As One Internship Ends, the Work is Just Beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Shimon Mazor ‘16

Ate logu, East Timor!

See you later, East Timor! The 9 weeks I spent in East Timor went by so quickly. I cannot believe that summer is over!

Over the course of my internship, I shadowed many of Bairo Pite’s staff. I followed the doctors around during their rounds and when they went to examine the patients. They discussed treatment plans amongst each other and let the nurses know of any changes on the patient’s status chart. This is how rounds typically run in the morning and in the afternoon. Some days I hung out with the laboratory staff. I watched them run lab tests. I have also worked with the clinic manager at the clinic organizing in her office and the stock room so we know what supplies we have.

Slides of sputum stained by the Ziehl–Neelsen method to identify TB
Slides of sputum stained by the Ziehl–Neelsen method to identify TB
Me looking at the stained slides. The bacteria for TB would show up bright red (amongst the blue) if the sputum is positive.
Me looking at the stained slides. The bacteria for TB would show up bright red (amongst the blue) if the sputum is positive.

At the clinic, I learned how to use an EKG machine. I admit that I cannot truly read the EKG results, but I know where to place the electrodes and run the test. With the medical students, I also learned and practiced taking blood pressure with a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff. Sometimes to check on a patient, I took their blood pressure. Sometimes I helped take patient histories; I asked them how they were doing and ask if they have certain symptoms in Tetun. I learned how to assess the patient by looking and examining the patient’s hands, face, and just getting a general look at the status of the patient to see if they are breathing heavily or any other acute problems that needed to be looked at. Other tasks I did included taking patients to the National Hospital to get chest x-rays or to get consultations with the specialists working there. I let the patient know where we were going and accompanied them for their visit.

To build off of this experience during the rest of my time at Brandeis I will continue to promote the Bairo Pite Clinic with Project Plus One on campus. I will share my experiences to club members and to members of the community at activities such as the Millennium Campus Conference. I am continuing to pursue a career in healthcare and learning more about global health. I want to learn more about the politics involved and examine the differences. I also want to learn more about the current policies of disease treatments such as the WHO guidelines for tuberculosis (TB). I hope to return to East Timor to the Bairo Pite Clinic (in the processing of becoming a hospital) with more knowledge and education.

If a student is interested in an internship at the Bairo Pite Clinic, I advise them to take advantage of the opportunities available. Because a lot of people visit the clinic, there are a whole range of cases to learn from. There are also mobile clinics (scheduled doctor visits and health education to villages in East Timor) which students can go on. The people that organize the mobile clinics do really great work and it is a great opportunity to see how and where most people of East Timor live. I believe they will have the ability to really make the internship their own at the BPC. My advice for a student interested in this field is to not be afraid of saying no to things that they are not comfortable doing or that they do not know. They do not want to cause more harm than good and it is important to be honest.

My concepts of social justice have been enforced. With the sad and violent history of East Timor, they need healthcare to repair some of the damage and to help East Timor rebuild and stand up strong again. Listen here for an interview Dr. Dan, the founder of the BPC, recently gave a few weeks ago during a trip back to US about his experience. However, I have learned, like with all things, change takes time. It would take time for East Timor it implement changes and to learn what would work for their country and what would not.

Alice Luu ’14

Dr Dan and I
Dr. Dan and I

Internship Endgame


Having finished my internship, I have gained valuable insights on the positive and negative aspects of working at a small non-profit. Throughout the summer, there were four areas in which I was most affected developmentally: managerial experience, logistical operations planning, effective communication techniques, and most importantly, a much clearer understanding of social justice issues prevalent in our society.


In regard to the managerial experience, I was consistently working with the Director of Field Operations, ergo, keeping 21 college-aged fellows on track and focused on the objectives. I would routinely shadow fellows out during canvassing or voter-registration shifts, work with them, and make sure their program needs were met.

Similarly, I worked on logistics planning for special fundraising events and alumni gatherings to rally support for the social-justice specific causes the fellows were fighting for, thus I spent many-a-nights booking spaces, arranging transportation, and negotiating catering contracts.

I learned a great amount in regard to open and effective communication techniques, which I will take forward and certainly use both in my professional & personal life.  One of my favorite ways of hyping up the fellows (which everyone knew about beforehand) when they were grumpy, tired, and low-energy, was to pick a fellow at random and asking him/her “hey [so-and-so]! Why do you love clams” at which point they would make up an answer, and everybody within hearing-range would clap, hoot, and holler at the answer. It was a tradition in the program, and it was such an effective tactic to not only increase the group-mood, but also to improve inter-fellow communication (and keep them from isolating themselves).

Lastly, I learned about a series of social justice issues which ranged from institutionalized-racism, to the power of words & spaces that we employ/occupy, to historical patriarchy in society, to the importance of recognizing personal identity as a broad and fluid spectrum. Learning about all of these social justice issues gave me a much broader perspective on a number of societal issues, and has left me a more aware person. One example of institutionalized patriarchy which I never considered, but affected me profoundly, was the common practice of addressing multi-gendered groups of people as “guys” (“hey guys!”). I used to say this to groups of men and women interchangeably, and never considered that in saying “hey guys”, I was in practice perpetuating the cycle of institutionalized patriarchy in only addressing the men in a group. Now I make a concerted effort to us more gender-inclusive language when talking to multi-gendered groups such as, “y’all” or “everybody”.


The most interesting component to my internship was the time I  spent out working in the field, and the process of assisting with an educational leadership program, which ended up teaching me as much as the fellows. It really made me more interested in experiential learning and social-justice related education.

I would say that, at the conclusion of my internship, I have come away from it with a much broader perspective on issues of identity and oppression, and have realized that although I am passionate about social  justice, working in an office environment is not the medium through which I will leave my mark.

Noah Tai Litwer, ’15

Onward to Spread the Wealth

The summer sped by so quickly, one moment i was feeling overdressed at my first day in at UFE and the next, I was eating ice cream with my supervisor and the other development interns after our final presentations. This may be a little cliche, but the phrase “time sure flies when you’re having fun” has never applied to any situation more.

I had a wonderful time working with United for a Fair Economy. My summer project definitely played an integral part in helping me achieve my learning and skills acquisition goals. I was successful in taking information that I had found during my research of development on social media and converted it into an actionable strategy for the organisation. I convinced my supervisor and a conference-room full of people that the best way to use social media is to build a community and engage the members of this community so that they are inspired to support the organisation. This applied to quality of social media content as well as the tools that available that UFE chose to use for fundraising.

The slideshow for my presentation is available at this link. Please take a look!

Soon after, I received an email from one of the members of UFE sharing how my project and ideas had influence him to take a more critical look at the type of content on UFE’s facebook page. I am happy to say I influenced the Facebook post below and it fills me with joy that I was able to give to UFE in my own small way:

Visit the UFE Facebook page for more:


I came out of this internship knowing that any career path I chose to pursue in future would have to enable me to positively impact the world around me and allow me to lend my voice to social debate. I have often battled to the reality of “changing the world” when so many people fear the futility of social justice. I am more inspired than before to pursue a career in Economic Development, Socio-Economic Policy formation and the continued fight to ensure that everyone gets a fair share of the world’s wealth.

I only have one piece of advice for anyone looking to enter this field, or any other for that matter: Don’t be afraid to learn new things, and be willing to give your all to a task. You will be surprised by the things you will discover about the job and about yourself. Development, though it differs from industry, is a highly transferable tool. Even if it is not your intended path, it is valuable wherever you go. Take advantage of any opportunity to pick up some development skills whenever you can.

I owe this fulfilling summer experience to UFE and the WOW scholarship program and I will always be grateful.

Thanks for reading!

– Pokuaa Adu

Reflecting on a Summer with the Research Alliance

I still cannot believe how quickly my time with the Research Alliance went by this summer! A couple of weeks ago, I completed my project at the Research Alliance and said goodbye to the team of researchers I had the pleasure of working with throughout the summer. During my last days, I distributed the school evaluation reports I had been working on all summer to principals participating in the Expanded Success Initiative (ESI), an initiative that aims to tackle the achievement gap and increase the number of Black and Latino young men who graduate high school prepared to succeed in college and careers by using new, creative solutions. After looking through the data from the first year of ESI surveys, I became amazed and inspired by the information provided by students that would be relayed to principals in order for them to improve their school climate and policies. Students’ opinions and perceptions would be heard in a constructive manner – the reports gave them a unified voice and carry an undeniable influence in the shaping of the school climate in the upcoming school year. I truly felt as though I was a messenger between students, policy makers, researchers and principals by conveying the data results and as though I participated in a wave of positive change and improvement throughout New York City’s ESI schools.

In the rest of my time at Brandeis and beyond, I hope to leverage the inspiration I felt from working with the Research Alliance to pursue an academic and career path closely linked to education. This internship certainly reinforced my interest in education policy and research, however I hope to supplement this experience with one that is more clinically oriented to include interaction with students. In the future, I hope to combine my interest in policy, research and face-to-face interaction with students by pursuing a career path in educational psychology – helping to uncover which environments are most conducive to learning and figuring out ways schools can better inspire a love of learning and academic success in their students.

I would undoubtedly recommend interning with the Research Alliance to any student interested in education policy and research. The organization is certainly unique as it conducts rigorous research in the field of education on various topics ranging from high school achievement to contexts that support effective teaching with findings that are often featured in the news. (Read about Research Alliance in the News here.) Furthermore, the organization collaborates with policy makers in the Department of Education while being a part of NYU’s Steinhardt School – making it an academic center that successfully connects theory and practice.

Working on the ESI reports has made me a more skillful and effective problem solver as I came up with solutions to challenges that often arise when working with fresh, new data. The tasks and responsibilities given to me contributed to a fundamental social justice mission of education equity and the warm and welcoming environment makes it all the more enjoyable. I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with the group of researchers there, to have been welcomed with open arms and to have been entrusted with such a valuable project. Working with the Research Alliance team and collaborating with NYC’s Department of Education, even for a short time over the summer, was truly a rewarding experience. This experience reinforced my philosophies of social justice and my commitment to pursuing a career that contributes to the greater societal good of children’s well-being and prosperity. Fueled with inspiration from working with the Research Alliance this summer, never before has contributing to efforts that seek to tackle the achievement gap been more of a priority.


My Last Week at Stepping Stones

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love is Labor

As I complete my internship at Massachusetts Interfaith Worker Justice, I find myself more aware of how I want to pursue social change. I always thought I would want to be a community organizer, and IWJ gave me a chance to experience labor organizing from a non-profit perspective.  Throughout the summer, I participated in meetings and actions on issues of economic justice. I helped plan and outreach actions for Not One More Deportation—a week of actions calling for an end to the deportation of undocumented immigrants; a highlight included a rally at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Burlington, VT where I heard passionate pleas from family members of immigrants currently under detention. I also participated in meetings and actions for Raise Up Massachusetts—a campaign to raise the minimum wage and establish an earned sick time standard for all workers in MA. I planned and participated in two rallies at Walmarts in Salem and Lynn. I also frequented pickets and rallies for various other issues, including Le Meridien workers fighting for a fair process to decide upon unionization.

At all of these actions, I was also a primary photographer; my photographs were used for social media and news articles.   I also redesigned the website for Mass. IWJ and helped set up a Facebook presence. In addition, I worked on setting up Labor in the Pulpit—a program Mass. IWJ does every fall where low-wage workers share their personal struggles with congregation. I had to outreach and set up dates for numerous congregations; we are planning to tie in Labor in the Pulpit with the Raise Up Massachusetts campaign as the program coincides with the petition collection period for the campaign.

Honestly, I found myself often frustrated at the internship for a variety of reasons. However, I am extremely grateful because it has focused my ideas of how I want to pursue social justice. I worked every day through frameworks of class and race—important frameworks that validate and resonate with marginalized communities and which are oftentimes lacking in some social movements such as environmentalism.  I am also grateful because I have realized I do not want to be a community organizer in a non-profit environment because it is often filled with bureaucratic work and their style of organizing oftentimes (but not always) is closed-doors in terms of decision-making. I missed the more grassroots, horizontal-style of organizing that I have previously done; I missed the love and community I felt working with friends. In the end, organizing requires love–love for the work and love in the community to sustain engagement because it is grueling and endless; I know now that I thrive in a team environment. In addition, I grew tired of the traditional form of organizing that primarily involved gathering numbers to participate in rallies, pickets, and marches. I want to explore other types of organizing that deal with participatory forms of art and reinventing public spaces as ways of engaging and empowering communities because traditional forms of protests have become somewhat “part of the social script”—that is, not deviating enough from the usual to inspire and move the jaded.

I was able to network and create relationships between my peers in the climate movement and organizers and activists I met in the labor movement. Many of them are interested in intersectional work and I hope to create more concrete collaboration between the two movements. This fall, I am studying abroad in Nepal. When I return to campus in the spring, I plan to get involved with the Brandeis Labor Coalition and see in what ways I can connect BLC with my current work under the Divestment Campaign. I will take my experiences and development of what I believe is a more nuanced understanding of creating social change to facilitate intersectional work; I am extremely excited in pursuing relationships and collaboration on-campus between activist groups, cultural groups, and art/performance groups and individuals to see in what ways we can come together to address social justice issues on-campus—I know there have been countless attempts in the past to unite activist groups but I hope I will be able to push the Brandeis community towards a more actively engaged role on-campus in putting social justice into action.

“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

– Andrew Nguyen ’14

Valuable Experience in a Competitive City

This summer, through my internship, I gained a whole new perspective on the Media and Entertainment industry, as well as most industries that employ digital technologies to operate their businesses. Through the many assignments such as competitor research, research memos, and weekly industry reports I learned two major things: 1. Structure – how to present (and market) these documents in a way that is easy to read and attract attention, and 2. Key Points – I learned the main information to consider when analyzing companies, technologies, and events in this industry. I believe this will serve me greatly in the future, especially when I am looking for employment and getting ready for an interview. I will know exactly the things to research and prepare before the interview, and this way, I will know how to best position myself and the skills that I would bring to the company, in a way that will convince them that I would be a valuable addition to the team.

Furthermore, this internship endowed me with a rather rare opportunity to learn the inside happenings of the media and entertainment industry: to learn the leaders of the industry, their plans and upcoming projects, and finally, the direction this industry is taking.

As the CEO told me at the end of the internship, we now know more than 99.9% of the people about the present state of the M&E industry. Thus, now that I know the important players, the relevant journals and magazines, as well as most of the technical terms and acronyms, I plan to keep myself updated about the progress of the industry throughout the next year, and use it as a unique leverage to apply and negotiate future jobs in the technology industry. I have learned that the knowledge and skills I gained this summer are very valuable, and rather rare for a college student, thus I definitely plan to take advantage of it.

To anyone interested to work with IRIS.TV, or in the automated video programming, and data analysis industry, I would recommend to keep your mind open and be ready to learn on the spot as much as possible. Unfortunately, they don’t teach any of this information in school, because it emerges and changes so quickly, so don’t be afraid to feel like a “baby” when you enter this industry, because you probably won’t understand much at first. However, use the main tools you learned in college, such as being able to learn, gather and process information, and think critically, and in time you will begin to be more fluent in this industry. The effort will be worth it, as it is a fascinating industry, one that will undoubtedly grow and influence our lifestyle on a large scale. Good luck!

Finally, living in LA for the summer has been an experience in itself. I highly recommend it. This city will keep you busy every day, even if you don’t have anything to do. It has a very competitive vibe to it, even finding a parking spot becomes a competition. It’s a great, big hub to meet important people and make valuable connections, thus I greatly recommend it to anyone looking to challenge themselves personally and professionally.

Stuck at Home, My Mind Still Swirling


Sitting under a tall oak tree in my back yard, sipping a Diet Coke while typing this blog post, Varanasi, India already seems like years ago. I’m finding it difficult to be at the intersection of three different worlds: the past couple months in India, now being home in suburban Connecticut with my family, and my junior year at Brandeis which is approaching in two short weeks.  I am already struggling with maintaining an immediate sense of what I have experienced in India since the culture shock of being home is beginning to wear off.  Thankfully, I am still in the middle of some projects for the Dove Foundation, which keeps me tied to the people I’ve met and places I’ve been.  Here is a draft of a video I am now in the process of editing for Project Aarambh, a program that provides HIV/AIDS and reproductive health education to the low-caste community of bicycle rickshaw pullers in India.

In addition to being a WOW fellow, I am also a Brandeis-India Initiative fellow.  The Brandeis-India Initiative selects students to develop projects that build ties between Brandeis and India. It’s still a fairly new fellowship at Brandeis, so I encourage 2013 WOW fellows to apply for next year. For my project, I plan to screen the video I am making for The Dove Foundation’s Project Aarambh.  I will invite an audience of students, faculty, and other members of the Brandeis community to increase awareness of the challenges rickshaw pullers face.  I hope this event encourages donors to give, and other Brandeis students to intern for the Dove Foundation.  I also hope to continue developing my video editing and graphic design skills in future internships, independent projects, and school assignments.

I don’t know when my next trip to India will be, however, my internship has given me an idea to connect different non-profits with a similar mission throughout the world.   I think it would be a great idea to partner the Dove Foundation with another youth-led public health organization in the U.S…somewhat like an ambassadorship, either in-person or via Internet tools/social media. This will create a cross-cultural network and support system for similar NGOs to give each other advice, collaborate on various programs, and spread their message to a different audience.   It’s a very abstract vision right now, but I’m thinking of ways to actualize it during my remaining time at Brandeis.

While I am still new to working for the non-profit field, my first piece of advice for any students interested in an internship in this area would be to communicate.  Make sure both you and your employer are clear on what the expectations are for your internship.  I was not commuting to an office for my internship, so emails and phone calls were essentially how I would get things done with my supervisors.  Also, be considerate.  If you are interning for a youth-led non-profit, most staff members have other preoccupations in addition to working for the non-profit such as other internships, jobs, studying for Masters and PhDs, etc. Do not overcrowd their inboxes with emails or their phones with text messages at ungodly hours.  If what you are doing is important to your employer he/she will get back to you at the right time. Mostly, have fun—It makes work enjoyable, and if you have a sense of humor, you might even make friends with your co-workers.  Some of the best memories I have from my internship are going shopping with my boss for Indian clothes, and driving to a water park with one of my co-workers on a sweltering Saturday.

As this is my last blog post, it’s been a pleasure and honor being part of the WOW 2013 community.  It was very interesting to read this blog and compare the various experiences each fellow had. I look forward to seeing the WOWs back on campus and hearing all the incredible stories you have to tell about your internships.




Aliza Gans ’15



Thanks for the Memories, FIMRC!

I had an amazing internship experience at Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children Global Headquarters. Summer went by so quickly! Looking back to my first day at FIMRC, I got lost finding the office and was anxious about not knowing anyone. In two and a half months I’ve grown into a more self-assured worker, and made friendships and connections that will last a lifetime.

I remember feeling overwhelmed at the beginning of my internship when I received my first assignment: compile 16 months worth of numerical data for FIMRC’s sites in seven countries. At Brandeis I’m used to getting detailed guidelines for projects and assignments, but this task was so open-ended that I didn’t even know where to start. This project challenged me to make decisions and be a self-sufficient problem solver, effectively fulfilling my learning goal of becoming more independent in the workplace.

Admittedly, I did not initially see the connection between crunching numbers and FIMRC’s mission of improving pediatric health around the globe. When I first learned about FIMRC, I imagined people digging wells in exotic locations, giving health education lessons, and delivering medical supplies. Working at headquarters exposed me to the extensive coordination and planning that is required to make things happen on site — it’s a lot of work! I have a new-found admiration for the administrative work that nonprofits do.

Now that I understand the operations side of a nonprofit organization, I want to learn more about what happens in the field. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to work in a foreign country. Reading reports from the field, working with photos from FIMRC’s sites (check out FIMRC’s Flickr page — it’s amazing) and talking to staff members in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic made my itch to go abroad much stronger. I’m excited to study Community Health and Social Policy in South Africa next Spring as my first real exposure to working in healthcare in a another country.

My fondest memories of FIMRC include the wonderful people I worked with. My supervisor and the other staff members were an incredibly passionate and tight-knit bunch who were eager to help the interns reach our goals. I would encourage future interns to interact with other interns and staff members as much as possible, especially because everyone is so helpful. Also, be sure to take advantage of FIMRC headquarters’ awesome location in center city Philadelphia. Eating lunch and sharing with my intern friends in Rittenhouse Square was one of my favorite memories!

After my internship I am much more aware of the health problems that plague the people in nine communities across the world. Learning that over 20% of kids in Peru suffer from stunted growth as a result of malnutrition, among other statistics, was shocking and heartbreaking. To me, social justice means seeing as many kids as possible obtain the healthcare they desperately deserve, and FIMRC showed me how a nonprofit organization achieves this goal. FIMRC is a small organization with a big impact, that is effectively “doing” social justice. To me, Margaret Mead’s quote sums up FIMRC perfectly: “Never doubt that a small group of passionate, driven citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” With persistence and passion, real change will happen, a lesson I know I will remember at Brandeis and beyond.

-Erica Granor ’15

Saying Goodbye to AJWS

It’s hard to believe that my time at AJWS has already come to a close. I am sad to be leaving such an incredible organization with inspiring and dedicated people, but I am excited about the insights I have gained this summer.  I feel that I have come closer to meeting my learning goals than I ever could have imagined. In part, this is because working at the organization was a very well rounded learning experience. What I am taking away from this summer at AJWS is more than just the ability to complete tasks, or improved research and database skills. I learned something extremely valuable about the culture of an effective organization.

At the beginning of the summer, my main goal was to learn about the operations of a nonprofit; the diverse roles played by individuals and teams and the strategy behind methods of social change. While no individual task or accomplishment could teach me this, I was lucky to have the opportunity to work with two different teams: Donor Engagement and Major Gifts..  This gave me insight into what the two divisions needed on a basic level to do their work. My research provided background information on where to host events, who to contact, which organizations to potentially partner with, and what kinds of events other organizations are hosting.  In completing these assignments, I learned about the strategy behind event planning and fundraising, as well as the kinds of information needed to make these decisions.

Another one of my learning goals was to be able to talk about AJWS’s work in a persuasive way. My work in Development and Alumni Relations at Brandeis (through Phonathon) has provided me with the opportunity to discuss my college experience with diverse alumni, and to hear their stories as well. Part of what excited me about working in development at AJWS was that I could learn the vocabulary to discuss the organization’s work in a similarly persuasive way. A few of my tasks and accomplishments helped me to do this. First, I read through countless publications to organize issue packets for donors. This familiarized me with the language used to talk about different issues and the work being done in various countries. I also worked to draft a publication on disaster relief, which allowed to employ some of the language I’d learned, using the style guide and AJWS branding to guide my writing. I also wrote blurbs about the Study Tour program for the AJWS website, which provided me a similar opportunity. All of these experiences gave me the tools to sound credible and educated about AJWS’s mission and work, which culminated in the opportunity to make thank you calls to donors! This was nerve wracking and exciting, and I felt confident that I met my goal.

I am excited to build on this experience back at Brandeis. My work at Phonathon is a different kind of development, but listening to people at AJWS talk about their relationships with donors, fundraising strategies and experiences will stay with me and lead a better understanding and purpose in my work.  Additionally, this new outlook will stay with me in my job search this coming year. I know that I will definitely be in touch with AJWS in some capacity- I have truly fallen in love with their mission and work, and would be honored to volunteer, travel, or work for them again in my future. The advice I would give to a student interested in interning at AJWS is to take advantage of the connections available to them. It is so important to make the most of every day working there. The staff is well educated, diverse, and passionate about any number of different things, and they are so willing to impart wisdom onto young people. I am truly thankful for the meetings I’ve had with people I didn’t even work with, because it provided me with important perspective on career choices, educational choices, and even life choices. Another piece of advice that certainly goes for AJWS, but is also relevant for other nonprofits is to try to go above and beyond. It might be hard as an intern, but I found that it was stimulating and exciting for me to do more than was asked of me. It was not necessary for me to draft a publication this summer, but I really wanted to try it out. Whenever I felt that my work was going slowly or dragging on, I asked for more. These are easy ways to get the most out of your time at an organization and really enjoy the experience.

As I mentioned in my mid-way blog post, my work in Development at AJWS has ignited my interest in communications. My next step is to look into the ways that social justice and nonprofit work intertwine with the communications field. I understand development as a certain type of communication, with a very specific purpose. I am excited about the prospect of learning about new kinds of communication that can raise awareness about important issues, raise money, and frame discussions to be productive. In my job search, I will certainly be looking into firms and organizations for positions that combine these interests. My summer in development has provided me a window into what it means to communicate effectively, and I’d love to develop that even further.

Above all, my time at AJWS has educated me even more about why my ideals of social justice hold true. I deeply believe in equality, human rights, and a moral obligation to help those less fortunate. AJWS voices these concerns with a grounding in Jewish texts, but also with common sense. The culture of the organization has reinforced my idea of making change from the ground up, respecting communities and the knowledge they have about their circumstances, and using that as a catalyst for change. Because of my experiences at AJWS, I am a better listener, a more efficient worker, a more dedicated citizen, and most importantly, a more passionate and inspired change agent. If nothing else, that will stay with me.

Wrapping up AVODAH

It is hard to believe that my summer at AVODAH has come to a close, but I know I have learned more than I ever expected. I definitely improved my organizational skills through being responsible for updating and maintaining national databases and listservs, and also through creating new resources for the upcoming year. I have become more technologically savvy and creative. AVODAH is an organization that strives to stay up to date with technology, and as I was responsible for creating resources like monthly e-newsletters and google sites, I learned a great deal about how to navigate these technologies.

I also completed a research project on National Boards to learn about successful tactics being used by peer organizations that could be beneficial to AVODAH. I interviewed representatives (including Executive Directors, Presidents and Board Members) from seven organizations and then, combined with my own research, collaborated with my supervisor to compile a project report for AVODAH’s Governance and Nominating Committee.  The project allowed me to practice and improve my communication skills, and gave me the opportunity to learn about other organizations and techniques. For example, the Executive Vice President of American Jewish World Service taught me a great deal about generative thinking, which is explained in this article.

During the rest of my time at Brandeis and beyond, I will continue to utilize and build upon the skills I learned at AVODAH. Directly after my internship was finished, I spent the week volunteering as a staff member at a teen leadership camp, and I found myself applying much of the knowledge I gained at AVODAH to my role at camp. Now that my internship is complete, I am motivated to continue taking on experiences that allow me to learn by doing. I would advise any student interested in an internship at AVODAH or in a similar field to do what was most beneficial for me: jump in with both feet, keep an open mind and seize every learning opportunity possible. Connecting with internship colleagues and supervisors is also one of the best actions to take.

This internship definitely reinforced my ideas about Social Justice. When I began my internship with the Director for Alumni and Community Engagement at AVODAH, the importance of keeping the Alumni Network thriving was not totally evident to me. Over the course of my internship, largely because of the many thought-provoking conversations I had with my supervisor, I came to realize why the Alumni Network is so important. AVODAH lives and breathes social justice. Their mission is to strengthen the Jewish’s community’s fight against domestic poverty, and to do this by “engaging participants in service and community building that inspire them to become lifelong leaders for social change.” In order to ensure that the latter part of the mission statement–inspiring participants to become lifelong leaders for social change–occurs, AVODAH needs to offer more than just a year-long program. This is why it is so important to facilitate the alumni community: to engage in a lifelong quest for social justice, alumni need assistance securing jobs in the social justice world, opportunities for networking within the social justice community and trainings that offer further skill-building opportunities. AVODAH’s mission could not be fulfilled with only the yearlong program. Working in the Alumni Department really showed me what a social-justice oriented organization looks like.

Overall, my AVODAH internship was a great experience! I am thankful for the intelligent and inspiring people I got to meet and work with, and look forward to using my new knowledge in the future. To learn more about AVODAH, check out their website and blog!

– Sophie Brickman ’16

Goodbye, Miami. Hello, Social Justice!

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

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

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

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

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

– Viki Bedo ’15

Saying Farewell to NCL & Washington, D.C


I can’t believe how fast time has gone by since I first started my internship! It has been one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences interning at the National Consumers League (NCL) in Washington, D.C. I have gained so many memories with the fellow interns and the NCL staff, have grown so much as a consumer and consumer advocate, and have acquired more knowledge about important consumer issues than I had every imagined.

The specific tasks assigned to me allowed me to gain experience and knowledge in areas I was unfamiliar with. Extensive research opportunities on fraud and scams have allowed me to realize how essential non-profit organizations were in protecting consumers and informing them of issues that affect them. The research work I have done on various issues associated with public policy has been incredibly useful to me as a consumer as well. After researching and writing a blog about billing aggregators, who might place unauthorized charges on consumers’ phone bills on behalf of third-party companies, I always carefully review my phone bills and make sure there are no suspicious and unauthorized charges. I highly believe that every student should have the opportunity to intern at an organization like the NCL because the work that I have done has helped me to not only learn about billing aggregators, but also assist consumers to make good decisions and carefully review their phone bills.

Through national conferences, meetings, roundtable discussions, and Congressional hearings, non-profits are always actively working to protect consumers. By attending these events, I have gained new interests in particular consumer issues. By attending Women and Families on Attaining Perfection: What do women pay for the perfect body? hosted by the National Research Center for Women and Families, I learned that the yogurt company I have been purchasing from for years has been investigated and charged for deceptive marketing. I realized how serious this problem is and how many consumers, like me, have become victims of deceptive marketing or unproven claims. Even though I have completed my internship at the NCL, I hope to learn more about deceptive marketing in the future at Brandeis and other work opportunities.

I am most positive that the knowledge and experience I have gained at the NCL will be very useful when continuing my education and leadership commitments at Brandeis. Compiling data and researching different issues will allow me to gather information for research papers better. I have been trained to distinguish the most important details for a short term and long term research project. Furthermore, the networking and event planning experiences will allow me to act effectively as the middleman between academic departments and the students in the fall as the undergraduate departmental representative (UDR). Serving as the UDR will definitely take a lot of organization, concentration and teamwork to complete duties and responsibilities. The team projects I have completed at the NCL will help me to work together with other UDRs and assist each other to organize and coordinate great events and provide departmental information to students.

For any students interested in advocacy work, I would highly recommend interning at the NCL. The staff members are very caring and willing to help interns meet and go beyond their learning goals. They are very accommodating to what you would like to work on and are great about recommending various DC events that might be of interest to you. Although you have one head supervisor, you also have the opportunity to help other staff members at their events and conferences. I have noticed that individuals who work in a non-profit are very passionate about the work they do. They want to make a difference in the world. Every professional I have talked to at different events was willing to talk to me for probably hours about their work. You don’t necessarily have to be passionate about certain issues when finding an internship at a non-profit, but I am most confident that by the end of your internship, you will be passionate about at least one particular issue.

Through my internship with the NCL, my ideals of social justice have been reinforced. The strike for fair wages I mentioned in my earlier blog has definitely reminded me that fighting for social justice is fighting for human rights – the rights of low-wage workers and of those who need support. By writing articles for NCL’s on obamacare and credit card fraud against charities, I realized how there are many miscarriages of justice. People sometimes take advantage of those who are less educated, less wealthy, and less supported. I’ve learned that to become a more effective problem solver and citizen, I need to act and make a difference. I need to inform those who are unaware of their rights, which is one of the prime reasons I am in plans of creating my own consumer rights blog. During my upcoming study abroad in The Hague in the spring, I also hope to learn how to legally protect consumers who have been scammed.

– Heather Yoon ’15

Completion of Social Justice Work!


I am happy to report that during this internship I have completed one major directory project as well as a few smaller projects for CBHI that I can attach my name to. It is exciting to send off a major document, created by me, that will be used to better CBHI and the UMass Training Program services. A goal of mine was to produce high quality work that would make a difference in people’s lives and I can proudly say that I have accomplished this! Another goal I had for this summer was to network. Over the past 9 weeks I have collaborated with people who have backgrounds and experience in psychology, the juvenile courts system, the legislative branch, the executive branch, legal work as a judge, legal work as an attorney, and a student at Harvard Law. Meeting all of these working professionals and learning their opinions and past experiences has been an invaluable resource for me. I have learned the many different ways that people can work towards achieving their desired careers.

Click here to see some monthly CARD (Children Awaiting Resolution and Disposition) reports that I helped create.

Here are the Newsletter Archives. The Summer 2013 edition that I helped write and edit will soon be included on this list.

This internship has inspired me to try to gain exposure to more internship opportunities. CBHI gave me a glimpse into the behind the scenes business and government aspects of public health. It would be very helpful if I could find a future internship where I can work more on the front end of the public health field. This would allow me to better understand all levels of the system so I can make a more informed decision about what type of work I would be interested in doing. This internship has also convinced me that I would like to take Professor Altman’s class “American Health Care”. Having a more in depth understanding of the health care system direct from one of the nation’s leading experts would be extremely informative. A colleague of mine also talked to me about many ways to volunteer in the community. One particular volunteer project she introduced me to is CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate). This sounds like an interesting way to get involved with children in the court system which is another strong interest of mine.

I strongly advise all students to complete an internship. Internships support students to develop their interests and gain real world experience, but they are also really good for networking. As an intern at CBHI it is very important to ask a lot of questions. CBHI is a very small organization at the cross-section of many larger organizations, so at first it can be difficult to grasp exactly what it is that CBHI does. By asking questions interns can learn more, develop relationships with co-workers, and show their interest. As for any internship, interns should always be eager to ask for additional work to do. By keeping an open line of communication with your supervisor on how you are progressing on given tasks,  your supervisor can learn your strengths and assign additional tasks. Students who intern in the field of public health should know that this is a huge field with many job applications. If you do not love the work at your particular internship, there is a strong chance that another position exists with the type of work you are interested in. Above all, don’t forget to network!

CBHI exists so that kids with behavioral/mental health issues receive proper mental health evaluations and treatment plans. This mission for social justice is something that people generally agree is necessary. This internship has taught me that the execution of social justice is much more complicated than the general agreement that these kids deserve the right services. Every stakeholder involved in providing children with better behavioral/mental health services has a different opinion on how this mission should be carried out. The stakeholders involved in this particular example of social justice are the court plaintiffs, court defendants, clinical managers, clinicians, CBHI workers, the government, caregivers, and most importantly the children. With so many different perspectives to balance, it can be challenging to meet the needs of all the parties involved. This can make social justice action frustrating; however, this internship has taught me that change does come slowly. I have learned the value of gaining input from those being impacted. CBHI does a lot of outreach work and progress reports to evaluate how they can provide even better services. These types of projects that CBHI completes has taught me that in order to be a better worker it is important to gain input from others and ask for help when needed.

ElizbethChaflin ’15

Finishing Up at the MCAD

Time flew by, and now my internship at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is coming to a close. At the beginning of the summer, one of my personal goals was to educate people about their civil rights so that they could be their own advocates. I soon realized, as cliché as it may sound, that I was the one learning from these presentations. Over the course of the summer, I gave presentations to hundreds of people, and these individual interactions—listening to people’s stories and feeling their gratitude—truly made me realize the difficulty but importance of this work.

One particular presentation stands out in my mind. At this presentation at a halfway house, I found it very hard to focus; the women had not been informed that I would be coming, the childcare volunteers cancelled last minute, and two of the women did not speak any English. I almost wanted to call it a day, seeing as I had to keep pausing and trying to engage the audience and ignore the distractions.  Then I noticed during one of the brief moments of calm two women suddenly paid close attention, one exclaiming that she never knew that she had these rights, while the other nodded vigorously in agreement. They then mentioned that they had to inform the other women who could not attend the presentation.
While I may not have discovered through this internship what it is exactly I want to do career-wise, moments like these offered clarity as to what sort of feelings I want to have and elicit at a job. I think that if I focus less on what field I want to go into, or what particular job I think I might like, and concentrate instead on what issues I am passionate about, and how I can have the most impact on an individual level, I will be better able to determine what I want to study, where I want to work, and what type of job I want to have.

Now that I have a taste of what civil rights advocacy on the enforcement side of the law is like, I am interested in experiencing what goes on in order to pass a policy or a law. Now I can better comprehend the necessity of education and advocacy even after a law or policy is passed, which will prepare me if I want to advocate for changes in policies.

For anybody interested in working at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, I would recommend doing as many presentations as you can with another intern—it is very useful to have another perspective, and you will be less nervous with somebody else there to help. After one summer working at a government law enforcement agency, I am hardly an expert, but if somebody is interested in this field, I think it is important to have as many personal interactions as possible to remind you why you are doing all of the other (perhaps less exciting) work.

In psychology, there is a term called co-morbidity—when two conditions occur simultaneously. That is, when you have one condition, it is likely that you have another particular one. In my short time at the MCAD, I learned something that perhaps I already knew, albeit subconsciously. The people who stood to benefit the most from the information I provided were the very ones who had many other pressing issues (e.g., poor health, poverty, domestic violence, etc.). At times, this was a bit discouraging, because I felt like the information I wanted to spread would not help somebody with his or her other issues.
I realized, sadly, that it is not possible to help every single person with every single issue, but if there were nobody doing this type of education and outreach, it would add to that list of struggles that people face daily. Simply letting people know that there are organizations and people out there to help them can be important, and educating one person can lead to a whole family, and eventually a whole community being educated. Achieving social justice in its many forms—equal opportunity being one of them—is not something that can occur overnight. While this is not a novel idea by any means, this internship brought it to the forefront of my mind, and has only made me determined to work harder in every capacity to try to achieve social justice.

Wrapping Up an Amazing and Productive Summer!

It’s hard to believe this internship is coming to an end. I have learned so much since I started. I remember the first video we had to watch for orientation: Food Mythbusters’ “Do we really need industrial agriculture to feed the world?” At the time, I thought I knew much more than I actually did, and that I was better at community organizing than I actually was. I have become much more skilled in time management, especially when coordinating with many other people’s schedules. My Google calendar has been invaluable and I have definitely become addicted to mapping out my day. That is especially helpful for my time management of classes and professor’s office hours this upcoming semester.

Along with more effective time management skills, I have also learned to be a much more independent learner. I’m better at knowing when to ask questions, and when to use trial and error to figure out the best method.

I’m very excited to bring my new found organizing skills back to Brandeis with me. I feel so much more prepared to successfully lead Poverty Action Coalition throughout the next semester, which will be packed with activities and events. I’ll also be a Half the Sky ambassador at Brandeis, which will mean a lot more organization on my part. I can’t wait to use engage in conversations and activities revolving around issues I’m passionate about, especially now that I can speak knowledgeably on many more issues than I could before the summer started.

Now that I have completed my internship, I would love to get involved with different aspects of campaign organization. So much more goes into running campaigns than I realized. I would really like to work a bit with the communications department or development within an organization, to learn a bit more about a different kind of membership outreach. I would also like to recruit a much larger crowd to join Brandeis’ Poverty Action Coalition and network with other groups to help do that.

One of the most important aspects of community organizing is to always connect and ask questions when you’re speaking with people. This goes for everyone – people you spoke with two days ago, to family, friends, and especially those who you’ve never talked to before. Sometimes it feels very unnatural, but the trick is to remember that this is what you do everyday – you connect with your friends and family, and conversation peaks curiosity. Organizing works the same way, and sometimes it really helps to take a step back and remember the person you’re talking to is a unique individual, with unique things happening in his or her life, and in all likelihood would love to talk to you about them.

Additionally, in community organizing as with any field, connection is vital not only to organize, but to network! This is important not only for job-hunting, but also for getting ahead with whatever campaign or project you’re working on. You never know when someone may have a connection that can help you with what you’re working on, including the members who fund and support your organization – they are often times your most essential and most willing resources and volunteers.

Before I started this internship, I definitely put a lot more emphasis on individual actions when it came to social justice-related grassroots organizing. I now see that grassroots organizing is a lot more structural than I realized. When it comes to social justice actions, connecting with other people is key. When you are speaking to another individual who feels the same way that you do about a particular issue, it is important to connect on that issue, and to talk about its importance. This is why I’m so excited to lead a viewing of the new Food Mythbusters short video being released in September – I can’t wait to connect with others about their concerns with issues involving big agriculture.


Threefold self-awareness: young, “white” and female.

After weeks of investigation, logistics and preparation of the methodological proposal for the study and having it approved, I finally got to the fieldwork stage – by far my favorite and what I’ve been looking forward to for so long! The goal of the study is to locate those communities that have lost their homes during hurricanes and tropical storms during the last 35 years, who have been relocated “temporarily” by the State into a refuge until their houses are rebuilt, and who have been completely neglected by the government, literally forgotten of, and still live as refugees after 5, 15 or 30 years of “waiting.”

Untitled2Most of these communities are today poverty-stricken and socially marginalized: not only have they been betrayed by our government, but have also been particular targets of the injustices of a dysfunctional and corrupt political/capitalist system. Under what conditions do they live in? What have been their mechanisms of resilience? I selected 6 different communities across the country as the investigation’s study cases, each one of them affected by a different hurricane or storm.

Up until that moment, I had spent weeks engaged solely on academic research: investigating public policies, looking up precedents, focusing on civil rights and what kinds of violations the State was committing against this population. Certainly a very important task, but a potentially inconsequential one unless you can apply it for practical uses and ground it on everyday reality.  Visiting these communities reminded me what it is that I really like: working with people.

I had to organize and conduct focus groups within these communities as well as in depth interviews with community leaders. A beautiful and enriching experience indeed. But it did not come without its obstacles. I was taken back to my sociology and anthropology courses, and to my politics research methods class. As a researcher, you must necessarily take into account the effects that your presence can have within the population you’re investigating, right? I’ll explain.

My country is overwhelmingly mulato (the genetic mix between white European colonizers and African slaves that emerged as a result of the colonial period) and has a very small black and white minority. And though I had no say over the color of skin I was born with, it inevitably (and unfortunately) plays a role in determining the social relationships around me.

As an international student studying in the USA, I am a Latina woman – a person of “color” – and as such I am subject to the prejudices it entails, like being discriminated for supposedly being a “Mexican-speaking immigrant,” though I’ve never planned to live in the USA, I am not from Mexico but rather from the Dominican Republic, and speak a language that whose actual name is Spanish.

Interestingly, this exact same color of skin is subject to the opposite kind of discrimination in my country. In the DR, I am a blanquita, a “little white girl” and often called rubia, “blonde,” regardless of my dark brown hair: I am part of a racial minority that is subsequently assigned with a deep set of stigmas and automatic socioeconomic stereotypes. But in addition, I also happen to be a woman, and I happen to be young. What does all of it matter? One might ask. The answer is, A LOT. Untitled

Even before I can say a word, my physical appearance has already spoken. The combination of these three characteristics (being white, woman and young) in a country that is culturally incredibly sexist, where racial prejudices are deeply rooted into the collective psyche and age hierarchy is very latent, proved to be a very interesting thing to deal with. As a social researcher, I was forced to be extremely self-aware of attributes outside of my control and try to counterbalance them in the best way I could. I would be frequently dismissed or distrusted – for being a young, white and female – until I could prove I didn’t necessarily fit into the common prejudices against these age, race and gender stereotypes. It was a challenge, but one that I am grateful for. Once the initial barrier was broken and they saw me for what I am beyond my physical attributes – simply another human being – the conversations and interactions were truly enriching.

In all, visiting these communities was extraordinary. Their faith, patience and overall resilience and determination to not give up in the face of adversity and injustice is simply admirable and inspiring. It is because of communities like them that keep demanding their rights that my country still has hope. And I believe they are not recognized for this as they deserve.


The massive worldwide industry of humanitarian NGO’s is more often than not afflicted with the “white-savior industrial complex,” as a 2012 article by Teju Cole so accurately describes it. As noble or well-intended their motivation might be, the world of humanitarian “aid” is focused exactly around that, aiding. Not empowerment or resilience building, but around the white-privileged rhetoric of “saving” and “helping” others, often invalidating or not even recognizing their political and social agency. NGO’s go into the field knowing what is “best” for the communities they are “helping” and telling them how they should go about living their own lives. Rarely these programs take a pause and simply listen. Truly listen. Ask what it is they want, what it is they believe they need and how they think they can achieve it.

And due to this paternalistic and immobilizing aid-culture, people are not used to being asked what they want either – many are shocked or skeptic, with all due reason. I’ve known since I was a little girl that I want to be a humanitarian worker. But one that hopefully contributes to shattering this paternalistic cycle and helps offer an alternative, more respectful and human way of doing it. 

Midway through Interning at The Osborne Association

Interning at The Osborne Association has been an amazing experience. I can’t believe that I’m now halfway done. Everyone has opened their offices to me and helped me out so much in my short time here, which has enabled me to learn much more than I ever thought I would. Before I started my internship my goal was just to understand the financial structure of a sec. 501.C.3 organization, but I soon realized that a non-profit organization is much more than the donations and grants it needs in order to run.

After attending the Social Impact Exchange’s Symposium on Scaling Social Impact, I realized that the quality of an organization is measured by their overall impact. While listening to the speakers at the Symposium, one of the main ideas that stuck with me is that an organization must stay true to its mission and follow through on the internal commitments they have made instead of trying to adapt to grants that are available or to try to appease foundations and donors by becoming other than what they intended. It is very easy to get sidetracked by other demands, temptations and opportunities available. I’m lucky to be interning at an organization that maintains a strong inner compass and  illustrates how to secure funding and create partnerships that stay true to its own mission.

By working in the Development Department in Osborne’s Bronx office, I have seen how Osborne has been able to maintain funding from the New York’s Department of Criminal Justice Services for successful programs such as the Green Career Center, which helps individuals who are formerly incarcerated receive the tools they to secure living wage jobs, and the Court Advocacy Services, which helps keep people from having to be incarcerated through appropriate and effective alternative rehabilitation and mental health programs. I also learned a lot about social impact bonds, which have allowed The Osborne Association to run vital programs on Riker’s Island in order to reduce recidivism by an estimated ten percent.

While working in Development has shown me the importance of finding the proper funding, my work in Osborne’s Brooklyn office has shown me the importance of developing the proper partnerships. I helped create the questionnaire and chose the different tele-visiting programs out of many across the nation that the National Institute of Corrections will interview in order to report on the use of tele-visiting for families and children to visit their incarcerated loved ones.

I have seen the incredible impact that The Osborne Association has had over its 80 year existence because of the programs  it has been able to run so successfully. I personally answered letters and phone calls from people who requested help on issues ranging from keeping people from ever going prison to helping people who have been incarcerated for decades get their life together and change for the better. I continue to learn about new programs, even outside of the New York area, that I can refer people to who call and write to Osborne for help. I hope to keep growing and learning all that I can about how to make and sustain the powerful impact an organization like Osborne has.


Research Summaries from a Summer in Bhopal, India

In the following post, I try to summarize the research findings that I’ve come across during my time in Bhopal, India (and share some photos, too).  I’m currently working on a website where I will be posting this as well.  I am also considering doing a photo exhibition at Brandeis to raise awareness on the Bhopal gas tragedy that happened in 1984. Bhopal is a beautiful city, it’s unfortunate that people living here have to breathe clouds of toxic gases and drink contaminated water.
I’m also working on a short video about what social justice means to the staff, doctors and volunteers at the clinic in the face of industrial disasters.  I’ll definitely try to upload that in my next post!
Research Topics & Findings

Social Justice and Industrial Accidents

There are many different ways that large multinational corporations affect local communities in developing countries- environmentally, physically and psychologically (Labunska et al, 1999; Mitchell, 1996). Yet it is only when this global industrialization results in a catastrophic event where people’s lives and health are at risk that the world’s media and legal systems pay attention. However, such attention is often short-lived and lacks any depth of study to monitor the lasting effects on people and communities. Such is often the story with industrial accidents in the developing world- countries with lower safety measures and a greater economic need to win over a large profitable contract are both more likely to harbor an industrial accident (Mitchell, 1996) and less likely to be able to appropriately manage and deal with one. At Sambhavna Trust in Bhopal, I am looking at issues of social justice and health promotion in the context of developing countries affected by industrial accidents, and in particular, the legacy of the industrial accident in Bhopal. I am looking for a definition of social justice that looks to the future, one that aims for a just reaction and response to industrial accidents. The industrial accident in Bhopal, India and its repercussions has been termed ‘the world’s worst industrial disaster’ (Hanna et al, 2005, p.6) and provides a great starting point to explore such a definition of social justice.


Five past midnight in Bhopal

At five past midnight on 3rd December 1984 a pesticide plant in Bhopal owned by the American company Union Carbide leaked 40 tons of methyl isocyanate gas (MIC) into the surrounding environment (Broughton, 2005; Hanna et al, 2005; Mitchell, 1996). MIC is highly toxic and can be fatal. Short term effects on people’s health include burning in the respiratory tract and eyes, blepharospasm, breathlessness, stomach pains and vomiting. These acute symptoms can lead to death by choking, reflexogenic circulatory collapse and pulmonary pedema, as well as damaging the kidneys, liver and reproductive organs (Sriramachari, 2004). Through the night of 3rd December 1984 thousands of people died- the official number remains unknown; the Government of India declares the death toll to be at least 3800 (Broughton, 2005), while other estimations by independent organizations, NGOs and the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) vary between 10,000 and 30,000 (ICJB, 2010; Eckerman, 2005). A further 100,000- 150,000 people are estimated to have permanent injuries as a result of the MIC exposure and the stillbirth rate in those affected increased by up to 300% (Eckerman, 2005). The overwhelming majority of those affected were living in bastis (local term for temporary, substandard accommodation communes) surrounding the factory, where birth records were rare and number of inhabitants unknown. Mass cremations and burials began the day after the accident. There are varying reports on the specific causes of the gas leak though it is clear that poor maintenance of the plant since it ceased production months earlier, led to the magnitude of the problem; several key safety systems were switched off under Union Carbide Corporation’s instruction, including the MIC tank refrigeration system, in order to save money (Eckerman, 2005; ICJB, 2010; Hanna et al, 2005).


Ongoing Effects

The deserted Union Carbide factory still stands, unvisited except for the occasional journalist or trespassing children since the accident. The site of the disaster was never cleared or cleaned of its toxic waste. The factory continues to omit toxic, poisonous gases from the many abandoned sheds, storerooms and solar evaporation ponds holding up to 27 tons of MIC and other gases (ICJB, 2010; Hanna et al, 2005). These chemicals have leaked into the soil, contamination the groundwater source for approximately 25,000 Bhopalis who live nearby (Bhopal Medical Appeal, 2010; ICJB, 2010). A Greenpeace study found chloroform, lead, mercury and a series of other chemicals in the breast milk of mothers living in proximity to the factory (Labunska et al, 1999). The factory and the chemicals within continue to cause death, breathing difficulties, damaged eyesight, reproductive complications, growth stunting, accelerated cancers and a range of other ailments and malformations for survivors and their children (Hanna et al, 2005).


Union Carbide’s response

Since December 1984 Union Carbide has consistently refused to identify the chemical agents that caused the accident for legal liability reasons- making effective treatment for survivors difficult (Bhopal Medical Appeal, 2010). In addition, the corporation has still not confirmed what was in the toxic cloud in December 1984 (Dhara & Dhara, 2002). There is a chance that the cloud also contained HCN (hydrogen cyanide- a more deadly gas formed when MIC reached 200 degrees Celsius) so patients were originally administered with sodium thiosulfate- a known therapy for cyanide poisoning but not for MIC exposure. Despite patients responding well to the sodium thiosulfate, Union Carbide withdrew an initial statement recommending its use when they realized the extra legal implications of cyanide poisoning (Mangla, 1989; Varma, 1989; Anderson, 1989; Dhara and Dhara, 2002). This is one of the many claimed ways Union Carbide attempted to manipulate, disguise and withhold scientific data to the disadvantage of victims (Broughton, 2005). To date no comprehensive scientific research has been funded or carried out into effective treatment for those affected by the accident in Bhopal (ICJB, 2010).

The American chairman of Union Carbide in 1984, Warren Anderson was arrested for culpable homicide just days after the disaster but paid USD 2000 in bail then fled India and has yet to return. Warren Anderson, along with other Union Carbide workers from the American contingent, continues to escape criminal charges. Major questions regarding safety, negligence, causes and clean up remain unanswered by those responsible.

The Indian Government declared itself the sole representative and legal spokesperson for the Bhopal ‘victims’ in an Act passed in 1985 (Broughton, 2005; Hanna et al, 2005). Union Carbide successfully brought the case to Indian courts, and after a five year legal battle made an out-of-court settlement payment to the government of USD 470 million (Broughton, 2005). Compensation channels were rife with corruption and incorrect data. Survivors facing chronic illnesses due to the gas leak received a maximum of USD 500 as compensation, if they were granted anything at all, which in most cases was not enough to cover the medical costs alone (Sarangi, 1995; ICJB, 2010). Outstanding criminal charges against Union Carbide and Warren Anderson regarding cleanup of the factory have ben brought to New York but never come to fruition. In February 2001, Dow Chemicals merged with Union Carbide forming the second largest chemical manufacturer in the world. Dow Chemicals (the name retained) claims not to accept any responsibility for a factory it never owned (despite paying liabilities for previous Union Carbide cases based in Texas, America) (ICJB, 2010).


Sambhavna Trust

Lying in the heart of the community of those affected by the Bhopal disaster of 1984 is the Sambhavna Trust. Just 200 meters from the abandoned union carbide factory, the Sambhavna (meaning ‘possibility’) Trust Clinic is the only facility providing free treatment to both gas and water affected persons. Since its establishment in 1996, it has provided free Western medicine, Ayurvedic and Allopathic treatments to those affected by the industrial disaster. Sambhavna also does community health outreach programs for those unable to travel to the clinic and records health data on patients to assist research studies.

Sambhavna is internationally funded by private donors and is locally managed. The clinic is also a member of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) and provides a key hub for people to obtain information and resources regarding the ongoing legal claims and their rights.


Social Justice in Bhopal

Talking to the victims of the disaster as well as the staff members, volunteers and doctors at Sambhavna, I am beginning to form a clear definition of what social justice means for the twenty five year long Union Carbide case in Bhopal and the health and wellbeing of those affected.



Anderson, N. (1989) Long term effects of methyl isocyanate, in Lancet, Vol.2, Issue 8662, p. 1259

Bhopal Medical Appeal, (2010) Online Updates and historical information. Accessed July 2013 from:

Broughton, E. (2005) The Bhopal Disaster and its Aftermath: A Review, in Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source, 4:6, accessed July 2013 from:

Dhara, V.R & Dhara, R. (2002) The Union Carbide Disaster in Bhopal: A review of health effects, in Archives of Environmental Health, p. 391-404.

Eckerman, I. (2005) The Bhopal gas leak: Analyses of causes and consequences by three different models, in Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industry, Vol 18, p. 213-217

Hanna, B; Morehouse, M & Sarangi, S. (2005) The Bhopal Reader, New York, The Apex Press

International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB), (2010), Online updates and historical information. Accessed July 2010 from


– Alina Pokhrel ’15

Interning at The Osborne Association

One of the largest problems that has plagued the United States for decades is the extraordinarily high rate of incarceration. The Osborne Association, an 80-year old criminal justice non-profit located in New York State, works to address this issue with an abundance of innovative programming that effectively reduces America’s reliance on incarceration and aids those formerly incarcerated to be productive citizens and family members. Although I have worked with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people since I was in elementary school, my internship at Osborne has exposed me to completely new ideas and approaches and has been very engaging. As a result of the discussions I had with my supervisors before my internship began, they have focused on ensuring that I would learn about how the organization is able to run smoothly and be so influential by working in Osborne’s Development and the Children and Youth Services departments.

Luckily for me, I was able to begin my internship with Osborne’s major fundraising event, which is called Lighting the Way. Lighting the Way displays Osborne’s incredible dedication and achievements with speeches and videos showing the power that people can have when they care about helping others and making their communities better places to live. In additional, about a week before Lighting the Way, I was surprised to find out that one of the members of The Osborne Association’s Board of Directors is related to a strong supporter of the WOW grants. This added to my feeling of connectedness to Osborne and their mission. Lighting the Way became the foundation of my internship because it showed the immeasurable impact that The Osborne Association’s innovative programs and crucial services have on New York and even across the United States.

For my internship I work in Osborne’s Bronx office on Mondays and Tuesdays and in their Brooklyn office on Wednesdays and Thursdays. In the Bronx office I have been focusing on development and fundraising. I am working closely with the Communications Director and the grants writing staff to better the website, attend critical meetings, and catalog the wide ranging publications that are vital for expanding various programs and services. So far, I have examined because The Osborne Association is one of the S&I 100.  I participated in a phone meeting about Sesame Street’s new initiative highlighting the issue of parental incarceration to discuss the initiative ( and Liz Gaynes, Osborne’s Executive Director, being selected as one of only eleven White House Champions of Change for Children of Incarcerted Parents (, and I went through the majority of the publications that have been in circulation for the past two years. I have been really lucky in my timing because these are all major developments that impact incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals and their families and children across the nation.

In the Brooklyn office I have been focusing on training to answer Osborne’s Family Resource Center hotline and answer mail from incarcerated people across New York state.  I also conduct research for a training manual that Osborne has been contracted to prepare by the National Institute of Corrections for “televisiting”, a program that is sweeping the nation.  The phone calls and mail have made me very sympathetic to the pain that families, especially children, go through because of the stigma and shame that is associated with incarcerated family members. This has pushed me to do what I can in order to ensure that the growth of televisiting will not be used to replace in person visits to jails and prisons but rather as a helpful supplement to keep those incarcerated connected to their loved ones. People are not aware of the devastating trend in jails across the America to get rid of visitation and only allow virtual visits, which will only lead to more issues for families impacted by incarceration and especially for their children. There are over 2.1 million people behind bars in the United States and 1 in every 28 children has a parent behind bars. This number is much higher for African American and Latino children. It is necessary to provide these children and their families with the tools they need to lead healthy and productive lives, including access to their parents who they love.

Osborne Association

Update on my Summer at Responsible Wealth: Communication Edition

The Great Gatsby Curve: Part or an info-graphic produced by the White House showing how greater economic inequality leads to less generational mobility, or in different rhetorical terms, less ability to achieve the American Dream
A great graphic I came across in my search for something to tweet: The Great Gatsby Curve. It is part of an info-graphic produced by the White House showing how greater economic inequality correlates with less generational mobility, or in different rhetorical terms, less ability to achieve the American Dream.

So, how does Twitter work? That is one of the biggest logistical questions I have been trying to answer up until the midpoint of my summer internship at the Responsible Wealth project of United for a Fair Economy. You would think that being from this generation of twenty somethings, I would already have a firm grasp of the Social Media platform and how to best utilize it to communicate a specific message.  To be honest, I had not used it until this summer. Now look at me. I am actually in charge of manning the Responsible Wealth Twitter and Facebook pages. Aside from just learning how to  utilize this mode of communication, I am gaining an important skill: the ability to communicate a message (in this case the message of Responsible Wealth) in a relevant, concise, and intriguing manner that keeps my audience (that’s you!) in mind. I have started asking myself: What does my audience already know? What topics that our organization addresses would they be interested to learn more about? How can I present it in a way that will grab their attention, and, most importantly, get them to ACT?, etc. One of the best examples I can give of a source of information that I shared via social media that I knew would be

What I am most proud of: increasing the reach of our social media pages. Facebook created this handy graph for me to show you  this increase visually. I took over the Facebook page when the "reach" line starts increasing, around July 1st.
What I am most proud of: increasing the reach of our social media pages. Facebook created this handy graph for me to show you this increase visually. I took over the Facebook page when the “reach” line starts increasing, around July 1st.

interesting, attention grabbing, and informative is the site. If you have any interest in learning (interactively) about economic inequality in this country and how we can fix it, I highly recommend this site. This ability to communicate your message and to get more people strongly engaged in your work is a highly transferable skill, as any company or organization has a message or information that they want to share with their base – and usually in a way that will get them to respond. The increase in our organization’s social media outreach is probably what I am most proud of at my internship right now. This is partially because it is an accomplishment I can see numerically (e.g. number of followers) and also because it means that people are interested in the information I am sharing I am sharing on behalf of the organization.

Additionally, in my constant search for articles and information to share I am gaining a wealth of information about various aspects of inequality, including racial, gender, and economic inequality, and how to address them, which are core learning goals I set for this internship. I can measure how I am progressing in this goal through how much I find myself able to discuss these topics with others at my internship who have more experience in them, as well as with my friends who come from various different academic and experiential backgrounds. I have found that I am better able to take the concepts from what I have learned academically at Brandeis to apply them to these real world issues. Most importantly, I now have a better understanding of how to combine academics with experience to work to fix problems that I see in the real world.  This involves my other learning goal of understanding “how to use the knowledge I have gained from my majors in International and Global studies (IGS) and Health: Science, Society, and Policy (HSSP) as well as my minor in Economics to work for social justice, locally and globally.”

Social Media isn’t the only type of communication that I have gained experience in this summer. I have also been calling members of Responsible Wealth to update their contact information and find out more about their interests and how they could best participate in Responsible Wealth. This can sometimes be more intimidating than anonymously posting things online, but this more personal form of communication is also an important transferable skill to any job.  Engaging people directly is an essential part of building support for your organization.

The Budget for All rally outside the MA State House
The Budget for All rally outside the MA State House

One final thing I would like to add to this post is that I had the opportunity to attend the Budget for All rally and hearing at the Massachusetts State House on July 10th, where many supporters of the budget resolution – which passed in all 91 MA towns where it was on the ballot – spoke in favor of the resolution’s proposal to redistribute the federal budget by putting less emphasis on the military and more on social issues like education. These supporters included several elected officials and a member of United for a Fair Economy, Steve Schnapp. It was a 4-hour long hearing, during which I took in a lot of information and learned more about how to get issues you care passionately about to be discussed and changed at the state and federal level. And that is the key: to have measurable success in directing more funding toward social issues we need to be heard clearly and repeatedly by policy makers in both Boston and Washington D.C.

Graphic Credit: Vandivier, David. Jan 11, 2013. What is the Great Gatsby Curve? The White House Blog.


End of Internship

This has been a whirlwind of a summer, and I can’t believe it’s come to an end.  Working at PCDC has challenged me to think about my life, my goals, and social justice in new ways, some of which has been useful and some of which has been frustrating for me.  The useful aspects have been gaining a broader understanding of what early intervention is and what services are available to the disadvantaged population I’m hoping to working with in the future.  I also have spoken with many people at the agency about what graduate degrees I should earn in order to get where I want to be in my career; something I had been struggling with greatly before this summer.  It has additionally been useful to have been researching the federal regulations relating to early childhood education and care and investigating how PCDC has complied with these regulations as I now have a better sense of why daycares do things certain ways.  Lastly, I’ve gotten a lot of experience working in PROMIS, the database that is used in many similar agencies.

There have also been some very frustrating challenges, such as trying to understand my contributions to social justice.  I had always felt that I needed to be working directly with children in order to make a difference, but working with my supervisor and talking to the director of the program has convinced me otherwise.  While I still aim to work directly with children as that’s what I find most fulfilling, I am working through whether I should focus more on policy since I could make more of a widespread difference that way.

I think these conflicting ideas will challenge me throughout my life, and I can’t imagine a better place to grapple with the issues surrounding social justice than Brandeis.  When I get back in the fall I will certainly be seeking out opportunities to contend with the conflicting concept of how best to apply myself to bettering children’s lives.   I would like to continue my research in relation to the available services and find or create a niche that is both enjoyable and fulfilling for me.

I am not sure how to advise other students interested in this field, as I am still grappling with a lot of it myself.  I suggest that you really deeply investigate what it is you are looking for and pursue a job that fulfills your requirements while at the same time understanding that it will more likely than not take several steps to get there.  I myself had thought I wanted something specific and, while I was on the right track, have certainly changed my mind and clarified many things.  If you are pursuing an internship or job specifically at Community Action, I suggest that you contact my supervisor directly, and you are welcome to email me to get her specific information.

It has been a summer full of highs and lows, but overall I am very glad I had the opportunity to work in this agency and would do it again if I had the chance.  I am eternally grateful for the respect and trust bestowed upon me, as it gave me a really gracious entrance into the professional office world.

Avital Sokolow Silverman ’14


Taking Little Big Steps Forward (and Sideways and Diagonally)

“Teachah! Teachah! Teachah!” The mob of children shouted as they ran towards our car, arms outstretched and faces beaming. It’s a sight that I’ve grown used to in the past few weeks, but one that never fails to stir up the wild flutter in my stomach and chest. The car slows down and the children press their faces up to the window, still chanting and peering in, impatiently waiting for me to get out. Just like every other morning, I’m amazed by how something so routine could still be so exciting and new as I step out of the car and return the embraces from the dozens of tiny, dusty hands that cover me.

In the past few weeks, we’ve established a regular morning routine: set up the chairs, take attendance, stretch, pray, review the alphabet, and then review all our other basics—colors, shapes, opposites, the five senses, days of the week, and body parts. Afterwards, we separate into groups and dive into the lesson plan that I’d labored over and meticulously thought out the day before for the next three hours until school is out. Despite the overwhelming amount of brainpower and physical labor required every day to prepare for the next, I’ve felt nothing but pure ecstasy (maybe except for the occasional back pains and hand cramps). As cliché as it sounds, all my work so far has felt like a labor of love. The physical strain from writing the alphabet 35 times and hand-making dozens of worksheets pales in comparison to seeing the vibrant smiles on my kids’ faces as they learn more every day. At this point of the internship, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on things; I’ve divided my class into four groups based on their writing, reading, and math abilities and we are making good progress in establishing our learning foundations.

Group 1 doing a shape and alphabet exercise in their workbooks.
Group 1 doing a shape and alphabet exercise in their workbooks.


I absolutely love everything about this internship, but it’s definitely not what I had expected. The mountains of hypothetical and academic preparation I did before coming to Namibia seemed all but to fly out the window as I had to hit the ground running as soon as I got settled. Coming to Tui Ni Duse four days a week for a month has made this internship feel like my actual job—and it feels great! I find myself thinking about Tui Ni Duse 24/7—even in my dreams! Constantly, I’m thinking about what I can do with the kids or how I can teach something in a different way so they can understand better. I even wake up in the middle of the night from dreaming about teaching the kids because of a sudden teacher’s epiphany! I know that a lot of it is from adrenaline because I can sleep as little as three hours to make more time for prep work and not feel tired the next day, but I also feel that the challenges of handling a large class alone has pushed me to improve my time management and multi-tasking skills as well as become more pro-active, responsible, and creative. Although I am not strictly following the plan I had laid out for myself before this trip, the literature I read and my anthropological training has definitely come in handy.

Going over our alphabet!
Going over our alphabet!
Group 3 working on an alphabet activity
Group 3 working on an alphabet activity

I am currently planning a parents’ day event when the parents can come and see what their children are capable of doing. I got the idea after visiting the home of a student who decided he didn’t want to come to school anymore. When I met his mother, I took out his notebook to show her the things he had been working on in school and what a good student he was. As she pored over the pages with amazement and pride, I realized that she had never seen any of her son’s schoolwork! Hopefully, this parents’ day will give parents something to be proud of, boost parent support of sending children to school, and shine a light on the benefits of education.

– Brontte Hwang ’14

Advocating for Consumers’ Rights in D.C.


6902b65b-c868-451b-a632-a193ded88049_zpsc3544296It has already been seven weeks since I first began my internship with the National Consumers League (NCL). It amazes me how much I have grown as a consumer and consumer advocate during this short period of time. During my first week, I was excited, nervous, and intrigued simply by meeting professionals who have made differences by advocating for consumers in major issues throughout the nation. I was proud to be working for the League in which Eleanor Roosevelt had been Vice President and for the organization that protected women’s rights in the famous Muller v. Oregon case. Now, I am also impressed by the extensive research and advocacy work I have taken part in throughout my internship. Every research project assigned to me has been a new and exciting learning experience. The research has not only allowed me to educate the average consumer about issues but also educate myself. I have definitely become a much more informed consumer, who is able to advise other consumers on issues including radio fraud, airline fee gouging, youth magazine traveling sales, billing aggregators, prepaid card use, and credit card fraud against charities. The NCL has given me the great opportunity to contribute to the fight against these practices that hurt consumers directly and indirectly.

Since my first week at the NCL, I have achieved my initial learning goals to learn how a non-profit functions and how NCL protects consumers’ rights. I have also learned how to execute an effective and meaningful research project. My research project on radio fraud has significantly allowed me to understand how to analyze an issue and carefully make conclusions. The radio fraud research project was intended to analyze whether certain radio advertisements were misleading, potentially misleading, or legitimate. While listening to the radio advertisements, it was important for me to carefully note what the companies were exactly advertising and what services they were clearly offering. Afterwards, I went on their official websites and compared the programs they offered online with what they were saying on the radio advertisements. I also read through the numerous pages of complaints reported to the Better Business Bureau and reviews that evaluated consumers’ experiences with the company. Although some radio advertisements may seem legitimate to the average consumer, some of them may be misleading. An advertisement that offers a free cruise may claim to be selective and completely free of any charges, but some consumers have reported that they were billed for extra programs they never signed up for or authorized. Consumers also had to pay additional hidden fees on board and attend long presentations, all of which were not explained in the advertisement. After carefully investigating into several radio advertisements, I wrote detailed reports that included my evaluation of the advertisement supported by consumer complaints. I expect that the reports will be useful during roundtable discussions and advocacy work related to radio fraud in the near future. After researching about radio fraud, I have become very cautious about misleading radio advertisements and compelled to warn consumers about potential scams. 

One of the most memorable experiences I have had so far at NCL is striking against wage theft and companies’ use of pre-paid cards as the default payment method at the Ronald Reagan Building. Fellow interns and I supported low wage workers as they voiced their anger against prepaid cards that are associated with high fees for ATM withdrawals, PIN transactions, balance confirmations, customer service, and inactivity.  Before participating in the strike, I had done initial research about prepaid cards. Directly hearing workers’ calls for fair wages and respect was an incredible and influential encounter. I witnessed low-wage workers explaining that pre-paid cards only drive them further into poverty. In the second strike, one woman explained how she was illegally paid less than the minimum wage and had to pay additional pre-paid card fees, but was expected to support herself and her children. While I realized that I must learn how to further advocate for their rights, I also felt proud of my work at the moment. The employees that I shared brief conversations with showed their appreciation for our support with warm smiles. Following the strikes, we released a press release praising New York’s Attorney General for launching an investigation into retail practices. We hope other states will follow and protect the rights of low-wage workers.


The unique experiences at NCL, such as meeting the former Surgeon General at the NCL’s Script Your Future Campaign event, combined with the short-term and long-term research work will help me to effectively advocate for consumers’ rights on campus. By utilizing the step-by-step process of organizing and promoting events and campaigns, I hope to organize campus events that will be engaging, inspiring, and informative. I will use the knowledge I have acquired at the NCL through research and first-hand experiences to effectively communicate with students, professors, and outside resources as I serve as the Undergraduate Departmental Representative for Politics, Legal Studies, and East Asian Studies this Fall semester. Before I head back to school, I look forward to learning and impacting more throughout the last few weeks with the NCL team.

Former Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin speaking at NCL's Script Your Future Event
Former Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin speaking at NCL’s Script Your Future Event

Midpoint Review and Rethink: Can We Change Their Lives?

“Dear volunteer, this is Terry Chenyu Li, the coordinator of the Pujiang New Citizen Life Center 4 (NCLC4) Program. Welcome to our team! …”

This is the format of the emails that I have been sending for the past two weeks. As the coordinator of the summer English program at a community center in south Shanghai, I have to notify the volunteers about their teaching times and give them directions to the center. The NCLC4 program is the distant program from the city center. Volunteers have to spend 30-50 minutes on the subway and 15 minutes on the bus to reach the school. Since most volunteers are foreigners, I try to accompany them on their first teaching days to make sure they can get to the center on time. I usually take advantage of this commute time to investigate volunteers’ motives. This is of great interest to me because of one of the classes that I took in my year abroad at University College London. In this class titled “development geography”, I learned the importance of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and volunteerism, and some of the problems associated with them.

New Citizen Life Center 4 (NCLC4) in Pujiang Town. south Shanghai
New Citizen Life Center 4 (NCLC4) in Pujiang Town. south Shanghai

One of the benefits of volunteerism is that it can build mutual understanding between different cultures. Some of our volunteers are foreign students and expats. They live in gated communities and thus have little contact with local communities. One of their motives for volunteering is to “get to know the people better”. Many of them have never heard the terms “migrant children” or “hukou” before. After participating in our program, they become aware of the social injustice in Shanghai. Some of the volunteers are so inspired that they decide to join Stepping Stones. For example, Oliver Pointer, our current training manager, had volunteered with two of Stepping Stones’ programs before he joined Stepping Stones.

Many Shanghai high school students also choose to volunteer with us during the summer. Most public middle and high schools do not admit non-Shanghai citizens, also known as migrant students. For those who do, they usually have separated classes for them. As a result, most Shanghai middle and high school students do not have close contact with migrant children. By volunteering with us, these students develop their understandings of this “unknown community” who build the skyscrapers, clean up the streets, feed the people, and drive the subway. Given that these students could have a great impact on the future of Shanghai, they could, in time, alter the prejudice against migrants and possibly be part of the force that abolishes the hukou system. Therefore, their participation is especially important.

Some of the volunteers at NCLC4. Oliver is the tall man standing in the center-left. I am on the very right.
Some of our volunteers and students at NCLC4. Oliver is the tall man standing in the center-left. I am on the very right.

Working at Stepping Stones also provides me with the opportunity to interact with other NGOs in Shanghai. One that Stepping Stones closely works with is Shanghai Young Bakers (SYB). The French-initiated SYB provides free nine-month bakery training lessons to disadvantaged youths from rural China. SYB adopts the “alternance” concept, meaning that their students spend two weeks of classes at school and two weeks of practical internship at international hotels for the whole duration of the program. Since English is one of the working languages at these hotels, Stepping Stones offers free English classes to SYB students. When I attended SYB students’ graduation on July 15th, I was surprised to see that all SYB students, who had variable knowledge of English before coming to Shanghai, were able to give fairly informative personal statements in English. They even delivered two short dialogues based on their daily conversations. During the graduation ceremony, I talked to interns, volunteers, and staff from SYB. I could feel that they are very passionate about their jobs. They believe that this nine-month training could change many of the students’ lives. However, after talking to one of the training managers at SYB, I realized that the impact might be much less than many people anticipate. The manager suggested that the first ten years of working in bakeries or hotels is a tough time. Only those with dedication and talent would remain in this industry. Some of the students may choose to work in other fields or return to their hometowns, and many of them will remain economically vulnerable in the society.

John is a graduate from SYB. He interns at the Renaissance Yangtze Hotel in Shanghai.
John is a graduate from SYB. He interns in the Renaissance Yangtze Hotel in Shanghai.

This seemingly disappointing opinion exemplifies a real problem of NGOs that I learned from “development geography”: as long as the social structure remains unchanged, NGOs can scarcely change the lives of the poor. The disadvantaged will remain disadvantaged. In China, NGOs have little effect upon the structure of the society. They do not want, nor do they dare, to challenge authority.

If NGOs can scarcely change society, why do we still do what we do? How can NGOs be improved? We had a discussion regarding these questions among Stepping Stones staff on July 16th. We discussed the possibility of turning Stepping Stones into a “social enterprise”. If we provide the same level of English education as educational corporates do, why don’t we charge our students for some of our programs? We could use the money to expand our programs and to help those who cannot afford them. Social enterprise is a possible solution to the sustainability of NGOs, expanding their influence and alleviating social injustice, yet it still cannot fundamentally solve the injustice that is deeply rooted in the local structure of society. This links back to one of my previous points: by raising young Chinese people’s awareness towards the unfair treatment of migrant children and involving Chinese youth in this force for change, we can probably influence the future of China.

I am glad that by the halfway mark of my internship at Stepping Stones, I have met so many passionate people at various occasions. I have explored my studies of NGOs in real life, and real life has raised new questions for my studies. I am sure I will learn more in the next few weeks at NCLC4 and Stepping Stones. The weather is getting unbearably hot in Shanghai, but I am in love with the city and what I am doing here.

I am ending this blog as the format of my emails always end:

“Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.


Terry Chenyu Li”

Discrimination Law 101: Educational Presentations

I cannot believe that it is halfway through my internship already! The summer is really flying by.  Since my last post, a lot has developed in terms of my responsibilities at the Mass. Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).

When I first began calling human services organizations, it was a bit frustrating because it was not always easy to reach the right person, or sometimes anybody at all! After a frustrating day of unsuccessful calls without feeling like I was truly connecting with people, I tried to have more natural conversations with program coordinators and directors.

Soon, I began to schedule many presentations, which gets to the heart of what my responsibilities are as a public education and outreach intern. Now, I have given six presentations, and I have over ten more scheduled for the upcoming weeks.  Each presentation that I give is different depending on the population; the settings are as varied as ESOL classes, youth programs, and homeless shelters, just to name a few.

The presentations are really fun since they are interactive and the audience often becomes very involved.  It is nice to be able to see how much more comfortable I am giving these presentations—now I don’t need to use the notes much at all, and I know the right questions to ask to engage the people listening.  I’ve also become more accustomed to fielding difficult questions and determining the appropriate responses.  My public speaking skills have certainly improved from all of these phone calls and presentations.

Probably the best part, though, is seeing how beneficial these presentations are for the people attending.  While it can often be a bit upsetting for somebody to realize that they were not only treated unfairly, but were discriminated against, it is really inspiring to see people taking notes and asking questions so that they can be better equipped to stand up for their rights.



Explaining the four types of discrimination during a presentation.

I have also been able to expand my own knowledge and understanding of the legal proceedings that take place at the MCAD.  My supervisor has been especially helpful in this regard.  All of the interns get to observe various parts of the complaint process, and I was able to sit in on a public hearing and an appeal hearing last week, both of which involved some very interesting cases.  I have attended a few lunches with commissioners and hearing officers, where I’ve been able to ask specific questions, and learn about interesting cases that the MCAD has received. This is a great way to see how the law is continuously progressing and being redefined.

Even though my internship duties are focused on outreach and are more informational than involved with changing the laws, I’ve realized that I am more interested in policy change as opposed to its enforcement. 

I have also recognized though, that even if a particular law is in place, education is essential in ensuring that the law is enforced, and that people actually benefit from that law’s protections.  Many of the people I have spoken to at these presentations did not even realize that illegal actions may have been taken against them, because they were unaware of their protections under the law. 

Thus, it is not simply enough to create a law for it to actually make change. I hope that I will use this knowledge in the future if I decide to pursue a career in policy change, and will remember the importance of spreading education and awareness in bringing about a law or policy’s full potential.

 I am looking forward to the next few weeks of my internship, and I am very excited to see what else I will learn!

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Helping answer a question regarding housing discrimination.

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Kelley answers a question about whether a particular scenario might be discrimination.

Intersectionality and Breaking Classism

The past month working with Interfaith Worker Justice has been a reminder that creating change is slow, grinding, and often unglamorous work.  One of my primary goals has been to explore community organizing from a labor and economic justice perspective, the strengths and weaknesses of labor organizing in Boston in relation to my experience in climate organizing, and building bridges between the two movements.

I think that the climate movement does many things well—it has a lot of energy and momentum around youth right now; the horizontal, democratic nature of a lot of its organizing allows people to take initiative and become leaders; and a shift away from rote protests and rallies towards creative tactics, civil disobediences, and direct actions resonate more powerfully with the public and media. However, for all its innovation and energy, a major critique of climate change activists is that it is a homogenous group—white, upper-middle class—partly because climate change is seen as a “privileged” issue, especially when compared to violence, poverty, mass incarceration, racism, etc. However, climate justice sees the intersections of race, class, and the environment; those most vulnerable to climate change and environmental degradation are marginalized communities, i.e. low-income, minority groups. And to build a movement strong enough to take on climate change and the fossil fuel industry, we need to make these intersections clear, create cross-connections in struggles for justice, and support communities with the most at stake from climate change.

Photo I took/edited of an action at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office during an action where immigration and labor organizers joined together.
Photo I took/edited at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office during an action where immigration and labor organizers joined together–an example of intersectionality and movements creating synergy.

This is where my time at Interfaith Worker Justice comes into play. Every day is filled with meetings to plan campaigns and actions, as well as participating in actions themselves. My work has narrowed to focusing on the Raise Up Massachusetts campaign—raising the minimum wage and establishing an earned sick time standard for all workers in MA; the Bangladesh Solidarity Network, which is focused on getting apparel companies such as Gap and Walmart to sign a Fire and Safety Agreement that would improve the safety for Bangladesh garment workers, and participating in numerous pickets and rallies in support of various workers trying to unionize with a fair process without fear of retaliation.

My time with IWJ has been useful in seeing and understanding how the labor movement has been successful in building a strong, diverse group. Labor organizers see their work and thus frame their issues around class and race, resonating strongly among the constituents it needs to raise. However, I’ve learned that messaging that focuses on class and race only goes so far in building community support and legitimacy if without an intentionality to incorporate marginalized people into organizing. At work I have picked up on how labor organizers intentionally reach out to a diversity of people to not only attend events but become part of the organizing process. I am starting to pick up on various habits and incorporate them into my organizing in order to be more inclusive. For example, it is important to pick up the phone and not rely solely on the Internet (which many low-income people do not have 24/7 access to). For a week of actions against deportations of undocumented immigrants, I spent hours calling housing authorities, immigration groups, civil rights groups, workers centers—any organization whose constituents could be those impacted and thus would be most passionate about deportations. In addition, we made sure at the week of actions against deportations that almost all of the speakers were those directly affected by deportations. It is useful to establish relationships with other organizations that deal directly with communities not only to collaborate with but also to utilize as a resource when outreaching—I have been discussing with various labor organizers about my own climate work and working to establish contacts that can then be later used for outreach and collaboration. Organizers also make sure to plan meetings and events at times when people are not working and at locations accessible by public transportation and nearby or, better yet, in low-income communities. Going through work every day with an intentionality on classism and racism and picking up nuisances of how the labor movement effectively resonates with marginalized communities will be extremely useful as I continue organizing on Brandeis campus and beyond, irrespective of the issue.


Picket at Le Meridien hotel over the company's failure to allow workers to organize (Cambridge, MA).
Picket at Le Meridien hotel over the company’s failure to allow workers to organize (Cambridge, MA).

I learned from some labor organizers of a carbon tax bill in MA that people were upset with due to the regressive nature of how it distributed tax-cuts. Effectively, this bill would put a divide between many well-intentioned environmentalists and labor activists who would have to spend crucial resources and energy into defeating the carbon tax bill, hurting both movements. I have been discussing with various environmental organizers about the regressive nature of the carbon tax and trying to set up a meeting among environmental and labor organizers to meet with the grassroots organization behind the ballot initiative of the carbon tax bill to see how the bill can be revised to avoid these internal conflicts.

More generally, I have been working on crafting connections between the two movements to avoid scenarios such as the carbon tax bill that could have been avoided if there were communication; currently I am working on getting together a meeting of student organizers across different issues (labor, environmental, immigration) to seek out synergy and unity.  I am excited to see where my connections in the labor movement take me as I continue organizing around climate and environmental justice in the future; I especially hope to create collaborative efforts between the two issues, perhaps first on-campus to help revitalize the activist scene.



Diak ka lae?

Diak ka lae is used in Tetun, the local language of East Timor, for “How are you?” The literal translation is “Good or bad?” In response, people usually reply “diak”, meaning good, or “lae”, meaning bad. Diak ka lae is one of the many Tetun phrases and words I have learned here in my time in Dili. Although I am far from being fluent, I know enough phrases to understand some of the patients and to get a basic patient history. As I go on rounds with the doctors and follow up with the patients, I am getting more comfortable in a health care setting. Most importantly, I am also getting comfortable interacting with the patients. Being familiar with the language is one big step in communicating and interacting with patients and their families at the clinic.

Bairo Pite Clinic sign outside clinic gates

After spending over a month at the Bairo Pite Clinic, I am definitely seeing how a health clinic in a developing country like East Timor operates. I work almost daily with the staff and volunteers in providing health care for its patients. I observe and interact with a variety of staff members vital in running the clinic. However, the BPC is steady changing as health care in East Timor progresses. As I am working, I am witnessing the failures of the system and the improvements being made. I believe this knowledge I am gaining is important in becoming better informed as a future primary care physician.


Since I have started working at the clinic, I have been exposed to many medical procedures used to diagnose and evaluate patients. As I am picking up the language here, I am also becoming familiar with the medical techniques and tools being used during these examinations. I am able to understand why these techniques are being used when a doctor uses them and I am able to provide these tools when a doctor needs them. These skills would be useful in the future for work in a health care setting and for facilitating patient care.

Me and other volunteers with our N95 masks (masks that protect us from TB) on

I am most proud of everything that I have learned so far at the BPC and the fact that I am able to make myself useful around the clinic despite my lack of knowledge. Most of the volunteers at the BPC are medical students with some medical experience. In the beginning, I was worried that I would not be able to get the learning experience I need or be able help out. However, the doctors and medical students have been very willing to explain and teach me if I had questions. This in return helped me understand what was going on and be able to help them and by extension, help the patients.


Alice Luu ’14


Many volunteers from all over the world hanging out in the administration office
Many volunteers from all over the world hanging out in the administration office


Busy in the Small Non-Profit

Approaching the midpoint of my internship at WATCH, I can look back and appreciate the progress that I have made since it started almost two months ago. Although I had been familiar with the setting and the work at WATCH from my semester involvement with the Housing Clinic, I had made it a goal to understand and experience firsthand the work of a non-profit organization. WATCH proved to be a great place to get the right perspective about the public sector. The amount of responsibility that I am given at WATCH, as well as the degree to which I am involved with the inner workings of the organization, would have been unheard of had I been employed at a government office, big organization, or larger company. As an intern at WATCH, I have been given the opportunity to work closely with the full-time team, which is comprised of only four people: an Executive Director, Development Director, Office Manager, and Program Manager. In a big organization, I would have worked in a small department, which would have had its own niche objective, and I would not have been able to see the big picture. At WATCH, our staff meetings involve only the full-time staff and me. I am able to learn about every role in great detail, and this experience gives me a great perspective on the management and inner workings of a non-profit organization.  *maybe add an example about viewing the annual budget and having a real-life example to what I learn in my economics classes.

Here is the flyer we made for the TAG meeting
Here is the flyer we made for the TAG meeting

My other main goal was to learn more about community organizing and successfully engaging with community leaders to seek action to better the housing situation in Waltham. We decided to schedule a Tenant Action Group meeting (TAG) at the end of this month. In this meeting, community members will get educated about their rights as tenants, and we will try to address a specific housing problem that the people are facing, such as unsanitary and unsafe housing conditions. We are hoping to empower the TAG participants to actively seek change and action from their local representatives – for instance, sending personal letters to them describing the issues they face. The first step we took to schedule this meeting was to compose and send out a mailing to recent Housing Clinic clients inviting them to attend. Next week we are going to call approximately one hundred people to notify them about the meeting. I am very excited about it and cannot wait to get my first taste of community organizing. To learn more about community empowerment and organizing, please visit WATCH Community Organizing page.

I am using several methods to keep track of my personal progress and growth. I have a Google document in which I write down everything I do; projects, activities, people helped, etc. I track clinic progress under four categories: Walk-Ins, Emails, Phone Calls, and Letters that we empower tenants to write to their ward councilors, which are the representatives of each ward in Waltham in the local government. In the first period, we had 26 Walk-Ins, 9 emails, and 32 phone calls. We did not write letters to ward councilors because we are still working on implementing letter writing to the intake process.

Sending out the mailing

At the beginning of my internship, I felt overwhelmed with the amount of work, follow-ups, and resources I was told to update. At this point, however, I feel that I am finally on top of my work and I am now much more experienced than when I started. I spent a great deal of time learning about the Massachusetts housing law, and about different resources that I can offer as an advocate. I feel proud that I can assist the clients that come into the Housing Clinic and actually be able to help them with their struggles. Since I started, we have had a couple of success stories, such as a family who got their security deposit back from their landlord after two years of court disputes with the support of WATCH. Also, we helped a number of households communicate with their landlords and demand repairs to their apartments in order to improve their living conditions. Besides increasing my knowledge of the law and assisting people, I feel that through personal contact with real people and real situations, I become a better communicator and problem solver. Working at the Housing Clinic entails rationalizing, thinking critically, and assessing the problems I encounter. It is gaining skills like these that I am most proud of during my internship experience, and I believe that they will prove invaluable as my career path develops.


– Shimon Mazor ‘16

Creative Action and Social Media

I am halfway through my time at UFE and enjoying every minute of it. As I mentioned before, I was looking forward to

– Working on my own independent project with UFE

– Joining the fight for a great cause

– Forming great relationships with the UFE family.

How do you think that is all going? Well, I’ll show you!

My project:

Many organizations use social media for a variety of functions. Like these organizations, UFE has  Facebook, Twitter and Vimeo accounts through which it shares news and event information and raises awareness about issues pertaining to economic justice, fair taxation and equality for all.

My project is to explore one additional benefit of social media tools to UFE – fundraising – and to develop recommendations and corresponding case studies which support my research findings and proposed strategy. Having worked on this for the past few weeks, it has been an enlightening experience learning how different organizations are going about raising money through Facebook posts and YouTube videos. In the process, I spend hours on different websites looking at informative, sometimes hilarious and powerful content that organizations use to effect change and encourage action. (I am having about as much fun doing this as when the “Harlem Shake” craze hit YouTube.)

At the end of my internship, I will have the opportunity to present my findings to the rest of the UFE staff and I look forward to doing so. I hope that my work will provide actionable recommendations that will benefit the organization and enable its work to continue.

The UFE family:

I have yet to each lunch alone since I started working with the UFE. There is always an opportunity to interact with any one of the staff members at UFE; from the other interns to the director of the organization. Being comfortable with the people I work with is always top on my list of things to look out for in a career and I am happy to find that at UFE.

One other opportunity to bond with the members of the organization was during a state hearing at the State House in Boston. Steve Schnapp (one of the founding members of UFE) was set to testify in support of a resolution calling for responsible state and budgetary policy. We came together to join the rally and eventually sit in for the hearing. I got to experience the “action” part of the organization and meet people from other groups and organizations united for the same cause.

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 Here are some more pictures on the UFE facebook page

Last week, the other interns and I were invited to brainstorm, with the rest of the staff, ways that UFE could address federal tax issues and effect awareness and change at that level. I was excited to be a part of this and proud to be able to contribute my own ideas to the gathering. It was fascinating hearing from the earlier members of the group as they narrated (hilarious) accounts of how they had coordinated “Creative Action” (use of creative mediums such as theater and art for activism) in the past.

Side note: If you ever see dancing dollar bills anywhere, you know who’s responsible.

So far, I am enjoying my time at UFE. Since this is a major learning experience for me, each day is different and fulfilling, whether I am going through an organization’s Twitter feed, watching a webinar on the importance of email in fundraising or holding a banner outside State House.

Thanks for reading!

Pokuaa Adu

Onward and Upward!

With week seven rolling by at The Oregon Bus Project, I have steadily become accustomed to my responsibilities within the program. All twenty-one of the Fellows of the political-organizing fellowship, “PolitiCorps”, have been working tirelessly in the four weeks that they have been here. As I discussed in my previous post, the Fellows had the opportunity to vote on which public-interest campaigns they wanted to work on for the duration of their ten-week fellowship. After hearing about the summer campaign goals from eight advocacy groups, the Fellows decided to work on marriage equality with Basic Rights Oregon, voter registration of people of color in marginalized neighborhoods with the Portland Urban League, and building support for the passage of a district school-bond with the Gresham-Barlow School Board (which has historically been a neglected and under-resourced district). In the ten weeks of their fellowship, they are knocking on doors and making phone calls, to build support for their campaigns.

As field intern, my responsibilities have revolved mainly around taking photos of the Fellows in action, maintaining a social-media presence through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram,  managing day to day logistics for the program, and occasionally involving myself in the public-interest community outreach blasts. Working as a staff member on the PolitiCorps Fellowship Program has not only allowed me to work firsthand as a social-justice advocate, but also has fine tuned my management, social-media, and program-operation abilities. While working with the 21 fellows, I have acted as a group facilitator and resource for the fellows, for when they need advice or campaign resources. Having the opportunity to not only spend time in the office, but also talking to members of the community about significant legislative issues that affect social equity and equality, has allowed me to grow as an ally to socially marginalized groups and also has equipped me the necessary skills to pursue a professional career where social-justice is a focus.

In the past three weeks, I took on two additional responsibilities: field data tracking, and a personal project, which will illustrate the development of the Fellows by word-cloud at the end of the program.

On the data-tracking side of things, I have been using excel formulas to record and analyze the progress being made by the campaigns. By configuring data spreadsheets to convert raw data into percentages and sums, we are realistically able to determine the impact that the fellows are having on their campaigns, and the aggregate opinions of community members polled using campaign-related surveys.

I have also been able to track the development of individual fellows quantitatively, by recording individual values of: doors knocked, numbers called, and voters registered.

I am most proud of a personal project that I have started on my own initiative, to map out the daily experiences of the fellows visually. Beginning three weeks ago, I started asking the fellows to each write down one word describing their day working in the field. I began taking these daily anonymous twenty-one descriptors, drawing up a word-cloud, and e-mailing it out to the fellows each night; to allow fellows to gauge the emotional and experiential dynamic of the group, and adjust interpersonal behavior accordingly. (see below)

July 1st: Debrief Word Cloud

In addition to using the word-clouds as a means of increasing awareness within the group of fellows, it has also been a useful asset to staff; allowing us to gauge where the group is at emotionally as a whole. By the end of the year, with over one thousand words describing the ten-week PolitiCorps program, I will design a final word cloud which will be unveiled at the Fellows’ graduation ceremony, with the most commonly used words standing out as the largest in size.

My experience thus far has been ripe with practical skill-building, creative problem-solving, and management leadership skills; leaving me with a true sense of time well spent. As I continue to learn about the managerial and operational techniques that go into running a successful low-budget organization, I know that my acquired skills will help my future endeavors with my recently founded campus-organization, Brandeis Microfinance Global Brigade, to successfully make it’s maiden trip to Honduras this coming year. I have been able to talk to professionals within The Bus Project about grant-proposal writing, effective organizational communication, and the importance of properly promoting the brand and missions of an organization. In addition to the ways in which my experiences thus-far will aide my campus-organization, it may well also affect the trajectory of my professional career after Brandeis. But who knows? Perhaps it it will simply make me a more informed and active citizen. But it was, after all, Justice Louis D. Brandeis who aptly commented that, “the most important political office is that of the private citizen.”

My understanding of social-justice and identity issues has been stretched, and although it has been difficult at times to adjust the complexity of the lens through which I see the world, it has left me with a greater sense of awareness. I am thoroughly enjoying working at The Oregon Bus Project, and look forward to the final weeks ahead. 

-Noah Litwer ’15

Voter Reg'n

At the Midpoint of My Internship at American Jewish World Service


It’s so hard to believe that I’m more than halfway done with my internship at AJWS!  My experience here has been very dynamic, and I could not be happier with my choice to work at this organization. A lot of my goals at the start of my internship were very general, and I feel that the comprehensive nature of this internship program has provided me with the opportunity to make progress on all of them. One of my main career goals was to develop a greater understanding of the operations of a nonprofit organization. I could not have chosen a better place to start. The culture of AJWS is a learning one, so it is very fitting that the organization makes a concerted effort to educate its interns about its work and the way all of the parts fit together. The starting point for understanding the functionality of a nonprofit is to think critically about its mission. During the first few weeks, the interns had a special session called “AJWS 101,” where we had discussions about the mission statement and what it meant in the context of the organization’s daily operations. Aside from the fact that the mission statement itself is very meaningful to me, this session provided me with an important perspective: that every organization has a starting point and guiding principle, and that things make more sense when that principle stays relevant.  I have started to think critically about what it means for a mission statement to be met: how can we measure things like “realizing human rights,” “ending poverty,” and “social justice?” These are big, abstract ideas, and thinking about them as end goals has contributed to my understanding of human rights nonprofit work.

AJWS's Mission Statement
AJWS’s Mission Statement

Another aspect of my internship that has enhanced my understanding of nonprofit organizations has been my meetings with people in diverse roles. I have had the opportunity to discuss career goals and experiences with many different members of this organization- people in the development department, vice presidents, and even the president, Ruth Messinger. It has been both inspiring and educational for me to hear these different perspectives, because they help paint a picture of what makes an organization successful, and how to contribute effectively. These discussions have also been important for my personal development because they have exposed me to the “language” of nonprofit- there are several key phrases that I have come to understand are very important. Particularly, I have enjoyed hearing about “measuring impact,” which asks the question of how we can measure aspects of social change that seem unquantifiable. One of the most valuable skills I have developed at AJWS is breaking down a big idea into smaller parts. For example, the goal of “empowering women in Senegal” seems abstract, but when it is broken down into specific community initiatives, there are measureable results. This leads me to ask questions- how many villages have stopped particular harmful practices, how many lives have been changed by group education programs? This way of viewing social change at a grassroots level underlies all of the work that AJWS does, and will definitely relevant for me as I continue my interest in sociology and social change.

Aside from a general goal of understanding nonprofit work, I also am working toward specific career goals. I had hoped to learn about different managing and working styles, in addition to developing my own. Since this was my first internship, I have learned a lot about my own work ethic. Most of the projects I have been working on this summer have been long-term, and require ongoing research.  As a result, I have become much more task-oriented. Every evening before I leave the office, I make a list of tasks to complete (and check off) the next day. I break down larger assignments into smaller components so that I can be efficient in the way I allocate my time.  Additionally, I have learned about professional team work.  The first week of the internship, the interns had a session called “Social Styles,” where we learned about different types of personalities and the best way to interact with them in a professional setting. I found this training to be extremely useful, because it is incredibly important to understand other people’s personalities in order to work together effectively.

Even more specifically, I have met two of my other goals: improving research skills and learning to use a database! One of my projects was to research organizations and events in different geographic regions, as a part of the process of planning AJWS events for the next year. As it turns out, using Google effectively is a very useful and valuable skill! In my research, I have begun to identify trends in the types of events hosted by different organizations, and make connections. I have supplemented this research with the use of the database “Raiser’s Edge,” which I was trained on during my second week. I have become more comfortable using this database over time, and it has added much more specificity to the research I’ve been doing.   One of the ways that I can tell I’m learning is that research is becoming easier and more efficient. I have noticed that it takes me a much shorter amount of time to complete research tasks now that I have found good resources and websites for the information, and have found the best way to organize and present that data.

My workspace, where all the research happens!
My workspace, where all the research happens!

In addition to conducting research, my other projects have been more communications-focused. I have drafted a one two page summary about AJWS’s grantees and strategy for disaster relief, and have sent it to the communications department to be designed. The reason I created this publication was for one of my other projects, which was to compile all of the publications and information about a few different issue areas for staff members to use in meetings with people who want to get involved. In my search, I noticed that there was no summary of all of the different disaster relief efforts and campaigns that AJWS has been involved in over the years. After meeting with my manager and the Director of Publications, I embarked on the unfamiliar journey of writing for AJWS to fill in the gap!

These are a few of the publications in the LGBTI/Sexual Health and Rights issue packet I'm creating.
These are a few of the publications in the LGBTI/Sexual Health and Rights issue packet I’m creating.

Aside from the issue-oriented packets and disaster relief publication, I have been working on some writing for the AJWS website. Specifically, I have been compiling information and summaries for the upcoming Study Tour trips to Senegal and Burma.  I have learned a lot about the work that AJWS grantees are doing in these countries, but also about the most interesting places to travel there! I feel that my projects creating publications, writing for the website, and compiling information for presentation have all developed my skills in strategic communication. In all of these contexts, I am creating an image of AJWS’s work and values. I have learned about the different ways to talk about the work and philosophy of the organization, and how that might be used in a targeted way to create change by raising both awareness and money. I am also utilizing this skill in thank-you calls to AJWS donors. This experience is transferable, and has also taught me a lot about my interests. I have greatly enjoyed my work in the communications realm of development at AJWS, and am interested in pursuing a career in fundraising, communications or marketing. I feel that I will be able to use my experience writing and creating a face for AJWS when applying to these types of jobs in the future.

As I gear up for what will be the last few weeks of my internship, I am reflective about my progress and how much I have learned. I am grateful for the opportunity to soak so much in at such a great organization, and I look forward to continue getting the most out of my time here.

– Shira Almeleh ’14

Facing the challenge of Holocaust education in Asia

There are few people I know who have not watched Quentin Tarantino’s film “Inglourious Basterds”. Most of those who watched it enjoyed the film, which depicts a fictional American commando unit during World War 2, made of Jewish soldiers only, working behind German lines to gruesomely avenge the Nazi crimes against Jews. Interestingly, not even one person who watched the film, told me he sided with the German soldiers, despite the incredibly violent and cruel behavior of the Americans. We all, after all, know that Nazis are bad. That is, until I watched the movie a few weeks ago for the first time with a Chinese person who barely ever studied the Holocaust and World War 2.

Invitation to an HKHTC exhibition in downtown Hong Kong - creative ways to solve challenges
Invitation to an HKHTC exhibition in downtown Hong Kong – creative ways to solve challenges

The said person’s reaction – in support of the Nazis who are attacked in the film – provides a glimpse into the main challenge for Holocaust education in China, the challenge I have been facing together with my colleagues at the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre since I began interning here a month ago. How do you explain the Holocaust to local Chinese students who know little of anything about it? For them, the Nazis are not automatically bad, as they are for the vast majority of people who were educated in the west. The first answer to this question is creativity.

The first learning goal I feel I am constantly progressing on so far is, thus, creativity. The most recent example, which I am particularly proud of, is an application my supervisor and I submitted to hold a large exhibition in a very crowded public space downtown Hong Kong. To address the issue of a lack of context described above, we thought it would be powerful to exhibit the artwork of Jewish children who died at the Theresienstadt concentration camp next to artwork created by Hong Kong students in response to studying the Holocaust. Children are easy to connect and identify with everywhere, to anyone. By bringing their sets of artwork together, we can create a connection that will place the distant Holocaust in a local and more relevant context. Fortunately, the selection committee agreed with us, chose our application over many others, and the exhibition will be presented in October, to the eyes of thousands Hong Kong residents who pass by its location every day.

The same sort of creativity was also necessary as I worked with my supervisor and a paid web designer on creating a new and more relevant website for the Centre. The website was launched this week and has received many positive comments (check it out here!). Expanding the Centre’s outreach also naturally required finding ways to make its social networks more relevant, such as posting in Chinese with the help of other volunteers. Overall, since the HKHTC is a new organization, there is much to create and a lot of creativity to develop.

Speaking to students - Experiencing educational work
Speaking to students – Experiencing educational work

Another learning goal I set for myself was experiencing with educational work and learning more about education as a career. Being that the HKHTC’s work is all about education, I constantly feel like I’m achieving this. Be it while speaking or lecturing to students on different occasions or while learning about local curriculums and devising lesson plans that could suit local students with the HKHTC’s education committee members.

Last, but not least, coming here I was hoping to improve my discipline and organizational skills. Since the HKHTC is, as mentioned, a new and small organization, much of my work is independent, and requires both skills. From larger projects, like the ones mentioned above, to smaller ones, like cataloguing the Centre’s resources, creating a Wikipedia value and more, I am constantly required to show initiative and work on my own to get things done.

Cataloguing the Centre's resources - required discipline
Cataloguing the Centre’s resources – required discipline

As I set out for my last few weeks in Hong Kong, I already feel that I have learnt a lot and can be proud of some of my work. I look forward to continuing my work, and feel that my time here left made a true contribution – both to the goals of the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre, and to my skills and experiences.

Midpoint Reflection

As is often the pattern when we embark on a new experience, it seems as though just as we settle into a routine and get comfortable in our new environment, it is already time to be uprooted and reflect on the elapsed time. As a summer intern at the Research Alliance for New York City Schools housed at New York University’s Steinhardt School, I am certainly experiencing this phenomenon. It is unbelievable to me that I am over half way done with my internship – how quickly time flies!

One of the major highlights of the first half of my internship was meeting with New York City’s Department of Education (DOE) team that is heading the Expanded Success Initiative (ESI). Three of us from the Research Alliance met with the DOE to discuss the experience of administering surveys in the ESI schools and to bounce feedback back-and-forth on how to best produce and distribute the survey results for the schools’ principals. Because the DOE ESI team leads schools through activities relating to the ESI program and advises schools on relevant policy changes, this meeting greatly inspired me as it demonstrated how the research-based work I was assisting on would be used on the ground to tangibly improve schools. I realized then how much of a collaborative effort education reform truly is as it takes great cooperation between researchers, policy makers, principals, and teachers to make a difference – not a single one of these positions alone could make the necessary change to improve New York’s public schools.

“The Expanded Success Initiative (ESI) uses new ideas and creative solutions to tackle the educational achievement gap and increase the number of Black and Latino young men who graduate high school prepared to succeed in college and careers.” PHOTO: NYC Department of Education.


Throughout the summer, I have been reflecting on what I’ve learned and the skills I have gained from my internship. At the start of my internship, my goals included gaining a better understanding of the behind-the-scenes process of education research and of the collaborative efforts of a professional research team. It is undeniable that I have learned a great deal so far in my time at the Research Alliance. Thus far, I have led the effort in designing the report template for the ESI survey data that will be distributed to principals of participating schools. I helped select the survey questions and data constructs that will be included in the reports by determining which findings I thought would be most relevant and interesting to principals, and after much discussion on the best findings to report on with both my co-workers and our partner Department of Education ESI team, I have gained a much better understanding of how to present research findings and what sort of findings have the potential to engage a principal’s attention and ultimately, influence school initiatives and policies.

By being involved with the Research Alliance from preliminary steps of selecting the most indicative survey constructs to report on to the anticipated final stage of report distribution, I have certainly gained a much greater familiarity with the many steps it takes to implement and administer an education survey with the goal of obtaining concrete, tangible and processed results for school and policy use. As an intern I have also been granted the privilege of collaborating with a close team of researchers, survey managers and data analysts in weekly meetings in order to track our progress, give feedback to one another and ultimately, to ensure the successful distribution of the Expanded Success Initiative reports.

It has been very eye-opening to be a part of a dynamic research organization that plays a significant role in the movement to advance education equity in New York. My experience to date with the Research Alliance has equipped me with skills that I will undoubtedly carry on in both my academic pursuits in graduate school and, more importantly, with a reinforced commitment to working for an organization with a social justice mission.

I am eagerly looking forward to what my last couple weeks at the Research Alliance have in store for me!

Read more about the Research Alliance’s work in the news here

Midpoint in Monsoon

Dove Logo, Before
Dove Logo, Before


New HD Dove Logo
New HD Dove Logo

My Big Fat Indian Birthday, #21


My Big Fat Indian Birthday, #21

Hello again from Varanasi, India! As I type, the monsoon rain is pounding heavily on my window. It sounds very romantic, but upon leaving the Guest House this morning, I found the road to be completely submerged in 7 inches of brown water! I should have added street canoeing to my defined learning goals in my WOW application! Here’s the weather where I’m at!
My month in Varanasi has certainly afforded me many life lessons as well as career skills. I am (quite literally) flooded with new experiences every day. There are two ways in which I can measure my growth throughout this past month: first, as an intern, and second, as someone adjusting to living in a completely new environment. As an intern, I am more familiar with the Dove Foundation and how it functions. Yesterday, I had a meeting with my supervisor, Mr. Abhinav Singh. He explained to me that the Dove Foundation provides effective programming for the community only by catering to their specific needs. For example, I had originally planned to videotape an event for Project Aarambh, which provides support and health education for young rickshaw pullers with, or at risk for STDs. The day of the program, it rained heavily and effected road conditions, which made it difficult for the rickshaw pullers to attend the event, so it was cancelled. Very last-minute weather conditions affected the plans for dozens of people. However, if we followed through with the program in a heavy rainstorm, then we would have stressed the community of individuals we were trying to help, which is very counterproductive. If Mahatma Gandhi were alive and working for the Dove Foundation, he might say, “Be the change you wish to see in the world, but if you want people to catch on, make sure it’s convenient.” So, if there is one thing this internship has taught me (among the many other things) it is to be flexible…you have to be willing to make small changes if you want to make a bigger change.
There is no formal office complex where all volunteers convene on a daily basis, so I have been learning how to effectively communicate and collaborate with different members of the Dove faculty if they are out of town. This means making many phone calls, sending a lot of emails, and using DropBox and Google Drive to upload and share documents. These are certainly some of the media skills I will use later on in a future career or even more immediately at Brandeis. I’ve also polished my graphic design software and video editing skills. Spending hours using Adobe InDesign and Photoshop to create a professional-looking brochure, new High Definition Dove Foundation logo, and a final report for the 2013 World Blood Donation Week has made me more confident as a graphic designer. I also edited a short film to be uploaded on the Dove website, highlighting Dove events from the past month. It’s been a little tricky getting a large-file HD video to upload on YouTube here with very spotty Internet, but my major goal for this internship is to give the Dove Foundation a series of completed projects, which they can use for the future to help them advertise their mission and gain support within and beyond India. I’m even more excited to work with the energetic, creative Dove Foundation team to get it all completed!

-Aliza Gans ’15

Beginning my (small) role in working for greater economic equality

UFE Responsible Wealth Logo

As I get off the bus that takes me to my internship, and walk into the heart of Boston’s Financial District, I think about the mission of Responsible Wealth, the project of United for a Fair Economy that I am interning for this summer, which seeks to create a more progressive tax system and greater corporate accountability. The large scale changes this organization seeks would greatly impact many of the large corporations represented in the District, such as Fidelity Investments. What I find most interesting about Responsible Wealth is that instead of fighting for change from the outside of these corporations or circles of wealthy people, the organization has created a network of hundreds of the richest people in the country who seek to further their mission. As the organization puts it, Responsible Wealth is “a network of business leaders, investors, and inheritors in the richest five percent who advocate for fair taxes and corporate accountability.” This network works toward the larger goal of United for a Fair Economy, to reverse the growing wealth inequality in this nation.

I discovered and applied for this internship through Hiatt’s B.hired job search site, and after a Skype interview with my two current supervisors which I did while studying abroad in Chile, I was offered the job. On my first day I was given a large binder full of training guides as well as information about the non profit, which included a large poster containing a quote from Louis Brandeis: “We can have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few or we can have democracy, but we can’t have both”. This led me to more deeply consider why I had been given the Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice WOW for this internship, and how my experience at this organization could be tied back to my studies at Brandeis. As of now I am not sure exactly what I want to do after graduation (less than a year away!), but I do know I want it to be social justice oriented. I believe that this internship can help me understand how to use the knowledge I have gained from my majors in International and Global studies (IGS) and Health: Science, Society, and Policy (HSSP) as well as my minor in Economics to work for social justice, locally and globally. Through this internship I hope to gain a greater understanding of various aspects of inequality, including racial, gender, and economic inequality, and how to address them.

View from the front door of the United for a Fair Economy office.
View from the front door of the United for a Fair Economy office.

My first week at Responsible Wealth consisted largely of becoming oriented to the organization and its many projects, the layout of the office, and my duties as an intern. One fascinating aspect of the office is its small library of books covering many topics related to the organization’s mission. Within this library, I am especially interested in reading a book that one of my supervisors co-authored, titled The Self Made Myth: and the truth about how government helps individuals and businesses succeed. This, along with many other sources of information I have come across since beginning my internship, touch upon many current debates in the US political sphere, such as: Who built it? and more broadly, What is the role of government? It is a nice change to be surrounded by current events, as opposed to theory, which is what is usually more focused on within the classroom.

As an intern I will be involved in research and reaching out to members of Responsible Wealth, among other things. Within this realm, I have already begun to research which organizations in the US are addressing immigration reform, promoting the living wage, and preserving social security, as well as how they are addressing these issues so that Responsible Wealth can determine which organizations to reach out to and partner with when confronting these issues. I have also helped mail out the monthly Responsible Wealth Newsletter (hard to be an intern without being assigned a task like this). While I’m sure there will be a few tedious tasks such as mailings throughout my experience as an intern at Responsible Wealth, I am very excited to be a part of the organization and believe I am going to gain a lot of information and experience applicable to my future career, and be able to think more critically about topics such as social justice and economic inequality.

Here are some of the interesting articles and videos I have come across on immigration reform, the living wage, and social security.

Image Citation: United for a Fair Economy and Responsible Wealth Logos were retrieved on 6/22/13 from

*United for a Fair Economy. Projets. Retrieved on 6/22/13 from

Suzannah Scanlon ’14

The only constant variable: the unexpected

Anyone who is from the Dominican Republic or has lived here for a while may be well acquainted with the phrase esta es la tierra de los imprevistos, meaning  “this is the land of the unforeseen.” Never be surprised. As a general rule of every-day life and survival, Dominicans know that the unexpected must always be expected. The only constant variable you actually can rely on is the fact that unanticipated events will come up.

I arrived to the Dominican Republic five weeks ago to work with sexually abused girls from El Caliche, one of the most impoverished and marginalized urban slums in my city, Santo Domingo. I was going to help impart a summer camp that would help them enforce what they have learned (or haven’t learned) through our poor public school system. Sadly but not surprisingly, the funding that was promised to operate the summer camp was never received and the program consequently fell through. We have been trying to get a group of volunteers to still work with these girls during the weekends, even if it is not through an official summer camp, and we are hoping to start this Saturday! Updates on it will be coming soon.

In search for internship alternatives, my site supervisor suggested that I ask for work in Oxfam, one of the world’s largest international humanitarian organizations that works in over 90 countries to eradicate poverty, fight against injustice and advocate for human rights. I obtained an interview with Oxfam’s branch in Santo Domingo, and was accepted as an intern four weeks ago. I was immediately assigned to an investigation project that is directly related to the precarious living circumstances of El Caliche.

photo (7) photo (8)

Because of the alarming high level of poverty, socio-economic inequality, and particularly imbalanced land distribution in the country, a very big percentage of the Dominican population cannot afford a place to live in. As a consequence, entire villages and urban slums composed of shacks made of wood, cardboard or even mud by the poorest segment of the population have been built on land belonging to the riverbeds across the country, which are by law supposed to be green areas off-limits to construction due to drastic river growths during the rain and hurricane season.


One might ask, if these lands are recurrently flooded, why do people choose to build their houses there? The reason lies in that these riverbeds are often the only available land that is not privatized, and therefore poor communities without any resources have nowhere else left to go. It is, theoretically, the government’s responsibility to prevent anyone from living in these dangerous areas and relocate them somewhere safe – but the political will to help this vulnerable and dispossessed segment of the population is completely inexistent. Thousands now live in these overpopulated riverbeds, and the empty promises of being given a dignified place to live in repeatedly vanish after every presidential election.might ask

In light of these circumstances, every year during the hurricane season hundreds and sometimes thousands of families lose their homes and their means of subsistence due to large-scale floods and destructive winds. Entire villages are recurrently swept away by rivers or submerged under highly contaminated water, leaving behind infectious diseases and a myriad of other problems with each tropical storm or hurricane that comes by. El Caliche is unfortunately one of these communities.

334310_1 Inundaciones

The government, in response to this scenario, sometimes evacuates villages or slums that are at high risk of being flooded and relocates them in provisional shelters next to those communities who have already lost their homes and no longer have a place to live in. In theory, these aggrieved communities will only temporarily remain in the precarious, often improvised, and drastically overpopulated shelters until the government fulfills its promise and responsibility of reconstructing their homes.

However, in most cases, the government never keeps its word and does not give any further assistance to the refugee population past the emergency response stage. That is, the communities relocated by the government into provisional and overcrowded shelters are more often than not neglected or bluntly abandoned by the authorities and left at their own expense without access to water, food, or medical attention, not to mention the inexistence of a sewage system, toilets, schools, proper infrastructure and electricity.

The most outrageous part (though sadly not surprising at all) is that some of these communities have been abandoned in these “provisional” shelters for over 30 years since hurricane David in 1979 – and virtually no one knows about it. There is no record of how many refugees there are, what communities have been displaced, or what has happened with the populations relocated into government shelters after the storm or hurricane is over. The information has either been silenced, deliberately hidden – or the worst option of all – never been recollected because no one ever cared. It is a population that was made invisible after their country forgot about them past the first or second newspaper headline.

My assigned task: to find out where these communities are located, how many there are, how many families are still living as climatic refugees and for how long, under what circumstances they live in, how have they managed to survive, and why hasn’t the government done anything to fulfill its promise. Where has all the budgetary money destined to rebuild houses gone? If the refugee population is still homeless, who has received all the houses that the government claims to have spent millions in building? Who is responsible of giving continuity to the situation of these refugees? Their constant cries being ignored, who is there to advocate for their rights?

The level of chaos, disinformation, institutionalized corruption and deliberate negligence that is present with the funding, construction and distribution of houses destined for storm and hurricane victims is alarming and deeply disturbing to say the very least. When I petitioned an interview with government officials to request information – which by law every citizen should be able to have access to – they hung up the phone. I now have to call from a different phone number each time (and have them hang up again) or otherwise they would not even pick up knowing it is me who is calling.


Hurricane season has already started, and tropical storm Chantal came through the Dominican Republic yesterday, leaving floods across the country and 6,500 people displaced. All government offices are closed, and the country has been “paralyzed” since Tuesday and will remain so for the rest of the week. Evacuations of high flood risk areas were in place Wednesday morning, but government officials had to take people out of their houses at gunpoint, as per usual. Why? Because even if this population knows they will be underwater in a few hours, they refuse to leave their homes. Leaving would mean that anyone could come and steal the few possessions they have… They prefer to bet on the river not sweeping their houses away.


– Andrea Verdeja ’14

Half-way through the summer

Wow (no pun intended), I can’t believe I’m already half-way through this internship.  Time flies!  The past month has been filled with learning and personal reflection.  My time thus far has mostly been split between working with our new database that just went live, and working on my major project for the summer: familiarizing myself with all early childhood federal and state regulations, reading the agency monitoring protocols, and interviewing all of the agency employees mentioned in the protocols on how they ensure that regulations are being met.  While I know this sounds rather dry to an outside observer, this project has ultimately led me to achieve all of my goals for this summer, such as learning new things in the field of early childhood education, enhancing my research skills, learning how to work in an office environment, and networking with possible future employers.

While all of these new areas of learning are inherently valuable to me in that they are intellectually stimulating, they will also prove invaluable as I enter graduate school and look for jobs in the future.  Being intimately familiar with the federal regulations relating to Early Childhood Care and Education and knowing what resources are available will afford me an advantage in negotiating what type of setting I want to work in when I enter the job market.   Utilizing my research skills has no doubt augmented them and contributed to my success in my monitoring project, as well as acquainted me with the resources available to me in all aspects of Early Childhood Care and Education.  Working in an office and having constant meetings with my supervisor (a highly educated and talented professional), no doubt contribute to my feelings of ease and comfort in a fast-pased, intellectually stimulating environment.  Lastly, knowing the ins and outs of an organization such as this one will surely allow me to thrive in graduate school and the job market and will put me many steps above all other applicants.

I am proud of myself for the work I have done in this organization so far, but mostly for putting this whole summer together: from finding and securing the internship, to getting the WOW, to finding an apartment for the summer (which is no easy feat when working through Craigslist!).  This microcosm of experiences and successes will no doubt aid me in similar future endeavors, and I can now approach them with a confidence and know-how I did not previously possess.  I very much relish being trusted as an integral part of the Parent-Child Development Center and I  look forward to what the rest of the summer holds in store for me.

Avital Silverman ’14

Hard at work in her brand new data lab!
My supervisor, Amanda Thayer, hard at work in her brand new data lab!




Chennai: One Toilet at a Time

Street market outside of railway station near Corporation of Chennai
Street market outside of a railway station in central Chennai

I arrived in the city of Chennai, India on a steamy evening in June and it has been a whirl of crazy auto rides, dosai, mangoes, toilet mapping, and new colleagues at my internship with Transparent Chennai ever since.

Formerly known as Madras, Chennai is located in the south-eastern state of Tamil Nadu, on the Bay of Bengal. With a population of 4.68 million people, it is the 6th largest city in India, and struggles considerably to meet the needs of its citizens, partly due to the incomplete and inaccurate nature of the data surrounding public infrastructure held by the local government body (the Corporation of Chennai.) Transparent Chennai, a research based organization at the Institute for Financial Management and Research, strives to fill in this gap. Its mission is to collect and redistribute information about civic issues to the citizens and government of Chennai and provide a platform for the people to have greater input in city planning and governance and to advocate for a safer, healthier city.

Public toilet near Marina Beach - Chennai, India
Public toilet near Marina Beach – Chennai, India

The majority of my work in the coming months will be on the cleanliness and availability of public toilets; a key issue for sanitation and health, particularly in a city like Chennai with a large population of informally settle people who do not have private bathrooms. Women are particularly affected by this as they are vulnerable to sexual assault when using the toilet and require more privacy as there is greater shame surrounding the act of relieving themselves, while low quality facilities in schools can contribute to girls dropping out once they hit puberty.

My work will involve organizing mapping of the city streets to gather information on all existing public toilets and assisting the development and implementation of a survey for mapping out toilets in public schools. Digitizing this information, creating maps for the public, analyzing the data and making reports for the government will also take much of my time. In addition to this I will assist in the copy editing the blogs posted on our website, as well as writing two of my own blog posts.

(The first of which can be found here! )

My interest in working at Transparent Chennai stemmed from an Anthropology of Development class I took last fall. We studied how development projects often came about without any consultation of the people whose lives were being “improved” and provided what was not needed (or wanted) if they managed to produce anything at all. This experience inspired me to try to find an organization that recognized and addressed this seemingly common problem in development work.

I started getting in touch with people I knew that were involved in urban development work and it was these conversations that ultimately led me to Transparent Chennai. I got in touch with the director directly, and despite her busy schedule she took the time to email with me and talk over the phone about how Transparent Chennai came to be, the challenges associated with living and working in a developing country and my professional goals.

From the start I felt that Transparent Chennai would be a good fit, and so far that has proven to be the case! As it is a relatively small organization there was a lot of flexibility in the work I wanted to do, and continues to be in my first weeks. Everyone here cares about their job and works really hard, while also being incredibly welcoming and social! I was able to immediately jump right into it, organizing and co-leading a mapping session for 46 student volunteers, editing four blog posts, learning how to use QGIS, and digitizing the data all in my first week!

My goals to improve my data analysis skills, my writing — particularly in a professional context — and to gain experience in the field of urban planning, are already being met, and so far I feel very lucky to have found this internship.

Toilet mapping orientation for student volunteers
Toilet mapping orientation for student volunteers – Marina Beach, Chennai

Sophy Burns ’14

Bridging Research and Education Policy

When starting my summer internship search this year, I reflected on how I could contribute to and what exactly I wanted to learn from a potential summer internship. After much introspection, my commitment to further the effort in closing the academic achievement gap in America inspired me to find an organization dedicated to improving public education. This determination led me to correspond with and talk to several such organizations and brought me to the site where I am currently interning – The Research Alliance for New York City Schools. The Research Alliance is a research center housed at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. The center works in collaboration with the New York City Department of Education to advance equity in education by identifying important questions for research and by providing reliable evidence about policies and practices that promote students’ academic success in order to build capacity in schools throughout New York City. Finding the organization’s mission overwhelmingly compelling, I eagerly set off for my first week as part of the Research Alliance team.

My responsibilities for the summer primarily center on working on the Expanded Success Initiative (ESI), a program that seeks to close the educational achievement gap and improve college readiness and career outcomes for Black and Latino young men in New York. This effort is the cornerstone of Mayor Bloomberg’s Young Men’s Initiative, which is the nation’s most comprehensive effort to tackle the broad disparities slowing the advancement of Black and Latino young men.

Explore the Research Alliance’s recent report “Moving the Needle: Exploring Key Levers to Boost College Readiness Among Black and Latino Males in NYC.”

Forty high schools throughout the city were selected as part of the ESI. In the spring, students at these schools filled out surveys administered by the Research Alliance on topics ranging from future goals and college planning to perceptions of fairness and equal treatment in their school. Using the data from these surveys the Research Alliance hopes to better understand the impact of school climate on the challenges facing many Black and Latino young men and identify opportunities to intervene and support students more effectively. This praxis between theory and practice is critical to the greater success of any such initiative, and forming this bridge between raw data and on-the-ground policy is exactly my task for the summer.

My project for the summer is to create and distribute individualized reports for each school’s principal that focus on key findings in the data and highlight why the data is relevant to ESI and how it can be leveraged to improve school policies and students’ academic success. My first week included assisting in correspondence with the principals to thank them for their participation in the survey administration and conducting research on similar education-centered publications.

My first week excited me for the prospect of bringing principals such valuable insight on their school population and for the possibilities of policy change in schools as a result of the data and information acquired over the summer. From the very first day, my enthusiasm was further ignited by the welcoming, knowledgeable and compassionate close-knit team of researchers, data analysts and professionals I would be working with. And it was on my first day, while getting to know my supervisor and fellow colleague over lunch at Washington Square Park on an idyllic, blue-skied summer day with the faint echoes of a nearby jazz musician, that I thought to myself about how excited I am for the summer that lay ahead.

– Dina Kapengut ’14

Mid-way into Justice

I know that many WOW interns have mentioned how fast time is flying by – and without trying to be redundant or stating the obvious, I have to say that I’m genuinely surprised at how short this time I’m spending as an intern really is. Part of me feels like I’ve just arrived and thus, done nothing yet! But then when I take a look at the learning goals I’ve set for myself and see how much closer I am to realizing them, compared to when I started – then I see the progress.

At the beginning of my internship, I set two main goals for myself: learn how to effectively organize people, and understand how a non-profit organization works. Regarding the former goal, I received a reality check during my internship-training when a former intern, now community organizer said that becoming a good organizer (and knowing truly what effectiveness is) comes after about two years of doing this job. So I lowered my bar… However, even if I won’t become an effective organizer in such short amount of time, I can already say that I’ve gained a deeper understanding of what motivates people to stand up for a cause. I’ve also understood when it’s beneficial to move on from a specific project or to move organizing efforts from one place to another. Last week, a day before my phone-banking event was about to happen, the partner organization supplying the phones decided to pull out. A couple weeks ago I would’ve been angry and frustrated for days, but my supervisor helped me move on and find a different project supporting the same cause. This incident was also a good insight into how non-profit collaborations work. Due to limited resources and organization-specific strategies, we can’t expect everything to go smoothly. The non-profit world can get competitive and territorial, similarly to for-profit companies. Since we’re fighting for the same donor-base, the competition is extremely high – but meanwhile, we have to know how to cooperate.

I’m more proud of what I’ve learned and my flexibility in the workplace than I am of any specific project.  However, I’m working on putting content on my organization’s new website which we’re launching hopefully by the end of this week! So by Friday, I’ll be proud of a specific accomplishment. There’s even going to be an intern blog on our new website, which you can check out here in a couple days when the website becomes active. As I said above, I’m most proud of my flexibility, simply because it was never one of my strengths. I was hoping to have an office space and set working times and conditions. When I first realized that I won’t have the latter, I was desperate. On second thought and ever-since, I found it to be an opportunity to build adaptability for myself.

Immigration Reform Press Conference
The day after the Senate passed the CIR, several organizations came together for a press conference to urge the House to take the bill seriously. This is an Episcopal priest arguing that Jesus, too, was an undocumented immigrant. (Sorry for the bad quality!)


2013-06-28 12.01.19
Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach – My supervisor took another intern and myself to see it. The rabbi who was on the advisory board for the memorial is also sitting on our board.


I’ve already started thinking about how I will transfer the skills I’m gaining here to my life back at Brandeis, and then further on. I’d like to be involved/start a campaign around Brandeis employees’ rights. While my skill is organizing, I’ve also contacted a friend of mine who would be great for planning strategy. Since the power behind fighting for social causes is mostly people, not money, it’s important that every campaign has people with specific skill-sets. I’m also hoping to take my limited non-profit knowledge and intern for a different organization in the spring, where I can also use my NEJS major.

– Viki Bedo ’15

Injustice and Hope behind the Glamorous Shanghai

My internship is in what I consider to be one of the most exciting cities in the world. The skyscrapers in Lujiazui point their needle-like rooftops to the sky. Hundreds of thousands of cars run across Puxi on the Yan’an Elevated Road. If you drive slowly on the elevated road, you could spot some of Asia’s most expensive real estates in the former French Concession. Yes, this is Shanghai, a city known for its rapid urbanization and its splendid lifestyle. However, behind the shiny office buildings and luxury shopping malls lies the institutional discrimination against migrant workers and their children. The Hukou system restricts non-Shanghainese’s access to the social welfare in Shanghai, such as free public education and healthcare. Many migrant schools were established to provide education for migrant children. In recent years, the Shanghai municipal government has integrated migrant schools into the public education system and has allowed migrant children to join public schools. Nevertheless, many migrant students still have learning difficulties, especially in English. Schools in many other provinces only offer English to students from the third grade and above. Meanwhile, schools in Shanghai offer English from the first grade. Thus many migrant children cannot catch up with the class assignments. In addition, most of the migrants have little knowledge of English, so they cannot provide sufficient assistance with their children’s English studies. As a result, migrant students are in relative disadvantages when competing with Shanghai students.

Stepping Stones aim to help these migrant children with their English studies. It runs English programs in numerous migrant schools and community centers across Shanghai. All the teachers are volunteers. Some of them are foreign expats, some are exchange students, and some are passionate Chinese. Their main tasks are to help migrant children with their spoken English and to increase their interests in English. As an intern, my task now is to assist Professor Friederlike, a German Professor, to investigate the feedback from teachers, parents, and students.  Professor Friederike used to be a volunteer at Stepping Stones. She is interested in how the English program has changed the children’s perception of English, how the program has changed their grades, and how it could be improved. She is also interested in the Chinese people’s perceptions of NGOs and migrants’ living conditions. Her research topics are in my interest as well, and I learned quite a lot from our conversations with teachers, parents, and students.

Tangsi Elementary School in Pudong, Shanghai. 999 migrant children study there.
Tangsi Elementary School in Pudong, Shanghai. 999 migrant children study there.

We have spoken to four English teachers, one parent, and more than ten students at two schools and two community centers. Their feedback is all positive. When asking what is their definition of “volunteer”, they tell us that volunteers are warmhearted and benevolent people who are willing to help those who need assistance. Students enjoy the classes taught by volunteers. These classes have greatly increased students’ interest in English. A teacher from Tangsi Elementary School tells a story about a student from the second grade. The student used to be sleepy in her English class, but he is now very active in the English classes taught by volunteers. In these classes, students not only can consolidate their English studies, they can also gain new perspectives of the outside world. For instance, volunteers introduce western festivals to the students, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. The children have the opportunity to experience these festivals in their classrooms, and the experience has inspired them as well. One of the students that we interviewed hopes that China will adopt Thanksgiving and make it a day for children to thank their parents.

Although government regulations are unfair and the prejudice against migrants is rooted in some local people’s minds, you can still see that many migrants enjoy their lives. Living in this mega-city can mean that it is hard to find the sense of belonging, yet migrants have discovered and developed their own communities. Moreover, they have not given up their dreams. The students are confident about their future. They talk about going to colleges in the US, becoming a lawyer, and teaching English abroad. What really impresses me is that the migrant students from Tangsi Elementary School donate money to a school in the relatively underdeveloped Anhui Province every March. They believe that even though they are not rich, they still need to help those who are poorer than them. I am moved by their kindness, and I am glad to see that such spirit is still powerful among the so-called “selfish and spoiled generation” that is the Chinese youth nowadays.


View from Stepping Stones' office, with the skyline of Xujiahui in the back.
View from Stepping Stones’ office, with the skyline of Xujiahui in the back.


In the following weeks, I will be one of the program coordinators at a local school, so I will interact with the volunteers and the students more closely. I am looking forward to that, and I hope I can learn even more about social works and social justice. Everything is changing rapidly in Shanghai, and I am glad to be part of the change.


Terry Chenyu Li

Post #2: Midpoint Report!

The first half of my internship has been fantastic. It has gone by fairly quickly, and I have been having a great time, while also working very hard. So far, it is everything I was looking for in an internship.

Making phone calls in the office!
Making phone calls in the office!

Over the past four weeks, I have already learned so much about non-profit work and community organizing. I have learned about how to best recruit people for action and to keep them engaged, and how to help those people lead and take action. I have definitely learned how to effectively plan, and to make goals that I can reflect on and grow from. This summer, I set out to become more motivated to work even harder for causes I believe in, and this organization has definitely done that for me. Everyday, I repeatedly discuss with co-workers and the public why opting for tap over bottled water is so important and every conversation I have reminds me why I care so much about the issue. Unsurprisingly, my communication skills have grown immensely throughout those conversations.

My goal to meet more activists around my age and role models who organize the campaigns I’ve worked on has been met on a level I did not even expect. The staff at Corporate Accountability International, as well as my fellow interns, inspire me every day to embrace my passion for fighting against corporate abuse. I’m constantly reading new articles and seeing new blog posts and videos that once again remind me how important it is for us to reinvest in public water systems. For example, check out this video that urges people to tell the National Park Service to phase out bottled water.

Every week, I meet with my supervisor to discuss what we have been doing well, and what we could do better. These weekly meetings help me monitor the progress I have made as an individual, and the progress that we have made as a team. We reflect on our goals, and our accomplishments and compare how well we are doing with how well we should be doing.

Right now, I’m most proud of the progress I’ve made in effectively asking individual members to take action in getting involved in our Think Outside the Bottle Campaign. At first, I was afraid to burden people by imposing on their lives and asking them to take the time to help our campaign. However, through many supportive conversations with my coworkers, I have come to terms with the fact that I’m not burdening anyone. How could I be when in fact I’m fighting for issues that I care about and that others may care about as well?

One of the most important lessons that I have learned at this internship thus far is that it is important to be confident in the work I’m doing, and never to apologize for asking people to help because our cause is worth it. Whenever I get a little intimidated on the phone, or nervous that someone doesn’t have time to listen to what I have to say, I have to remember that they need to listen, and if they don’t have time, or don’t want to participate, they will tell me. Further, I need to convey the fact that I believe in what I am saying. It is easy to fall into a script or a routine, but what I am saying is more than that. This skill is especially important academically, as an essay will become much stronger and easier to write if I remember to write about what I believe in. Furthermore, remembering what I care about and making sure it is always conveyed in what I’m saying and writing, will benefit me throughout my remainder at Brandeis and beyond, as I apply for any and all future jobs and pursue my passion for community organizing.


Check out this awesome article about Western Washington University becoming the largest public college in the US to ban bottled water! Our Think Outside the Bottle Campaign has worked on initiatives there to phase out bottled water so this is really exciting for us!

Showing our support for bottled water free National Parks!
Showing our support for bottled-water-free National Parks!


Busy Working at CBHI

The major task that I am completing as an intern with CBHI is a directory so that we as the CANS training providers can have direct communication with those supervisors who are in charge of CANS training within their prospective organizations. In order to make this directory I drafted a letter which was sent to CANS news email list serve. I then created an excel spreadsheet to document the contact information that I receive. I have been very satisfied with the number of responses and the willingness to become a part of this directory. So far, I have entered about 150 people into the directory. My next steps will be to filter through the data and contact some of the people again to make sure that we are receiving complete information and the contact information of the right individual within each organization. I am most proud of my accomplishments on this task because this is one project that is completely my own.

My Cubicle!
My Cubicle!

Academically, this internship has helped me progress towards completing the HSSP major. My time at CBHI has also given me a glimpse into what it is like to work in the health care field. Thanks to this opportunity, I now have a better idea of which aspects of a work environment I am looking for in a future career. This internship has been very useful in connecting me with other working professionals and fellow students who share similar passions related to social work and law.

I have met with employees from the Office of the Child Advocate who are also interested in both law and social work.
I regularly check in with my supervisor and members from the department to discuss tasks that I am assigned to and work that CBHI is doing. When I first began this internship I did not understand a lot of the information that was discussed at staff or interdepartmental meetings. I am aware of my growth because now that I have spent about 5 weeks with this organization, I understand and contribute to discussions.  I also have a much greater understanding of the MassHealth program and services, which is the umbrella organization that CBHI is a part of.

Boston Common
Boston Common

This internship has taught me about government organizations and how agencies within the government are run on the business and customer service end. In school you learn about the three branches of government and how there are agencies within them that work to provide the needs of the state. However, now that I have experienced working in the government firsthand, I have a much better understanding of how different agencies and organizations work together to complete projects. While I do not plan on working for the government in the future (I actually want to work as a lawyer with children), it is helpful as both a citizen and a professional in the workforce to have an understanding of how your state is run.

This chart shows how CBHI fits into the organization of state government.

Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market are right down the street
Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market are right down the street

In terms of academics, I am an HSSP major and this internship involves MassHealth services, mental and behavioral health issues, and matters of general public concern. By having this internship I will have a better understanding of how what I am learning in class applies to real world issues and potential jobs in the future. The specific duties of my internship require me to contact many clinicians and psychologists who work with children seeking mental and behavioral health assistance. While I am not the one specifically working to help improve the health of these children, I am learning how to professionally communicate with and reach out to others. One major lesson I have learned through this internship is that in order for social and health care services (as well as any other service/good) to be possible, a lot of behind the scenes work and business/bureaucratic applications such as contracts and development meetings must be involved. Prior to my internship, I did not expect public health work to require so much business work as well. This realization has taught me that no matter the specific industry one goes into there are always business applications involved. Hopefully I will be able to apply those business aspects that I have learned in this internship to my future career as a child advocate.

-Elizabeth Chalfin ’15

AVODAH Midpoint Report: Goals, Networking and Reflections

It seems impossible that I am already halfway through my 8 weeks at AVODAH. In my time here so far, I have learned the importance of reflection. Both consciously and unconsciously, the organization constantly reflects upon current practices and programs to determine future direction. Reflecting back upon my goals for the summer, then, is rather fitting.

Before beginning my internship, I came up with a list of academic, professional and career goals, and I have definitely progressed on many of them. I learned one method of non-profit evaluation through observing the development of a detailed grant report on AVODAH’s Alumni Retreat. I have observed the challenges and advantages of integrating religious values into a non-profit’s mission through the development of this evaluation, as well as in the planning of upcoming events. I am learning firsthand about managing data as I am maintaining and creating new methods of data and resource organization. In thoughtful staff discussions about the current and future state of AVODAH, I have learned about the importance of adhering to and modifying goals and mission statements.

Reflecting upon the areas of my education that have been most useful thus far led me to some interesting conclusions. From the classroom, basic business knowledge has been helpful, and so has having a background in psychology. Writing skills have been extremely important too. The skills that have been most helpful to me so far–communication, observation, teamwork and motivation, to name a few–have come from what I consider a very prominent piece of my education: my extracurricular activities. For example, coordinating the Brandeis Big Siblings program and our program partnership with Jewish Big Brother Big Sister has taught me so much about professional communication, and I have used and improved upon that knowledge through my internship at AVODAH.

To continue, I am a big believer in passion and motivation–whatever you are doing, being passionate and motivated is key. The reality is, though, that everyone usually ends up filling roles that they are not totally motivated to fill. Sometimes, becoming passionate and motivated takes time and effort. As AVODAH is dedicated to strengthening the Jewish community’s fight against the causes and effects of poverty, my volunteer work in this field as well as my involvement in Jewish life on campus initially fueled my motivation in my position at AVODAH, although I quickly fell in love with the organization. Last week, my supervisor and I attended an intern and professional networking luncheon at the Bronfman Foundation, where we discussed what The Week determined to be the “4 Workplace Skills you Need Right Now”. One of those skills was empathy, “the ability to directly relate to others’ experiences”. Through working with my supervisor, I quickly came to understand why alumni and community engagement work at AVODAH was so important. AVODAH engages energized and intelligent young adults in a year of direct service fighting the causes and effects of poverty and activities that challenge them to become social justice leaders. To fulfill AVODAH’s mission, it is vital that after their year in service, corps members partake in the network of Jewish social justice leaders that they are now a part of. Actively drawing on the immense knowledge and experience of alumni and connecting them with like-minded individuals as well as opportunities to fight social injustices fulfills the Jewish practice of Tikkun Olam, Repairing the World, and the mission of AVODAH. My experiences with volunteer work, both domestic and international, have been most helpful in allowing me to practice empathy and directly relate to the goals of the Alumni network. 

Heading into the luncheon at the Bronfman Foundation!
Heading into the luncheon at the Bronfman Foundation!

The skills I mentioned being helpful so far–communication, observation, teamwork and motivation–have additionally all been built upon as a result of my internship. I have had many valuable opportunities to observe AVODAH staff in action, both internally and in collaboration with other organizations. In observing staff members displaying the professional skills I am striving to achieve, I am then able to practice these skills through my independent internship responsibilities with new knowledge. The workplace is very much a classroom for an intern: while it may sound cliché, the quote “tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn” is a great way to describe why I have learned so much as intern thus far. 

To expand on a connection I made earlier, the skills I am building through my internship will be transferable to nearly all other areas of life. I think it is almost impossible to categorize different skills by “classroom skills”, “career skills”, or “social skills”, etc. Independence, communication, motivation, organization and the many other skills I am learning here are virtually useful everywhere. Another skill from the article we discussed at our luncheon, one of the four current necessary skills for the workplace was being social media savvy. While this is a skill that might not originally have seemed to be professional, hence the word social, social media has already become a very educational and professional tool, and goes to show that skills can be useful in a multitude of fields.

Lastly, I am most proud of my new found love of networking. I like to think I have always been a people person and love learning about others’ career fields and passions, but through observing my supervisor and discussing the importance of networking at the Bronfman Intern luncheon, I have realized the importance of following through and following up with my connections. The importance of and power behind a network of educated and inspiring people has become even more evident as we work together to strengthen AVODAH’s Alumni Network.

Re-discovering a love for sticky notes
Re-discovering a love for sticky notes in my lovely workspace!

– Sophie Brickman ’16

“Humanity can go wrong if we are not careful”

Looking into internship opportunities for this summer, I was hoping to bring two personal passions together. The first, is my academic interest in China and Asia as an East Asian Studies Major at Brandeis. The second is my deep rooted belief in the importance of spreading awareness of the Jewish Holocaust as far and wide as possible, to all humans wherever they live. A week into my work at the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Center, I knew I found the right place.

The Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre at Elsa High School in Shau Kei Wan
The Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre at Elsa High School in Shau Kei Wan

With all honesty, I was a little surprised when my preliminary research for summer internships a few months ago led me to the website of the HKHTC. Mostly because the two concepts – Holocaust Education and China – are not commonly associated. Around the same time, when I first started sharing the idea of getting involved with Holocaust education in China with my friends, many of them responded with a slight surprise. “Holocaust? in China? Really?”

But the more I thought about it, the stronger I felt about it. In 2003 as an Israeli high school student, I visited prominent death camps in Poland with my youth movement. One of my most striking experiences was seeing how some of those camps operated a few short feet outside large Polish cities. The thought that ordinary people in Poland – just like many other Europeans at the time – lived their lives for years during the war constantly smelling the scent of burning bodies emanating from nearby death camps, and did stop the madness, troubled me deeply. It still does. What troubled me even more was asking myself whether I would have acted differently in their position, had I lived at the time. As much as it might be uncomfortable to admit, that question is difficult to answer and has much to do with our education and awareness. Ever since that trip to Poland and the insights it left me with, anywhere I went and whatever I did, I made promoting education and awareness of the Holocaust one of my personal missions.

The Holocaust - Through the artwork of a ninth-grade student in Sha Tin College in Hong Kong
The Holocaust – Through the work of a ninth-grade student in Sha Tin College in Hong Kong

I believe that increasing awareness of the Holocaust is specifically important in China. As a United World College student in Canada in my last two years of high school, I made some wonderful friendships with Chinese fellow-students. When I mentioned the Holocaust and my insights about it to them, I realized many of them had very little knowledge about that part of human history. As China and Asia grow in power and political influence, the need to ensure that their populations are aware of what the humans can do to others when the majority of people are passive, grows as well. The Chinese might very soon be the majority that has the power – and the responsibility – to take action and prevent future genocides.

The Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre was founded by leaders in the Hong Kong Jewish Community about two years ago, with that exact mission in mind. The only institution of its kind in East Asia, the Centre seeks “to promote, across Asia, education and awareness of the Holocaust”, as its mission states. It was founded a little more than a year ago by prominent members in Hong Kong Jewish community, local educators and Holocaust survivors and activists.

In the short time since it was founded, the Centre managed to hold a number of significant events. One example is a concert featuring musicians from Israel, the United States and Hong Kong, who played songs composed by inmates in Nazi concentration camps. The concert was very successful, received a wide coverage and was attended by hundreds of Hong Kongers, including diplomats and politicians. In addition, the Centre began forming relationship with local schools, offering them assistance and support with teaching their students about the difficult subject that is the Holocaust.

The concert organized by the Holocaust Centre on January 27th, for the UN Holocaust Memorial Day
The concert organized by the Holocaust Centre on January 27th, for the UN Holocaust Memorial Day

As a relatively young organization the Centre did not have any existing internships positions. Needless to say, a paid internship was not even an option. To secure my internship, I first contacted the Centre last September to interest them in having me as an intern. After some correspondence, when I was given a green light, I began looking for financing, finally – to my delight – receiving the WOW grant.

As one could imagine, being a first-ever intern at an organization holds both challenges and opportunities. On the one hand, I have a lot of place to contribute, be creative and truly make a difference. At the same time, I am also required to demonstrate a lot of initiative and self-discipline – two capabilities I hope to develop while I’m here.

My main responsibilities at the Centre divide into three: Advancing the Centre’s public relations and social media outreach, and take charge of designing and editing its new website; Research local schools’ relevant curricula and work with the Centre’s education and Chinese culture specialists to design and write lesson templates suitable to be used in by educators to teach about the Holocaust; And last but not at all least – to find ways to reach more local schools and educators – within both the private and public school systems – and form relationships with them.

Two students presenting a Holocaust Memorial they designed, during the Exhibition at Sha Tin College
Two students presenting a Holocaust Memorial they designed, during the Exhibition at Sha Tin College

During my first week in Hong Kong, in addition to adjusting to the time difference, warm weather and different culture and language (even though English is very useful here), I focused mostly on the first responsibility. I spend much time expanding the follower base of the Centre’s Facebook page. The Challenge here, as it is with the HKHTC’s work as a whole, is reaching not only English speakers and students and educators in the many private and international schools, but also those in public, Chinese-speaking schools. I also set-up a twitter account, began working with the Centre’s administrator on designing a new website and met with a web designer. Additional PR related projects that I anticipate for the summer – and have suggested to my supervisors – are writing a Wikipedia value for the HKHTC, and perhaps most importantly working on translating all of these into Cantonese, the local Chinese dialect.

Naturally, my short time here so far was also used for getting acquainted with the organization’s board and other professionals I will be working with at the Centre’s office, which is located inside the local Jewish school in the neighborhood of Shau Kei Wan.

 "The Holocaust is not only a tragedy of the Jewish people, it is a failure of humanity as a whole."
“The Holocaust is not only a tragedy of the Jewish people, it is a failure of humanity as a whole.”

One of my best experiences so far, was visiting a Holocaust Memorial exhibition created by ninth-grade students in the Sha Tin High School. The exhibition, a result of cooperation between teachers at the school and the HKHTC, was powerful and thought-provoking. Listening to the students talk about their works and how much they learnt, reiterated to me how important the Centre’s mission really is, and how happy I am to be a part of it. The words of one student I spoke with were specifically powerful: “Our classes about the Holocaust and working on my memorial really made me realize that it’s not only a Jewish issue”, he said, “the Holocaust is something that shows how all of humanity can go wrong if we are not careful”.

Chen Arad ’15


Namaste from the Dove Foundation, Varanasi!

Namaste from the exotic, hectic, sweltering, holy city of Varanasi, India! On my daily rickshaw ride to The Dove Foundation, the vibrant colors, smells, and sounds of Varanasi bombard my senses. The Dove Foundation , the largest youth-led non-profit organization in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
The foundation aims to provide quality healthcare, education, and to expand educational and employment opportunities to youth members of marginalized communities, with a high emphasis on urban slums. At 3 years old, the Dove has already established three programs including Project Arambh, which has received the 2010 MTV Staying Alive Foundation Award. Project Arambh provides HIV/AIDS and reproductive health education to the low-caste community of bicycle rickshaw pullers in India. The Dove Foundation also runs two other programs: The Youth Education Program (2011), and the Community Involvement Program (2012).
I found the Dove Foundation through internship site leads posted on the Brandeis India Initiative website. I emailed Abhinav Singh, the listed Dove contact person, over winter break showing general interest in their organization. I soon received an enthusiastic response that we might be able to work together. We had many Skype interviews over break and continued to talk about what the Dove has already done, and what present needs I could meet with my already developed skills set regarding fundraising, publicity, and outreach.
As a Communication Intern for the Dove, I will help develop the organization’s online fundraising campaign; create a short promotional video about their various programs sponsored by their organization that will be distributed on social media sites and their WebPages; facilitate programs for members of the marginalized communities that The Dove assists; write and edit web content and brochures; and manage the Foundation’s social media sites.

When I first arrived at the Indian Medical Association Building, where Dove Foundation is based, I was thrilled to finally meet Abhinav Singh and Mohita Keshware, my two internship coordinators with whom I had been corresponding with since last winter. Both introduced me to several other Dove volunteers, all less than 35 years old. The youthful spirit and energy of the group of volunteers is contagious, and makes working for this organization much more fun, and I’ve already picked up some interesting slang from my co-workers.

The first week, the Dove organized the World Blood Donation 2013 mega event. My first day at work involved advertising the Dove Foundation’s blood donation campaign in Varanasi’s bustling IP Sigra Mall. This was fantastic exposure. I met up with other Dove volunteers, and learned several phrases in Hindi about the blood drive:
Didje to-fa dzindi ghee-ka: Donate blood, save a life!

Ya “Blood Donate” carne aye gha!: Come Donate blood now!
Also… Apke sahg-nam kiya-he? : What is your name?

me at the blood donor rally

The following day, I visited a local ashram/ orphanage with Dove volunteers to create a skit for a street theater performance with the young children for the Dove Foundation’s World Blood Donation Day rally. For this, I learned more lines in Hindi, and felt warmed by the bright faces of the young boys.
The rally was the most exciting part of my first week. An open-backed van mounted with several large speakers pulled into our office parking lot for the rally event. We decorated the van with vinyl posters and white and red balloons on all sides. The van blasted music as it drove towards the IP Sigra mall, where it a large crowd gathered. After we performed our skit for a hundred or so pedestrians, the van drove to its second destination, the gates of Benares Hindu University, for a flash mob performance to promote World Blood Donation Day 2013. A procession of motorcycles roared along the van’s path and volunteers holding signs followed the van as it reached the destination. As the van made frequent stops to announce its campaign to the community, volunteers distributed informational pamphlets and free coupons to a local restaurant.
At the gates of the university, loud music began to play and a group of fifteen dancers gathered behind the van. The crowd circled around them, and the dance troupe broke out in a choreographed hip-hop piece. In addition to publicizing World Blood Donation Day, and passing out pamphlets, and acting in a Hindi skit at the rally, I also took pictures.

Overall, my first week at the Dove Foundation made me even more excited to be working for a group of energized creative individuals for the rest of my summer. I anticipate learning much about how non-profits function in non-western countries, in addition to understanding the conditions and issues facing the marginalized populations the Dove Foundation assists. However, I did not anticipate donating my own blood for World Blood Donation Day.

– Aliza Gans ’15

AJWS Week 1

The Organization

My first week at American Jewish World Service provided for a joyful, eye-opening experience. This summer, I am working as the Experiential Education Intern for the organization. To set the scene, AJWS is a non-profit organization based out of New York, founded nearly 30 years ago by Brandeis’s own Professor Larry Simon. Their mission states: “inspired by the Jewish commitment to Social Justice, American Jewish World Service works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world.”

To bring this vision to life, the organization focuses on two spheres of empowerment that together embody one transformative force of global justice. The first sphere works domestically, with the focus of:

  1.  Creating a greater critical consciousness of inequality and global struggles for human rights through outreach and education.
  2. Mobilizing political activism to end regressive US international policies that harm millions of people abroad and inhibits development.
  3. Leveraging the resources of our communities and nation as a whole to make the second sphere of the AJWS’s work – the international operations – possible.

This second component, the international work, serves to advance the goals of fighting poverty and progressing human rights by awarding grants to hundreds of grassroots organizations in marginalized communities throughout 19 developing countries, focusing on pressing issues from land rights and sustainable livelihoods, to gender inequality and health care.This approach to international development speaks to the very core of AJWS’s values – that people on the ground know best what is needed to create change. And with the solidarity and support of AJWS, these local (yet global) leaders and movements can make major strides towards a more just world.


This young woman from AJWS grantee Southern Farmers Alliance, in Thailand, is using sustainable agriculture practices to increase local food yields. PHOTO  James Robert Fuller
This young woman from AJWS grantee Southern Farmers Alliance, in Thailand, is using sustainable agriculture practices to increase local food yields. PHOTO James Robert Fuller


Experiential Education

Reflecting on my role as the experiential education intern and the EE department as a whole, I have come to see that how this work exists at a crossroads among the organization’s duality of operations, one that I find to be very deep. In rooting the educational approach in experience and critical reflection, the learning and pedagogy that AJWS brings to our communities is undoubtedly unique and visionary. It immerses the American (and for many of the supporters, Jewish) identity and existence into challenging truths of global injustice, while always shining a light down the road towards justice. And there is no better place to encounter both sides of this coin – the difficult realities of the world and hopeful future – than in the courageous work of the grantees

These encounters allow us to see that the narratives of “us” and “them” are but one – now ever apparent as we experience the forces of globalization and confront world-wide collective challenges like climate change. In contextualizing our separate existences into one shared struggle, we are empowered to launch down a powerful path towards more informed, compassionate, and productive change. This process of critical reflection and action, often called praxis, is most eloquently described by the late Paulo Freire as the pursuit of “the vocation for humanization.” To come into work and be a part of an education which serves to make us more fully human is a truly beautiful thing.

AJWS program participants establish relationships that, inspiring their activism and advocacy on global justice issues long into the future. PHOTO  Melissa Sobin
An AJWS travel program participant and a host-site collaborator. PHOTO Melissa Sobin


Beginning Work

As for my own role, the first week comprised of a fair amount of learning about the organization and discovering what I can bring to the EE department and their initiatives. There is a pleasant irony in holding an internship with this department. In being surrounded by a group of unbelievable, thoughtful, and witty educators, the learning curve was a dynamic, informative, and fun-filled process with great intentionality.

The EE department is now in full throttle working to implement a brand new program called the Global Justice Fellowship (GJF). The GJF is a yearlong program for American Jewish leaders to facilitate the deepening of knowledge and engagement with global justice issues and give them the tools to better mobilize for change. For me, seeing first-hand the process of crafting and implementing this fellowship is an exciting new lens of engaging with an educational pedagogy that I have long sought out and experienced from the student perspective. At AJWS, the process it is certainly collaborative, innovative, and detailed. My work thus far entails supporting a few projects related to the GJF, and in the coming weeks will also include helping to reach out to alumni of various programs in addition to helping create a capstone homage to the work of the service trips that AJWS ran for many years, which are now coming to a close. More details to come as the internship proceeds!


Happily sitting at my desk at the AJWS's New York office.
Sitting happily at my work station in the New York office.

 – Samuel Porter ’14

Interfaith Worker Justice: Tree-Hugging the Labor Movement


Every night for the past week I’ve come home exhausted, spending all day jumping from meeting to meeting on various labor campaigns. As an organizer of the Brandeis Divestment Campaign and being involved in the climate justice movement, transitioning to working for Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) and its Massachusetts branch this summer is an exciting new direction. IWJ is a national network that engages faith communities in issues of worker justice, drawing upon religious values to mobilize community members around efforts to improve working conditions, wages, and benefits.

The Massachusetts IWJ is located in downtown Boston and works closely with Jobs with Justice, another organization dedicated to workers’ rights. In addition, Mass. IWJ works with various local affiliates, unions, and coalitions. There are currently four main campaigns IWJ is supporting. The past week I have been getting an overview of IWJ’s work by attending meetings, trainings, and various actions such as pickets and rallies. While my work plan is still developing, I will most likely be working on a few campaigns. First, I will be working to raise the minimum wage in MA to $11 per hour, as well as advocating for paid sick days. I will also be working on campaigns related to immigration reform and deportation.

In addition, I will be assisting to a lesser degree on a few other campaigns. There is a campaign called “Making Change at Walmart.” The campaign works to educate and organize Walmart associates into OUR Walmart, a group striving to improve working conditions for associates. The campaign is also working with local communities that Walmart is attempting to build new stores in by educating residents and crafting community standards that Walmart will have to uphold if they wish to expand. Tying in with “Making Change at Walmart”, I will also be helping with the Bangladesh Workers Solidarity Network-Boston, which is a group trying to get Gap and Walmart to sign on to Fire Safety Agreements to help prevent further factory deaths of Bangladeshi factory workers. Lastly, I will have various opportunities to meet and participate in actions with local coalitions and unions such as SIEU 615.

After spending last summer participating in Climate Summer, a program that allowed me to do community organizing around climate justice, I knew I wanted to broaden my breadth of experience. I found out about IWJ on the Hiatt Career Center website, as it is a partner organization for the Louis D. Brandeis Social Justice WOW Fellowship. It was a difficult decision to work for IWJ because my passion is climate justice and environmentalism, and I do believe that climate change is the most dire and urgent issue of our generation. However, I decided IWJ would benefit my organizing abilities by giving me new perspectives and experiences that I could take back to climate organizing. In my first week working with the labor movement and the faith community, I have started making connections and begun to try to bring the labor movement more into the Boston-area climate justice movement. I am excited to work on coalition-building, tying in interfaith, labor, and environmental perspectives in order to build a broader, more inclusive movement for transformative change.


Everyone Deserves a Share: United for a Fair Economy

HomeMy internship this summer is with United for a Fair Economy, which works to raise awareness about economic equality and to move people into action in their own states and communities to counter the policies that continually widen the wealth gap. The organization has projects through which it works towards its goals

Racial Wealth Divide: tackling the racially determined economic gap

Responsible Wealth: Encouraging the wealthy members of American society to fight for equality

Popular Economics Education: giving other organisations the tools to understand economic policy and implications

Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative: advocating for fair and progressive tax policy

Estate and Federal Taxes:  tax fairness at the federal level

– One if the ways the UFE raises awareness about the inequality. (Source: UFE/Info-graphics)

A week before I started working with the group, I had the opportunity to witness firsthand the organization’s mission and the projects that it engages in at a film screening at Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square, Cambridge.

Inequality for All stars former secretary of labor, Robert Reich, as he and his trusted mini cooper work tirelessly to fight economic inequality in America. He explains inequality, how we perceive it and its realities. The film highlights one major point:

that the top 1% of the American population holds more than a third of the country’s wealth and that this share is growing.

 A combination of wit and simplified everyday language helped the group gathered in the auditorium on a warm Tuesday night to understand how increasing economic inequality can negatively affect their livelihood, their health, their rights and their freedom. Not all of us hold a bachelor’s degree in Economics (I can at least speak for the 9 year old in attendance who understood enough to join in the conversation afterwards).

My First Week

I am one of three development interns at UFE. Our role is to help with the fundraising side of the organization, a role that is instrumental in keeping the wheels of the UFE well-greased.

–          I attended a staff meeting the first day I arrived. The first few minutes were spent acknowledging each member’s hard work and achievements during the previous week. This was a sign that the UFE is an empowering and supportive work environment where everyone is recognized for their contribution.

–          I was given a chance to identify projects I would be individually interested in, something I appreciate as an opportunity to show my skills and learn new things. I expect to have this kind of freedom for the rest of the summer.

–          I met two other Brandeis students who are also interns at UFE for the first time, which is always a pleasant experience.

–          I started working on projects almost immediately. Everyday, I learned something new, both about the organization and fund-raising in general. My supervisors give me the background and motivations behind every project and how they affect donations and donor retention.

–          The people at UFE immediately struck me as passionate about their cause. They are a diverse group with different skills that are valuable to the group. It will be interesting observing and learning what those are.

In this environment where everything seems to be happening at once, I expect to make some great relationships, learn many new skills and have the chance to contribute to a great cause.

Thanks for reading,

Pokuaa Adu ’14

P.S. Please take a look at all the links highlighted all over this post to learn more about the UFE, the film and other interesting things I have seen in the past week.

The People United: A Summer of Community Organizing

I started my internship in Miami at an organization called Interfaith Worker Justice, just a couple of days ago. IWJ is a non-profit dedicated to faith-based organizing around labor rights issues. These issues include fighting against wage theft, securing living wage or paid sick days for low-wage workers, ormaking sure that overtime wages are given to workers. In addition, my organization has also been voicing the urgency for an immigration reform for years, which is currently gaining momentum on a national scale with the upcoming Comprehensive Immigration Reform to be voted on in Congress.

The South Florida branch of Interfaith Worker Justice is very active in most of the areas that the national organization addresses across the state. During the first meeting I attended with representatives from unions and other community organizers, I had to pay very close attention to which cause they were talking about (since there were so many!). So far, I started organizing a phone-banking session for synagogue members who will be making phone calls urging voters to ask their Senator to support the immigration reform. This type of “organizing work” will be very common throughout my internship, as part of my responsibilities will be to engage religious communities and leaders in political activism. I will also be attending “actions” myself – protests and demonstrations fall under this category. On Friday I already attended my first protest as part of my internship, you can read about the reasons why people gathered to protest here.

Miami Herald journalist interviews activists at protest
Miami Herald journalist interviews activists at protest
IWJ Shirt, Quote from Isaiah
IWJ Shirt, Quote from Isaiah

However, my work also entails parts that don’t include shouting slogans and marching on the streets. The administrative part of my internship will be gathering email addresses of potential constituencies and organizing the mailing list of existing supporters. I will also be in contact with the board members, and potentially recruit new members to join the board.

I admit that I’ve had some mixed impressions about my internship initially. I’m really excited about the work that I’ll be doing, but I was expecting more structure. However, soon I realized I’d like to develop in this area, structuring my own time and managing my own projects without supervision is a skill I will need in life. Thus, one of my expectations for this summer is to learn to articulate clear goals for myself, and become a better time-manager. In addition, as I was sitting in on a few meetings and conference calls, looking perplexed, I concluded that I will need to do a lot of research on my own. Reading about state legislation and federal labor rights, stances of particular politicians, and problems of border security will be part of my daily job. Thus, I definitely expect to end the summer with some tangible knowledge on these issues!

Viktoria Bedo ’15

“Working There is Reward Enough”

“Hello? Hello Ladies?” We had finally made contact with Camilo, FIMRC’s Community Health Coordinator in Alajuelita, Costa Rica. This was one more reminder of how things we take for granted, like internet connectivity, pose a challenge for FIMRC’s remote locations around the globe. After six weeks interning at FIMRC Headquarters in Philadelphia, I am still amazed at how much I learn every day. This morning’s conversation between Camilo, Gauri (another Brandeis student intern) and me was no exception.

Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children, or FIMRC for short, provides healthcare and health education for mothers and children in under-served areas around the world.

“Hi Camilo, how are you?”

“I am very well ladies. It is so good to speak with you.” It became apparent that Camilo treats everyone with the utmost respect and care—not just us, but the patients he treats at the San Felipe Soup Kitchen in Costa Rica as well.

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

Camilo explained that his role at FIMRC is to provide health education to the Costa Rican residents and mostly Nicaraguan refugees who come through his doors. He teaches them about everything from nutrition to cancer to what to do in an environmental catastrophe. FIMRC puts a huge emphasis on health education, and in the past 6 weeks of interning I’ve come to understand why. The local residents at FIMRC’s seven project sites and other underserved areas around the world suffer from conditions caused by the lack of things we take for granted, like clean water and sanitation. Camilo teaches them basic concepts, such as the value of hand-washing, the food pyramid, and first aid. Prevention, especially in rural areas where the nearest hospital may be hundreds of kilometers away, is critical.

Camilo learns everything he can about his patients—their home situations, children, families, jobs, likes and dislikes—all before being able to treat them. The importance of building personal relationships with the people in the community was reinforced by my supervisor, Taylor, who said that the best way to have an impact is to let your guard down, be able to laugh at yourself and show people that you are invested in learning about them. Thus, a very valuable lesson I have learned from FIMRC is “seek first to understand.”

I asked Camilo how he makes health education fun. I mean, if you ask a child from the United States if they want to sit down and learn about Dengue prevention, they will probably respond with a confused look and an emphatic, “No!” Camilo countered that the people at San Felipe are always interested and engaged, because the living situation in Alajuelita is “very sad.” The people are poor. Many of them come to San Felipe for three meals a day. Some of the mothers are very young, and husbands do not always treat their wives well. So any small, kind gesture makes a difference. The women in Alajuelita know Camilo cares about them and their health, and that show of concern and respect makes the women and kids want to listen.

At FIMRC Headquarters the other interns and I have been engaged in many interesting and important projects for the organization—crunching data, creating surveys, doing cost analyses, and revising a fundraising packet. But it seems to me the victories in each of FIMRC’s sites, where FIMRC implements its mission, are achieved in a more humanistic way. Kindness and an open mind can mean the world to people, and this is a lesson I can apply in the future when I hopefully work abroad in healthcare… maybe even at a job like Camilo’s.

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

Camilo did an incredible job answering Gauri’s and my questions regarding his job and experiences in Costa Rica, but he seemed to have some difficulty formulating answers. Some feelings, experiences and situations just can’t be put into words. “You’ll understand when you get here. When are you coming?” he asked us. There seemed to be a slight miscommunication in that Gauri and I weren’t actually planning to travel to Costa Rica, as much as I wanted to. I feel that I’ve achieved my goal of learning so much about each of FIMRC’s sites by speaking with FIMRC staff, reading reports, and doing other research, but I’ve come to realize there is only so much I can learn secondhand. I will only truly understand the system once I experience it personally, which reinforces my desire to work abroad in public health someday.

I asked Camilo, “What’s the most rewarding part of your job?”

“My job…how do I say this in English…Seeing that every day people’s lives are improved. FIMRC means the world to them. When they smile, say thank you…they come with open arms and are so happy that FIMRC is here. …Having this work…they humanize you, and they really show you to be grateful for what you have. The kids will bring you small things like bread, or toys, or a smile, invite you into their homes. Working there is reward enough.”

To see Camilo take so much care in a community, while he himself is privileged just having obtained his law degree, was one of the most humbling experiences I’ve had at FIMRC. It’s amazing to see someone do this kind of work, not for money, not to impress others, but because he genuinely cares about the well-being of these people and knows he can make their lives better.

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

I’m proud and pleased about how much I’ve learned and grown through my internship at FIMRC. Not only have I become comfortable in an office environment and forged amazing relationships with my peers, I’ve learned to see the big picture—that an open mind and heart can go a long way in enriching people’s lives. I believe I have found my purpose in life: to serve and to help those less fortunate than myself through healthcare. This internship is the first step in hopefully a long line of adventures and experiences working in healthcare abroad.

“Alright ladies take care, and see you soon.”

“Yes Camilo, we’ll see you soon,” Gauri and I joked…but part of me hoped we actually would.

-Erica Granor ’15

My First Week at the Mass. Commission Against Discrimination

This summer, I am interning at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) in Boston.  MCAD is the state’s main civil rights law enforcement agency.  Its mission is to eliminate discrimination in housing, education, and employment, as well as other areas.  The Commission accepts and investigates complaints of discrimination.  MCAD also performs outreach education to groups that may be likely to experience discrimination, and provides workplace-based training for employees and employers.  Here is a link to the Commission’s homepage, which provides information for employees, individuals, and employers about discrimination law.


One of the conference rooms where we had housing discrimination training.

As an Outreach Intern, I will be working on the Commission’s SEED (Spreading Education to End Discrimination) project, which aims to provide information about civil rights to members of populations that are likely to experience discrimination.  For the next few weeks, my responsibilities will include contacting various community organizations that serve marginalized populations, and planning outreach programs with them.  As I begin to schedule these programs, I will travel to these sites to give informational presentations. This is a brief description of the intake process, for an individual who decides to file a complaint.

I found this internship through  I was looking for a job that combined advocacy, social justice, and the law, and this one seemed particularly intriguing.  I emailed the Director my resume, cover letter, and a writing sample, and she responded requesting an interview.  About a week after my interview, and after some dialogue between us, the Director emailed me offering the position.

My first week included four days of intensive training.  I learned a great deal about discrimination law, the complaint process at MCAD (from the initial complaint through the investigative hearings), and presentation skills.  While I received a lot of important information that I have to remember and understand, the training was very interesting, and will be useful when I inform others about their rights, and their ability to utilize the Commission in seeking justice.


The pamphlets and handouts that we give to the participants during our presentations.

There are only three other undergraduates interning at the Commission, as well as several law school students.  I learned what brought each student to this opportunity as well as the particular roles and responsibilities of each position.

My expectations for this summer include improving my verbal presentation skills, and learning how to succinctly explain people’s civil rights in a way that is understandable for people of various backgrounds.  I also hope to expand my own knowledge and understanding of discrimination law.  Mostly, though, I want to leave the internship feeling that I have actually helped people more effectively stand up for their rights, and not feel powerless at the hands of discriminatory landowners or employers.

11,817 Miles Later

The Bairo Pite Clinic (BPC) is a community health center founded after East Timor’s struggle for independence from Indonesia that left the nation’s health service infrastructure severely damaged. The BPC strives to provide primary health care to some of the poorest people in the world. Every day they serve over 300 patients from all over the country, and they are open until every patient is seen. The clinic is established and financed entirely by contributions and at times is aided by governmental and non-governmental organizations.

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Patients waiting to be seen at the Bairo Pite Clinic

At Brandeis, I am a member of the Project Plus One Student Chapter, which supports the Bairo Pite Clinic. Being involved in the club, I became familiar with the clinic and its efforts to empower the local community to provide healthcare for its members. I also met with a few Brandeis students who have volunteered at the clinic in the past with the organization and I wanted to get more involved by travelling to the clinic. I applied to the clinic through their application process and was invited to volunteer for the summer.

At the BPC, I participate in rounds every morning at 8:00 with Dr. Dan, the director of the clinic, Dr. Simon and other volunteer medical doctors and medical students to see the in-patients. I spend time with the volunteer doctors overseeing assignments and assisting with the application of treatments, making sure the appropriate medications are taken as prescribed and helping nurses take vital signs and record information. I facilitate in patient admittance, in recording patient history, and in communicating and relaying information between doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, and other staff members at the clinic.

After my first week of the internship, I am finding myself falling into a routine at the clinic. In the beginning, it was a bit disorienting trying to figure out the system of the clinic, locating which ward was what or where, and trying to help out in a capacity that I am able to. Now I find myself able to introduce and explain the clinic to new medical volunteers and understand some of my limitations and capabilities at the clinic. Every day I observe rounds in the morning and in the late afternoon. After rounds, the medical students are delegated tasks or follow-ups with patients. This week I was able to observe a few Ziehl-Neelson stains, which is a method to test patients for tuberculosis (a common illness in East Timor), a lumbar puncture, several electrocardiograms (EKGs), and diagnostic tests for malaria and Dengue fever. The medical students and doctors have been very kind and supportive, explaining many of these procedures to me and the results of these tests. I feel that just by being here for only a week so far, I have learned quite a bit.

For this summer, I want learn more about how health care in a developing country operates, and how it faces its problems, such as a limited supply of resources. Already by observing the doctors and the clinic, I am seeing the pieces to this puzzle. In addition, I hope to continue to observe and learn more medical procedures and medical techniques used at the clinic and be familiar with the tools used by these providers.

Alice Luu ’14

The Dove Foundation Week 1: Very Nice in Varanasi

Namaste from the exotic, hectic, sweltering, holy city of Varanasi, India! On my daily rickshaw ride to The Dove Foundation, the vibrant colors, smells, and sounds of Varanasi bombard my senses. The Dove Foundation, is the largest youth-led non-profit organization in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

The foundation aims to provide quality healthcare and education, and to expand educational and employment opportunities to youth members of marginalized communities, with a high emphasis on urban slums. At 3 years old, the Dove has already established three programs including Project Arambh, which has received the 2010 MTV Staying Alive Foundation Award.  Project Arambh provides HIV/AIDS and reproductive health education to the low-caste community of bicycle rickshaw pullers in India. The Dove Foundation also runs two other programs: The Youth Education Program (2011), and the Community Involvement Program (2012).

I found the Dove Foundation through internship site leads posted on the Brandeis India Initiative website. I emailed Abhinav Singh, the listed Dove contact person, showing general interest in their organization over winter break.  I soon received an enthusiastic response that we might be able to work together.

As a Communication Intern for the Dove, I will help develop the organization’s online fundraising campaign; create a short promotional video about various programs sponsored by the organization that will be distributed on social media sites and webpages; facilitate programs for members of the marginalized communities that Dove assists; write and edit web content and brochures; and manage the Foundation’s social media sites.

When I first arrived at the Indian Medical Association Building, where Dove Foundation is based, I was thrilled to finally meet Abhinav Singh and Mohita Keshware, my two internship coordinators with whom I had been corresponding with since last winter.  Both introduced me to several other Dove volunteers, all less than 35 years old.  The youthful spirit and energy of the group of volunteers is contagious, and makes working for this organization much more fun. I’ve already picked up some interesting slang from my co-workers.

The first week, the Dove organized the World Blood Donation 2013 mega event.  My first day at work involved advertising the Dove Foundation’s blood donation campaign in Varanasi’s bustling IP Sigra Mall.  This was fantastic exposure.  I met up with other Dove volunteers, and learned several phrases in Hindi about the blood drive:

Didje to-fa dzindi ghee-ka: Donate blood, save a life!

Ya “Blood Donate” carne aye gha!:  Come Donate blood now!

Also… Apke sahg-nam kiya-he? : What is your name?

The following day, I visited a local ashram/ orphanage with Dove volunteers to create a skit for a street theater performance with the young children for The Dove Foundation’s World Blood Donation Day rally.  For this, I learned more lines in Hindi, and felt warmed by the bright faces of the young boys.

The rally was the most exciting part of my first week.  An open-backed van mounted with several large speakers pulled into our office parking lot for the rally event.  We decorated the van with vinyl posters and white and red balloons on all sides. The van blasted music as it drove towards the IP Sigra Mall, where  a large crowd gathered. After we performed our skit for a hundred or so pedestrians, the van drove to its second destination, the gates of Benares Hindu University, for a flash mob performance to promote World Blood Donation Day 2013.  A procession of motorcycles roared along the van’s path and volunteers holding signs followed the van as it reached the destination. As the van made frequent stops to announce its campaign to the community, volunteers distributed informational pamphlets and free coupons to a local restaurant.

Rallying for World Blood Donor’s Day 2013

At the gates of the university, loud music began to play and a group of fifteen dancers gathered behind the van.  The crowd circled around them, and the dance troupe broke out in a choreographed hip-hop piece. In addition to publicizing World Blood Donation Day, and passing out pamphlets, and acting in a Hindi skit at the rally, I also took pictures.

Overall, my first week at the Dove Foundation made me even more excited to be working for a group of energized creative individuals for the rest of my summer. I anticipate learning much about how non-profits function in non-western countries, in addition to understanding the conditions and issues facing the marginalized populations the Dove Foundation assists.


Preparing street theater skit for the rally

Check out my more frequently updated blog…more focused on cultural musings and interesting tidbits about my travels in India.

Aliza Gans ‘ 15

Week One as a National Consumers League Intern

Picture 3

This summer, I am interning at the National Consumers League in Washington, D.C. as a Louis D. Brandeis Social Justice WOW Fellow. As America’s oldest consumer advocacy organization, NCL represents consumers and workers on issues including Internet fraud, child labor, and food safety. I discovered this internship through the Hiatt Career Center, and became immediately interested in NCL’s work in promoting international consumer protection and social justice. As a public policy intern, I primarily research public policies relating to consumer fraud. I will also be updating NCL’s websites, drafting content for NCL’s LifeSmarts competition, and helping coordinate meetings of the Alliance Against Fraud organization.

During the past week, I began my first extensive research project on senior fraud. By researching successful senior educational programs and individuals who have passionately argued for more online scam control, I learned about the numerous cases of financial scams specifically targeted at seniors. Although many cases are unreported, seniors are often victims of health care, insurance, telemarketing, Internet, and lottery scams. To gain more knowledge and different perspectives, I attended a roundtable discussion, where Google’s DC Public Policy Manager discussed the company’s interest in improving online safety and technology for older adults. Existing educational programs for online safety have benefited younger generations, but have yet to reach seniors who are more vulnerable to fraud.

U.S. House of Representative Marsha Blackburn
U.S. House of Representative Marsha Blackburn at
“All Eyes on Privacy: Transparency in the New Economy”

I also had the opportunity to attend All Eyes on Privacy: Transparency in the New Economy, an event hosted by Allstate, National Journal, and The Atlantic. Key speakers including U.S. House of Representative Marsha Blackburn and The Honorable Jon Leibowitz discussed their perspectives on the impact of technology and government collection of data on consumer privacy. While some panelists strictly argued that the collection of data was a violation of consumers right to privacy, others saw the government’s decision as a necessity for the protection of the country against potential threats and attacks. According to the Allstate and National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll, the biggest risk associated with data collection was identity theft, one of the biggest concerns associated with senior fraud.

In addition to my research on senior Internet fraud and privacy, I am also studying the impact of high airline cancellation and change fees on consumers. In 2008, airlines began charging consumers to check bags in response to high fuel costs. Since then, airlines started charging consumers with fees on food, drinks, priority boarding, seating arrangements, and extra leg room. Some airlines have even created policies that require overweight passengers to purchase an additional seat. Recently, major airlines have increased ticket change fees from $150 to $200. Airlines are profiting immensely from these fees while consumers continue to struggle to meet the already high airline prices. The government has carried out the three-hour flight delay law to protect consumers from long delays, but has yet to find solutions or alternatives to rising fees.

I am impressed by NCL’s over 100 years of advocacy and the positive changes NCL has made in many lives. This past week has been a truly new experience attending conferences and events. Fellow interns and I had a wonderful time helping out at NCL’s Child Labor Awareness Film Event, where we revealed some of the brutal conditions children are forced to work under. Many children sacrifice their education in order to support their families. I was once again reminded of my responsibility to make efforts to eliminate child labor internationally. I strongly believe that every child deserves an education, and I am proud to say that I am part of an organization that provides opportunities and protection for underprivileged children, seniors, and consumers. For the next upcoming months, I desire to use my international experiences and leadership skills to learn how to accentuate the rights of consumers and workers using public policies by performing detailed and through research and gaining first hand experiences at hearings and conferences.

Fellow interns and I (middle) at the
Child Labor Awareness Film Event












Exact Change: Working With The Oregon Bus Project

“Driving Votes. Driving Leaders. Driving Change.“

This is the motto of the non-profit organization I am working for this summer, The Oregon Bus Project.

The Bus Project was started in 2002 by a group of young Portland leaders in a bar who had a vision for local democracy. They were discontent with the status quo of politics, and decided that they wanted to turn things around by reinvigorating civic involvement among average citizens.  So they bought a bus, and recruited volunteers to make real political change and empower a new generation of democracy. They took the bus across the state, helped progressive thinkers win local elections, registered over 70,000 voters, and got thousands of people involved in the process.


Two years later, in 2005, the organization created a political organizing and leadership development fellowship program called “PolitiCorps”. The 10 week, bootcamp-like fellowship, was designed to train young leaders who were ready to commit themselves full time to working in public service. It developed into a vigorous and effective program, with close to 85% of each year’s 24 fellows going on to work in the public-service sector after graduation.

Eight years later, the program is still going strong. As the field intern on staff, my responsibilities are to assist the Field Director with all of the off-site events and activities, to act as a mentor to the fellows once they arrive, and to implement and sustain a social-media plan for the program.

Oregon Bus Project Reception


Over the past three weeks, we have been planning the educational curriculum, field training logistics, and program needs, to get ready for June 17th; the first day PolitiCorps 2013.

Instead of discussing my first week, I have decided to write my first entry on my first “phase” of my internship: Pre-Arrival Program Preparation.

I arrived to my internship to find the office space of The Bus in disarray. In the past year, the cost of rent had increased four-fold. This turned out to be a problem for our non-profit due to the fact that… we are a non-profit. Like many 501(c)3 organizations, The Bus Project operates on a fairly small budget. This year’s budget was especially low, due to the fact that net donations (the major source of funding) rise and fall cyclically with political election cycles. Due to the fact that 2013 is a relatively “unexciting” election year in Oregon and the nation, the budget this year is very small. This means that we’ve had to compensate for the 400% increase in cost of rent by consolidating the office into ¼ the space that it took up until now.In addition to getting rid of defunct equipment and furniture that we no longer needed, the individual offices turned into group work-pods (determined by department of the organization).

Although the consolidation of office space might sound unfortunate and less than desirable, the final product we ended up with was more efficient, social, and utilitarian. Everything had a place, and we were able to transform the office into an overall more effective center from which to plan, and eventually facilitate, the 2013 PolitiCorps program.


In addition to office reconfiguration, my duties have been in securing food and supply donations from local businesses (to alleviate program costs), coordinating local events for the fellows to participate in over the next four weeks, and developing a field-safety seminar to deliver to the fellows during program orientation.

Over the next few weeks, in addition to continuously registering first-time voters all across the state, the program fellows will *democratically* decide which social-justice public interest organizations they would like to plan and deliver a campaign-plan for. They will work 7 days a week, for 13 hours a day, for 10 weeks. My job will be to help make sure they stay safe, sane, and on track.

Noah Litwer  ’15

PolitiCorps staff (Me on the far left)
PolitiCorps staff (I’m on the far left)

Fina House: Week 1

This summer I am interning at the YWCA Fina House in Lawrence, MA. The Fina House was opened in 2005 and houses low-income individuals, teen mothers, and homeless domestic violence survivors. The mission of the YWCA is to eliminate racism and empower women.  Being an Hispanic woman myself I share this goal. Initially I heard about Fina House from a friend who had wanted to volunteer there. I contacted different members until I was finally able to discuss the idea of a potential internship with the co-director of Women’s Services. The process went smoothly, they had had other interns before, and I was more than willing to partake in this experience.

My employment officially began on June 10th. I will be working on two separate projects; one with the Family Counselor on the Child Advocacy Project (CAP) and the other with TPP (Teen Parenting Program). Part of the mission of the Child Advocacy Project is “to assist victims and their families to stabilize, initiate healing from trauma, and take steps to seek justice”. The children in the CAP are victims of sexual abuse or rape; there are 12 kids currently in the program. We are reaching out to collaborate with local programs to establish a recreational activity for the kids to get involved with. The Teen Parenting Program focuses on empowering young women through self-esteem/financial workshops to help them become economically/emotionally independent. I have been assigned to host workshops with the 8 young women twice a week. One day will be geared towards Preparing Adolescents for Young Adulthood (PAYA) and the other will be an active workshop in which we will focus on their health by doing physical activities.

All of this seemed quite overwhelming at first, but the staff at Fina have been extremely helpful and welcoming. On my first day on the job I went with a staff member to the YWCA in the nearby town of Haverhill. The staff member and another colleague were hosting a presentation on domestic violence. It was an eye opening experience witnessing the impact that their words had on the audience. One young female sitting in the crowd sobbed quietly. After the presentation, both YWCA employees went to the young girl and offered their services to help in whatever situation she might be going through.

My experience with Fina so far has been warm and positive; this week I will begin to instruct the TPP girls with the PAYA material. I chose to begin with Personal Care, Health, Social Skills, and Safety (the basics, and we can dive into the more difficult topics later on).

I feel very honored to be working with a group of determined, strong women helping other women become self sufficient and empowered. My career plans are to involve myself with non-profits and gain experience and knowledge on how to effectively provide the most help to individuals. Working at Fina House will be an important step in helping me accomplish my goals and I am sure that I will develop more goals throughout the summer.

Side View of Fina House
Side View of Fina House
The Mission of the YWCA & also Mine
The Mission of the YWCA & also mine

– Daniela Ayala ’15

My First Week at American Jewish World Service

Hi everyone! I have just finished my first week of my internship at American Jewish World Service. AJWS is a nonprofit organization that seeks to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world. That mission statement is a mouthful, which is why I was so interested to learn more about all of the work that AJWS does.  I first found out about the organization a few years ago, when my cousin went on a service trip with AJWS to Ghana.  When I saw the posting on Hiatt’s B.Hired website, I got very excited because I already knew about some of the great work AJWS was doing.  I immediately replied and made an effort to speak with my cousin about her experience with the organization before my interviews, so that I’d have a more thorough understanding of its work.

This is the logo for American Jewish World Service.
This is the logo for American Jewish World Service.

My internship is located at the AJWS New York office in Manhattan. I am working in the Development, with both the Donor Engagement and Major Gifts teams.  Both teams assign me projects and I have a series of meetings with members of each team over the course of the summer, so that I can learn about the work that they do and their roles in the organization.

Currently, I am working on a few projects. My main project right now is to assemble issue-based portfolios for donors who are particularly interested in one aspect of AJWS’s work. Each issue will get one portfolio, which will aggregate all of the information on that topic. The issues I’m currently working on are women/girls, LGBTI rights/sexual health and rights, natural resource rights, disaster response, and peace/conflict work. I have really enjoyed working on these issues, and I think it’s a great project to start with because it has really exposed me to a lot of information about the organization. To create a portfolio, I have to go through hundreds of publications to find the right information, presented the right way. Through this, I have learned a lot about AJWS’s grantee organizations in developing countries, the grassroots organizing they are doing, and the diverse ways these small but empowered groups can create change.

The cover of a publication included in the "Women and Girls" issue folder.
The cover of a publication included in the “Women and Girls” issue folder.

My other projects are not as large-scale, but are also teaching me a lot about nonprofit development. I am helping to organize a spreadsheet of possible venues for AJWS’s upcoming gala fundraiser by looking at what other large nonprofits are doing. Additionally, I am working to research and organize data on donors in specific areas so that when AJWS hosts events there, they are able to invite everyone who might want to be involved. For some geographic areas, I am researching the Jewish community to determine the major institutions and organizations there.

In addition to the work I’m assigned, I also have the opportunity to meet many important people in the organization. Our internship program is very comprehensive, and includes the opportunity to have lunch with the president of AJWS, Ruth Messenger, as well as other members of the executive board! Additionally, AJWS has a tradition called “Brown bags,” where everyone brings their lunches to a conference room to listen to a visiting grantee speak about his or her experience.  This week, a grantee from Haiti came to speak about his work organizing young law students to form a legal accompaniment service for those who need it the most. I found this fascinating and was really glad to have the opportunity to hear him speak.

My first week at AJWS has been really great. It is a fantastic working environment- everyone is incredibly friendly and considerate, and made me feel at home right away. I am enjoying the work I’m doing, and I feel that my supervisors are inclusive and making a strong effort to help me understand development and the goals of AJWS. Aside from meeting with various members of the two teams I’m working with, I also got to participate in a training called “Social Styles,” which taught me a lot about professional styles in the work place. The other interns and I all discussed our personality types and were trained in meeting people where they are, creating a more cohesive and understanding working environment for everyone. This summer, I expect to learn not only about development and fundraising (including improving technical skills like databases and excel), but also to learn a lot about teamwork and professionalism. This is my first 9-5 job and I’m loving it so far!

Learn more about AJWS:

AJWS Website

Global Voices: The AJWS Blog Site

– Shira Almeleh ’14


The big, dusty blue and white striped tent that I’ve seen in so many pictures came into view as we drove up to the entrance of Tui Ni Duse Pre-School. Already from about two blocks away, beautiful smiles, inquisitive stares, and shy waves welcomed me to the squatter camp where the school is located in Epako, Namibia. The tent is the only unique marker that separates Tui Ni Duse from the hundreds of other tin house complexes and makeshift stick fences that populate the squatter camp. As I opened the car door and stepped into the bright sunshine, all eyes seemed to follow me—something I’d already grown accustomed to in my first few days in Namibia where people are mostly either white or black. For about the twelfth time in the past five days, I wish I had a shirt that reads, “I’m not Chinese…I’m Korean,” because of the somewhat negative attitudes towards Chinese people in Namibia, mostly due to the invasion of Chinese building or business projects during the past couple of years. But the curious eyes that stared at me soon turned into excited crescent smiles as they realized Teacher Daniel’s sister had finally arrived.

My first day at Tui Ni Duse was a day I had been anticipating for months! After hearing so much about it from my dad and my brother, who had visited before, and after spending half a semester researching the Namibian education system and similar schools in developing countries for a final project, I was itching to put all my academic knowledge to use. This summer internship at three Namibian schools—Tui Ni Duse, a private pre-school for street children and children who cannot afford to go to government schools; Gobabis Gymnasium School, a government approved private school; and a Namibian public primary school—would not only allow me to pursue my love of teaching in a setting that is close to my heart, but would also give me the opportunity to practice my recently discovered passion for anthropology.

Accordingly, my first week has been spent visiting all three schools, meeting with headmasters and working out my weekly schedule for the next seven weeks. Luckily, my sparse Afrikaans was not a problem as most people also speak English. However, I am glad to say that as a combined result of interest and necessity, my Afrikaans is rapidly improving. It has become crucial for me to learn Afrikaans to teach the children at Tui Ni Duse because they are bilingual in Afrikaans and Damara, their mother tongue which I can only hope to start to learn because of its various clicking sounds that most non-native speakers find challenging.

Of the three schools, I have only yet taught at Tui Ni Duse, where I have observed a need for clearer communication between teacher and students as well as between staff members. At most, the five-year-old school that started as a day care for the squatter camp community has only had three local teachers for its approximately 120 students. Together, the inconsistent attendance of both teachers and students and the low level of education among teachers have made it difficult for efficient education. In my two days at Tui Ni Duse, I have observed the “over-aged” class, which consists of about thirty students from ages 7 to 15 who are behind the state’s age-appropriate standards. Although I am still getting to know each student’s academic capability, I quickly realized that my lessons have to be taught in Afrikaans for the students to understand clearly. Furthermore, the lack of school supplies has led to some creative work on my part, making this challenge all the more exciting.

Despite the obstacles I face at Tui Ni Duse, I find that each hardship pushes me further to find ways to help these children learn and grow. Next week marks the beginning of my stabilized schedule, which is divided between the three schools. Hopefully, my observation and assistant teaching at the two government schools will give me a fuller experience of Namibia’s education system and will aid in my development for a stable and sustainable system at Tui Ni Duse.

Resized 2



Resized 3

– Brontte Hwang ’15

My first week at AVODAH


This summer I am interning in AVODAH’s New York City office.  As explained on their website, AVODAH is a Hebrew word which encompasses spiritual, communal and work related “service”.  Upon it’s foundation in 1998, AVODAH became the first Jewish service corps. AVODAH corps members spend a year working at a placement site, building community, and learning about Judaism and social justice. AVODAH’s mission, reflected in corps members’ placement sites, is to strengthen the Jewish community’s fight against the causes and effects of poverty. AVODAH’s initial program took place in New York, and programs have now been launched in D.C., Chicago and New Orleans.

I am working with Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay, Director for Alumni and Community Engagement. After a meaningful year in service, corps members are part of a life-long alumni network. Rabbi Ruskay facilitates this network and continues to provide alumni with opportunities to engage in the social justice community.  One of my favorite parts about my internship thus far is that I have a wide variety of jobs and responsibilities. I develop lesson plans for events and projects that provide alumni with the opportunity to network with each other and continue to address current issues regarding social injustices. I am also working with Rabbi Ruskay to improve the current resources available to alumni.

My first week at AVODAH was a great learning experience. The day I started working was a huge day for the New York office. It was the day of our annual Partners in Justice event, an evening where corps members, alumni, friends and supporters come together to celebrate successes and honor some of AVODAH’s extraordinary leaders and alumni.  I was very impressed—my first time meeting everyone at the organization was on one of their busiest days of the year, yet everyone went above and beyond their specific roles and the event came together beautifully.  They were especially welcoming to a new and nervous intern.

Gorgeous event set-up at the Prince George!
Gorgeous event set-up at the Prince George!
Goodies with a message.
Goodies with a message.

On my second day, I met with Rabbi Ruskay and we had a great discussion about the current state of the alumni program and the future program goals.  I was immediately excited about learning from someone who had so much experience and expertise. Throughout my first week, I especially appreciated the networking opportunities I had. On Tuesday, Rabbi Ruskay and I met with two staff members from the American Jewish World Service: a Senior Organizer and the Associate Director of Education and Community Engagement to discuss program successes and lessons learned with PresenTense, an organization that inspires young social entrepreneurs to invest in ideas that lead to a better future while strengthening their Jewish community.  We also met with the coordinator for the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, to plan the next steps for engaging AVODAH alumni in the campaign for Immigration legislation reform (a very current issue), which I have now taken on as a project with Rabbi Ruskay.

Heading into our eighth floor office!
Heading into our eighth floor office!

As I continue my work at AVODAH, I know I will continue learning exponentially about non-profit organizations and how to best engage social justice leaders with the larger community. When corps members finish their year in service, many of them want to stay involved in the world of social justice. Through working with Rabbi Ruskay on the alumni program, I hope to continue learning about many ways we can be a force for change and prevent social injustice. Regardless of where we are at in life, whether it is grad school, the work force, or already engaged in community service, each one of us can help fight poverty. I am so excited to continue learning at AVODAH.

How does AVODAH help build community? Inspiration from our Partners in Justice event.
How does AVODAH help build community? Inspiration from our Partners in Justice event.

– Sophie Brickman ’16

First Week at PCDC


Today was my third day interning at the Parent-Child Development Center (PCDC), a program of Community Action, which provides daycare and many other social services to low-income families in Western Massachusetts.  The PCDC runs numerous Head Start and Early Head Start centers in the area which serve nearly 1,000 kids who otherwise would not have high-quality daycare and medical care.  The PCDC building that I am working in for the summer is located in Northampton, Massachusetts and houses both a daycare and many offices for PCDC employees, managers, and directors.

I was immediately interested in working for the PCDC when I read about it online during my internship hunt because it perfectly aligns with my past experiences working in Head Start daycares and my future academic and career goals of getting my Master’s in early intervention.  I also have always wanted to live in Northampton, so it seems the stars aligned on this one.

While I knew I would be working directly under the Manager of Data and Planning, I was unsure of and nervous about exactly what this internship would entail.  It turns out I should not have wasted my time worrying!  My supervisor (the manager of data and planning) is an amazing woman who spent hours orienting me and asking what I most want to accomplish and experience this summer and ensuring that I would be able to do all of those things.  She went above and beyond when she found out that I want to go into early intervention by offering to have me trained to do diagnostic screenings and possibly perform some screenings for their clientele later in the summer.  Everyone else I have met in the office has been incredibly welcoming, and many people mentioned that since the cubicle was reserved for “Avital data + planning intern,” everyone thought it was being reserved for a vital intern.  We had a good laugh about that.

Work-wise, these first few days have thus far mostly been spent researching all of the regulations that pertain to the PCDC and its services.  I’ve also spent a lot of time in my cubicle (which is quite spacious, actually, you can see it in the picture) figuring out how to use the new database that is being rolled out in July and which it seems I will spend lots of time on.  Having spent only a few hours in the office so far, it is already apparent what it really means to be passionate about your job and put everything into it no matter how much (or how little, as the case may be) money comes back to you in return, which is incredibly refreshing.

I had high hopes for this summer internship before, and now I can say for sure that I managed to find my dream job and I could not be more grateful.  I expect to learn a lot about the administrative side of childcare in addition to learning how to navigate public resources and social services.  Should be a great summer!


In my apartment for the summer getting ready to leave for my first day at the PCDC
In my apartment for the summer getting ready to leave for my first day at the PCDC
My cubicle at the PCDC office.
My cubicle at the PCDC office.

– Avital Sokolow Silverman ’14

Challenging Corporate Abuse: Week 1

I am an intern at Corporate Accountability International, formerly known as Infact. It is a non-profit organization that is passionately driven by its mission is to stop corporate abuse of human rights, the environment, and any and all threats to the well-being of the public.  Corporate Accountability International uses strategic measures to pressure corporations through public support to cease dangerous practices.  I am working on their domestic water campaign to challenge corporate control of our water. The two umbrella campaigns within that are Think Outside The Bottle and Public Water Works.

I’m working on a project to support National Parks going bottled-water-free. I will also help to gather support for our organization and cause through methods such as petitions, which is what we did this past week. At the Cambridge River Festival, we obtained over 400 signatures for our Think Outside the Bottle petition, showing support for tap over bottled water, and our petition to urge McDonald’s to stop marketing to children.

This is a poster from our Food Campaign to challenge McDonald's by working to stop them from marketing to children with tactics such as their clown, Ronald McDonald.
Poster from the Value [the] Meal Campaign calling on Ronald McDonald to “retire” from his job marketing fast food to kids.

I found my internship both on as well as through the listserv of my job last summer with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. I was immediately struck by the human rights focus of the organization. I was also impressed with the extensive application and interview process, which first proved to me that the people of this organization are serious about what they do.

During all three interviews I took part in, I could see how passionate each and every employee was. It is clearly a cohesive group of individuals who work together to make real change happen in an organized and aggressive way. I see more and more proof of this every day I spend with them. In addition to everything I have already learned from all of the organized orientation presentations about every aspect of the organization, I have also begun to get to know a great group of 11 other fellow interns. I have already learned so much about the horrendous practices of transnational corporations, as well as the consequences of their environmental and human rights abuses on a national and global scale. Much of what I learned about corporate control of our water is summed up in this incredibly helpful video produced by Corporate Accountability International called“The Story of Bottled Water.”

This summer, I hope to learn more about the specific consequences of the privatization of water in the hands of enormous organizations that take water as a natural resource that is actually a human right, and bottle it up into a commodity to sell it back to us at thousands of times the cost we should be paying for it. I expect to learn more about this type of manufactured demand, and more about whether huge transnational corporations that are legally bound to make profits for their shareholders are inherently evil, or simply amoral. After meeting with my supervisor, I am also looking forward to becoming a much more effective campaign organizer with more experience organizing individual on a large scale and keeping track of everyone in the most efficient way possible.

–Kate Cohen ’14



Starting at WATCH

This week was the beginning of my summer internship. Unlike most of the other WOW interns, my internship is located a short walk from Brandeis University. Right on Moody Street in Waltham, Massachusetts, lies the office of WATCH CDC. WATCH CDC is a non-profit (501c-3) established in 1988 committed to promoting fare, just, environmentally-healthy living conditions for the low income, immigrant community in Waltham through advocacy and community empowerment.  WATCH Housing Advocacy Clinic serves as the go-to place for the local community for housing issues such as evictions, rent assistance, tenant-landlord conflicts, and unsanitary living conditions. The clinic advocates are students trained in housing rights and equipped with knowledge on local sources for legal assistance, financial aid, and shelters. In addition, WATCH is involved in community organizing projects that build confidence and leadership skills within the Waltham community.

As an intern, I will be in charge of the housing clinic, in which I will help tenants resolve tenant-landlord conflicts, eviction proceedings, sub-standard housing conditions and other housing problems, as well as inform them of their housing rights, empowering them to be their own advocates. As part of my work at the clinic, I will be identifying tenants with leadership abilities and creating a network where they can effectively work together to address the communities housing needs. In addition, I will be building relationships with the community and connecting community members to ongoing community empowerment projects at WATCH.

I first got involved with WATCH’s Housing Advocacy clinic the 2012 fall semester when I joined Professor Laura Goldin’s practicum. As part of the practicum, we volunteered at the clinic throughout the semester.  After the semester, I was eager to continue my work at WATCH and Professor Goldin offered me a supervising position at the clinic, in which I had to organize, train, and mentor Brandeis student clinic advocates. This spring, Erica Schwartz, executive director of WATCH, offered me a full time internship for the summer, which I accepted enthusiastically.

During my first week at WATCH, I began to get accustomed to the everyday working environment of a small non-profit. Luckily, I already knew most of the staff from volunteering here throughout the year. WATCH had recently moved to a new address and I had to assemble a new office for myself – now I have my own desk, computer, and phone.  I met with Daria, my supervisor and the new WATCH executive director, and established short- and long-term goals for my internship. I finished following up with clients that called the office during the short transition between the semester and my summer internship, during which the clinic was closed. I also started working on a letter-writing project that we wish to integrate with the clinic. In this project, clients will be able to identify their ward councilor in the local government and send them personally tailored letters that advocate for a safer and more affordable housing.


As part of my long-term goals, I wish to learn about the inner workings of a non-profit organization and specifically I wish to engage in community organizing around housing issues, which include advocating and lobbying for our local community. Extensively working with tenants, helping in cases from start to finish, and participating in community empowerment, would help me reach a new perspective and identify my career path within the public sector.

– Shimon Mazor ‘16

Helping from Halfway Across the World: My First Week at FIMRC Global Headquarters

Around the world, millions of children and mothers lack proper access to healthcare. Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve health “one child at a time” through a multifaceted approach; outpatient clinics, health education, and partnerships with IGOs and NGOs combine to address the comprehensive health needs of each population. Currently, FIMRC serves 9 specific communities in 7 under-served countries: Costa Rica, Uganda, India, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Peru.

A map of the 9 FIMRC project sites in the FIMRC office

This summer I am interning at the FIMRC Global Headquarters in Philadelphia, PA, working on administrative tasks involved in the coordination of FIMRC projects abroad. This is quite a different perspective from when I volunteered in Peru on a FIMRC trip last February. Organizing volunteer programs takes a lot of work! My current project is compiling statistics from each of the seven project sites. These statistics (which include measures like number of patients treated in FIMRC clinics per month and top causes of clinic visits and number of volunteers) will help us gauge the success of FIMRC’s global health initiatives.

Each health program is uniquely tailored to fit the needs of the community. In Peru, Dengue virus, malaria and other water-borne diseases are common, but they are also preventable. Volunteers give health education talks to children about sanitation and hygiene in order to promote knowledge and prevent disease. In Alajuelita, Costa Rica, the community’s needs are much different. Due to lack of clinical services, FIMRC built a rural health clinic in Alajuelita, and volunteers participate by staffing the clinic (taking measurements, assisting doctors and distributing medication). While their parents work, children age 2-5 in Kodaikanal, India, spend the day in crèches, which are like a combination school/daycare/health center. The children’s families survive on less than $1.50 a day, and as a result many children suffer from malnutrition and consequent illness. FIMRC helps by monitoring child health in the crèches, holding health education sessions for teacher and mothers, and has successfully implemented a dental hygiene campaign and supplemented the children’s diets with protein, like chickpeas and eggs. I was excited to learn that since FIMRC’s intervention, crèche attendance has increased… and the lack of attendance had been largely due to illness! Watch this awesome video (video credit: FIMRC) to experience the unique health needs of Limón, Nicaragua, and how FIMRC projects are helping.

On our volunteer trip to Peru, Brandeis volunteers and I gave a hand-washing lesson to school age children at Albuergue La Esperanza Children’s Home. What great kids! Photo credit: Brandeis student Jessica Jaya

I learned about this internship opportunity through a friend and fellow Brandeis FIMRC chapter e-board member, who enthusiastically told me about her internship experiences at FIMRC Headquarters two summers ago. After applying and visiting HQ over winter break, I was offered an Ambassador position and gladly accepted!

Orientation was on Thursday, May 16. I was pretty anxious, but everyone—the CEO, my supervisor, the 3 other interns—are all super friendly, and my nerves were eased right away. There is even another intern from Brandeis! I’m excited to continue to get to know each of FIMRC’s project sites and understand the process of implementing a global health project, from initial research to the final product, execution of a successful and flourishing health program. In the future my ultimate goal is to work in international healthcare. Even though it has only been a week, my internship at FIMRC has provided me with invaluable insight on global health. I cannot wait to see what the weeks ahead bring.

-Erica Granor, ’15

First Week at CBHI


WOW Blog 1C       WOW Blog 1B

Massachusetts State House                           1 Ashburton Place

My internship is with the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI) in Boston, MA. CBHI is a division of the department of Health and Human Services which is a branch of the Massachusetts State Government. This organization was founded in 2008 in response to the case of Rosie D v Patrick which stated that families with children on MassHealth deserve more standardized and transparent behavioral health screenings. The mission of this organization is to prevent inadequate behavioral health screenings, promote community based care, and help children be successful in all domains of their lives. My organization specifically works to develop and improve the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) tool. CANS is used by clinicians and psychiatrists as part of a comprehensive analysis when they meet with children struggling with behavioral health issues. CANS is a standardization tool that allows health care providers can properly screen and assess both the needs and the strengths of individual children, so that the proper treatment plan can be made. My organization helps to train health care providers to implement the CANS into their practice, improves the CANS technology so that it best meets the needs of both the clinician and the patient, and works to provide many resources that families on Mass Health can turn to for behavioral health services. In a nutshell, CBHI provides the training and support to health care providers so that they can provide the most responsive and accommodating care.

This is a link to the CBHI webpage

I will have various responsibilities within CBHI. I will attend meetings within the department as well as with health care supervisors to gain input on how to improve CANS and offer suggestions for training and screening development. One major task I will complete is the creation of an extensive list of all statewide training directors who provide Mass Health. This list will improve communication between our organization and those using our services so that training methods and materials will be more accessible and clear to those using CANS.


WOW Blog 1A


I found this internship with the help of Cynthia Tschampl who I met with in December. She directed me to a few internship postings that she was aware of, one of which was CBHI. In February I met with Deborah McDonagh from the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative. At the interview Deborah and I discussed my experience, duties of the internship, and each of our goals. Later in February, Deborah contacted me and told me that she would offer me the position.

In my first week I completed the CANS online training and took the certification test. I am now certified to provide CANS assessments. While I will not use this training because I am not a certified clinician, this training has helped me better understand what CBHI does and how CANS works. I also spent this past week attending meetings, one of which was with behavioral health providers in the Boston area. This meeting was both interesting and informative in helping me to better comprehend provider concerns, technological developments coming in the near future, and understand how collaborative work between many interests can work towards a common goal.

This is a link to a list of Newsletter archives that I read through this past week to better understand the CANS training program:

My impression is that everybody working to provide these improved behavioral health screenings is very dedicated. Everyone wants what is best for the children and their families. I believe that the projects I am assigned to are necessary and will be extremely useful in the future. This internship will teach me about policy making, the behavioral health system, and how to become an effective advocate. My hope is that the relationships I am developing now will continue years down the road when I go on to a future career with child advocacy and social work. Additionally, this internship will help me gain leadership skills, maintain professionalism, and develop meaningful connections. 

Elizabeth Chalfin, ’15


Image Citations:






Reflections on a summer with the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project

I had an amazing experience this summer interning with the Kenya Scholar Athlete Project. This summer was completely different from anything I have done before and I am extremely happy that I took a chance to try something new.

One of my primary goals for the summer was to improve my communication and language skills through my work as a teacher. I had no direct teaching experience before working with KenSAP so I had to learn on the job. Teaching students whose first language is not English made it particularly important to be clear during instruction. Many of the lessons I taught focused on grammar and writing which required me to improve my own understanding of the language. As a first language speaker it is easy to see a grammatical mistake and simply see that it is wrong and correct it. This is much more difficult to do when you have not had consistent access to English books. It was very important to explain the rules to the nuances of the language which was something that I have never really focused on. This experience undoubtedly improved my ability to communicate with others.

Living in a new place has augmented my interest in learning about cultures that are foreign to me. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this internship was getting to know my students extremely well over the summer. Outside of class we discussed cultural values and beliefs as we were particularly interested in each other’s lives. Having spent most of my life around people with fairly similar backgrounds it was great to hear about a culture that is entirely different from my own in some ways and extremely similar in others. Spending a summer abroad has increased my interest in travelling and potentially living somewhere new.

Teaching was much more enjoyable than I expected. Observing improvements from one assignment to the next was particularly gratifying. The students were very intelligent which made it easier for them to use the classes effectively. Seeing the improvement from the student’s essays at the beginning of the program to those at the end showed remarkable progress. From the first week to the last week the student’s improved their SAT scores by about 300 points on average. This data primarily shows how intelligent the student’s are, but it was also great personal feedback for me as a teacher.


This internship gave me a much more realistic outlook on the challenges that face an organization that seeks to improve social justice. I think I entered the summer with some reasonable expectations for the disparity between developed and emerging countries. This internship truly showed me how significant the difference is. The number of capable students who the program had to turn down showed me how many people never receive an opportunity. While I believe that KenSAP is an amazing program that provides an unbelievable chance for many deserving students, it was difficult to grasp how many people do not. This internship reinforced my conviction about supporting social justice because I developed an understanding of the number of capable people who just need a chance.

I think that entering this internship with an open mind and being patient allowed me to be successful in reaching my learning goals and enjoying the process. It was important to expect cultural differences to arise so they were not shocking when they actually occurred. I feel like I learned so much this summer and had an amazing time doing it.

-Alex Kramer ’13

Answering Questions with More Questions: Concluding my AJWS Internship

After spending some time reflecting on my experiences at American Jewish World Service (AJWS), it is clear that I not only got what I was looking for in my internship, but even more than I anticipated.  Although it was not entirely unexpected, I am humbled by the realization that I took more than I gave and am looking forward to building off my summer experience during my final year at Brandeis.

I knew from my first day that I would need to learn how to work in an office environment. At the beginning, this was the most challenging component of my experience.  I found the idea of sitting behind a computer at a desk from 9 am – 5 pm to be very intimidating, and was unsure if I could perform at my best under these circumstances.  However, after a few weeks, I developed skills and strategies to help me work effectively in a new environment. I also learned how to better be a team player, growing to feel a part of the communications department and understand the intricacies of a large organization. It was important for me to learn that I am able to adapt and be flexible.

In addition to adjusting to an office environment, I left AJWS with many new professional skills and important experiences. My job consisted mostly of working with social media and the press.  I was responsible for managing and updating AJWS’s twitter and facebook as well as research new social media platforms. I monitored the press for related coverage and developed lists of journalists and publications for AJWS to pitch its stories and campaigns. I also made two videos profiling AJWS grantees.  I now know how to edit videos, adapt my writing tone to fit an organization’s specific style guide, work with the media, and use social media strategically. I’ve also had exposure to branding initiatives, strategic plans and organizational changes. I will benefit immensely from all of these skills and experiences when I enter the workforce next year.

Although these concrete skills are important, I would not say that they were the most important take aways from my summer experience. I am most pleased that I learned how I can contribute to the global struggle to realize human rights, even from an office in midtown, New York City.

One of my main goals for my internship was to connect my academic interests and passion for human rights with professional skills. I’ve often struggled to determine how I can best use my skills, background, and place of privilege to make a difference on causes I believe in. Through my internship, I learned how even the smallest details and actions, from a twitter update to crafting the perfect language for a press release has a role to play in crating a more just world. Although I am not doing grass roots human rights work currently, by being a partner in the global struggle for justice and using my skills to amplify the voices of those on the front lines, I am make a positive contribution.  Although compared to the magnitude of the issues AJWS works to address through all of its work, my contributions are minimal, I take comfort in a saying from the Talmud, which is sort of a mantra at AJWS: “It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task. Yet, you are not free to desist from it.”

Like any good experience, my internship at AJWS left me with more questions than answers:

– Is communications the right field for me to work in to pursue my passion for global human rights?

– What are the ethical lines of telling other peoples’ stories through media?

– How can well-intended people from the West help the Global South while respecting culture, dignity and sustainability?

– How can I most effectively “sell” causes I care about?

– How can we integrate a human-rights approach to international development not only into actions, but how these actions are shared with others?

– What is the most effective way for me to make a difference? Grass-roots community organizing? Or working to sustain the powerful efforts of others through writing and communications?

Although I do not have the answers to these questions now, I am confident that I will continue to think about them and contextualize them during my last year at Brandeis and as I enter the “world of work” permanently. I am thankful that my WOW fellowship gave the support and financial means to have this experience and am looking forward to seeing how it connects to my future endeavors.  I’m excited to continue working with AJWS, whether through organizing a Global Hunger Shabbat at Brandeis, or participating in one of its service programs in the future.


Picking a Major, Following a Career

When I was in high school, I remembered debating for a really, really long time what I wanted to study in university. I knew what academic subjects I was particularly good at, what I was really, really bad at, and what subjects I found to be especially intriguing. I was good at history, a bit of a struggler in the sciences, and deeply passionate about what I now understand to be sociology. Beyond this, I had it stuck in my mind that what I majored in undergrad must directly relate to what career I ultimately would take on post-grad. Balancing a profound excitement for social justice and the glimmering hopes of my self-proclaimed tiger mom, my attempts at channeling all of these thoughts and opinions into some kind of major caused me to be more confused than before. I wanted to take these pieces and lend into some sort of study – a life path that would ultimately bring me somewhere that made me happy on all of these fronts.

 Chief Medical Officer for PIH, Dr. Joia Mukherjee, working one on one with a patient in rural Haiti. 

But I was ultimately able to come up with a formal version of a major. Whatsmore, I came up with a potential career plan that fit all of my key points. I hope to one day work as an OBGYN (obstetrician/gynecologist) for an NGO that does long term health infrastructure development in Southeast Asia. I knew the what, I knew the how, and in knowing that this was a direction that made me happy, I knew a bit of why. But my ‘why’ was solidified in working with Partners in Health, a health infrastructure NGO, this summer.

Partners in Health operates with the following as a long-form mission statement; “At its root, our mission is both medical and moral. It is based on solidarity, rather than charity alone. When a person in Peru, or Siberia, or rural Haiti falls ill, PIH uses all of the means at our disposal to make them well—from pressuring drug manufacturers, to lobbying policy makers, to providing medical care and social services.  Whatever it takes. Just as we would do if a member of our own family—or we ourselves—were ill.”

It was not until being faced by banners around the office that proudly served as daily reminders of this statement that I internalized the importance of long term health infrastructure. In the past, as I was formulating my future plans, I thought of working with organizations like Doctors without Borders; emergency medical relief programs. While Doctors without Borders certainly is an essential NGO, my heart finds more of a kinship with Partners in Health and their mission to structural development of healthcare infrastructure. With an organization like Doctors without Borders, crisis; be it war, a natural disaster, a civil conflict, or other emergency event, is required for a form of intervention. Once the crisis is nearly over Doctors without Borders tends to leave the area. I once read in a Doctors without Borders memory book “Hope in Hell” that some global posts are abandoned if the estimated time slated to complete the intervention surpasses a few years. It’s not a bad model. But to me, it feels that that short-term approach overlooks a crucial point – the crisis, whatever that might be, is often the boiling point for structural inequity within that nation. A natural disaster is so devastating because access to clean water was already so limited before it. War or civil conflict has such horrible, horrible consequences because of pre-existing structures of violence and unrest. Crisis is not the problem; it’s a consequence of a problem. In approaching healthcare with a full understanding and undertaking of structural violence, Partners in Health is different.

Patients under the care of Doctors without Borders, a crisis-prevention healthcare NGO.

Thinking about what I did this summer, and how that translates into what I want to do in the future, both in and beyond my career, I want to go back to what I ended up studying during my four years at Brandeis. I am currently a double major in Biology and International and Global Studies, making my way through the pre-health track. I’m also minoring in Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies, supplementing both my global and clinical perspective with these essential lenses. I think about the full education I received by being an undergraduate at Brandeis and how that has effected and shaped my perspective on health, healthcare access, and the global community. And I think back on the summer that I spent at Partners in Health, in many ways the intersection of all of my academic passions at Brandeis. From the three or so months I spent at the organization, I learned a lot about the why of my intended career choice; both why I wanted to pursue the career path I did and why it made sense in the larger context of the world. As I finish my undergraduate career up this May, and begin another academic journey into medical school, I hope that I might take with me lessons of true, sustainable development work and an even deeper dedication to healthcare for the poor.


A PIH project; the layout for the new Zanmi Lasante Hospital to be build in rural Haiti. 

“What I tell my students all the time is: you speak English, you have a passport, you have a responsibility to use those tools. Go see these places and talk about them. Write about them. Be an advocate. It’s a huge job, but the coolest thing ever is to change the world.”

– Joia Mukherjee, Chief Medical Officer of Partners in Health

See Paul Farmer, Ophelia Dahl, Joia Mukherjee and many, many other amazing people speak this weekend at the Millennium Campus Conference!

An article by Joia Mukherjee, “Structural Violence, Poverty, and the AIDS Pandemic”

Learn more about Partners in Health in this “Global Journal” article.

– Sarah Van Buren ’13