel more competent with computer databases and promptly being able to figure out how it works. After using a few different types of databases at this internship I feel confident in my ability to quickly learn and adapt to new programs. I know that is a skill that I can take with me to future jobs and will help me feel comfortable with using any program thrown my way.

My knowledge of the judicial system has also certainly grown, which is something that will benefit me in both academics and with my future career.  I feel as though I understand the difference between civil court and criminal court, which is something I never fully understood before . I am currently working more with the criminal court, but was able to observe some family court proceedings. Through this internship and the opportunities given to me, I have learned that I enjoy family court and civil court much more than criminal court. I have greater interests in the cases that appear in civil court and the attorney-client relationships that ensue. This current internship has shed light onto the different courts and truly helped me better understand what I am interested in for the future.

– Ilana Abramson ’13

First Week at The Sold Project

Learning to ‘go with the flow’ of nature, urban life, car and cow traffic, and super-relaxed co-workers is not always easy, but I’m up for the challenge! I’ve been following suit of the ancient temples that line the mountains surrounding the cities in Northern Thailand- this peaceful Buddha statue was nestled in a garden of broken relics guarding a temple cave twenty minutes north of Chiang Mai.

Hello All!

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!

– Zoey Hart ’13

First Week at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild

I just finished my first full week as an intern at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) in Boston, MA, which is a national non-profit organization composed of a network of legal professionals who provide legal assistance and support to immigrant communities and their legal practitioners and advocates. The NIPNLG seeks to promote justice and equality by both defending and advancing the rights of immigrants. We focus on assisting five major categories of immigrant communities: those facing criminal charges with consequences of deportation, survivors of crimes and domestic violence, those facing raids or immigration enforcement action, non-citizens who want complete freedom of political expression, and non-citizens living with HIV/AIDS. Our mission is to provide immigrants and their attorneys the support and guidance they need in defending their rights. The legal process can be very confusing and daunting for non-citizens who cannot afford attorneys’ fees. The organization’s success depends on the dedication of its staff and members who provide crucial technical assistance. Our role is to provide useful information and set up connections between attorneys and immigrants.

My responsibilities will include assisting both the Director of Development and Communications and the Staff Attorneys on various administrative, legal, and development projects throughout the summer. My first project is creating a program book for an upcoming reception at an American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) conference which honors one of our members who has done outstanding work to defend immigrants’ rights within the past year. Click here for the story of one of the immigrants whom he represented and successfully defended. Another component of my experience at the NIPNLG will be communicating with immigrants who are currently detained in prisons all over the country who are looking for a pro bono attorney or legal advice. As we receive these letters, the staff splits them up, and everyone is responsible for responding to detainees with the resources they have requested. Through this ongoing project, I hope to better understand both the legal aspects of immigration and the areas in which our legal system does not support immigrants’ needs and rights.

I found and secured this internship with the tremendous help of a Brandeis professor and colleague of an NIPNLG member. Through this connection, I contacted the Director of Legal Advocacy and set up an interview before I went abroad for the spring semester. Though they usually only take law student interns, they created a unique position for me that both fit their needs and my summer learning goals. I feel very welcomed and needed in the office, and I am very excited to continue to learn about how a small non-profit functions and how it contributes to the greater picture of advancing immigrant rights. I also hope to explore options for graduate school and/or a possible future legal or non-profit career having to do with social justice.

Here is a picture of my desk: I already feel like a contributing member to the important work that the staff does. They really try to include me in the office culture. I look forward to contributing to the NIPNLG’s goals.

– Jonna Cottrell ’13

First Week at Centro Presente

Hi! My name is Ivonne Moreno and I am an intern at Centro Presente located in Somerville, MA. Centro Presente is a member-driven, state-wide, Latin American Immigrant organization dedicated to the self- sufficiency of the Latin American immigrant community of Massachusetts.  Centro Presente struggles for immigrant rights and for economic and social justice. Through the integration of community organizing, leadership development and basic services such as youth programs, adult education, and legal services, Centro Presente strives to give its member voice and build community power.

During this summer, I will be working in the legal department at Centro Presente, which provides legal services, educational trainings on immigrants’ rights to the Latino Community and works closely with politicians, religious groups and other community organization. This first week, we have been focusing on organizing the next educational training called “Citizenship Fair”, the main goal of which is to educate Latino immigrants that qualify for citizenship about the process of becoming a US citizen and the importance of voting.  My main responsibility has been getting in touch with immigrants who have come to the Centro and have said to be interested in becoming citizens and invite them to come to the next citizenship fair and how to sign up for the upcoming class to take the citizenship test.

One important event that has a big impact at Centro Presente has been President Obama’s announcement on June 15th giving opportunity to undocumented young people who qualify to obtain a two year permit to stay in the US legally and obtain a work permit to be able to work called deferred action. This announcement has been a joy and an achievement for the immigrant community and especially for those young people who have been in the United States since they were kids and have been unable to get jobs and go to college because of their immigrant status.  This week, we have been receiving a lot of calls from people asking about the deferred action and how they can apply if they qualify. In the weekly meeting staff, the Centro decided to do something like a forum and invite the community to give them all the information we have on the deferred action. I think it is very important to do since they are people who are trying to take advantage of this situation by asking people for money to apply for this permit when there is not even an application process and the ICE has 60 days to organize the application process.

In the weekly staff meeting, I was introduced to the people who work at the Centro Presente and the work they do. I was really impressed by the work they do and how passionate they are about fighting for the rights of the undocumented community. From this short period that I have been at Centro Presente, I feel that I will gain a deep understanding of the US immigration system as well as the many issues that undocumented people face in the United States. It has been great to also have a different working experience that I did not have the opportunity to get before.

– Ivonne Moreno ’13

 

 

Midway point of my internship at WATCH CDC

I am just about halfway done with my internship and it has definitely been a whirlwind.  Some days are slow and I spend my time updating the database, researching housing resources, stuffing donation letters and other basic office activities.  Other days I am very busy meeting with clients who come in to ask questions, look for housing or fill out applications.  My learning goals for this summer were quite basic:  I wanted to learn about the functions of a community based non-profit and develop organizing skills that allow me to serve the needs of community. On a level more applicable to my every day duties at my internship, my goal was to research and learn enough about Massachusetts housing law and the community needs of the people of Waltham in order to serve and assists clients as best as I possibly can. What I have learned and accomplished in those terms can be displayed by a variety of small indicators; like how now when a client who was served a Notice To Quit comes in with questions I can confidently explain the process to them without having to look up the eviction timeline in our resources. Or how it no longer takes me an hour to pre-read a Section 8 application before I feel okay starting to fill it out for a client. I have been viewing each client who walks through the door as a new challenge. Each one poses a challenge for me to help alleviate their housing issues at least a little. So the summer has truly been filled with challenges.

 I have kept a tally sheet next to my desk and have tried to keep track of the number of clients who have come into or contacted the clinic for assistance. The numbers read 24 walk-ins, 12 phone calls and 2 emails.

Some of those are clients who dropped by with a quick question or were looking for a local resource, and others are clients who have come in repeatedly. That is a pretty good number of clients I’ve worked with. What I am even more proud of, however, are the communication skills I’ve gained through working with so many people. Many clients who come in speak little English, but their needs are every bit as large. Sometimes, I have an interpreter with me, but other times it’s just me and my minimal Spanish skills there to communicate and help solve some of their housing issues. On an anecdotal note, I’ve had one older, disabled man named ****** come in two or three times to get help filling out a variety of housing applications due to his limited English ability. He has spent probably a total of 4 hours working with me in my office and we have filled out five different applications and chatted a great deal. After the second time he came in and spent about an hour and a half going over the applications with me, a fellow intern who works in the office next door came in to my office and noted how ****** was here for about 2 hours and she did not understand a word he said to me the entire time, and yet I continued to respond without any hesitation or question. I hadn’t really noticed until she pointed it out, but between his broken English and my sad excuse of Spanish, we had created a vocabulary in order to communicate and form a dialogue. And, somehow we understood each other perfectly.  It is overcoming language barriers such as this that I am most proud of during my internship experience, and I think it is these skills that will resonate most as I continue my career at Brandeis and forge into my future career, whatever that may be.

– Molly Lortie ’13

My first week at Shatil

I am interning this summer at an organization named Shatil (seedling in Hebrew). Shatil has three offices throughout Israel: Jerusalem, Haifa, and Be’er Sheva; I am working in the Jerusalem office. Shatil’s mission is to help develop Israeli civil society through support, mentorship, consultation and guidance of various non-profit organizations throughout Israel. In addition to supporting other non-profits, Shatil runs its own projects, such as organizing strikes for workers‘ rights, creating forums for Israeli- Arab co-existence and lobbying the government for socially conscious policy change. While Shatil functions as an umbrella organization for many other NGO’s, it is also under the umbrella of the New Israel Fund (NIF), a philanthropy organization that works to promote democracy and social justice in Israel. Shatil functions as the action arm of the NIF through creating, promoting, and helping to sustain civil society in Israel. In addition to the aforementioned roles, Shatil runs a database for people to find jobs with socially conscious organizations, and many Israelis know Shatil for this function. Shatil’s English webpage can be found here.

 

 

I am interning in the Development Department of Shatil, which works on fund-raising and publicity, and runs some of its own projects concerning the environment, shared society (Israeli-Arab coexistence), Bedouin womens rights, social protests and more. In my role as intern I am expected to write reports to donors, write articles for NIF’s e-newsletter, update the job database, translate documents from Hebrew to English, and work on a research project concerning Shatil’s status on ECOSOC (the UN Economic and Social Council). Additionally, I will attend Shatil events and conferences and meet a variety of activists in Israeli civil society.

Here is a link to the E-Newsletter article that I worked on.

I spent this past semester studying abroad in Morocco, and knew that I really wanted to be in Israel this summer. I looked at a variety of organizations and opportunities, but wasn’t really excited about any of them. Then, while talking to my sister who lives in Israel, she told me to look at Shatil. She knew of Shatil because of their work with social workers (which is what she is) and she knew about my interests in civil society, social justice and the non-profit world. I looked at the website and was really interested, so I sent an email with my resume and a cover letter to Shatil, secured a phone interview (conducted while sitting in a loud café with a terrible connection) and, thankfully, got the internship.

My first week at the internship was interesting. I did not have very much information about my specific day-to-day activities before I came, and was expecting to be sitting in the office a little less than I am. However, the people in the office are all very nice, friendly, and open to answering my millions of questions. They immediately got me set up with everything I need and put me to work right away. They also gave me a short briefing about what exactly Shatil is and does, its relationship with the NIF and other NGO’s, and introduced me to everyone in the office.

This summer I hope to learn about civil society in Israel, and working in the non-profit world. What I like about Shatil is that it is a big organization that is associated with a variety of other organizations.  Therefore, I will learn not only about different departments and functions within the organization, but also inter-organizational relationships as I am exposed to various organizations and projects.

Tamar Schneck ’13

Tweeting for Social Change: My First Weeks at American Jewish World Service

I remember first hearing about American Jewish World Service (AJWS) when I was fourteen years old and participating in a philanthropy project at my local Jewish Community Center. The organization’s mission and the way it uses Jewish values to inspire Jewish communities to help marginalized people across the globe deeply resonated with me. As I aged and discovered my passion for human rights work and international development, I never forgot about one of the first organizations to inspire me. Therefore, I truly see it as a privilege to be an intern in American Jewish World Service’s communications department this summer.

AJWS’s mission is: “Inspired by Judaism’s commitment to justice, American Jewish World Service works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world.”  Through service projects, educational programs, advocacy, and grants to grassroots partners in the developing world, AJWS works to empower marginalized peoples across the globe and pursue justice.

On the opening day of the Rio +20 conference, 300 indigenous people occupied the dam to spell “Pare Belo Monte,” meaning “Stop Belo Monte”. The Belo Monte Dam, which will be the third biggest in the world, will flood their homelands and destroy wildlife. By posting this on Facebook, I help share their work.

I am fortunate to not only be a WOW intern but to have gotten my internship directly through Hiatt. AJWS partners with Brandeis every year to offer placement for one WOW intern. This year, it was me! I wanted to apply for an internship with AJWS for a while and was thrilled to learn that there was an expedited process for Brandeis students. It’s an amazing opportunity!

AJWS has fourteen total interns this summer. I am the lone intern in the communications department. My responsibilities include content development for the blog, social media work, media monitoring, and video making. Although I am not directly furthering AJWS’ mission, I hope that through the writing and social media work I do this summer I can leave even a small contribution to an incredible cause.

These sunflower seeds were delivered to Capitol Hill and the White House to represent the 18,000 people who signed the Jewish Petition for a Just Farm Bill. During the delivery, I shared our success through social media.

I see this internship as a unique opportunity to combine my academic passions – global human rights and peace-building – with the writing and social media skills I gained through my extracurricular work. I hope to improve my writing skills, and particularly want to learn how to craft my tone for different audiences. In addition, I am eager to learn about effective outreach and audience retention. I also hope to see how the different components of nonprofit work interact in order to help a larger cause. I am most nervous about working from nine to five and sitting behind a desk all day.  I am excited to experience working in a nonprofit, particularly since it will allow me to discover if this is a good route for me when I graduate Brandeis next spring.

After my first two weeks, I still am growing into my role in the communications department and establishing a routine. I spend the bulk of my day managing the Facebook page, generating content, and researching articles on current events related to AJWS’ work. Unlike other college students, when on Facebook or Twitter, I am not procrastinating, but doing my job! The most meaningful project I have worked on so far was interviewing and recording an event with a leader of one of AJWS’ partners in India. His stories were incredibly moving and displayed the profound struggles, beauty, and potential in India.

Often times, when I am compiling spreadsheets and writing Facebook statues or tweets, it is hard to remember the “why” behind my daily tasks and feel motivated by my work. However, after hearing from about our partner in India’s work firsthand and realizing that I can use my voice to share his stories, I remembered why what I do is of value and how it contributes to the bigger picture. As my internship continues, I aspire to remember to always work with intention and complete awareness of my global partners in the universal struggle for justice.

– Erica Shaps ’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.

(Image Source)

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.

(Image Source)

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

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination

Hello! My name is Harold Salinas. I’m an intern at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). MCAD is the state agency charged with enforcing the state’s anti-discrimination laws in the areas of employment, housing, credit, education, public accommodations, mortgage, and lending. State law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, genetics, military status, and retaliation. In addition to these bases, the Massachusetts fair housing law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of children, public assistance, veteran status, and marital status.

The MCAD has offices in Boston, New Bedford, Springfield, and Worcester. I’m currently working in the Boston site. Although I do receive training on housing, employment and public accommodation laws, my responsibilities focus mainly on MCAD’s community outreach program. The Commission’s “Spreading Education to End Discrimination” project (“S.E.E.D.”) aims to provide information about civil rights in the workplace, housing, public accommodations and other areas to members of populations that are likely to experience discrimination.

As a S.E.E.D. intern, I have participated in five days – during my first week – of intensive training on discrimination law, the MCAD complaint process, and presentation skills. Following this training, I have started contacting numerous community organizations that serve disenfranchised populations to introduce them to the outreach program and, wherever possible, work with them to plan outreach programs on site. As I succeed in scheduling programs, I will travel to the sites to deliver informational presentations. At each presentation, I will offer participants the opportunity to initiate the complaint process by meeting with him/her one-on-one to complete an intake form following the program.

My first week here has been fantastic and while eight hours of training for a whole week may seem intense, I have learned so much already and I’m excited for the experience I will gain this summer. My impressions overall are very positive. The work environment is friendly but at the same time very serious. The other three interns I work with are well qualified and we all seem to be on the same boat in terms of our obligations here at MCAD. I have begun to establish a good relationship between my supervisor and I. She is a very smart, humble and respected woman, and I’m looking forward to learning so much from her this summer.

I grew up in Boston, and I’m bilingual in Spanish. I’m a passionate advocate for Latinos, African-Americans, and low wage workers. As a Legal Studies minor, my goal is to use this internship opportunity to expand my skills as a public speaker, and learn more about the law and legal proceedings. This position will offer an ideal setting for me to reach my goals.

– Harold Salinas ’14
MCAD

A Week at the Chinese Progressive Assocation

“The Chinese Progressive Association is a grassroots community organization which works for full equality and empowerment of the Chinese community in the Greater Boston area and beyond. Our activities seek to improve the living and working conditions of Chinese Americans and to involve ordinary community members in making decisions that affect our lives.” [Mission].

I just finished my second week at the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA), a non-profit based in Boston’s Chinatown. The Chinese Progressive Association has been playing a large role in the lives of Chinatown residents since 1977 when it was founded.  CPA wishes to create a grassroots movement, meaning a movement directly led and supported by residents of the community whose lives are affected by issues such as the need for jobs and education, freedom from discrimination, and a clean and safe living environment (click here for a short video on CPA).


CPA signs used at rallies supporting worker’s rights (Photo by Kelly Li)

The summer before my senior year of high school, I interned at another non-profit in the Chinatown area. During that time, I learned about the history of Chinatown and its need for affordable housing and the economic gap in terms of income between most of its residents compared to the median income of Boston residents. Having grown up in the suburbs, generally without much exposure to the Asian Pacific Islander (API) issues that Asian Americans face every day, I believe that summer helped me become more aware of myself as an Asian American in the context of society and sparked my interest in learning more about API issues and how to go about trying to seek social justice. Around then, I learned about the Chinese Progressive Association which promoted not only education on the rights of the Chinatown residents but community activism and action. I knew that getting involved in CPA would be the next step in engaging in these issues.

These last few days have been interesting ones. My first week, I accompanied my supervisor on a “canvassing” trip, which more or less meant knocking on people’s doors, talking to them about a petition. At the moment, CPA is working toward getting a question on the ballot for the next election in order to gauge voter reaction to potential changes in policies related to taxation of the wealthiest Americans, access to affordable housing, and the recent MBTA toll hikes. I also got to sit in on a staff meeting, which gave me a little insight into how a non-profit operates behind the scenes and how decisions are made. However, the most exciting moment of the week was getting to meet photographer Corky Lee and having a chance to sit down and interview him for CPA. Although I had never heard of Corky Lee before coming to CPA (CPA was showcasing a small gallery of his photographs), I found his story and experiences fascinating, not to mention inspiring. Decades ago, he had seen that Asian Americans were not prominent in the media or American history. Today, he is helping raise awareness of Asian Americans and their struggles, cultures, and daily lives through his photography.

I can’t wait to write the interview article!

Gallery of Corky Lee's Photographs in CPA (Photo by Kelly Li)

At the moment, I am in charge of gathering research about the Boston Public Library’s fiscal budget and new Compass Plan in order to help CPA and further their goal of creating a library in Chinatown as its residents have been without a library since the 1950s when urban renewal occurred, causing its demolition. I’ll also be helping CPA with their various summer projects such as the annual Chinatown Bike-A-Thon and their current voter outreach project.

It’s hard to say what I expect for the summer as I’m happy with learning and experiencing anything and everything that I can. I hope to get a better understanding of how non-profits operate as well as more knowledge of the Chinatown community. Besides that, I hope that I can make a meaningful contribution to CPA. I love the idea of being involved in a community that is always evolving and changing, seeing the development up close. I look forward to witnessing firsthand and playing a part in this progress over the next few weeks.

– Kelly Li ’15

La Fundacion Paraguaya

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!

– Brandon Frank ’14

First Impressions at San Juan del Sur Biblioteca

This week, I began my internship at the SJDS Biblioteca or the library of San Juan del Sur. For this small coastal town in Southern Nicaragua, the library serves as a vital educational resource. With a collection of nearly 12,000 books, computers, and free internet access, the library has become a central space in town for community members to congregate. In addition, the SJDS Biblioteca offers a variety of workshops and classes including sessions on public health, art, and English. One of the most unique aspects of this library is the Mobile Project. Designed to target the poorer, rural communities surrounding the town, the Mobile Project brings books to residents who are unable to come to the library. The Mobile Project also raises money to build bathrooms and provide supplies for schools that lack resources and are in critical need.

Outside the Library of San Juan del Sur

In the fall, as I was searching for a summer internship, I attended a lecture by Dr. Rosa Elena Bello, a major community organizer here in SJDS. She spoke about her efforts to remodel the educational and health care systems for women and children in town. Her work and the challenges that this town faced resonated strongly with me. After talking with her partner, Margaret Gullette, who works here at the Brandeis Women’s Research Center, I was put in touch with the director of the SJDS Biblioteca. After explaining my passion for both education and working with children, I was offered an internship for the summer. Over the next couple months, the two of us began tailoring an internship that would combine both the library’s needs as well as my own.

Upon arriving in town, I was taken to the library to meet other staff members and get a tour. Walking into the center of the library you see an open space with walls lined by bookshelves. In the center are rows of tables and chairs that come the afternoon, are filled with children and adults working on school projects or taking advantage of the library’s free internet access. On the left, is a small room containing four computers and a printer, which are usually reserved for students many of whom do not have a computer of their own.

I spent my first week working on the Mobile Project. Three times a week, staff load up trucks with boxes of books and drive out to rural schools on the outskirts of San Juan del Sur. My first day, I helped the children exchange their books. They would file out of the classrooms a few at a time to return their books from the previous visit. Some brought their library card but many did not so we had to look up their name, double check that they brought back all of their books, and write the information down on their card. After that, they were free to pick out two new books. What I found remarkable is that these children were so excited to have access to these books that very few of them ever forget to bring them back. In fact this library has a higher return rate than most of the libraries in the U.S.!

Feeling more comfortable on my second trip out to the schools I asked to help out with that day’s art activity. Before the children go out to exchange their books, they first have the opportunity to do an art project. For many of these children, our monthly visits are the only time they ever get a chance to participate in any type of crafts. For this month, in honor of Father’s Day we helped each of the children make cards for their fathers. First, I read the entire class a story called, The Ten Best Things About My Father. After that we passed out paper, glue, and markers and walked around to help each of them complete the activity. Classrooms here often contain children ranging in ages so the younger children needed a lot of help. In the end, each of the children had a card that was shaped like a shirt and tie. Inside the card we helped them write a message to their fathers.  The children were particularly excited when I showed them how to decorate their cards by drawing hearts.

In two days, my supervisor and the director of the library will arrive. I will be working with her to create a plan for the English lessons and art activities that I will work on with the children this summer. Along with teaching both art and English classes, I will continue my work with the Mobile project. So far, my excursions to the rural schools have been a wonderful introduction for my summer internship. I already feel more comfortable using my Spanish skills. I also have a greater understanding of the school system here and the ways in which the library supplements the educational opportunities for these children. The library is an integral part of this community and over the next two months I look forward to assisting both the children and the library in any way I can.

– Abigail Simon ’14

Massachusetts Survivors Outreach: “Alone We Are Weak…Together We Are Strong”

M.A.S.O Business Card

Hi! My name is Johnny Wilson, a rising senior double majoring in Health: Science, Society Policy and Women and Gender Studies. It has been a week since I started my internship at Massachusetts Survivors Outreach in Quincy Massachusetts. M.A.S.O. is a grass roots organization what specializes in research and holistic healing for victims of domestic violence. Our mission is to aid victims in the healing process by providing holistic services such as Reiki, coaching,and meditation, while blogging about domestic violence in health care. This past week, we have solidified an office space in Quincy on Federal Avenue. M.A.S.O. is working hard on becoming a non-profit organization, but donor funding is currently the main obstacle. So this past week, my fellow interns and I have been working on promoting our first fundraising event of the summer – Psychics, Reiki, Massage OH MY!: An Evening of Fun and Healing for a Cause.

M.A.S.O's First Fundraiser
M.A.S.O's First Fundraiser Banner That I Created

My job responsibilities to this point have been to promote this upcoming event, but once the event is over my responsibilities will consist on doing research, court watching and coaching. M.A.S.O. has a large case load (the actual numbers are confidential), of parents and children who survived the flawed judicial system, designed to protect all victims of abuse.

I found M.A.S.O. through a close friend who was also looking for internships online. She told me about their mission statement and how it correlates with my majors/goals.  One aspect of M.A.S.O. that interests me is that it focuses on health policy and women’s rights within a legal atmosphere, to advocate and support women. Working for M.A.S.O will help me employ all the tools that I have learned in my classes to assist low income victims of domestic violence, which is ideal because my career goals are forced on both law and supporting low-income families within the Boston area.

This past week was also a catch up week for me. I met with the other interns for three days from 2-6pm. During these meetings, we discussed the work each of us has completed, and the goals that we would like to achieve as a group. Some of these goals are to better organize and manage the case load, and find other ways to fundraise to help us to qualify to be a non-profit.  I have also been reading court proceedings to get familiar with legal terms and been researching new health care issues affecting victims of domestic violence.

During this past week I realized that I am helping M.A.S.O. build its foundation; I am a part of something bigger than myself. Major non-profit organizations such as the Red Cross and Mayo both started somewhere. I feel that this summer I will be contributing to a evolving organization that will push for better laws and rights for victims of domestic violence.

– Johnny Wilson ’13

Week 1 at the State’s Attorney’s Office

This summer I am interning at the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office in Burlington, VT.   The office is already exciting with T.J Donovan, the state’s attorney, running to be the new Attorney General in Vermont.  It is an exciting time to be in this office and hear first hand how the campaign is coming along. Donovan and the other attorneys work hard to represent the state in a variety of criminal cases.  Within the office is also a victims advocate department, which is where I am specifically interning. This department consists of three advocates who work closely with the victims. The advocates help the victims throughout the entire court process, by helping them better understand the process and by providing any support they may need. One major aspect that the advocates help with is compensation, usually in the form of money through restitution. The advocates deal with the paperwork throughout this process and I have been assisting them with it.  The advocates ultimate goal is to support the victims while ensuring that they understand the case process.

Courthouse where my internship is!

I already feel immersed in the office and have been assisting the advocates any way necessary. My first week has been kind of slow because of judicial college week, meaning that all of the judges in the state of Vermont had to go to trainings all week. Although it was a “slow” week in court, victims still showed up in the office and were in need of assistance.  I worked closely with one of the advocates who gave me many tasks and answered any questions that I had.  We discussed that throughout the rest of the summer I will be monitoring court proceedings, helping with restitution claims, and assisting with keeping the case files up to date.

I am excited that I have the rest of the summer to learn more about the court system and the work that goes on in this office.  I was able to obtain this internship through another internship I had last fall.  Through the class “Violence Hits Home: Internship in Domestic Violence” I had an internship at The Second Step, a domestic violence organization in Newton. While interning there I established a relationship with a woman who used to work at the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office, who put me in contact with some of the people from the office. I sent a cover letter and resume to them, and after a successful interview I was offered the internship with the victims advocate department. I am extremely thankful that I found this internship because I believe that I want to pursue a career in law with a focus in domestic violence.

I am also glad to be interning in Burlington because I am from Vermont and am interested in the legal processes within Vermont. Certain states might have different laws and programs for the victims, but already I have learned that Vermont has a victims compensation program, which does not exist in every state. Burlington, Vermont is an amazing place to spend the summer with the waterfront, ongoing jazz festival, and overall great charisma. It’s a gorgeous city and I am glad to be spending my time here in an internship that truly interests me.

Gorgeous Lake Champlain

– Ilana Abramson ’13

First Week at the Cambridge Public Health Department

The Cambridge Public Health Department (CPHD) improves the quality of life of Cambridge residents and workers by encouraging healthy behaviors, fostering safe environments, and reducing illness.

I am interning at the CPHD’s Division of Epidemiology and Data Services, whose main objectives are to identify community health problems, evaluate population-based health services, and research innovative solutions to health problems. Epidemiologists study factors that influence population health, which serve as a basis for thinking about solutions to these problems.

I wanted an internship this summer that would allow me to learn more about public health departments and incorporate my interest in socioeconomic roots of illness. I researched internships at hospitals, community health centers, and public health departments. The internship at the Division Epidemiology and Data Services at CPHD interested me the most because the project would allow me to focus on social epidemiology and health initiatives in a city. I initially contacted them last fall for a spring internship, but there were no positions available. I kept in touch, and my perseverance paid off. I worked closely with the manager to find projects that will meet the department’s need for creative thinkers to analyze data while giving me the opportunity to advance my own goals by studying social determinants of health.

The Division of Epidemiology and Data Services recently received a grant to incorporate GIS (Geographic Information System) maps into their surveillance of chronic diseases. Integrating a GIS component would help identify areas of need and give direction for policy efforts. One of the ways in which GIS may be used is to create and map a neighborhood wellness index. This index would be overlaid with socioeconomic status and baseline health maps in order to identify any potential health disparities and spatial patterns in health outcomes and the environment. In my first week, I researched existing neighborhood wellness indexes and what layers of these indexes might be mapped (i.e., walkability, miles of bike lanes, green space, access to healthy food options, fitness stations, etc.). The map below shows how GIS technology can be used to map walkability. In this map, the darker shaded areas in the Seattle area are more walkable than the lighter areas.

King County, WA walkability mapped using GIS

Learn how GIS is used in public health on the World Health Organization’s page on GIS and Public Health Mapping.

Overall, my first week went very well! I liked that I was able to start working on a project right away, and the orientation I had on the first day helped me get better acquainted with the CPHD and the work of the Division. The work I have done so far has been very independent, but my supervisors check in with me often to make sure that I understand the project and answer any questions. I have enjoyed slowly getting to know the other people in the office. The other intern, an MPH student, and I went to a coffee shop on Thursday morning, and I liked hearing about her work and plans for the future. I found it helpful to speak with someone who is a little farther along in the process of working in public health than I am. I have already learned so much about working in a public health setting in this first week, and I expect that I will continue to learn more about epidemiology and the factors that contribute to illness as the summer progresses.

Image Sources:

http://www.cambridgema.gov/citynewsandpublications/news/2011/06/cambridgecelebratesmenshealthmonth1.aspx

http://www.b-sustainable.org/built-environment/walkability-index

– Jennifer Mandelbaum ’14

Interning at St. Francis House

Photo source: http://www.stfrancishouse.org/site/PageServer?pagename=virtual_tour

Having just completed my first week interning at Boston’s St. Francis House, I am extremely excited for opportunities to learn from and contribute to the organization throughout the rest of the summer. St. Francis House is a non-sectarian, non-profit organization that provides a variety of services to the poor and homeless. In addition to serving as a day shelter providing meals and an indoor space for people to stay during the day, it also provides housing, job training, medical care, counseling, and a variety of other services to its guests to further the organization’s mission of “rebuilding lives.” The organization is located in downtown Boston near the Boston Common and Boston’s Chinatown, providing convenient access for those in need of assistance.

I first heard about St. Francis House through the Brandeis Social Justice and Social Policy minor’s compilation of sites where past Brandeis students have interned. I was specifically interested in this organization because of my interest in addressing issues of poverty and homelessness. Discussing the organization with the Brandeis student who had previously interned there prompted me to contact her former supervisor, who then spoke at great length to me about his work and the organization’s mission. After this meeting, which included a tour of the services contained within the building, I was eager to work at St. Francis House.

There are a wide variety of projects that I will be involved with throughout the summer. At the moment, I am collaborating with others to develop a marketing plan for an eco-friendly bag-making business (including bags such as the ones sold on this website). Because some guests, particularly those with criminal records, have difficulty finding employment, a business is being created to employ people eager to work. Additionally, I am doing research related to an entrepreneurial course that St. Francis House plans to offer. This course would work with individuals to develop business plans and entrepreneurial skills, and I am identifying possible colleges to partner with in the hopes of combining education for St. Francis House guests with education for college students.

Repurposed, Environmentally Friendly Bags From Bag Business

In the future I will be doing policy work aimed at reforming the Massachusetts criminal justice system. I also will have an opportunity to visit incarcerated individuals with my supervisor and attend court cases at which my supervisor testifies. In addition, it is likely that I will gain experience writing letters of inquiry to obtain grants for specific projects.

This week I spent a great deal of time with my supervisor in meetings. Given my supervisor’s “open door policy” welcoming guests into his office, there is a large amount of time devoted to meeting with individuals, hearing their stories, and working with them to find solutions to their problems. I found this casework particularly interesting. It was incredible to hear people reflect upon their experiences and see how enormously resilient human nature can be. I also saw how policies directly impact individuals’ lives and can bar them from opportunities such as employment or a place to live, or, on the other hand, offer them crucial monetary or other assistance.

After my first week I have already engaged with problems of homelessness and poverty as well as issues with the Massachusetts criminal justice system, and I anticipate a much deeper understanding of these issues in the future. I am excited to learn more about these issues and also develop skills related to grant writing, research, and working with individuals who are homeless.

– Sarah Schneider ’13

United for a Fair Economy: Week One

I arrived at United for a Fair Economy (UFE) safely, but in the midst of pure chaos — I walked into a scene of power tools disassembling furniture, boxes piled high, and various items with bright signs saying, “KEEP!” or “TOSS!” As some of us with housing leases know, June 1st is the big moving day, and this also held true for UFE as they upgraded to a bigger space, a few blocks over on Milk Street in Boston. However chaotic it may have been, there was still this wonderful energy amongst my new co-workers. Everyone was enjoying themselves as they labored through all the burdens associated with moving. Already reflecting on that first day, I can tell that UFE will be a positive environment in which to be working this summer. 
UFE is a national organization whose mission is to “raise awareness that concentrated wealth and power undermine the economy, corrupt democracy, deepen the racial divide, and tear communities apart.” There are five core programs under the umbrella of UFE: Popular Education for Action, Estate & Federal Taxes, Responsible Wealth, Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative, and the Racial Wealth Divide. Each branch has a goal to make connections with outside resources, then ultimately collaborate with them in order to strengthen the broader movement. Their 2011 annual report nicely summarizes the successes of the past year and goals for the future.

I have been hired as an intern of the Development Team which is heavily focused on organizing fundraising projects and donor communications. As a non-profit organization, UFE relies on grants and donations in order to sustain itself, so much of my work will be focused in researching new, potential funding sources, working on grant writing, communicating with long term donors, and helping to organize fundraisers such as Call-A-Thons and House Parties.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with the UFE Board of Directors. Each year there are four meetings between the staff and Board. It was a really interactive meeting that involved many activities such as, getting into groups and writing our own “elevator speeches,” so that if we find ourselves stuck in an elevator, we can successfully encourage someone to make a donation or even join the UFE movement. What I enjoyed most about the day was listening to the directors talk about their experiences with UFE and how they became involved. Membership to the board is unpaid and volunteer-based, which proved just how much these directors care about the cause. I came out of that meeting feeling so empowered really only because they were so excited about their work.

Recently, the director of Development lent me a fantastic book called, The Self Made Myth. It is written by Brian Miller, the executive director of UFE, and Mike Lapham, a project director and cofounder of UFE. So far I am just about halfway through it, but from the dialogue on the very first page, I became hooked. In overview thus far, it is about debunking the “self made myth” that progressive taxes are a form of “punishing success.” Many of the wealthy in the U.S. like to believe that success was earned solely on an individual level — without the help of anyone along the way. However in Chuck Collins’ foreword, he says, “No individual is and island. No one starts a business or creates wealth in a social vacuum. There are things we do together — through our tax dollars and public expenditures — that create fertile ground for wealth creation” (xii). Miller and Lapham’s book is centered upon this myth and presents stories of prosperous business leaders like Warren Buffet and Ben & Jerry’s who recognize that without various public investments and support, they never would have made it to where they are today; for this reason, they support higher taxes for themselves (the wealthy) because it is a way of giving back after all the help they received along the way.

On the UFE webpage, there is an interesting article titled “Eight Reasons You Should Agree with Will Smith on Taxes”. I highly recommend checking it out!

It was really by luck that I came across this internship opportunity. I was totally unsure of what I wanted to do this summer, but back in February I happened to read through the weekly community service e-mail and saw the blurb about UFE looking for a summer intern. It is very unlike anything I have ever done in the past, but that is why I was so drawn in. For years since hearing about the economic crisis in the U.S., I have not once tried to understand the root of the problem. Already working with this staff, their enthusiasm and passion has been contagious. I look forward to learning more and gaining the tools needed so that I can continue the chain of educating others the same way the the staff at UFE has begun educating me.

– Gwen Teutsch ’14

From Brandeis to the Big Apple

This summer I am interning at an organization called Lawyers For Children (LFC), a not-for-profit law firm located in the heart of New York City. LFC’s mission is to provide free legal and social work advocacy to children who are in dire need of such services, such as children who have been abused and/or neglected by their parents, children who are in the midst of custody disputes, children who are in the process of finding adoptive homes, as well as a host of other complex issues. One of the unique aspects about LFC that distinguishes it from similar organizations is the staff’s steadfast dedication to empowering the children whom they represent. One such way that this is evidenced is by LFC’s practice of assigning not only an attorney but also a social worker to each and every client of the firm. This comprehensive approach ensures that each child has both someone who can advocate on their behalf in the legal system and also a knowledgeable liaison who is dedicated to making sure that they receive the social services that many of these children so desperately need. With both a lawyer and a social worker fighting to bring their clients’ wishes to fruition, the children whom LFC represents can be sure that their voices truly are being heard.

 

I first learned of the LFC summer internship program from an email sent out by the Hiatt Career Center in November. After reading about LFC and all of the admirable work that they do, I knew that LFC was the type of organization from which I could learn a great deal so I decided to submit my application. After waiting to hear from them for 3 months I gradually came to the realization that I simply had not been selected for the program. But then in March I got a call from Sue Greenberg at LFC, offering me an interview. The next week I was on a bus to New York City and the rest is history.

 

As a social work intern at LFC, I have been assigned to a social worker who I will, essentially, shadow this summer. This entails me accompanying my supervisor on home visits as well as court appearances.  I will also be responsible for observing client interviews and assisting with the preparation of reports for court. In my capacity as an intern at LFC, I hope to gain a more broad insight into not only the intricacies of the legal system but also the impact that legal decisions can have on actual people’s lives. I am hopeful that attending court proceedings and also participating in the work that goes on outside of court will allow me to learn a great deal about the nexus between the law and real life.

My first week has mostly consisted of orientation events, such as various trainings and social mixers. Everyone at the office seems to be genuinely nice and passionate about their work. I look forward to providing a more detailed update in the coming weeks.

– Aaron Bray ’13

Lefika la Phodiso: The Art Therapy Centre in South Africa

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.

– Nicole Bortnik ’14

WATCH CDC

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

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

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

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

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

– Mollie Lortie ’14

Week 1 at the National Consumers League

This past week, I started my internship at the National Consumers League. The National Consumers League, or NCL for short, is the oldest consumer organization. NCL is dedicated to protecting the rights of consumers and workers through progressive legislative change. They are a nonprofit (501c3) located in Washington, D.C. For my internship, I am working both with the executive director, as well as the vice president of public policy. I am responsible for researching and supporting policy projects. I found this internship through the Hiatt Career Center. It was attached to the Social Justice World of Work grant.

My first week was a whirlwind of introductions, meetings, and of course, new assignments. Everyone in the office was incredibly welcoming. On my first day, there was a staff meeting, so I was able to meet just about everybody. After the meeting, the executive director invited me and the other intern to see her speak at the Woman’s National Democratic Club. The Club treated us to lunch, and we met several members. After lunch, the executive director of NCL spoke on a range issues, including the role of women’s clubs and female leaders in the consumer movement and NCL’s history. As she discussed various consumer issues, from clear unit pricing in grocery stores to safety of electric table saws, one thing she said especially resonated with me: that safe products, safe food, clean drinking water should not just be for the rich and those who can afford it, it should be for everyone.

I will research a variety of consumer issues, including phone “cramming,” which involves a third-party adding additional fraudulent charges to phone bills that appear as normal charges, such as “additional fees” or “voicemail.” The FCC now protects consumers from wireline cramming, but does not yet protect for wireless cramming. With cell phones, this often appears as text messaging scams, such as horoscope or celebrity gossip sent to cell phones via text message without the customers agreement. The problem has been written about in the New York Times.

My desk in the NCL office

I also began research on ticketing issues. Over the past few years, two coalitions have emerged arguing that they protect consumers’ rights. Fan’s First supports paperless tickets, in which one cannot receive an actual paper ticket, but must present his or her credit card and ID at the event in order to gain entrance. Paperless tickets essentially prohibit the resale of tickets in the secondary-market, such as on websites such as StubHub, or even to a friend. NCL stands with the Fan Freedom Project, which asserts that there should always be a paper ticket option and that paperless tickets promotes the monopolization of the market by Livenation/Ticketmaster, who controls the prices, and they continue to raise prices and add additional service fees. This video illustrates the problem:

“The Real Story Behind Paperless Tickets” 

This summer I’m excited to learn a lot about various consumer issues that I did not know about before. In addition, I will learn more about the political processes, and have an opportunity to focus on issues of interest to me, such as labor issues and food safety.

– Lili Gecker ’13

First week at Kalinga Eye Hospital and Research Centre in Orissa, India (Unite For Sight)

Namaskar! After 51 hours of traveling due to a series of delayed flights, I was so happy to finally arrive at my internship site for the summer, Kalinga Eye Hospital and Research Centre (KEHRC) in Orissa, India. I obtained this internship by becoming a Global Impact Fellow of a non-profit organization called Unite For Sight. One of my main reasons for applying was that a former Social Justice WOW recipient and Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow, Samuel Icaza, told me about it.  He informed me about Unite For Sight programs and how the effort you put in to provide accessible medical services to people in need has a long-lasting impact on the community. At that time, I was going to Costa Rica and Nicaragua on a medical volunteer trip for 10 days that sought to provide basic physician services through free clinics and our donated supply of over-the-counter drugs while traveling to different villages. While the experience taught me invaluable lessons and gave me unforgettable memories, I realized that my efforts were not spent on working with the local infrastructure of the health care system to make sustainable changes in its access to health.

After being inspired by what I observed, I applied to Unite For Sight because instead of short-term relief mission trips, the organization collaborates with local eye clinics to provide outreach camps to villages without eye care facility, screen patients and provide corrective refractive glasses, and bring patients back to the hospital for cataract and other eye surgeries, free-of-charge. These surgeries are sponsored and paid for by Unite For Sight.  I helped contribute by fund-raising $1,800 prior to my internship so that 100% of the donations can be made to restore people’s eye sight without the barrier of high operation cost. Lastly, the average cost of cataract surgery through Unite For Sight is $50, which is incredible in that the price we pay for a pair of jeans in the US can help someone to regain eye sight and be able to connect with their family, friends, and the world.

I specifically chose Kalinga Eye Hospital and Research Centre among different Unite For Sight sites because this facility offers pediatric care and even has initiated a training for pediatric eye surgeons. At this hospital, as a volunteer and intern, I shadow ophthalmologists in the morning for about 4-5 hours, shadow and learn about basic visual acuity tests by engaging with optometrists, and work on hospital marketing and management projects of my choice. During outreach camps, I travel by bus for 4 hours to arrive at a remote village where I help contribute in the screening process (such as distributing eye glasses), help bring patients back to the hospital, and observe all cataract surgeries for non-paying patients (most from outreach camps). This is a protocol specified by Unite For Sight, as the organization needs to logistically track all the sponsored eye surgeries.

Currently, the hospital founder and president is abroad for conferences, but will soon return to Kalinga Eye Hospital. Based on my observations and ideas, I am currently working on a presentation to recommend some changes made to hospital marketing strategies and pediatric services here, as well as conducting a patient satisfaction survey for both non-paying and paying patients. I will also soon be writing letters to insurance companies to ask them to collaborate with the hospital, as KEHRC has not yet implemented a system where it accepts insurance plans (to facilitate patients’ hospital experience and also promote higher quality medical services).  Lastly, I will be finding a local baby to become a model for the hospital and design posters to improve the hospital’s image. Having run for the Student Union for 2 years, I have learned to enjoy the poster designing process and creating memorable slogans.

Finally, I will be recording a video about the patient’s perspective of Kalinga Eye Hospital, so that upon completing my hospital experience, I can edit the raw footage to best capture the essence of what KEHRC does and how Unite For Sight is involved.

I have learned so much already by talking to ophthalmologists.  Today I learned how to use the bio-microscopy machine (the eye machine in ophthalmologist’s office) and saw multiple layers of the eye through the instrument! Another interesting fact here is that many patients refuse to accept the concept of ‘no cure’ because the body will naturally heal itself, such as in cases of trauma. So often , doctors provide eye drops that do not directly ‘heal’ the symptoms but that serve as a psychological aid to patients’ worried minds (as they believe they will not heal without a medical ‘aid’).

If anyone is interested in knowing more about the Kalinga Eye Hospital, please visit the hospital website. Also, if anyone wants to learn more about Unite For Sight, please visit the organization’s website.

That is it for now, I am excited to update you more about my internship! Please leave any comment or questions if you’d like. Thanks for reading!

-Gloria Park, 2013

 

First Week at AVODAH

AVODAH is a Jewish Service Corps that engages participants in service by placing them with anti-poverty nonprofit organizations. They also focus on group-building skills since corps members live together. I gained so much more insight on the incredible accomplishments of the organization when I arrived at the office in New York City. Its mission puts great emphasis on the importance of continuing to create social change throughout one’s life even after their year of service. I am working as the program intern, and am predominantly responsible for improving the alumni program. This involves reaching out to alumni that have lost touch with the organization, working on the monthly newsletter and the alumni resource website, sending out important messages to alumni, and completing other important paper work. I found out about this summer opportunity through a Hiatt Career Center information session on my floor. I applied for the internship on B.hired over winter break and was contacted for a phone interview. After two sets of interviews the woman I now work under emailed and congratulated me on receiving the internship.

My first week at AVODAH was both an exciting and unique experience. My first day at the Jewish Service Corps was hectic since the organization was holding their biggest fundraising event the next day.  I was immediately put to work, stuffing bags and name tags, and was scheduled to help run the registration table at the event. Although this was nerve-racking since I would be one of the first people to greet the attendees, I knew it was a wonderful opportunity to meet others who held similar values for social justice and social change. I was working throughout the whole event but enjoyed it as much as everyone else.  The genuine passion everyone held for AVODAH was inspiring and I was so grateful to be a part of the event.

In just two days I felt a part of the staff at AVODAH. They were very welcoming and thought of me as a valuable helper. The next day, after doing some post-event work, I sat down with the woman I was going to be working with for the rest of the summer. We had a two and a half hour conversation of the goals for the alumni program. Feeling even more informed about the service corps, I began working on the alumni program. I expect to learn much more from this summer internship. It has only been the first week and I feel as though I have gained a great deal of knowledge about how service corps works and the importance of maintaining a strong alumni network.

– Danielle Mizrachi ’13

No Equity without Solidarity

“I’m glad you made it on time, Sarah!”

“Absolutely! I am really excited to be here.”

I had been nervously waiting with ice coffee in hand at the non-profit Partners in Health (PIH) lobby for a few minutes, waiting for my site-supervisor to walk through the front door of the main office entrance. While I had read much about PIH in books, watched videos online, and discussed the organization’s global impact with friends, I had never quite made it past the lobby of their central Boston office. I knew that once I saw my site-supervisor cross the threshold of the office entrance, I would begin engaging with the domestic epicenter of this vastly global organization.

“Fantastic that you made your way up here. But we’re actually about to head right out. I have a bit of a wild goose chase for us…”

May 24th was my first full day working with PIH, but I ended up spending no more than twenty minutes beyond the lobby of the non-profit I had long looked up to. While I had anticipated my first day to be limited to small steps like acclimating to my desk area, a lot of handshakes, and a swirling array of new faces and names to learn, my first day ended up being a more proper introduction to PIH and my summer internship.

PIH is a health-oriented non-profit that is based in Boston but delivers its impact to 13 countries; Haiti, Lesotho, Malawi, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Rwanda, Kazakhstan, Burundi, Guatemala, Liberia, Mali, Nepal, and domestically within the Boston-metro area. An organization that operates with a mission that is both medical and moral, the PIH approach is one based in solidarity rather than charity alone. Founded in 1987 by Dr. Paul Farmer, Ophelia Dahl, and Dr. Jin Yong Kim, the non-profit entity was a logical second step from Dr. Farmer’s extraordinary healthcare projects in rural Haiti.

Children in rural Malawi make PIH’s primary logo with their hands. 

“We’re heading out to IBM’s headquarters for the day,” my site-supervisor tells me while we wait for the T to come to a full stop. “They’re hosting a Volunteer Festival for the employees, you know, so they can learn more about different opportunities that they can be a part of in the Boston area. PIH hosts volunteer nights once a month that IBM can help out with.” The train doors open as Boston University students and non-profit workers pour from all of the doors. “So Sarah,” my supervisor turns to me as we push our way onto the train, “how would you explain PIH to someone?”

A lot of people have learned about Dr. Farmer and PIH through a book called Mountains Beyond Mountains. It is an up-close biography following Dr. Farmer through many years and many countries; the author, Tracy Kidder, justifies the subheading of his book as “The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World.” Kidder’s book was my first introduction to PIH as well, though it was not my first taste of the growing field of global health. Since high school, I had been passionate about healthcare access in marginalized communities, particularly women’s healthcare. I had decided upon entering Brandeis that my education and future career goals would be oriented towards empowering my global community to seek and achieve a better form of healthcare. And, when I read the snippets of Dr. Farmer’s life characterized in Mountains Beyond Mountains, I felt solidarity in his dedication as he climbed the steep and rocky foothills of rural Haiti to reach remote patients that sought healthcare.

The picture above shows Dr. Farmer with a young patient in Haiti. While PIH’s work spans thirteen countries, the largest efforts have been based in Haiti. 

In February, I organized a panel for ‘DEISImpact!; a week-long celebration of social justice at Brandeis, both on and off campus. My panel was called “Idealism and the Undergrad: Student Involvement and its Effectiveness on Global Health Initiatives.” I gathered an American student studying global development and a Burmese student who was both a doctor and public health specialist in her home country, both of whom study at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Dr. Tschampl, the Health, Science, Society, Policy (HSSP) Internship Instructor and the Boston Global Group Leader for RESULTS, and my site-supervisor, the Community Engagement Coordinator at PIH. My goal in hosting this panel was to address my question of possible value and harm that could come from hopeful and idealistic undergraduates engaging with international clinics. How can undergraduates be a part of a sustainable healthcare movement without adequate training, experience, or education? Through ongoing dialogue after this panel with my site-supervisor, I was able to secure my current internship at PIH.

I am currently collaborating with several PIH employees and volunteers to create a project which will increase domestic knowledge about PIH. While the program has yet to launch, my role is to design various components of this program as it will be piloted to numerous communities in the United States.

“Partners in Health? So what do you guys do?”

Not many of the IBM workers at the Volunteer Festival had heard of PIH. But as more people came to our table, my site-supervisor and I shared stories of the wonderful work that PIH does with each of them. Not all of them signed up for a volunteer shift, but more than a few did. I think a lot of the reason why so many people signed up for the PIH volunteer night was not because the volunteer work particularly struck them. Rather, it was the idea that they would be joining a movement that tackling a Goliath issue — providing sustainable and equitable healthcare to impoverished communities around the world — an immense problem at which Dr. Farmer and his many supporters chip away day by day.

I am not the only person to have been moved after reading Mountains Beyond Mountains or heard people talk about PIH. Far from it. The office is filled with many young and brilliant workers working on a range of projects under the umbrella that is PIH. It’s this impactful and visible work that drive so many students, doctors, and local community members want to become a part of PIH. This summer, I hope to learn what my role, both as an undergraduate and as a hopeful doctor a few years down the line, could be in such a great movement.

 “No data in the world, no good vaccine, no potent medicine will get to the poorest of the poor without you. There will be no equity without solidarity. There will be no justice without a social movement.”

Dr. Joia Mukherjee, Chief Medical Officer, Partners in Health

 

 A village healthcare worker takes notes on a patient in rural Haiti. 

 

For more on Partners in Health and Paul Farmer, see below:

The Good Doctor,” an article profiling Dr. Farmer by Tracy Kidder (author of “Mountains Beyond Mountains”)

Realigning Health with Care,” an article co-authored by Dr. Farmer.

Mountains Beyond Mountains,” the detailed biography on Dr. Farmer and PIH by Tracy Kidder.

– Sarah Van Buren ’13

 

First Week at the Conflict Kitchen

This past week, I started my internship at the Conflict Kitchen in Pittsburgh, PA. Founded in 2010, it is a take-out restaurant that features countries with which the United States is in conflict, serving food and hosting cultural and education events. They seek to encourage dialogue and learning in order to move past the unhealthy and polarizing discourse surrounding these countries in the United States. While working for the Conflict Kitchen, I will be doing mostly research for their upcoming iterations and event-planning. I will also be working at the take-out window, where the majority of the dialogue and education takes place.

The Conflict Kitchen Windowfront

As a native of Pittsburgh, I discovered the Conflict Kitchen two summers ago. Its mission deeply resonated with me. Being truly passionate about dialogue and dispelling prejudices through the arts and finding myself ready to more professionally explore the facilitation of cultural learning, I contacted the directors with the possibility of an internship. After an interview and a discussion of our mutual goals, they offered me a position of mainly research and event-planning.

To begin my training and get acquainted with the daily work of the project, I worked in the kitchen this week. Based on the recent news surrounding the United States and Iran, the Conflict Kitchen switched to their Iranian menu. I learned how to make the Iranian food and stepped into the window a few times to interact with the customers. People come to the Conflict Kitchen with varying levels of knowledge and opinions of Iran, its culture and its relationship with the United States. It is fascinating to see their reactions to the food as well as to the interviews with Iranians featured on the wrapper in which the food is served. The most interesting encounters are with those customers who have simply stumbled on the Conflict Kitchen and know nothing of its mission but are open to it. This is when most of the education and tearing down walls takes place. This week, the Conflict Kitchen also hosted an event with the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh. Dr. Trita Parsi, Founder and President of the National Iranian American Council and author of A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran, came to speak about his book and the US’ diplomatic relationship with Iran. It was a truly fascinating talk and conversation stemming from the audience’s questions. This was certainly a highlight of the week, building an excitement to be a part of this process at the Conflict Kitchen.

Iranian Food Wrappers

Looking towards the rest of the summer, I look forward to learning how to facilitate cultural learning specifically in order to dispel prejudices. This will be achieved through engaging dialogue and challenging events. I will also be able to develop further research skills as I help them prepare for upcoming iterations with interviews and conversation with Cuban and Korean communities in the Pittsburgh area. I look forward to all that I will learn about peace-building through the arts and culture working with the Conflict Kitchen.

– Grace Killian ’13