It has now been a month since I started working for Avodah and I am already thinking ahead about the ways in which I could help their cause even when I am done with the internship. I have already contacted friends and colleagues to let them know them about the Jewish Service Corps, which is a project unique in its scope and mission, as I have learned by working closely with Avodah’s alumni programming team.
The first aspect of the Service Corps that distinguishes it from most social justice and youth activism opportunities is the fact that it allows members the freedom to design their own path. Whether they are interested in offering legal assistance to immigrants or volunteering in the healthcare system, Avodah provides them with a wide range of placements, i.e. partner organizations for which they will work for the duration of the year. Poverty alleviation is the nucleus of the organization, but the Jewish Service Corps recognizes that the roots and effects of this phenomenon run too wide and deep to be tackled unilaterally. The many ways in which Avodah’s undertaking can be addressed is reflected in the plethora of directions in which Corps Members can branch out. This serves another key goal of the program, namely encouraging leadership among young people who want to be active members their communities. The Jewish Service Corps lets its participants choose their own journeys, while making sure they are not alone.
I think this is where the essence of the work, mission, and organizational culture in a nonprofit like Avodah truly lies. The Corps members become part of a cohort of like-minded young people, activists, volunteers, employees, and most importantly alumni of almost twenty years of programming. This is how the organization manages to impact more than just the current group of activists it trains. “Igniting social change”, the second part of Avodah’s motto, refers to this ‘family’ that bridges generational, geographic, social, and economic gaps. It refers to connecting a surgeon who enrolled as a healthcare enthusiast in the Service Corps fifteen years ago to a recent college graduate interested in refugees’ rights. Through this network, Community engagement, which is Avodah’s latest area of projects, ultimately amounts to community building.
Throughout my internship I have learned so many valuable lessons. The most important one is that you have to be flexible, creative, and reflective because everything is a learning process. Working at a relatively new start-up has also reinforced this. The programs OSW runs are extremely new and depend heavily on the audience. For example, the program we run in downtown Oakland is extremely different from the program that we run in Alameda because there are two different, distinct demographic groups that attend each one. The people who attend these events are receptive to different movement coaches, music, and food, so we have to be extremely aware of what different people need and be flexible enough to change our program to fit their needs while still providing the same support.
At the end of one of our programs last week, my bosses came up to me and said, “We’re never letting you go. You have to stay and become head of HR and our operations director. You can’t go back to Boston.” Honestly, that meant so much to me because it showed me that I am actually making a difference. As an intern, I sometimes feel as though I am learning a lot from the organization and the experience, but that I am not giving back as much as they are giving me. This showed me that I was wrong. Now that I am taking this time to reflect, I think I helped the organization branch out and make connections with different providers in the area, find potential new interns for the fall (to replace me), and create a fluid transition when they shifted their main program to a module system earlier this month.
As I have written in previous posts, my internship is not a typical internship. My bosses push all of the interns to step outside of our comfort zones with projects, be vulnerable with them and each other, and be confident in everything that we do (whether or not we feel that way inside). I wish I had known this about the organization beforehand because I believe it would have taken me a lot less time to open up to them and become comfortable doing these things. I think I would have been a better intern from the very beginning instead of half way through.
My advice to any future interns at Open Source Wellness or people seeking an internship in healthcare or nonprofit work is to be open to new experiences and different types of people. A career in social justice or health care both involve working with people who have backgrounds that are completely different from yours and from each other. Be open to them and what you will learn from one another. Also, make connections and be authentic. Oftentimes, when people are struggling with difficult health issues, they are embarrassed or distressed about their situation. It is extremely important to connect with them on a personal level and share your own story and struggles so they know they are not alone and have nothing to be ashamed of. Finally, be passionate. A career in public health or community health is not easy because change happens slowly. Only people who are truly passionate about healthcare and community health will have the patience to make lasting change.
Here are the only two photos I have at work:
(The interns practicing taking each other’s blood pressure)
(Me taking a patient’s blood pressure during our program)
I have learned many things about social justice since my time here, but the one thing that has stuck with me has been to keep yourself and others aware of our impact domestically and globally. Change starts with knowledge and knowledge is power. If we as a community are staying up to date and aware of the problems we face, it becomes easier for us to stand up together and fight for the right causes to make positive, long lasting change. The advice I would give to someone in a comparable situation to me would be make the best of the time you have. Opportunities like these come and go so quickly that you don’t have much time to reflect on what you’ve learned or how valuable those lessons are.
Before coming to AJWS I wish I had known that individual actions are more substantial than you think. As cliché as it may sound, each person can leave a mark on something. I feel like I have already done that here at AJWS. People risk everything just to ensure others are prioritized and taken care of. For example, in an article publish recently by an LGBT newspaper, our very own Robert Bank was featured and speaks about the impact one man has had on his South African community, despite the brutality he faces regularly.
Before my internship here at AJWS, I was hesitant about taking on the responsibility of another internship. In my previous experience, working as an intern was less than exciting and often it felt rather tedious and boring. While working and learning for free isn’t always going to be a joyous occasion, it is intended to be meaningful. Since my time here at AJWS is nearly over, I can confidently say that I would never pass up another internship opportunity, much less one centered around Jewish values. I feel this way simply because you never know what will come out of the time you spend with the organization, the connections you’ll make along the way and the skills you’ll acquire consciously or subconsciously. From the beginning, I have felt very fortunate not only to be considered for the position but to have been accepted and allowed the opportunity to do this. Every day when I am surrounded by people who strongly believe in the work they’re doing, it is motivation for me to continue to prioritize my academics and my future career. I am very much considering the possibility of working in a field that emphasizes and works to promote human rights globally. There are many job titles and positions in the corporate sector as well that hold the promotion of civil social responsibility to a great degree.
I will miss the time I have spent with my fellow intern peer Madeline, who has sat with me every day this summer and helps to keep me focused and on top of task. I will miss Aliza who started me here at AJWS and has taught me so much about the dedication and patience it takes to be successful. Without her guidance and insight, the projects I have had here at AJWS would not be carried out with such detail and poise which she has helped teach me. I will miss Neely who has believed in my abilities from the first time we met and knew I had the tools and resources to take matters into my own hands when necessary. She has been a constant source of light, a confidence and reassurance booster as well as my own personal concierge giving me tips and tricks about how to navigate NYC. I will miss Kaylan who made me laugh with something witty she said every time I saw her. I will miss Robert who is leading this organization beautifully and cares immensely about our mission. However, I will not miss the freezing cold A/C blasting from 9:00am to 5:00pm making the office feel like Antarctica. As my summer comes to a close, I look forward to being home with my family before heading back to school and beginning my journey as a young advocate and leader for human rights on campus.
Jacksonville, North Carolina is home to more country music stations than all other radio stations combined, has the best fast food chain in the world, Waffle House, and is also known for its most beloved non-profit, Possumwood Acres. The two months that I spent there were filled with a million new experiences–I tasted grits for the first time, learned how to determine if a bird is dehydrated/emaciated, and saw a wild horse colony on an island. Now that my experience is quickly coming to a close I can say that I was really lucky to be exposed to the inner workings of a non-profit, the techniques necessary to take care of injured wildlife, and the “southern mentality.” It’s amazing what one person can do when they set their mind to it. Or when they get an unpaid internship and want to get as much out of the experience as they can. Either way you can’t go wrong.
Having completed a whopping 245 hours at Possumwood Acres, I am really proud to say that I learned beyond what I initially anticipated. I met all of the requirements for the “General Checklist” and went on to begin to complete the “Advanced Intern Checklist,” a fact of which I am very proud of. I am extremely satisfied with the experience I got interning at Possumwood Acres, and I can most certainly say that it helped me determine what I want to do with my future. Although I very much enjoyed my involvement in animal care (despite the stress associated with the job), I can honestly say that though I will not be continuing this specific avenue for a career, I am definitely invested in continuing my path in the environmental field. This internship has solidified my interest in protecting the environment in the many forms that that may come in. From this experience I learned that I am even more passionate about animals than I originally anticipated and that I am capable of learning a great deal in a short period of time.
For anyone interested in getting an internship, I would apply as early as possible. I managed to get this internship in early November. The earlier you start looking for internships, the more likely it is that you’ll actually get one. Employers will also be more likely to hire you for the job because the application pool is much smaller in early November and December. I would also try to narrow down your search to a specific type of internship, so you aren’t wasting your time applying for a position that you aren’t interested in. I knew that I absolutely wanted to work with animals so I bypassed anything that seemed like a glorified office worker position.
I think I am most proud of myself for doing something that was outside of my comfort zone because although I knew that the work would be tough, grueling, and hard at times, I also knew it would be extremely satisfying.
I have now been working for Avodah for three weeks, but I feel like I have been part of this environment for much longer. The main reason is that the entire staff and interns make it their mission to promote the same values and foster the same atmosphere in the workplace as in their social justice projects. Since both the Service Corps and the Fellowship–the two main programs run by the nonprofit–rely on networking and community building, it seems only natural that the organization will uphold the same level of cooperation internally. However, I did not expect it to be so embedded in their daily administrative and management tasks.
I have participated in two staff meetings so far, and they both have been relevant examples of this organizational culture. The staff members leading both of them started by introducing a topic only tangentially related to the ensuing discussion. For instance, the first time I was in a meeting, Avodah’s president Cheryl Cook started a talk about homes and homelands, roots and belonging, to then transition into a wider debate about Avodah’s mission and values as a community builder. We went around the table (which included colleagues connecting to our office in New York from Chicago, D.C., and New Orleans) and we each talked about our home – if we had one, where it is, what is is, and with whom – after having read the following piece.
Besides the work I have been doing for Avodah on the administrative side, which included learning how to use Salesforce, transferring survey results from one platform to another, and compiling reports about donor involvement and alumni, I believe that this is the most important skill I hope to gain from my experience. I would summarize it as an intersection of being dedicated and genuine. It is often the case that the internal administration of nonprofits is very much separated from their actual social justice mission, which I think affects both how employees relate to their work and how the organization is run. With business and profit-driven models populating more and more of the activist environment, I think it is important for organizations like Avodah to maintain such a standard of involvement and commitment to their mission and culture. Even if I am helping with the organization of our upcoming events or doing prospect research for potential donors, I am aware that the poverty alleviation mission of Avodah on the field is “at home” in our office.
In her wonderfully complex book (and ambitious journey) My Jewish Year, journalist Abigail Pogrebin joins a comprehensive review of the most important Jewish holidays with her personal experiences and anecdotes. She takes a year to find meaning in the celebrations and customs of Judaism as she immerses herself in very different contexts and communities to explore her own Jewish identity.
In one of the chapters, called Activist Shabbbat: Friday Night with the Kids, she enjoys the traditional dinner in the company of a highly untraditional group: a dozen recent college graduates who have taken a year away from their careers, routines, families, and homes in order to fight poverty. The “kids” are none other than the Jewish Service Corps of Avodah, working in four cities around the country in organizations specialized in a wide range of issues, from homelessness to domestic violence, legal representation, counseling, and education. Avodah is providing them with a living and learning space in which the Jewish texts they explore and the constant observance of holidays serve as inspiration for their social justice activities.
It becomes more than a living space when you consider the symbolism of this new community they are part of. These are young people (aged twenty-one to twenty-six) who uproot their regular lives in order to work on the flourishing of other people’s lives. They grow new roots in an environment in which altruism and selflessness replace the infertile soil of possessive individualism that characterizes many of our contemporary societies. It is impressive and inspiring that they choose to do so. A day in the life of a Corps Member looks nothing like a day in most of our predominantly self-centered and self-absorbed existence. The average person will perceive themselves as charitable if they take a few minutes to donate on an organization’s website. These young people are not only “donating” a year of their lives, but they are boarding on a journey in which a few fundamental changes occur.
Through the commitment to give back to the less fortunate, they not only come to see that their contribution matters, but they realize how much it is needed. I think that a renewed awareness of how far-reaching and all-encompassing the pursuit of social justice needs to be is the most valuable perspective one can gain from such a program. It is hopefully a realization that can only make one dedicate their entire life to such a mission. Abigail Pogrebin quotes the mission of Avodah as stated by Cheryl Cook, the president of the organization – “Three Words in Deuteronomy, Tzedek, tzedek tirdof: Justice, Justice, Shall Your Pursue”. The Corps members choose to live by these words and I think the ultimate step of their mission would be making as many of us as possible ask ourselves why we choose not to.
Open Source Wellness officially began running their first event in October 2016 and their second event this past April. Considering it is an extremely young organization, the founders have many goals and milestones they want to achieve. Their main social justice goal is to reach more people in low-income communities.
The organization was founded by two psychologists, Liz and Ben, who came up with the idea behind Open Source Wellness while they worked in different health clinics in Boston. They continuously saw patients who were referred to them by doctors who told the patients that they needed to change their eating habits, exercise more, or reduce their stress to combat the chronic health conditions they were facing. Wealthier patients could hire a nutritionist, personal trainer, or join a meditation group. However, people who lived in low-income communities went back to their same lifestyle because they did not know how and did not have the means to change the way they ate or acted. Through these experiences, Ben and Liz decided to open a “behavioral pharmacy” to help people make major lifestyle changes at little or no cost. Their doctor could write a prescription to go to Open Source Wellness to get support in making lifestyle changes. Even though this is their mission, Ben and Liz have been struggling to reach this demographic.
Below are pictures of Liz and Ben:
To combat this issue, the other interns and myself have been reaching out to providers, including clinics, doctors’ offices, and community centers in low-income areas in an attempt to form a referral partnership with them. We have been giving them free spaces that are reserved for their patients in our month-long program upon their referral. By reserving certain spots for their patients, we are creating a scarcity of spaces that they can fill which will incentivize them to fill the spots. Hopefully, once they see how helpful the program is for their patients, they will start sending more people. Some of the clinics we have been speaking with seem extremely interested in our mission, so we started talking with them about running an event in their clinic. These would be solely for their patients or members and would happen in the clinics or centers. West Oakland Health Center and Project Open Hand are two of the groups that we have been meeting with.
If the clinics followed through with their pledge to get their patients to sign up for our July cohort, which starts on July 11th, that is what progress would look like. It would also include one or more of the new clinics or centers allocating money to OSW to begin an event in their building, exclusively for their patients.
Provider outreach has been my main long-term task as an intern at OSW. I have spent countless hours emailing, calling, and meeting with doctors and administrators to tell them about the program that OSW offers, and to speak with them about creating a referral partnership.
During the spring semester at Brandeis, I took the course Narcopolitics with Professor Brian Fried. Through this course, I learned about the correlation between drug use and incarceration rates. A recurring issue that we discussed throughout the course was the elevated rates at which children of formerly incarcerated persons are likely to be incarcerated when compared to children whose parents have not experienced incarceration. This comparison shocked me at the time. Currently, I am witnessing the reality of this fact and it is extremely unsettling.
Many of the individuals I work with at Alameda Point Collaborative, a low-income housing community, were previously incarcerated or homeless. The people who attend events through Open Source Wellness are mainly in their fifties and sixties, and many of them have older children who have also been incarcerated. One of the women who regularly attends our events explained her experience with incarceration. She described her long struggle to move past this difficult time in her life because of the legal, social, and emotional restrictions she experienced. Now, her son faces a long prison sentence. She spoke about her inner struggle about the best way to support him, and if she chooses to support him at all. She does not know if she can deal with the responsibility of trying to get him released early or if she is willing to support him when he is released because she feels she put a lot of effort into trying to break the cycle of incarceration. She said she understands that it is more likely for her children to be sent to prison, because she did, but she hoped her children would break the statistic.
Above are pictures of the community garden and kitchen where the residents of APC grow and cook the food that they serve at our events.
Many of these individuals have been incarcerated for drug offenses. There are strong genetic links and environmental factors that influence drug use. The children of parents who have drug or alcohol addictions often begin their lives with a hereditary vulnerability in addition to the impact of their parent’s drug addiction. Additionally, the loss of parental role models for long periods of time during a parent’s absence due to imprisonment negatively impacts breaking the cycle of incarceration. I recently read an article about recent research that proposes that 40%-70% of people in the prison system have Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) which the researchers contest has a strong genetic link, further adding to the cycle of incarceration.
In Professor Fried’s course I learned about the unfairness of U.S. drug laws and the impact they have on the cycle of incarceration. With this knowledge, I am more informed about the challenges facing individuals who were incarcerated, especially the difficulties encountered in breaking the cycle of incarceration. My role at the Open Source Wellness program, is to help run the weekly event by facilitating a group discussion in a weekly women’s circle. I feel as though my increased understanding of incarceration in the U.S. is helping me support these women in a way that is meaningful and helpful to them.
I am spending this summer in Chicago at a startup called Umby, which is a peer-to-peer microinsurance platform. Microinsurance is just like regular insurance, except that it targets at individuals living in poverty internationally, mostly making less than $4 USD a day. To address their needs, the premiums and coverage for this type of insurance are relatively low, but it provides an important safety net for families trying to escape the poverty cycle. Umby works by selling umbrellas to consumers, with the money then going to insure one family (of the consumer’s choice) for a full year.
The main social injustice that Umby is redressing is global poverty. In developing countries around the world, individuals are especially vulnerable to the financial hardships which affect all of us at one point or another: health problems, property damage, and the like. However, for someone who is making barely enough money to get by, these hardships can be absolutely devastating. Studies have shown that individuals facing these hardships will do things like selling off their assets, dipping into (quite small) savings accounts, and reducing their food consumption. The problem is that these short-term solutions actually reinforce poverty in the long run: without money-making assets like livestock, it can be difficult to pay for the next hardship; without building up savings, it can be impossible to do economically advantageous but expensive activities such as sending children to school; reducing food consumption to the point of malnourishment or undernourishment can result in long-term health problems that will cost more money later. This is where insurance comes in. If a family has the ability to use insurance to pay for these hardships, they no longer have to deplete their assets or savings, ultimately helping to break the poverty cycle in the best cases.
Further, according to the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, climate change is affecting the poorest countries in the world the most. Many forms of microinsurance help protect against the power of global climate change, including catastrophe insurance and many forms of livestock or crop insurance. This is another social justice issue: the wealthiest people in the wealthiest countries have the ability to ignore the effects of climate change, but those living in poor regions around the world do not have the infrastructure or the funds to recover from natural disasters.
I am specifically in charge of marketing for Umby. Umby will be officially launching at the end of the summer, so I am developing blog posts and social media strategies to ensure that people will hear of it and will be interested in donating or buying an umbrella themselves. Without the effective marketing efforts, we may not be able to provide microinsurance at all.
We are working inside of 1871, which is an incubator in downtown Chicago for startups, most of which are related to tech. This is a really cool environment to work in, as there are a ton of other young people working on a variety of new ideas, many of which are related to social justice. Most of 1871 is taken up by a huge, open workspace, where dozens of people sit on their laptops or talking to one another. It is a very artistic environment, with one side of the room taken up by this huge sculpture of downtown Chicago. There are also murals on the walls of the building done by local artists. It is definitely way cooler than your average office.
By the end of the summer, the major event that will be happening is the official launching of the company. I hope by then I will have raised awareness on social media and provided some helpful blog posts that spark interest in the mission and work of Umby, and are entertaining and fun to read.
For the past month, after a rigorous 40-hour training session, I have been interning at WINGS, a not-for-profit domestic violence housing agency that provides critical relief to those who are victims of domestic violence. While WINGS primarily offers housing services, anyone can call the emergency hotline that WINGS offers 24/7 in conjunction with the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline. Over the phone WINGS volunteers, interns, and staff provide callers with emotional support, help develop a safety plan, give advice, offer appropriate referrals to other programs, and, if possible, complete a shelter intake. A shelter intake occurs if the three following criteria are met: one of the shelters has space, there was a recent inciting event that led to the victim fleeing the abuser, and the guest does not pose a major safety concern.
WINGS runs two emergency shelters: the Safe House in the Northwest suburbs of Cook County; and another in downtown Chicago known as WINGS Metro. These emergency shelters offer temporary housing for victims and their children. WINGS also offers transitional housing that survivors can qualify for where they are able to live in a shared home for up to two years, additional access to counseling services, and case management. Permanent housing is the final stage of housing support that WINGS offers, and provides survivors suffering from disabilities including PTSD with permanent housing. In conjunction with all the housing programs, WINGS offers community based services and extended services such as: back to school items, doctor visits, legal services, and a plethora of additional services.
As an intern at WINGS, my primary job is organizing and running a 3-day/week summer camp for children residing in the Safe House. A conscious approach is required when interacting with the children and parents. Every day the children begin the day discussing their feelings in conjunction with the Feelings Chart,
and we take time to learn and apply various coping mechanisms and stress relief practices. At the end of each day interaction notes are written for each child in which their overall attitude and emotional state are cataloged for record-keeping.
The primary purpose of the summer camp is to provide children with a fun, welcoming, and loving environment (a concept that is foreign to many of them), while also providing parents with a respite that allows them to work on reaching their goals (finding a job, going to referred programs, applying for transitional housing, etc.) Providing these children with a safe environment is critical as it removes them from the cycle of violence which shows many domestic violence abusers have been abused themselves. In collaboration with the summer camp, children’s advocates work with the children to develop a safety plan, offer counseling, therapy, and other services. By the end of summer, I hope to have been able to impact these children in a positive manner by providing them with a safe, fun escape. As aforementioned, this internship requires a trauma-specific approach, and I hope to further develop my experience working with children using this specific approach.
Statistics, facts, and additional information about domestic violence can be found at the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website.
No matter what time of day, concerned citizens holding small, injured mammals make their way to our doorstep at Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary. The admissions are non-stop this time of the year, and the circumstances surrounding the entry oftentimes tragic: a bunny that was run over by a car; baby birds that fell from their nest; a juvenile pigeon that suffered a dog attack. Or even more concerning yet, a pet owner who became “bored” with their animal and doesn’t know what to do with their pet. Though I am frequently face-to-face with animals that are in dire need of care, I’ve come to a wonderful conclusion about human nature. Humans have an amazing capacity to take action when it comes to the welfare of others, especially animals. No matter how serious the case, or unlikely the recovery, we get animals that thereafter have a fighting chance. Now that’s something to be proud of. It also proves how necessary our services are to the public, and how our founder, Toni O’Neil, really did fill a need in the community when she founded the non-profit.
Having interned for a whopping four weeks at Possumwood Acres, I’ve gained a great many new skills: how to feed baby bunnies, why we “piddle” them once they’ve eaten, how to weigh Barred owls, how to tube feed pigeons and mourning doves, and the many reasons why we administer certain medications, as well as how to administer them. I’ve also become acquainted with a good number of interns and volunteers, and I’m always amazed at their know-how and desire to provide the best care.
Although it can be rather stressful in the animal care room as we struggle to make deadlines and provide good quality care, making sure to feed, clean, or administer medications to animals, there’s nothing better than the feeling of accomplishment. I’ve come a long way in four weeks—no longer am I constantly asking questions about how to do something or where things are located. I’ve never felt that kind of satisfaction from taking exams or attending classes.
If I’ve already come this far, I absolutely cannot wait to see where the pieces will fall at the end of this internship. The confidence and authority that wafts off the more experienced interns is inspiring; only a few weeks ago they were in the process of learning the ins-and-outs of the job. Now they know exactly what to do when someone admits an injured, juvenile mockingbird, or what medication to give an adult bunny that appears to have suffered brain damage. Now that’s something that I can aspire to.
Wow, it’s been over three weeks and I am still having difficulty processing this incredible summer. Throughout the 10 weeks of interning at Roots, I have met the most inspiring people, learned tremendously, and contributed to an organization I believe is making real strides towards peace in the land. I have increased my knowledge, humility, faith, hope, and passion.
One of my many goals for this summer was to determine if non-profit work in a peace-building organization in the region was something that I might like to pursue as an eventual career. While I still have not decided in which direction I would like to head professionally, I am still strongly considering the non-profit world, perhaps even more than I was before. What is definite is that this experience strengthened my resolve to work toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians through dialogue, activity, and action, in order to improve lives on both sides. I believe that this grassroots work can only truly take hold on a local level, so my desire to move to Israel after graduation has been strengthened as a result of this experience.
In this blog post, we were asked to talk about what we are proud of accomplishing this summer. I am most proud of not being afraid to go to new places, often thought of as “dangerous” by various communities, and to talk to people with backgrounds and opinions very different from my own. I am proud of myself for having an open mind, for asking questions, and for seeking to learn as much as I could. I am glad that I took risks and jumped into unknown situations – including the internship itself!
If I were to give advice to someone thinking about going into this field or interning for this organization, I would give them the same advice I received: be proactive and make the most of your time. Be flexible and ready for anything. Most of all, don’t be afraid to put yourself in new situations, talk to people, ask questions, and share your own ideas. Being the only intern can be very lonely, but you also have the opportunity to have a real impact on a small young organization – and that is priceless.
I realized that I join organizations like Roots and bVIEW (Brandeis Visions for Israel in and Evolving World), which have no specific political agenda, because I myself do not have a specific political solution in mind for this conflict. What I do believe, however, is that no political solution can achieve peace while we are all arguing with each other. Dialogue, mutual action, and a transformation of perceptions of the other must precede, coincide with, and continue after a political solution is enacted. At Roots, I sat with a group of Palestinians and Israelis (settlers, no less!), of different ages and backgrounds, as we went around the circle, articulating which political visions we support. With unbelievable calm and respect, every individual gave a different answer – almost half of them including the words “I don’t know.” This was quite a departure from the usual Israel/Palestine conversation on campus, wherein individuals enter conversations with set opinions and perceived facts. I learned from this summer how important it is to be okay with not knowing all the answers, to be open to discussion and changing perceptions, and to working with people you disagree with to resolve conflict. If Israelis and Palestinians living in the Gush Etzion area and from Bethlehem to Hebron can do it, surely we students at Brandeis can too.
I have completed my internship at American Jewish World Service (AJWS) and I could not have asked for a better experience. My overall goal was to learn about the inner workings of an international human rights nonprofit organization, but I have gained more much than that. I was behind the scenes as AJWS navigated a transition in leadership, Robert Bank, the vice president, become the new president and CEO, and Ruth Messinger, the former president, became the Global Ambassador. I helped with a private AJWS event featuring Frank Bruni, the first openly gay New York Times op-ed columnist. I attended Fundraising Day in New York, the largest one-day conference in the world on philanthropic topics. I participated in AJWS’s global retreat, where I had the opportunity to meet almost all of AJWS’s in-country staff from 19 different countries, who first hand witness the challenging, but rewarding work on the ground.
I am so grateful to have had an incredible supervisor who was attentive and provided me with challenging and engaging work. Without her, this experience would not have been the same. She created a collaborative and supportive environment, but also trusted me to work independently. I worked hard and showed my deep level of commitment to each project I was given. One of the projects I worked on this summer was creating an event planning toolkit for AJWS’s website. Supporters will use the event planning toolkit to plan their own events and educate and engage their family, friends and community members about the work of AJWS. This will result in more recognition of the organization and will be used as a fundraising tool to garner more support.
I am proud of myself for grasping this opportunity and squeezing all I could out of it. I took the initiative to meet with staff members to discuss their professional life and aspects of AJWS that I thought were interesting. For instance, I was interested in the representation of oppression and poverty in published materials of nonprofits and whether guidelines for selecting images and written materials to share with supporters exist to ensure ethicality. I met with the creative director and the director of publications and editorial services, and I was happy to learn that AJWS does have some guidelines in place. I also met with staff members working in Development and Programs. These one-on-one meetings were informative and they opened my eyes to different career possibilities, but also were networking opportunities as I shared who I am and my future plans. I began realizing that my hard work and my passion for learning and improvement were noticed and appreciated when my supervisor and staff members pointed out how helpful I was being. They jokingly would ask me to quit school so they could hire me. Also, at the end of my internship, multiple people offered to be a reference for me anytime I needed. These comments are what every intern wants to hear and they made me feel like I made a valuable contribution.
One of the challenging moments of working at AJWS turned out to be a positive in the end. When the interns met with Robert Bank, I discussed with him the organization’s silence concerning the many brown and black lives lost due to police brutality. Later, when I spoke with Robert one-on-one, I was happy to hear that he appreciated my tough questions because he said they challenged him. In his opening speech at AJWS’s global retreat, Robert began by acknowledging some of the tragedies the world has seen recently and included Baton Rouge, where the brutal murder of Alton Sterling took place. This was a step in the right direction. I was so impressed by Robert Bank’s openness to hearing constructive criticism and quickly implementing change. This experience has taught me that it is okay to respectfully challenge those in leadership in order to push for improvement. I believe that analyzing and thinking critically rather than accepting how things are is a significant aspect of social justice work.
My advice for someone who wants to pursue an internship at AJWS or at another human rights nonprofit is to think about what aspect of the work you are most passionate about and find a position within that department. There are many different opportunities within one nonprofit organization. Also, be open to working on various types of projects and reach out to staff members in different departments to learn more about their work. This will not only allow you to learn more about the different roles within a large nonprofit, but it can also open your eyes to different career possibilities within the nonprofit world. Finally, do not be afraid to respectfully challenge existing practices or the lack of certain practices that you feel are important and make suggestions for improvements.
Thank you to the World of Work Fellowship program for this incredible experience!
I love this vibrant city. Everyone is on a mission to accomplish something big. I have enjoyed being among people who thrive in this fast-paced environment. Traveling through the subway in the early morning among men and women in suits makes me feel important. I am seeing a glimpse of what my professional life after college could be like, which is both scary and exciting. The city is also very expensive, which is a constant reminder for me of how privileged I am to have parents who are able to supplement my WOW stipend. There are many students whose financial standing would not allow them to do a summer internship, which is why the existence of the WOW fellowship program is so critical.
In my work environment, there are a lot more opportunities at work to collaborate with different groups of people. AJWS has many different departments, but they are interdependent. For instance, the Program Division selects which grassroots organizations AJWS funds, but the grants that are given to these organization would not be possible without the work of the Development Division which is responsible for fundraising. The Communications Department creates the materials that describe our work that are essential to Development Division which utilizes them to engage donors. I have been learning about the importance, but also the challenges of collaborative work. It requires a lot of open discussions and compromises, which I see happening here everyday. These are important lessons that will be useful for any of my future career plans. I have been meeting with individuals in different departments to learn more about their professional experiences and their work at AJWS. These meetings have been very insightful for me. Before this internship, I did not know so many different career options existed within the nonprofit world. I can see myself working in the Programs Division because I am so passionate about grassroots movements, and I can also see myself working as a fundraiser in the Development Division. As for skills, I have been working a lot more with Raiser’s Edge database which is a great skill to have as I continue in the nonprofit sector.
The staff has been extremely welcoming and friendly. However, coming into work this past week has been difficult. The media coverage of all the black lives lost due to police brutality has been tough to digest. As a person of color, I find the constant dehumanization of black and brown bodies in this country to be extremely infuriating and I wish all of America felt the same way. I felt isolated, but I remember feeling grateful that I work at a human rights organization. I thought my work environment would provide me with a space to engage in dialogue and be among colleagues who would be equally outraged. However, I came into work and I was disappointed to see that there was silence. Everyone was proceeding as if it was a normal day at work. I attempted to start a conversation with some people, but the responses ranged from blank faces to statements like “I know it is so sad.”
Our new president, Robert Bank, sent a heartfelt email to the staff during the Orlando shooting in which he offered support and acknowledged the different ways each staff was mourning. The organization as whole released astatementstanding in solidarity with the families of the victims and calling for justice. Therefore, I repeatedly refreshed my email imbox hoping to see a similar email and statement about standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and an acknowledgement of all the lives lost, but no such email was sent and no statement was released.
When the interns this week met with the Robert, I had an opportunity to ask him about this silence. My question opened up a dialogue about how difficult it is for AJWS to decide which domestic human rights issues it should respond to. Robert discussed how AJWS, as a non political organization, wants to maintain focus on the social movements they we support in the 19 developing countries in which we work. Additionally, when international organizations begin taking a stance regarding many different domestic issues their mission becomes confusing to their supporters. AJWS responded to the Orlando shooting because we fund many organizations abroad that are working for LGBT rights. However, AJWS also funds organizations that are working to protect the lives of blacks and people of color. For instance, AJWS has spokenout against and funds social movement organizations in the Dominican Republic that use the courts and media advocacy to defend equal rights for Dominicans of Haitian descent. The horrid discrimination of Dominicans of Haitian descent is entirely an issue of racism. In other words, while I understand that different factors complicate the decision of whether to take a stance or not, the brutalization of black and brown bodies is a global human rights issue and no one should remain silent. While I praise and admire the work of AJWS, I will continue to ask these challenging questions and start a dialogue because there is always room for growth and improvement, and I feel lucky to be at an organization that is open to hearing constructive criticism and constantly looks to improve.
As I reach the halfway point in my internship, things are beginning to pick up at Verité. Deadlines are rapidly approaching for some projects, while other projects are just being started. My fellow interns and I have finally become fully comfortable with our roles and responsibilities at Verité, and have learned how to manage our time surrounding those responsibilities.
I have lived in Amherst, MA, for the majority of my life, so I did not expect to experience it differently throughout the course of my internship. However, the research I have done this summer has altered how I view the world, including how I see my small hometown. After being at Verité, I have become more inclined to take into account the nature and extent of each individual’s rights, specifically labor rights, whether I am buying produce from a local family farm or am buying food at a mega supermarket chain.
My emotions at the office are more dichotomous. On the one hand, I spend my time at work researching abhorrent topics such as child labor and human trafficking in an attempt to eventually contribute to the eradication of those human rights abuses. Read the 2016 Trafficking Report here
On the other hand, the people who surround me at Verité are not simply co-workers; rather, they are a community of people who provide one another with support—whether it is career-based or emotional. I am incredibly thankful to be surrounded by such genuinely good and caring people, who not only push me to learn new skills and information, but who also take the time to sit down with me and hash out any questions I may have.
I have found both similarities and differences in the world of work in comparison to university and academic life. The main similarity is that research plays a major part in both settings. However, in a university setting, the research goes into some kind of project or paper, which is demonstrative of my academic capabilities and displays what I have learned. In the world of work, my research is for other people. Rather than hoping to get a good grade, I am instead striving to help others. The effects of this research are more immediately impactful. When at school, if I lose focus or procrastinate, it is generally only myself who is affected by it. If I poorly managed my time at my internship, I would be guilty of negatively affecting many. At Verité, each individual comes together to form a community. We work together on projects and ideas, so losing focus is not an option if one wants to keep up. (Check out Verité’s monthly newsletter!)
My time at Verité has allowed me to expand my skillset. This internship has been my first office job, so spending all my time at a computer has been an adjustment. Prior to Verité, I often had trouble managing multiple projects and tasks, and would become overwhelmed. However working in an office has taught me effective ways to organize myself and manage my time. While working in an office is not necessarily what I want to do in the future, it has been an important and valuable experience.
Roots (also known as שורשים or جدور) is a joint Israeli-Palestinian initiative aimed at building a grassroots movement of understanding, nonviolence, and transformation among Palestinians and Israelis through projects such as dialogue groups, photography workshops, interfaith exchanges, and children’s activities. Roots is based in the Gush Etzion/Bethlehem region, in the West Bank, on a plot of land that is owned by the Abu Awwad family and lovingly referred to as “the field.” Instead of a formal office space, the administrators of the organization, along with a network of volunteer activists, mostly work from their homes, while holding meetings and events at “the field.” This plot of land includes a room lined with beds, a small kitchen, an outdoor area with couches and plastic chairs, a greenhouse, and a freshly planted field with a small playground.
Roots was founded on the basis of “dignity, trust and a mutual recognition and respect for both people’s historic belonging to the entire Land.” Their mission is to build a grassroots model for co-existence through non-violent means, believing that this can affect larger change in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This young organization has managed to reach nearly 13,000 people in their productive two years of existence.
The intern position at Roots is an informal role, so my schedule and tasks vary tremendously. As someone who is passionate about the work Roots is doing, but is not yet a member of either community, I see myself as a helping hand, assisting whomever I can however I can. For example, my first major task was to navigate Israeli bureaucracy in order to get twenty cameras out of customs for a women’s photography workshop Roots is running in a few weeks. While this was not a task I was expecting to undertake, it was definitely a learning experience nonetheless.
Aside from the cameras, I have been tasked with setting up a Facebook page for Roots’ international supporters, learning how to use Salesforce and enter donations data, organizing a meeting between an Israeli and a Palestinian who are each interested in running interfaith gatherings through Roots, helping with shopping for an interfaith iftar (break-fast during Ramadan), and other miscellaneous responsibilities.
One of my goals for this summer is to gain insight into an Israeli/Palestinian non-profit, observing how grassroots peace organizations are built from the bottom-up. In the short time I have spent with the organization, I have already learned a great deal about the details and discussions that go on behind-the-scenes. Through my attendance at meetings of the leadership and the volunteer activists, I have already seen how much deliberation goes on about every decision – both regarding logistics and ideology.
Another goal that I have already begun to work on is my language skills. During meetings and events and just sitting around the field schmoozing, there is almost always a mix of English, Hebrew, and Arabic. I have sat through entire meetings in Hebrew, and while I don’t understand everything 100%, I am sure that my Hebrew is improving already. Additionally, I have begun to talk to Palestinians in Arabic and attempt to adjust to their dialect. While my Arabic is barely conversational, I have already received appreciation for trying to talk to others in their mother tongue.
I look forward to learning more, to doing more, and to becoming more inspired by these selfless individuals who care so much about their work every day.
I have just completed my first week at American World Jewish Service (AJWS) in NYC, and I am overcome with excitement for the rest of my time at this incredible organization. Thanks to WOW, I have the opportunity to intern at AJWS as a Donor Engagement Intern in the development division. AJWS is the only Jewish organization dedicated solely to ending poverty and promoting human rights in the developing world. Highlights of AJWS’ work includes campaigning to stop the Darfur genocide, fighting global hunger, responding to the Ebola epidemic in Liberia and the earthquake in Nepal, and working to end violence against women, girls, and LGBT people worldwide. Here is a link to the organization’s website for more information. Feel free to browse around!
Highlights from my week:
Walking in on my first day, I was nervous but excited and up for any tasks. However, I was happy to discover that at AJWS interns are not asked to get coffee and do photocopying. Currently, there are only two people working in Donor Engagement, so I was right away thrust into real work. I have been responsible for finalizing details for an upcoming Study Tour Trip to Guatemala, and beginning the prep work for another Study Tour Trip to Uganda. Study Tours are designed to provide major donors a first-hand look at the impact their dollars are making. When I first heard about Study Tours, I had a lot of critical thoughts and hoped that AJWS is not taking their wealthy donors to intrude into impoverished and oppressed communities in order to evoke more sympathy for the purpose of receiving larger donations. To my relief, I learned that donors visit AJWS’ grantees, local organizations which are funded by AJWS. Therefore, study tours are an important initiative to inspire donors to continue to give to AJWS causes.
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to help my supervisor prepare for an event where AJWS’ incoming president, Robert Bank was in conversation with Frank Bruni, the New York Times first openly gay op-ed columnist. It was great to hear Bruni speak about his journey. Here is a link to AJWS’ facebook page for pictures from the event.
Lastly, on Friday I had the opportunity to meet and hear Stephen McGill speak. McGill is the director of Stop AIDS in Liberia (SAIL), an AJWS partner organization. McGill is in New York this week to join United Nations delegates and civil society representatives from around the world for the 2016 United Nations High-Level Meeting to End AIDS. He along with many others is fighting to end the systemic exclusion of marginalized communities including transgender people, sex workers, gay and bisexual men, drug users, migrants and prisoners from this conversation and movement.
I am very excited to continue with organizing Study Tours, helping with a marathon fundraising event, and continuing to learn how to use Raiser’s Edge, which is a database widely used by nonprofits for compiling lists of donors and their information. My other projects will include creating an organized system that will, for example, have information about different venues and caterers that the Donor Engagement department can utilize to efficiently plan different types of fundraising events. In addition, I will be working with the communications department to brainstorm a template and write newsletters on the Study Tours.
My goal is to soak up all aspects of this organization’s work. I want to leave with a comprehensive understanding of the inner workings of a nonprofit organization. This includes learning both the positives and the negatives. I want to look into the difficulties that each department and the organization as a whole faces. I believe I joined the organization at an interesting time because the vice president of AJWS, Robert Bank, will be stepping into the role of president on July 1st. I am excited to observe and learn a lot from this transitional period. Attending and participating in meetings has already given me a perspective on the constant need for compromise when each department has a different vision and opinion of how something should be done. I plan to meet with members of the different departments that I am interested in to gain their perspectives on the organization, their contributions, and their journey. I am especially interested in meeting with members of the communication and media department because I am intrigued by how nonprofit organizations present issues and discuss the narratives of impoverished individuals. I want to investigate more empowering ways rather than dehumanizing or exploitative, to present these types of narratives.
Thank you for reading! Stay tuned for my second post!
This summer I will be a research intern at an organization called Verité, which is located in Amherst, Massachusetts. Verité is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that promotes fair, safe and legal labor practices around the world. In particular, they address forced labor/slavery, child labor, systemic gender inequalities and discrimination within the workplace, and dangerous working conditions. They provide four major services including assessment, research, training and consultation in order to help companies identify any problems or violations within their labor supply chains. Verité facilitates working relationships with local NGOs, governments, and international institutions in order to increase accountability among corporations and to expand the capacity of local NGOs.
The community at Verité is warm and welcoming, and the interns are made to feel like a part of that community. On my first day, my fellow interns and I congregated around an oval table in a small conference room where we were introduced to our supervisors, and were given a presentation outlining our responsibilities. The presentation contained staple resources which we will use in our research, such as the US Department of State Trafficking in Persons reports, and the International Labour Organization’s website.
Throughout the summer, I will be assigned to help out with various projects. My first project is to update a few annual reports assessing production labor practices in specific countries; at the moment, I am working on the Taiwan report. A large American pension fund uses these updated reports to guide their investments. Highlighting changes in each country’s labor practices report, whether the new information is positive or negative, will allow the pension fund to make more socially responsible investments, thus supporting countries with fair labor practices.
Because there is a no naming-and-shaming policy at Verité, much of the information I am given to research, as well as the standing of certain organizations, must remain confidential. However, the research I do will be used to establish statistics that will eventually be presented to the public.
Much of the Verité’s work revolves around combating forced labor. In this TEDx talk, Dan Viederman, the former CEO of Verité, gives an in-depth explanation on modern-day slavery in labor supply chains.
At Brandeis, I hope to create an independent interdisciplinary major (IIM) in human rights. I believe that this internship will be a highly valuable experience that will contribute to how I shape and focus my major. I hope to expand my researching skills, in order to positively contribute to Verité, as well as to learn new information for myself. Being immersed in an organization that focuses solely on human rights is an incredible opportunity, as I will be able to communicate with and learn from people who have varying roles in the world of human rights, which will allow me to explore the abundance of careers available in that field.
After almost exactly seven months, Thursday, August 13rd concluded my tenure as intake intern and case assistant at the New England Innocence Project. The end of my internship signified a new chapter in not only my life, but in the history of the New England Innocence Project, as the organization moved into its new home at Suffolk University Law School. While leaving NEIP was difficult to say the least, I left having knowing that my experience with the organization was nothing short of life changing. I started as an intern back in January hoping to gain a greater appreciation of the law, while achieving a better understanding of what life is like working for a non-profit. What I received from NEIP was extensive knowledge of the legal profession, invaluable experience communicating with attorneys and clients, and a new direction for my future endeavors.
Entering my summer with NEIP, my goals were three pronged: 1) gain a more robust understanding of the criminal justice system; 2) acquire some of the required skills of an attorney; and 3) positively impact those who have witnessed the pain of wrongful convictions. By and large, I can honestly say that I have achieved my goals.
In an academic sense, I have learned a significant deal about the criminal justice system on the local, and national level primarily through the reading of trial transcripts, and working with trial and appellate attorneys on the state and federal level.
In a professional sense, while my goal of learning the necessary skills to be an effective attorney was lofty, I do believe I made progress towards that goal. Through NEIP, I learned how to more effective communicator by discussing legal matters with clients, co-workers, and attorneys on a daily basis. Additionally, I was given the chance to engage in legal writing, working on “Post-CRC” Memos that concisely summarize an applicant’s case in order for the organization to determine whether NEIP should choose to represent them. While I would’ve liked to receive further experience in legal writing, the nature of the NEIP organizational structure primarily delegated that task to the legal interns. Nonetheless, I can confidently say that as an intake intern, I received a unique opportunity to learn and grow from a legal environment that few others get the chance to be immersed in at such an early stage in my professional career.
Lastly, in a personal sense, I have provided support and consolation to those who have witnessed immense pain at the hands of wrongful convictions. I have worked with inmates and their families to guide them through our case process and ensure them that as an organization we are there for them. The gratitude that I have received from inmates –many of whom have wrongfully spent decades behind bars—has brought me satisfaction that has been thus far unparalleled in my life, and in turn, I am incredibly proud of the work I have done at NEIP.
As I turn towards the future, NEIP has undoubtedly solidified my interest in the law. While I entered this summer certain of a passion for legal advocacy, and a potential career in public interest law, NEIP has directed me towards an interest in criminal law, in particular, defending individuals without the means to appoint sufficient legal representation. Witnessing the plight of low-income individuals that often culminates in legal troubles has instilled within me a passion for aiding those of less fortunate means. While I may be uncertain as to where I may turn with the legal profession, I am now convinced that law is the proper path for me.
For any student looking to understand the dynamics of the criminal justice system, NEIP would make a great internship for you. At NEIP, interns get the opportunity to form connections with inmates, attorneys, and police departments, working in conjunction to remediate the inadequacies of the criminal justice system. At NEIP, real progress is not an abstract goal, but a tangible thing that can be measured. For those passionate about assisting the least fortunate members of our society, while ensuring that every individual is treated fairly under the law, NEIP would be an incredible organization to work for.
During my eight weeks at AIDS Action Committee (AAC), I was able to learn and grow immensely from my interactions with coworkers and our clients. I am proud to say that at AAC I was able to meet all of my learning goals that I defined at the beginning of my internship. An academic goal that I had was to be able to use information that I had learned in my public health classes to further examine the health disparities that clients at AAC faced. Through the “Getting to Zero” training series that AAC facilitated, I was able to learn more about the root causes of HIV/AIDS not only through a scientific model, but also through a public health lens that focused on social, psychological, political, and economical perspectives of the disease.
A personal goal I had was to learn more about real estate and the housing market. Learning the housing search terminology and the procedures for obtaining property information was the most challenging, but also the most rewarding part of my internship. Towards the end of my internship, I worked on a draft for a “Housing Search Guide” that would be able to help guide future interns and employees in AAC’s housing program. Creating this guide was a rewarding experience because I had the chance to collaborate with my coworkers to create something that would benefit future AAC employees: people who all share the common goal of being social justice advocates for those living with HIV/AIDS. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to work in the housing department, as I was able to see first-hand how large the need is for access to safe and affordable housing and how acquiring this housing can drastically improve quality of life, especially for those who are sick.
Additionally, a career goal I had was to learn how to best educate and advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses. Attending the “Getting to Zero” training and helping to facilitate housing search groups provided insight on some of the most pertinent needs of AAC’s clients. One video that I watched during the training was HIV: The Goal of Undetectable, which highlighted the mechanism of how HIV acts in the body and helped me better understand how HIV treatment works. The videos and brochures presented to us during trainings were informative, engaging, and simplified enough for people of various educational backgrounds to understand. For additional information on HIV/AIDS that I used as part of my trainings, click here.
Working at AAC helped me to clarify my career goals, as I was able to see a wide range of services that AAC provides. Though I worked at AAC’s Boston site, I had the chance to visit Youth on Fire, which is AAC’s program in Cambridge that helps homeless youth, and I also worked at AAC’s Cambridge site in Central Square, where I got to visit the Needle Exchange Program that focuses on harm reduction for intravenous drug users. By seeing such a wide range of services and being able to engage and relate to such diverse groups of people, I relieved that my interests in public health are indeed very broad. The one commonality between my experiences is that I learned that advocacy is a field that I am definitely interested in gaining more work experience in, and that I want to pursue further opportunities in HIV/AIDS and public health.
One bit of advice I would give to a student interested in interning at AAC is to take advantage of the wide range of services provided here and try to experience different parts of the organization even if they are outside of the department that you are working in. This was crucial for me, and as a result, I was able to network with a wider range of people who still shared so many common interests with me. Another piece of advice would be to keep an open mind. I had a few misconceptions about HIV/AIDS and harm reduction at the start of my internship and some of the educational outlets that AAC provided me with were able to shift my understanding of different concepts and allowed me to view topics such as HIV/AIDS treatment, sexuality and contraception, drug use, and other harm reduction topics in a new light. I encourage students interested in learning more about HIV/AIDS to use internships as an educational tool by and taking advantage of hands-on opportunities to learn from diverse groups of people.
The Fundacion Cultural Cofradia, is a non-profit organization that promotes and preserves the Afro-Dominican and Dominico-Haitiano traditions in the Dominican Republic. Cofradia is located in Santo Domingo, the capital, but their mission extends throughout different regions of the country. They work closely with the portadores de cultura, which are the people in the community in charge of keeping these traditions, in order to provide support in the areas most needed. This support comes in different forms, such as the creation of schools, workshops and festivals centered on these traditions.
I contribute to their mission in two different ways, the office and field work. As part of the office work I file documents, communicate with el Ministerio de Cultura, (the government office in charge of approving the projects and providing the monetary support) and follow up in the updates of previous projects. During the fieldwork, the Cofradia team and I travel to diverse parts of the country and visit the communities that most need our support. Here, I interviewed the portadores de cultura on their traditions and how they function in the communities. I also document events by photography and videos which are later used as documentation to create new projects.
Last summer I traveled to the Dominican Republic to visit some family members. As part of my visit I wanted to learn more about the Afro-Dominican traditions. When I expressed this to my aunt she put me in contact with the Director of Cofradia, Roldán Marmol. Director Mármol invited me to a fiesta de palo, a religious practice that mixes African and Taino religious beliefs with Catholicism. Later I expressed my interested in learning more about these traditions and religions. He told me about his organization and we discussed the possibility of an internship.
During my first week of work I met the entire team of my co-workers and learned about the projects they been working on. I was provided with books and articles that talked about the diverse traditions of the Dominican Republic. That week we participated in the celebration of San Antonio sponsored by the Brothers Guillen in Yamasa. There I photographed the event and first experienced Gaga, a tradition born out of the sharing of cultures between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. For me, it was the first time, since I arrived to the island, that I have witnessed such a harmonious and unifying manifestation of the two countries traditions living as one.
The more I work with Cofradia the more I realize the importance of providing visibility to the Afro-Dominican and Dominico-Haitiano traditions. One cannot set apart these traditions with their communities, which means that if the traditions remain invisible and unappreciated the community suffers the same condition. These traditions are rich in knowledge, dance, music, art and history. I want to learn how to work with both the communities and the government to create projects that support the preservation and changes, that come naturally with time and new generations, of these traditions.
Me documenting the inauguration of La Escuela de Gagá in the Romana
While I’ve held steady employment since I was 14 years old, working at the New England Innocence Project this summer has been the first time in my life I have genuinely looked forward to work each and every day. As much as I love being on campus, I could certainly get used to commuting to Boston everyday, walking across the downtown area, and spending time in an office overlooking the Common. However, as much as I enjoy the scenery of downtown Boston, I enjoy NEIP not simply because of the location, but because it’s a place where I am proud of the work I do, and confident in my ability to contribute.
This week marked the arrival of the next intake intern, Freda, who will serve in my position throughout the fall and winter months after I have left NEIP. The task has been given to me to the train Freda and in doing so I now recognize how much there is to learn about the intake position. I’ll be responsible for familiarizing Freda with many of the nearly 4000 applicants that NEIP has been working with since its inception, spreading extensive knowledge about our past and present cases. In addition, I’ll need to show her how the organization functions, by instilling in her an understanding of the online databases, the system of physical files, and the interactions between directors, attorneys, volunteers, and interns. To be effective, I’ll have to transfer to her many of the skills that I have learned from NEIP over the last month, in becoming a better communicator, a more patient individual, and a more organized worker.
By speaking with attorneys on a daily basis, I have learned to communicate more effectively, sounding at times more like a seasoned attorney than an intake intern – to the point where I’ve been called “Attorney Jacobson” more than once. Through experience and repetition, I have become more confident and more helpful when speaking to inmates and applicants as I am better able to answer their questions, predict their responses, and provide guidance throughout our screening process. In becoming a better communicator, I expect it to pay dividends whether I am engaging in discussion in the classroom, or working behind the counter at Einsteins.
In learning the essence of patience, I have become more accommodating and more responsive in my exchanges with the family members of inmates. While I’ve often avoided conflict throughout my life, I no longer fear potentially argumentative interaction with applicants, and instead I look forward to trying to achieve conciliation through patient dialogue. While this newfound patience will undoubtedly benefit my personal life, it should also improve my ability to work with others in an academic setting.
By serving in a position that requires many hats, I have become more organized in my work. One minute, I might be performing drafting a Case Review Committee Memo for an applicant such as Clarence Spivey, the next I might be brainstorming ideas for how to improve our screening process, and the next I might be gathering statistics for a grant, such as the Bloodsworth. Without effective time management, and physical and mental organization, I would struggle to keep up. This should hopefully make me a better studier, and a more productive employee.
It saddens me to recognize that I’ll soon be done at NEIP, but I intend to make the most out of my last month here.
This summer, I am the development intern at United for a Fair Economy (UFE). UFE is based in Boston, MA. Its mission is to challenge the concentration of wealth and power in the United States. UFE works to close the wage gap, advocating for jobs with living wages, progressive taxes, and a government that works for the common good. In addition, much of UFE’s work promotes equal opportunity for people who have been marginalized in our society for reasons including race, class, gender, and national origin. Projects include popular economics trainings, collaboration with other organizations to support grassroots campaigns for tax fairness, and materials to bring attention to important issues. UFE’s website is in both English and Spanish, as is all of the materials it produces and the events it hosts. UFE maintains that democracy must embody these components of equality.
As the development intern, I assist with fundraising and donor communications. My responsibilities include research, donor appeals, and informational material preparation. By helping to raise money, I will contribute to UFE’s important mission. I found out about this internship through Brandeis University’s community service department. UFE partners with the Hiatt Career Center at Brandeis to hire one intern each summer as part of the social justice WOW program.
Overall, I enjoyed my first week at UFE. I learned a lot about what the organization and each branch does. I read previous intern’s projects and talked to the staff. I also began forming relationships with staff and board members. Everyone involved is very committed to their work and UFE’s mission as a whole. Their dedication is exciting and I look forward to working with and learning from all of them. One of UFE’s most striking resources is, “11 Things the Wealthiest Americans Can Buy for the U.S.”.
Also this week, I completed my first project, an information and statistics sheet to be handed out at UFE’s board meeting. In doing this, I learned how to use the database in which UFE stores all information about donors and communications. I used the information in this database and Excel spreadsheets to assemble statistics on UFE’s individual giving and online giving over the past few years. I then researched data on philanthropy in the United States, and created a summary for the board.
In my time at UFE, I hope to gain professional, non-profit experience. I would like to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes at a non-profit organization, or small organization in general. This being my first internship, I would also like to gain experience with the skills required to be successful in the real world, like time management, organization, and communication skills. In addition, I hope to apply what I have learned in school, including an understanding of economics and writing skills. Also, I want to utilize other more abstract strengths I have honed in school, including hard work, dedication, and a desire to learn. Lastly, I hope to develop relationships with my coworkers at UFE. This internship is an opportunity to meet some amazing people and I am excited to learn and grow this summer in this position.
I have officially completed my first week of my summer internship at the Community Day Center of Waltham. As the only day center in the metrowest area, the Community Day Center of Waltham provides a safe, warm environment for people who are homeless or otherwise needing of the resources provided by the center. Approximately 700 people are serviced each year, facing complex challenges such as physical and emotional abuse, domestic violence, physical disabilities, mental illnesses, poverty, homelessness, joblessness, alcoholism, drug addiction, and legal issues. The day center offers these people a concrete support system, offering them services such as the Internet, phones, advocacy, referrals, healthcare, legal counsel, housing referrals, and job search assistance. By offering these services, the Day Center enables these individuals to become more independent and productive. Having worked with the Day Center sophomore year, I have become more comfortable working with this population and am learning much about their experiences and stories, allowing me to better understand the complexity of societal barriers and societal standings. My growing familiarity with this population allows my perspective on the Waltham community and in general, homeless communities, to expand. The development of this perspective will give me the greater knowledge needed to accurately assess and refer the people that live in this community.
At the Day Center, I have a range of responsibilities. I am a part of the Day Center team, meaning I help out with day-to-day tasks like help serving food for lunch, cleanup at the end of the day, and other tasks to ensure each day at the Day Center runs smoothly. Primarily I will be working on a health survey that over the past year, I wrote and implemented with the help of some Brandeis volunteers. I just completed our 100th survey and will soon begin the process of compiling and distributing that information. I will be writing a piece about the process of creating and implementing the survey. This summer, I will be collaborating with the Executive Director of the Community Day Center of Waltham to create a media strategy to share the results of the survey, identify stakeholders, reach out to community groups to give presentations, and coordinate these presentations. Aside from the health survey, I will be working on improving the Day Center’s efficiency and data collection by uploading intake forms, guest satisfaction surveys and other forms online. Additionally, I will continue to help with case management and support for the guests.
My goals for learning this summer include case management training and administration to assess individuals at the center, implementation and publication of the health survey, and continued learning about the societal barriers and struggles of this population. To achieve these, I will fully engage myself in the work I do, commit time and focus to fully understand the necessary protocols in order to properly assess and refer individuals, and create professional yet personal relationships. To learn about the societal barriers and struggles of this population, I will create an open-minded and comfortable, yet professional environment for people to feel safe approaching me to talk about personal issues, or to seek help. So far, I have successfully been able to create this safe space for many individuals. I have learned a lot over the past few weeks and I look forward to the coming month.
My First Week in Indianapolis has already come to an end. Last Friday, after a three day organizing training with Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) in Chicago I arrived at my work site in Indianapolis. Here I am working with one of IWJ’s affiliate organizations, the Indianapolis Worker Justice Center (IWJC). This week was an exciting one, not just for me, but also for IWJC as an organization. IWJC was established about a year ago, and this week they were officially approved for a 501c3, as an affiliate for IWJ. They also learned that they received their first grant this week as well. As a new member of the team, I could really feel the excitement that brought.
The IWJC is a non-profit organization working to help low-wage workers come together to organize as well as provide them with resources and trainings such as “Know Your Rights at Work.” They are working on campaigns with taxi drivers and 1099 misclassification, including work against wage theft and much more. So far IWJC has been running solely on volunteer work, they are therefore not able to hold regular walk-in hours for them to advise people but that is hopefully going to change soon.
My tasks include reaching out to the community to let more people know about the center. I will also be helping with the campaign to organize taxi drivers who are meeting at the IWJC. Further I am helping to advertise for our Fourth of July Justice Jam event. My work will impact the organization because it will hopefully help it grow. By letting more people and organizations know about the work that IWJC is doing and the services they are offering they will be able to assist more people. By reaching out to other community centers, we also want to create a local referral list for people who come to us with issues that do not fall into the areas of work that IWJC focuses on.
My goals for this summer are to develop organizing skills. I have already been able to learn more theory during the IWJ intern training and am now starting to put it into action. One of the most important things is to build relationships, which I will hopefully start doing soon. I also hope to gain a better understanding of specific workers rights’ issues and how to fight them. I have also already been able to learn more, for example about the problems taxi drivers face in Indianapolis.
As a sociology major, this internship directly relates to my studies of inequality, social movements in the United States. Being a part of an actual movement will help me understand the work that goes into these changes and it will let me understand how the theory is put into practice. My career and academic goals are very closely related to my personal goals because I wish to work towards a more just and equal society. I believe that this internship will help me see inequality fist hand and help me act against it.
On April 13, 2003, having served over 19 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Dennis Maher walked out of Bridgewater Treatment Center a free man. A victim of eyewitness misidentification, Maher was convicted of several accounts of sexual assault for a series of attacks on young women in Massachusetts during the Fall of 1983. However, having maintained his innocence for nearly two decades, Maher eventually caught the attention of the New England Innocence Project, who utilized newly discovered DNA evidence found in 2001 to bring about his exoneration several years later.
In the decade since his exoneration, Maher has proven to be one of the most inspirational individuals out there. Maher has not only accomplished his goals of finding a job, a wife, having kids, and buying a house within a decade of his release, but has regularly donated his own time and resources to aiding other exonerees in their transition back into society.
Meeting Maher one of my first days at the New England Innocence Project (NEIP) inspired a passion in me that has only grown since. In the short five months I have worked there, NEIP has become as much a part of me as anything else important in my life. NEIP is a non-profit organization that provides pro-bono legal assistance to individuals who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime in one of the six New England States. Since its founding in 2000, NEIP has exonerated a total of 51 wrongfully convicted individuals and counting. At NEIP we work with applicants every day to find the next individual who might’ve slipped through the cracks of the criminal justice system.
This summer at NEIP, I serve as the intake intern. I receive all non-administrative correspondence that enters the organization. On a daily basis, I receive and respond to letters from inmates, emails from their families, and phone calls from attorneys in order to advance applicants through the case review process into the eventual stages of litigation. In addition, I organize meetings for the staff to determine viable applicants, and work with the legal interns to gather all essential case documents. In effect, I serve as the voice of NEIP to guide inmates throughout the screening process, providing a liaison between the staff and the applicants.
Throughout my summer at NEIP, I have several goals which I would like to achieve. Firstly, I hope to gain hands on experience in the legal profession. With NEIP, I have the opportunity to not only learn from law students, staff, and paralegals, but through communication with attorneys, clients, and law enforcement. This is a unique opportunity to be immersed in the legal world at an young age. Secondly, through NEIP I hope to learn more about the criminal justice system through my interaction with the case review process. By reading trial transcripts, post-conviction opinions, and appellate briefs, I hope to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the criminal courts throughout New England. Lastly, through NEIP, I hope to improve the lives of those who have witnessed their lives torn apart by the pain of wrongful convictions. In my correspondence with inmates and their families, I want to leave the impression that whatever they have gone through, they are not alone in this process. All in all, I am honored to work with NEIP, and I look forward to getting more involved.
After arriving at Louis Armstrong New Orlean’s International Airport, a nice warm humid hug welcomed me into New Orleans. This warm embrace was the beginning of many as I met so many warm souls all over New Orleans and at my internship site, New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC). Located near the Mississippi River, NOVAC was started by a group of AmeriCorps VISTA fellows who wanted to see an organization in New Orleans that fostered the creation of socially conscious independent films. Although NOVAC’s mission has evolved over the years, NOVAC still provides New Orleans’ filmmakers with workshops and the resources necessary to create their own idiosyncratic pieces. Aside from aiding the independent filmmaking community, NOVAC connects New Orleans’ youth with people in the film industry and NOVAC also allow these teenagers to enhance their visual storytelling skills, whether through NOVAC’s digital storytelling camps or through their new exclusive HBO/Cinemax Quarry internship program that gives 15 local teenagers the opportunity to work on the set of Cinemax’s new series, Quarry, for three weeks!
If my first week at NOVAC is any indication of the work that I will accomplish this summer, then I know I am going to return to Brandeis in the fall equipped with advanced editing and design skills and an appreciation for community-based film projects. As junior year approaches, I worry about potentially leaving Brandeis without the technical skills necessary to enter the film industry. In the past couple of days, I have been developing my design skills by creating promotional materials for NOVAC’s sponsored documentaries. Documentaries under NOVAC’s fiscal sponsorship program can use NOVAC’s non-profit status to apply to more grants and to appeal to individual donors. As an incentive, individual donors will receive a tax reduction if they donate to film projects under this program. Raising money for film projects can be a troublesome task for independent filmmakers, since they usually don’t receive support from entertainment conglomerates. This past week I created website banners for two documentaries and one film in NOVAC’s fiscal sponsorship program: Flotsam; Battlefield: Home; and Easy Does It. Since this was my first summer project for NOVAC, I was eager to display my creativity. However I was also scared of not meeting their expectations. My resourceful and encouraging supervisors were there to guide me through my first assignment and my anxiety soon went away. As I was creating these banners, I gained a more in-depth understanding of NOVAC’s sponsored projects and I was inspired by the way these filmmakers were using film to ask questions about their environment, society, or an issue that they feel is underrepresented in the media. For example, Flotsam is a documentary that looks past the common depictions of Mardi Gras as a glorious celebration to reveal the amount of debris left behind when everyone grabs their beads and leaves the party. Flotsam just unleashed my thirst for finding new content that questions the things that I look past.
Flotsam and NOVAC’s sponsored projects allow me to peek behind the curtain and discover the ways our local filmmakers are engaging with their community to raise awareness about their concerns. Soon, I will start converting videos in NOVAC’s archive to a digital format. After we digitize the videos, they will be available online for the public to access. NOVAC’s video archive managed to survive Hurricane Katrina but through NOVAC’s digital preservation efforts, NOVAC’s archive will be safe from New Orleans’ next natural catastrophe. Their archive encompasses over 40 years of original content produced by NOVAC and its affiliates. Recently, NOVAC digitized a video produced during one of their workshops in the late 80s that focused on the struggles battered women face. The video is called, Ain’t Nobody’s Business, and it displays the testimonies of women that were victims of domestic abuse. Although this video was created several decades ago, these stories are congruent to the stories told by women affected by domestic violence today.
Aside from cultivating my interest in visual storytelling, NOVAC allows me to meet with so many talented people in the film industry, like my supervisor, Biliana Grozdanova, who recently screened her film, The Last Kamikazes of Heavy Metal, at New Orleans Film Festival and just returned from Cannes Film Festival (as a volunteer). Hopefully, I will continue to meet more people like my supervisor through the many workshops NOVAC offers throughout the summer. By the end of the summer, I want to increase my editing and design skills and uncover more analog videos that are still prevalent today. I also want to produce my own material for NOVAC’s Virtuous Video program. Through this program, community organizations partner with local filmmakers to create videos that highlight their mission and their contributions to their community. Since this year is the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, NOVAC partnered with the Greater New Orleans Foundation to involve New Orleans’ youth with the Virtuous Video Program. This fusion gave birth to Project 10: a digital storytelling undertaking that asks New Orleans community members and organizations about their thoughts on the city’s development after Hurricane Katrina. I am currently researching and watching Hurricane Katrina documentaries to prepare myself for the next component of my internship, but you will find out more about that in my next blog post!
This summer has certainly been an experimental test of my strength in the humanitarian aid world of work. Thanks to the WOW I have successfully been able to have an internship opportunity that expanded my horizons and opened my eyes to the bureaucracy and intensity of social work and humanitarian aid in NYC. My goals were thoroughly accomplished through the wide range of tasks I was set to do at ABC.
Everything from my tasks of referring children for early intervention education programs to doing child therapy with the kids helped me reach my learning goals for this internship. I would say that every task I had, even if it sounded as simple as getting a medical record for a child, taught me the hardships of working in and with public assistance groups. I learned what those dependent on public assistant programs have to go through in order to receive the services “our government provides to those in need.” It is no simple task to get a child in school, receive services for children with learning disorders, or get one’s monthly food stamp to buy food for their family. Learning how policies created on a city wide level effect those they are supposed to be helping was the most interesting aspect of my internship for me. I want to build off this experience at Brandeis by taking classes that teach me more about policy creation, implementing policies on a ground level, and discussing with professors the corruption that exists in US government. Beyond Brandeis I will hopefully continue to have my eyes opened to the world of policy making and humanitarian aid projects that help people in my community. It is amazing how much attention is often focused on international humanitarian aid efforts when there are thousands of people within 5 miles of my home in New York who need just as much aid and care, who are suffering from starvation and whose children have witnessed trauma and violence before the age of five and need counseling.
For anyone interested in social work I would say ABC is the best place to intern. Social work is a balance, you must maintain self care and be effective in the office. As one of my co-workers said: if you don’t feel well yourself, you can’t help anyone else.
My ideas around social justice have most definitely been challenged. I have seen how difficult social justice is to accomplish in a world where organizations are run by money and public assistant groups make it difficult for anyone to accomplish anything quickly with the piles of paperwork required for even the most simplest of requests. I have learned that having connections in the world of social justice workers is vital because it helps get paperwork through the system faster and speed along the process of helping those receive aid who need it. I have also learned that although there are many people out there working for social justice, it is an exhaustive and draining task to bring about justice in today’s world. Although I already knew this, seeing how it effects people is quite depressing. Accomplishing social justice is still what I am going to work for in my future and this internship definitely helped brace me for the reality of working towards this goal. Dedication and passion are the two most vital attributes needed to accomplish social work.
Wow, I cannot believe that half of my time at Lawyers for Children has flown by already! It’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago I was so nervous to begin a new journey at my internship. I am proud to say that I am now in a place where I have gained more knowledge than I ever could have imagined, and feel as if I have been working with LFC for ages! It feels wonderful to be doing work where I feel like I can make a difference for others.
Before the summer began, I originally stated that my major goal for this process was to use this opportunity to gain insight into my future and really grow as an individual. I believe that this internship is so valuable to me in both academic and career aspects because I am able to learn about what it takes to be a social worker, as well as the more specific topic of how to work within the foster care system. At Brandeis, I am a psychology major hoping to continue on to graduate school after my senior year. However, this can seem daunting because there are so many different options and careers that can come from studying psychology. Do I want to work in human resources? Get a Masters’ degree in social work? Further my education even more for an advanced degree in psychology? Oftentimes it is difficult for those of us studying psychology to get a hands-on experience in the field. I am so fortunate that I am able to get an inside look at the life of a social worker this summer, and I can honestly say it is something I am really considering for my future. Before this summer, I did not have a great understanding of what a social worker actually did. But through working with my supervisor at LFC, I am learning the daily routines of a social worker and am able to picture myself in this position. I am even able to “pick her brain” and find out where she went to school or what courses she recommends in order to further pursue this career.
On an individual level, I am so grateful for and humbled by this experience because I truly feel that every day brings about new challenges for me. The New York City Foster Care System is extremely tough to learn about and work with…and working with these youths each day is something that I have never experienced before. It is so difficult to see kids, who are about my age, struggling to make ends meet or keep their spirits high. But each day I know that I am learning something new and gaining exposure to situations that I could only dream of seeing first hand. More than that, I know I am forming relationships with my clients and can be there for them as a much needed support system. It feels absolutely amazing when I find out that one client has finally passed her GED exam and we are the first call that she makes to celebrate; or when another client has been granted access to her own apartment and wants us to stop by so she can “show it off”. Each time that I speak with a client, not only does it feel great to actually know the specifics of what they are talking about (housing applications, insurance policies, etc.) and see that I am learning factually, but also to know I am making a difference in their lives and helping to improve their situations. I will forever use these skills, especially as I hope to progress into a social work career. I have learned what it takes to create interpersonal relationships and be a professional in this field, and I cannot wait to see where it takes me.
This summer, I am so fortunate to be working as a social work intern with the non-profit advocacy organization Lawyers for Children. Lawyers for Children, or LFC as everyone likes to call it, consists of attorneys and social workers that provide free representation and services to children of New York City who have been either voluntarily placed in foster care, or are involved in cases of abuse, neglect, adoption, or high conflict custody cases.
As an intern, I work under the supervision of my assigned social worker, and I am able to be involved in her cases first hand. This includes reading the cases and writing up case notes, visiting the youth’s foster home or group placement, sitting in on client interviews, and attending court for our youths when necessary. Along with about 20 other legal and social work interns, I also am able to participate in training throughout the summer. This allows the interns to not only learn more about what LFC as an organization seeks to accomplish for the youths, but also take a deeper look into the New York City child welfare system itself and the exact situations that we are fighting for for our clients.
Though I’m sure most people feel this way on their first day, I was incredibly nervous as I was making my way to the offices. However, I was calmed as I walked through the doors and saw crafts and paintings all over the walls created by the LFC clients. Not only that, but the working environment itself was so friendly and all of the employees were beyond welcoming. All of the interns sit together in our own conference room/office space, so we have really been able to get to know each other. There are even a few Brandeis alums in the office which helped to make for an easy transition. It was incredible to me how comfortable I felt at this internship so quickly. Within the first week I, along with the other interns, were really able to hit the ground running and be completely immersed in the organization. I sat in on and observed 4 court cases in Manhattan’s Family Court for a few of our clients. During this time, I sat with my assigned social worker as she interviewed our clients to find out more about their wishes and goals moving forward in their foster care placement cases, and we then relayed this information to the lawyers representing each case. I also was able to visit a mother-child foster care placement home, where all of the residents are aged 16-21 women in the system who have children of their own.
This summer, I’m hoping to learn more about the inner-workings of the New York City foster care system. I am so looking forward to assisting this organization and advocating for our clients to the best of my abilities. Because this is such a hands-on experience, I am excited to learn what it really takes to be a social worker and hopefully determine what path I may follow in the future.
I began my internship after being home for only one week. I moved from Paris, a city with harsh housing socio-economic divides, to my home in New York, where one block can house families of every socio-economic status.
I am interning at the Association to Benefit Children’s Echo Park location on 126th and Lexington Avenue. I work with social workers to meet the various and vast needs of our clients — families with young children, under five years of age, who are victims of trauma or domestic violence and in need. All Children’s House is the only active preventative program now using child-parent psychotherapy to resort home environments and strengthen family relations.
I learned about ABC when I did volunteer work in the Echo Park school’s classrooms for a community service program in high school. I emailed my previous director asking if there were any positions available for summer internships and I was interviewed by the director of All Children’s House immediately. With my interest in housing and education policy issues and parent-child relations I secured the internship for this summer.
All Children’s House work is accomplished through support groups, weekly meetings, housing assistance, and advocacy for the clients. Depending on the needs of the family, I attend home visits with the social workers, bring the clients to housing court or meetings with housing organizations, help find day care services for the clients’ children, and research health care and housing options for the clients.
My first week started off with a bit of office work in the morning and then my first home visits. I attend two home visits my first afternoon at work that threw me into the reality of social work very quickly. Within the week I had been to New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) apartments, Domestic Violence Shelters, Family Shelters, and low income apartments. My most engaging experience was the forth day on the job. I was asked to take a client who I had just met the day before to the Family Justice Center. The FJC helps families apply for housing, get into shelters, manage their budgets, and also offers other services such as parenting classes and self sufficiency courses. Although much the same as ABC, it has resources unavailable at other agencies, such as access to NYPD offices for documents such as orders of protection, and the legal aid services for housing court. That was what we were there for. Here, I learned that Section 8 Housing is frozen in New York and there is a 2 year wait minimum for NYCHA domestic violence priority housing, and about a 4-10 year wait for the NYCHA applicants who do not qualify for priority.
I have observed the toll social work takes on my colleagues but also the rewards we can feel by aiding families in need. The main issues in NYC right now are lack of housing, and lack of understanding between the different organizations trying to help the same people. The amount of paperwork and the variety of formats organizations “need” prevent much from being accomplished. Now that I know what work will be like, I expect to learn more about the services NYC provides to those in need, and to analyze ways policy can aid people in their daily lives who are faced with homelessness and violence. There must be more efficient and less complicated systems in place to aid those to safety.
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.
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.
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!
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now that I am at the midpoint of my internship, I am sure that I want to pursue sustainability and green energy in my future career. I have seen how valuable this discipline is, and how much it is needed on a national and international scale.
From the start of my internship until now, I have been researching for the follow-up publication of LAGI’s [Land Art Generator Initiative] Field Guide to Renewable Energy Technologies (linked here is LAGI’s already published guide). Through this research, I have learned not only about the many renewable energy projects that are currently happening across the world, but so too I have studied the art of grant writing, and the process of finding and applying for grants. With the application of these funds, LAGI and similar non-profits have helped multiple communities save money with energy management, make towns cleaner and healthier to live in through the implementation of green technologies, and have added additional comfort and beauty to urban surroundings. With the experience I have gained, I have begun learning about how I can help the world in tangible ways through the use of visuality and environmentalism. Growing up wanting to pursue the arts, I was often told that specializing in any career related to the creative process was a waste of my time and money. Going into art was never something that my inner circle wanted for me–mostly because they wanted me to be financially secure. But I now have seen, firsthand, how useful, important, and present art is in our daily lives.
One aspect that I have noticed is that design and visuality influence the happiness and overall mental health of workers, especially those who spend the entirety of their days enclosed in small offices. During my time working in a cubicle, I remember feeling so isolated from the outside. I would’ve given anything to have seen the blue of the sky or the green vitality of the trees and grass from my tiny office window; many of my coworkers felt the same. I have realized that even though some businesses need to conduct work in offices, that doesn’t mean that their employees need to be isolated and withdrawn from nature. Quite the contrary, a recent trip I took to the Phipps Conservatory proved that cubicles don’t have to be disconnected at all.
The Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA has recently constructed a revolutionary green building that creates more energy than it uses, saving energy for the city of Pittsburgh as a whole. This building is called the Center for Sustainable Landscapes. Its entire office space utilizes natural sunlight from glass windows; the internal temperature is stabilized from the condition of the outside heat, and plants are placed in nearly every corner of the building, adding another source of life to the indoor space. I have never felt so comfortable in an office space; this building was also generating energy for other Pittsburghians, too. I was truly amazed.
The skills that I have learned in my current internship have laid the groundwork for developing more advanced research skills for non-profits who utilize grant writing, and if I happen to work for a company engaged in international business, I can also mention that I have first hand experience understanding the difficulties the company faces going green (such as funding and grants, managing public space vs. private space rights, navigating internal politics, or overcoming the NIMBY point-of-view (Not In My Backyard: those who are opposed to renewable structures because they take up too much of the natural landscape).
This internship experience has helped me in decide what graduate degrees to consider and what additional minor/major I want to declare. By going into environmental studies and green energy, not only is this field of work helping societal and global concerns, but it is also fascinating and gets right to the heart of urban maintenance and development.
With this career I have the possibility of seeing the fruits of my labors, and seeing the people that I am helping through making their lives more convenient and healthy.
Before I began my internship at Walker, I outlined several learning goals I hoped to accomplish by the end of the summer. One of my learning goals is to integrate the Walker experience into my school work once I return to Brandeis. During the fall semester, I will be enrolled in courses called “Disorders of Childhood” and “Education and Social Policy.” During my time at Walker thus far, I have implemented developmentally appropriate social and recreational activities for children that have encouraged creativity and teamwork (if you’re interested, visit this link to participate in a training on how to therapeutically play with children). By implementing different types of activities, I have begun learning various techniques that can be applied in a school setting to encourage student learning and growth.
A second learning goal is for the Walker experience to help me develop some of the attributes of an excellent social worker – a position I aspire to. A very important part about being a social worker is maintaining the trust of those you work with and are trying to help. The children in my program typically do not live with their parents and thus do not get to experience many things that people take for granted, such as having someone read a bedtime story. There have been nights where I was the person who put a child to bed, and through interactions like these, the children have begun to trust me and open up to me, thus allowing me to truly begin to help them.
My third goal for this summer is to become more comfortable adapting to an unpredictable environment. Throughout my internship, I have worked with children toward the improvement of life-skills, ranging from how to wash their hands to how to make a grilled cheese. By working one-on-one with children who have different strengths and weaknesses, I have continuously altered my approach to properly teach these children various skills. This constant need to adjust to the varying circumstances has allowed me to begin to be more flexible with the changes in my own life.
Even though I have achieved a lot during my time at Walker, I am most proud of the fact that I have begun to develop relationships with the children in my program. It has taken a lot of time and hard work, especially because of the trauma many of these children have experienced, but they have finally begun to trust me, talk to me, and allow me to help them. I started working at Walker because I wanted to help children who had gone through extremely difficult times, and now that I have formed relationships with them, I can now begin to teach and help them to the best of my ability.
The skills I am developing at Walker will also help me in other aspects of my life, especially in a career setting. By going to work every week and interacting with the staff and children, I am learning teamwork, leadership, and the ability to provide a nurturing environment. These skills will help my future career plans because I want to be a social worker for children, and as such, I need to be able to work with my colleagues to provide a safe and therapeutic environment for the children in my care.
Even though I am only half way through my internship, I have already learned so much and am excited to continue learning as the summer progresses.
If you would like to learn more about The Walker School, visit this link to watch a video that talks about the different components of Walker. It is a special place.
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.
This past week was my first full week working at The Walker School in Needham, MA. The Walker School offers a range of special education and mental health services that provide intensive therapeutic and academic programs for children, adolescents, and their families. The Walker Needham campus offers a variety of services, including an Intensive Residential Treatment Program, an Intensive Community-Based Acute Treatment Program, and a school and summer camp. The programs are created for children ages 3 to 15 with severe emotional, behavioral, and learning disabilities or with a history of past trauma, including sexual abuse or disrupted foster placements. These programs provide therapeutic learning and living environments that help children to learn, grow, and heal and integrate successfully into society.
As an intern in the Intensive Residential Treatment Program, I will participate as a member of a treatment team to meet the social, recreational, behavioral, and educational needs of children with severe emotional and behavioral difficulties and with histories of past trauma. I will plan, implement, and participate in social and recreational activities, help to provide a safe and therapeutic milieu, and assist with the implementation of treatment protocols. I will also co-lead activity-based groups for small numbers of children, work one-on-one with children toward improvement of academic skills, and facilitate developmentally appropriate and normalizing experiences for children, such as reading before bedtime.
I found my internship through a series of networking. I am on the Board of Directors for the Brookline Teen Center and was part of a committee that interviewed prospective Executive Directors. The person we hired was the Director of Residential Services at Walker. After talking with the teen center’s new Executive Director about summer internship possibilities, I applied for a position at Walker because my passion and experience align with the goals of the organization. I emailed the Director of Child Care Training and was interviewed by the Vice President of Operations. I then observed a residential program to determine if it was a proper fit and decided Walker would be an extremely valuable learning experience for me.
My first week at Walker was both rewarding and difficult. After spending only an hour going over Walker’s policies, I began working in my assigned residential program. All of the staff were extremely friendly and my coworkers immediately welcomed me to their program, introduced me to all of the children, and put me straight to work. Even after just one week, I can already tell that it will take the children a while to completely trust me, as many of them were previously hurt (either physically and/or emotionally) by adults in their lives. While some children quickly accepted my presence, others were more resistant listening to my instructions or even talking to me or sitting next to me. Regardless of these hesitations, my coworkers reassured me that, with time and the stability of my presence, the children will grow to trust me.
This summer, I hope to gain as much knowledge and experience as possible out of my time at Walker. Above all else, I want to learn, to the best of my ability, how to help children who have gone through difficult times. I want to be a social worker for children when I grow older, and I believe that Walker will provide me with extremely valuable knowledge and skills, such as how to make children who have experienced abuse feel comfortable and safe around you. Once children feel they can trust you, they are then more likely to open up to you and the true healing can begin.
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.
Around the world, millions of children and mothers lack proper access to healthcare. Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve health “one child at a time” through a multifaceted approach; outpatient clinics, health education, and partnerships with IGOs and NGOs combine to address the comprehensive health needs of each population. Currently, FIMRC serves 9 specific communities in 7 under-served countries: Costa Rica, Uganda, India, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Peru.
This summer I am interning at the FIMRC Global Headquarters in Philadelphia, PA, working on administrative tasks involved in the coordination of FIMRC projects abroad. This is quite a different perspective from when I volunteered in Peru on a FIMRC trip last February. Organizing volunteer programs takes a lot of work! My current project is compiling statistics from each of the seven project sites. These statistics (which include measures like number of patients treated in FIMRC clinics per month and top causes of clinic visits and number of volunteers) will help us gauge the success of FIMRC’s global health initiatives.
Each health program is uniquely tailored to fit the needs of the community. In Peru, Dengue virus, malaria and other water-borne diseases are common, but they are also preventable. Volunteers give health education talks to children about sanitation and hygiene in order to promote knowledge and prevent disease. In Alajuelita, Costa Rica, the community’s needs are much different. Due to lack of clinical services, FIMRC built a rural health clinic in Alajuelita, and volunteers participate by staffing the clinic (taking measurements, assisting doctors and distributing medication). While their parents work, children age 2-5 in Kodaikanal, India, spend the day in crèches, which are like a combination school/daycare/health center. The children’s families survive on less than $1.50 a day, and as a result many children suffer from malnutrition and consequent illness. FIMRC helps by monitoring child health in the crèches, holding health education sessions for teacher and mothers, and has successfully implemented a dental hygiene campaign and supplemented the children’s diets with protein, like chickpeas and eggs. I was excited to learn that since FIMRC’s intervention, crèche attendance has increased… and the lack of attendance had been largely due to illness! Watch this awesome video (video credit: FIMRC) to experience the unique health needs of Limón, Nicaragua, and how FIMRC projects are helping.
I learned about this internship opportunity through a friend and fellow Brandeis FIMRC chapter e-board member, who enthusiastically told me about her internship experiences at FIMRC Headquarters two summers ago. After applying and visiting HQ over winter break, I was offered an Ambassador position and gladly accepted!
Orientation was on Thursday, May 16. I was pretty anxious, but everyone—the CEO, my supervisor, the 3 other interns—are all super friendly, and my nerves were eased right away. There is even another intern from Brandeis! I’m excited to continue to get to know each of FIMRC’s project sites and understand the process of implementing a global health project, from initial research to the final product, execution of a successful and flourishing health program. In the future my ultimate goal is to work in international healthcare. Even though it has only been a week, my internship at FIMRC has provided me with invaluable insight on global health. I cannot wait to see what the weeks ahead bring.
I am almost completely at a loss for words when I try to describe all that has happened to me in the last third of my internship. To say it has changed my life is an understatement. Everything is different. But first I need to explain how I got here:
In my last three weeks with Bible Raps, I got to go “on tour.” Matt, Matan, and I went to four different camps in five days, all in the gorgeous northern PA mountains. As a “camp person” myself, I love experiencing the different cultures and embracing all the different modes of camp life. I also got into the groove of my job. I knew when to start handing out the packets at the concerts, which songs to film, and I even got to jump in on some songs. I also helped to run the workshop, working with kids on learning and writing. After driving 12 hours overnight from PA to GA, we were once again at Camp Ramah Darom, my home turf. But this time, I had a lot more to do. Almost all the workshops we put on that week I ran myself. I chose and complied the text to learn, ran the study, gave the explanation, helped the kids write, and walked them through the recording. My favorite song from the week is about Nachshon, who according to tradition was the first to walk into the sea, causing God to part the waters. Here is a short video of the song and the recording process!
I also finished up and performed my first original Bible Rap about the book of Ruth! It was so great being able to share it with all of the counselors and kids. With more work, it will hopefully be incorporated into the Bible Raps curriculum and appear on the next album! Here’s a video and a pdf of the Torah Rap-Map.
All throughout that week and once I was home, I spent most of my time making videos with the rap-maps of the songs in the curriculum for teachers to use. They aren’t public yet, but I hope to share those soon!
I had such an amazing experience with Bible Raps, especially traveling and running the workshops, that I’m in discussions with Matt to continue working with them! (more on this later.)
After a week at home I was off to Montclair New Jersey for the NewCAJE conference for Jewish education. It was an incredible week. I had the opportunity to perform my Jewish music for the first time and had such amazing responses.
Teachers want to use my music in their classrooms and bring me in for workshops. I received encouragement from new friends and musicians that I have loved an admired all my life. I was also able to represent Bible Raps, and ran a 2 hour presentation on their behalf to five incredibly engaged educators. I learned so much from them, and all five want to bring me in for workshops this year!
This is the jump-start to a year full of singing, writing, recording, and traveling. I have been so inspired and motivated from this summer. My advice to budding artists? Just do it. Stop waiting for some future time to make it happen. That time is right now.
I’d imagine working permanently at a nonprofit can be tiresome, a thankless job where one finds oneself working 12-hour days for a single client. My supervisor seldom took time off for lunch, others snuck bites of sandwiches in between calls.
It’s definitely a hard job.
Nonetheless, at FVLC I noticed that when things got that rough, it would be the people whom you were surrounded by that got you through.
It would be the California sunshine on your walk to work the next day and the farmer’s market blueberries someone brought in to share with the office.
Perhaps most importantly, it would be the check-in call with that client the next day that really helps- when she says, “thanks”.
Interning at FVLC has taught me an incredible amount about the resiliency of people in the face of trauma. Many of our clients entered our office feeling disempowered, angry, hurt, bitter, and ultimately frustrated. Sometimes the staff felt the same way. The goal was for everyone to leave with the same feeling: you will get through it. This summer, it was my job to take the primary steps in ensuring our clients would make it through whatever rough situation they were experiencing.
Having now completed this experience, I don’t know much about where the future will take me other than that I want to continue in this vein of work. In the fall, I will be interning with Massachusetts Citizens for Children, where I will be facilitating trainings around the Boston area to adults regarding how to protect children from child sexual abuse. I will also be working with the organization as a whole on strategic planning, learning more about the gears that shift and propel the group as a whole. I am excited to continue to immerse myself in this world and, in doing so, potentially carve a place for myself after college.
I would definitely recommend interning at FVLC for anyone with an interest in this field. They provided a warm, caring environment that allowed me to learn in a tremendously productive manner. Here is an informational video that FVLC recently created that explains further what they do and how they aid survivors throughout the legal process. Someone on staff was always available to lend an ear and an opinion. I would definitely recommend receiving your 40 hour domestic violence training prior to beginning the internship because it enabled me to really make the most of my time there. As mentioned in my first post, they did not waste any time in putting me to work because they trusted that I was already competent, which was very helpful.
Ultimately, I had a wonderful, enriching summer interning with FVLC and feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to do so.
It’s hard to believe that the summer is already over! The last half of my summer in Boston was smooth sailing as I got more accustomed to the rhythm of life at UFE. By the end, I felt that I had achieved a healthy balance of challenge and basic understanding of how to get things done. In terms of accomplishing my goals set at the beginning of the summer, I am happy with the results. I set some broad goals, but also quite a few very specific goals having to do with gaining confidence in fundraising and donor relations. The more I observed and worked with members of the Development team, the more I grew to see “practice making perfect”. UFE’s current development team is full of wisdom and years of experience and I was really appreciative of their willingness to share their knowledge, and even take a couple steps back to explain basic procedures that were unfamiliar to me. As the summer progressed, I definitely saw a huge improvement in myself- it became much easier to jump on an assigned task because I spent less time clarifying questions and had the confidence to make decisions that I deemed appropriate.
Another goal of mine was to improve research skills, and I had many opportunities to look into ways that UFE could save on administrative costs- because a goal of any non-profit is to have administrative costs that are as low as possible to keep the majority of money headed towards the mission of the organization. The first research project I did was in my very first month and involved a cost-benefit analysis of what each individual state charges to become a charitable solicitor in that respective state. Some of the costs were extremely high, whereas others charged nothing at all. Having this list enables UFE to take advantage of all of the states that are free, and then look into which states are worth paying the “charitable solicitor fee”. This project required extensive research because there was no one easy place to get all of the information. It was certainly a good place to start though because it introduced me to a lot of issues that I would come to run into later on in the summer. As I did other projects throughout the summer, I had an easier time troubleshooting, making my skills much more efficient by the end of my time at UFE. There are even little tips that I came across which should be of use during the school year- especially within Microsoft Excel. Even though I have used Excel many times in the past, I learned many tricks this summer which will greatly increase speed and efficiency with any sort of data that I am trying to keep track of.
I am also quite happy with the strong connections that I made at UFE. Everyone was so approachable and eager to be of help not just throughout the summer, but even in offering to connect with Brandeis again in the future. Outside of the development office are many programs including popular education- and if I ever find myself in a class related to issues that UFE addresses (which I am sure I will here!) they have offered to come and speak to classes/groups here on campus. They have been a wonderful resource and I wouldn’t hesitate to call them in order to connect again in the future.
Having now completed the internship, I would like to check out other development offices- including Brandeis. With the experience at UFE, I think it would be interesting to compare and see the differences between how a college runs its fundraising mission with how a small non-profit sustains itself. To any student interested in an internship with this organization, I would suggest keeping a positive attitude and showing interest by asking questions. Everyone is more than happy to help, and as long as they can see you’re dedication and care for the organization, they will be glad to help you improve your own skills.
Overall, I have really seen how it is all about the passion. When people can tell that you care about what you are trying to raise money for, it makes others care as well. It puts meaning and emotion behind the difficult task of asking for money, because especially at UFE (though I am sure most other places as well), you can see that fundraisers are in the field because they truly care about the mission and want to see positive social change. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work with such a close-knit staff because it was helpful in getting a full grasp on the underlying issues of economic inequalities with plague our current system. I am happy to say that I share their vision of, “shaping society into one where prosperity is better shared, where there is genuine equality of opportunity, where the power of concentrated money and corporations neither dominates the economy nor dictates the content of mass culture”. It is an issue that has potential to be fixed once their is a greater overall understanding of the basic roots of the problem. This comes from education and discussions among family and friends because with greater understanding, comes more persistence and desire and to remedy the situation. I have included a couple info graphics that I think do a nice job of summing of the uneven distribution of wealth in picture format- I way that I personally find very helpful in understanding some of these more confusing topics:
So, while I have walked away from this summer internship with a wealth of knowledge related to fundraising and development, I have also broadened my own personal knowledge from progressive taxes, to facts regarding the 99% vs 1%. It was a pleasure working with such a dedicated staff and I will walk away with so many life lessons beyond anything that can be taught in a classroom. Here’s to a great summer of 2012!
As I reflect on my academic, career, and personal goals created for the summer, I realize how much I have already learned at AVODAH. I started my internship when the organization was having their big NYC event and initially thought that the rest of my summer was going to be as fast paced and interactive as my first few days there. I soon understood that this was not true and was put to work the next week creating surveys, evites, and sending out emails using mail merge. Although this wasn’t as vigorous as helping with the fundraising event, I learned more about the inner workings of AVODAH. The most prominent of what I learned is the amount of time, energy, and commitment required to achieve the transformative results of such a wonderful service program.
My academic goal for the summer was to gain knowledge on how to create social change after participating in a service corps. One of the responsibilities I have as an intern is to read and update many of the Alumni biographies. Through this I recognize how one is able to create social change after a service corp; they continue working with organizations that are dedicated to social justice. Although now the answer seems obvious, it is through this internship that I really understand how those who join AVODAH are able to find their own way of continuing to fight for change.
My career goal was to learn how to utilize certain aspects of the service corp and apply it to social entrepreneurship. An article that I was given to scan spoke about social entrepreneurship and how it can exist in the non-profit, for-profit, or corporate sectors. I was unaware of the complexity of this career path. While at my internship I discovered another type of job that was appealing to me. Another intern at AVODAH is part of a program called CLIP, which takes students and places them in non- profit internships. The students meet once a week for a panel and discuss how one can use their Jewish identity to create social change. I was able to attend one week where my boss was speaking on the panel. A Brandeis alum was also a speaker, and told us about his job at JP Morgan working with philanthropists to find organizations in order to donate money to. Because of this, I have become more aware that there are other jobs that are just as fitting for me as social entrepreneurship.
What was made clearer to me this summer is the strong connection that exists between Jewish values and social justice. Both aspects have played important roles in my life, and to be able to experience this daily is exciting. I am already truly satisfied with all that I have learned up to this point and believe that I contributed to the growing organization in a positive way. Right now I am proud of being able to give meaningful input during our AVODAH meetings. I am more confident in presenting my ideas and realize the importance of detail and organization in any given task. I continue to learn and appreciate the amount of skills I am gaining and am excited for what is to come.