My first week at AVODAH

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Sophie Brickman ’16

Completing my Internship with UNITE FOR SIGHT in Ghana…

52 days have come and gone. I have interned with three of the five Unite For Sight partner clinics (North Western, Save the Nation, Crystal) in four regions of Ghana (Greater Accra, Central, Volta, Western). My experiences in the field have only been trumped by the relationships and networks I have developed with my fellow citizens. As a refresher, my overarching learning goal for this summer was to engage my HSSP background and coursework through hands-on experiences in the field of public health. And I accomplished this feat as a member of each clinic’s outreach team. I was able to engage my academic training in the life and social sciences experientially, by curiously conducting visual acuity screenings, inquisitively observing the eye examinations of the physicians and nurses, and happily distributing eyeglasses alongside the dispensing optician. I asked hundreds of questions with the intent to better understand the role of public health in the local health infrastructure.

The man who turned a simple dream into an unmistakable reality; one of the most inspiring individuals I have ever met. Introducing the founder and medical director of Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic: Dr. Baah.

 

I will build off this experience much like I build off every experience, with honest reflection and deep admiration. I am fortunate to have completed an experience like this prior to graduation because I now have the opportunity to further ground my experiential learning inside the classroom. I can take my global health experience and continue to cultivate it, both in theory and in practice. After Brandeis, I will have the foundation needed to transform this experience from a summer internship into an expensive hobby or, better yet, a career.

I realize that learning is a lifelong pursuit. For the time being, I want to continue to further my own understanding of public health and social justice. These two buzzwords are often spoken but rarely defined, so it’s important that I continue to hone in on what each means to me. I’ve also developed a slight interest in philanthropy and fundraising. I just began to get my feet wet while fundraising for the surgeries I would observe abroad, so it would be great to learn more about fundraising and effective ways of doing it. I’ll take on as much as my full plate of classes and extracurricular activities allows me to. However, what will always remain a staple of my life will be my service to others.

The advice I would give to a student interested in either an internship at UFS or an internship in the field of public/global health are one in the same. I can’t state enough how important it is to be flexible, especially when working with members of a different culture. In my internship, and presumably with all other internships, I did not always do what I was most excited to do. However, I was flexible with the clinics and displayed an attitude reminiscent of that of a true team player. Eventually, an opportunity presented itself in which I was able to mix it up and try something new, which will reap huge dividends going forward. Also, be honest with yourself, be open-minded, be bold, and be optimistic. A winning attitude indicates success before any “competition” has even begun.

My ideals of social justice have been thoroughly reinforced. About a week-and-a-half in, I had one day where I was a little grumpy as I boarded the STNSC van for outreach. I kept thinking about how tired I was, how hungry I was, how dirty I was…and then I froze. I stopped thinking about all of my problems and started thinking about why I was in Ghana in the first place. I thought long and hard. And then I realized that I wasn’t in Ghana for me. Granted, I always wanted to put my best self forward, but I realized that I was in Ghana to help distribute quality eye care to the local populations. And when I wrapped my brain around this thought, I felt something change. The sun opened up. The greens grew a couple shades brighter. The potholes in the road ceased to throw me here and there. All the “pain” I was dealing with disappeared. Instantaneously, another day on the job became an epiphany of purpose. For that moment, everything in the world was right.

I say this, not to be dramatic, but to express what I’ve learned. It was a wonderful responsibility and an extraordinary privilege to serve as a change agent on behalf of Brandeis University, and I am forever indebted for this experience.

Thank you so much for the opportunity!

Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic’s Vision/Mission Statement: Social justice at its best!

 

Also, please keep in mind that the fight is not over! Preventable blindness continues to plague the eyes of millions in our world. I am gladly continuing to fundraise with the hope of creating more success stories like the dozens I saw earlier this summer. 100% of my fundraising efforts will provide surgeries for patients living in extreme poverty, and your help would be greatly appreciated by myself, Unite For Sight, and all of the patients who would receive eye care due to your efforts. Please take a look at my fundraising page for more information and, if you can, give what you can:

https://maestropay.com/uniteforsight/volunteers/ref/300103e13c734fc8a2604dbfa271ccb4

First Week at AVODAH

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

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

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

– Danielle Mizrachi ’13