EQV Fraternity 1954 - 1968
Experience Summaries from the 2006 EQV Fellows Program
Working from the social security office of the Max Peralta Hospital in Cartago, Costa Rica, I was assigned to assess the prevalence of disability, and the conditions facing those afflicted in the district of Llanos of Santa Lucia, also located in the province of Cartago. Extensive reading was done to create a degree of familiarity with the situation concerning disability in Costa Rica, the percentage of the population afflicted with some form of disability, the laws affecting disabled people (such as the law of equal opportunity), and cultural responses to disability. Then, accompanied by one or more members of the community, I made visits to houses owned by families which had one or more disabled persons and conducted interviews with the aforementioned persons, or with family members able to give information, particularly when the person in question was unable to speak for himself. Visits were made to over fifty houses in a period of six weeks, and findings, along with recommendations were detailed in a report submitted to the office of social security at the Max Peralta Hospital. A presentation was also given to members of the ‘Women’s association of Llanos of Santa Lucia’ which greatly assisted me in the project by providing guides to help me locate houses with disabled persons.
The summer was a superb learning experience. All interviews and presentations were conducted in Spanish, as such my fluency and confidence has increased. I was also able to integrate myself into the community to gain a better understanding of Costa Rican culture.
This summer, I continued my work for the Middlesex Coalition for Children in a somewhat different capacity. During the school year, I work as an access to benefits outreach worker and coordinator, but this summer I ran a pilot free summer lunch program in the North End of Middletown. My responsibilities began in January of 2006 with procuring funding, kitchen space and willing participants for this program, a process which only wrapped up two weeks before my anticipated return to Middletown for the summer. For the first month of the summer, I spent my time hashing out the logistics for a 5-week meals program for the Homeroom Summer Program, a dept. of the Community Health Center. On July 10, my first day of cooking and serving (almost single-handedly) hot lunches for the 30 kids attending Homeroom. It was an exhausting, informative, never-to-be-traded and never-to-be-done-again 5 weeks. I would say that on the whole the program was fairly successful. The kids I got to know, ages 6-12, were on the whole wonderful, loving, demanding, off-the-wall and very picky. In spite of this, they ate far more fruits and vegetables than anyone believed they would. Some of them also consistently refused anything except peanut butter and jelly. This summer has dramatically impacted the way I think about community organizing, nutrition and working with children. I am confident that this experience will help me better serve the communities I am a part of and my sincerest thanks to the folks at EQV who made it financially possible.
I used the Dana Grant this summer to travel to San Juan, PR and work as an Arts and Crafts and Newspaper teacher in Camp Eureka, a summer enrichment program for children. I was drawn to this project because I have become increasingly dedicated to the cause of education, particularly public education. I spent last semester doing the Urban Education Semester, working with 5th grade students in an English Language Learning classroom, who were all immigrants or whose families had recently immigrated to the states. So I thought that this summer experience would expand my understanding education in a new location. Unfortunately, I had a very disappointing experience at Camp Eureka. I perceived my boss as passive-aggressive and disorganized, and it was difficult for me to attain the materials necessary for functioning lesson plans, even when I asked her for them repeatedly. I received no training whatsoever for the job, and was often designated last-minute responsibilities, such as being in charge of the entire group of children with my coworkers when the boss left. Furthermore, I was incredibly disturbed by the way in which the children were educated in this environment. Camp Eureka placed a strong emphasis on English acquisition, yet all of the English reading materials made available to the children were outdated pamphlets from the 1970's with racist undertones. During their math classes, the children filled up thick binders with worksheet after worksheet of math drills. I left with a bad taste in my mouth for education and my role therein, and have consequently questioned my desire to enter this field professionally.
As quoted from their mission statement, “The Collin County Children’s Advocacy Center (CCCAC) takes action to identify, protect, and improve the lives of abused and neglected children.” The CCCAC provides an approach to investigating, treating, and prosecuting child abuse based on the children’s needs and perspectives. Children traumatized by abuse can recount their stories to a Forensic Interviewer, in a child friendly atmosphere, where the interview is videotaped. This shelter opened in 1992 and has provided much needed services to children that weren’t previously available to them. The Center works with all of Collin County Child Protection Services (CPS), law enforcement agents representing 13 Collin County jurisdictions, the District Attorney’s office, medical sexual assault nurse examiners, therapy services, and community resource representatives. There is also a family violence unit, a representative from Collin County Rape Crisis Center and a representative from Plano Family Services. This is an incredibly multi-disciplinary center that is well funded, for its purpose.
Within the CCCAC I filled the role of the Community Resource Liaison. This was a social-work based department that focuses on the economic and resource needs of families affected by abuse, neglect, and poverty. I worked directly with the families and assist the professionals who investigate and manage cases of alleged abuse. My personal duties included: conducting needs assessments, assisting with CPS investigations and casework, assisting families applying for various state benefits, conducting home visits, supervising court ordered parent/child visits, accessing Crime Victim’s Compensation, and assisting the Center in applying for public aid. This internship gave me an enormous amount of responsibility, and thus inspired an incredible amount of growth and learning.
Beyond my role as Community Resource Liaison, my responsibilities became what I made them. I helped provide links to housing organizations, food banks, bill payment plans, furniture drives, clothing, medical/health care, parenting classes, immigration help, and special requests. I developed relationships with both your clients and the people you refer them to. I also went to many trials and composed notes for ongoing cases that would later be used in court. I served as a translator for native French-speaking children of abuse and neglect. I did weekly childcare inside of the center. I was trained and conducted court ordered supervised visitations. I also went out with social workers to do home visits, and helped the Plano police department with paperwork. I also implemented a training program for the center's childcare program.
I worked alongside eleven other interns who were each interested and involved in many things in the center. It was easy to get involved in their projects, as I worked next to them. Our supervisor was always there to answer questions and get us involved in any aspect of the center we were interested in. I met with her at least once a week.
This internship taught me how to deal with non-offending parents, substance abuse parents, and neglectful parents in abuse and neglect cases. I have learned about the enormous amount of child abuse that goes on everywhere. I learned that the average social work/police force/district attorney connection was very poor and needed work. I was exposed to an aspect of my community that I was completely unaware of. I learned something everyday and all of the time. Every day was very emotionally difficult. To keep at it, however, and to put a smile on a child's face, was - it wasn't rewarding, rather - it was necessary.
I have known for a long time that my career goals will be service related. It took this center, however, for me to open my eyes and see the destruction that exists all around. This internship showed me that I do not want to go into social work. Perhaps I will go into law or teaching. Family law is seen almost as a punishment or a starting place for lawyers. I think this is where we need the best lawyers.
The Dana grant is an amazing opportunity because it offers students like me the ability to let go of the strain of financial independence and explore career experiences they would otherwise not have a chance to pursue. I have been so excited about the prospect of the Dana that I have been racking my person trying to figure out what it was I really wanted to do with my life. In my search for internships, I was looking for an organization where I could help offer social services to families, specifically women and children, but I also wanted to explore law as a possible career path. Collin County Children’s Advocacy Center was the ideal combination of both those arenas.
When I applied to work as an intern and social advocate for the Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center in the fall of 2005, I could not have anticipated how timing would affect my internship. Shortly after I was accepted as a summer intern, South Dakota Senator Bill Napoli put forth the ban on abortion. As soon as I read the news, I realized that I would need to go into the summer with an open mind - that the limitations of my knowledge and of how the issue would affect Native women would be an opportunity to become a better advocate. The internship indeed heightened my sensitivity to the needs of global and local communities. As a result, I am now inspired to become a leader in social advocacy.
Whereas I did not have any idea about my future interests upon beginning the summer, I now would like to receive a combined MSW/PhD in social administration so that I can be an advocate for vulnerable populations. The Resource Center is run by Native American women and is located on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. The prospect of being able to work with the Resource Center's Executive Director and founder, Charon Asetoyer, was enough to make me excited about living in South Dakota for one summer. Charon is one of the most influential women of color of the 21st century and has used her grassroots organization to lobby on behalf of indigenous women at a local, national, and international level.
My internship was extraordinarily gratifying. Throughout the summer I produce articles for the Indigenous Women's Reproductive Health Watch, a weekly electronic newsletter that is sent to Native American women around the country. I also archived files for the first collection of Native American history for the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College. These materials were sent to Smith College at the end of the summer. At the very beginning of the internship, I campaigned for Charon Asetoyer during South Dakota's state primaries in the Campaign for Change. Her platform promoted the protection of the human right to health, which includes sustainable living, a reasonable income, and access to health services. Twice a week I did part-time management at the Resource Center food pantry. I also documented the public testimony of Native American women during South Dakota's Sexual Assault Study Task Force meetings.
When the Resource Center received a grant to begin a summer language school, I assisted the instructor in managing the classroom of children ranging from three to eleven years old. I also acted as the technological advisor in t he creation of a DVD that was distributed nationally; it will also be used for a presentation at the National Conference of American Indians. At the end of the Dakota Language Immersion program, I supervised the creation of a Dakota language CD.
While the opportunities I was afforded through my work at the Resource Center were multiple, some of the most gratifying work I did was at the Women's Lodge. The Lodge acted as a social service for Native American women who were victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. By living in the shelter, I was able to provide direct advocacy services. I assisted the shelter directors in connecting women to social services. This connection to resources often proved to be the link that would prevent the re-victimization of these women. I also provided information and referrals through the domestic violence hotline. During the weekly women's support group meetings, I would offer childcare. By working closely with people throughout the internship, I was able to see precisely why social service is of the utmost importance.
The internship has proved to be a turning point for me in the way I conceive of my future and its possibilities. Not only do I feel more confident in my ability to do something good, but I also understand my responsibility to address social issues. The privilege of my education has endowed me with the responsibility to do something greater than add to my own comfort. I have learned how to question that comfort and the fictive reality it represents as well s the oppression that it hides. My main concern with the future is directly related to the vulnerable populations of people whose needs are great each day. These epiphanies are all due to the demanding work that this internship provided. I am incredibly grateful to the members of EQV for providing me with this opportunity. I hope that other students in my generation will be allowed to have such a wonderful opportunity before deciding on their career paths as well.