I am a Waltham Group coordinator at Brandeis. I help run the Hunger and Homelessness program, which serves food at the Waltham Community Day Center and holds drives each semester to collect food, clothing, and personal care items for individuals experiencing homelessness in the Waltham and Boston area. The Waltham Group is the most incredible organization at Brandeis, and I have learned so much from being a part of this program. I also got the opportunity to take a Community Engagement Practicum, reflecting on my work as HnH Coordinator in an academic setting. In this class, we focused on centering the population we’re trying to serve: listening to their voices, involving them in the planning and administration of our programs, and never patronizing them just because they have less societal privilege than we do.
I have been thinking about Waltham Group, and this class specifically, lately during my internship. A great aspect of most microinsurance companies is that they are often formed in response to needs from community members. This gives community members the ability to explain what they need and what would actually help them. This is powerful; it gives agency back to individuals experiencing hard times. This is what I want to do when considering the blog posts and promotional materials I am in charge of developing.
So far, I have been building up a collection of blog posts about microinsurance, fun facts about umbrellas, and more. (Right now, the website is just a landing page with basic information; the section where my blogs will be posted isn’t there yet.) The basic message of most of these posts is about doing good and being kind to the people around you. I love this central conceit, but I have also been trying to focus specifically on people around the world who are looking for agency and power in very difficult times. Many have lost jobs, homes, and family, but they continue fighting for a better life for themselves and their children.
By focusing on the stories of these real families, I hope not only I am personalizing microinsurance and international poverty issues, but that I am letting individuals experiencing poverty tell their own stories as much as possible. As we learned in my Community Engagement Practicum, there’s no need to be a “voice for the voiceless”. People aren’t voiceless unless you’re speaking over them. I hope my work with Umby uplifts and centers these voices in every blog post.