This blog will highlight Baylor students participating in 8-10 week summer internships with established non-profit organizations and civic groups. Students are chosen for their commitment to create systemic social change and for their ability to connect their placement to their discipline of study. These are the future movers and shakers of the non profit and for profit world. Join the dialogue.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lindsey Warner, June 27

My favorite part about working for Raven + Lily recently has been “meeting the team.” Well, maybe I shouldn’t say meeting because I have not actually shaken the hands of any of the lovely women who hand make the beautiful jewelry, journals and soaps we sell, but the longer I have been a part of Raven + Lily, the more the artisans occupy my thoughts. It is hard to sit in a cozy office in East Austin typing away on my laptop and not think about the women who Raven + Lily employs and provides healthcare and holistic education for worlds away in Northern India and Ethiopia. Today, our President Lori MacNeill brings it all closer to home as she has returned from a successful trip to Burundi and Ethiopia visiting our design partnerships there.
The artisans cannot be included in the training programs without their dedication. These women work hard for their income, but it is not a handout, this is truly empowerment. Sometimes, I find myself thinking that the work I do is not tangibly helping the women who I have grown to love thousands of miles away since I am not there on the ground threading beads or designing molds. But I am so grateful to be working towards my passion of empowering women in any way I can, just like the women we employ are so grateful to be working at their passions.  
Yesterday, Dalychia (the other R + L intern) and Lauren (Director of PR) attended a Social Entrepreneurship Panel Discussion at the Young Nonprofit Network of Austin. It was super informative and encouraging to hear of some things that Raven + Lily is totally on the right track with and some things we can improve on to be a better social enterprise and eventually serve our mission even more. One nugget of wisdom I learned was; the difference between a social enterprise and a corporation with a corporate social responsibility is if you took the social impact part away from the business would the business still survive? In R + L’s case, we wouldn’t just fail to survive as a business; we wouldn’t want to survive as a business if we were only selling well made jewelry. Our purpose is more long term and impactful than only providing jewelry for fashion savvy consumers and that is something I can always be on board with. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Paul Baumgardner – June 27, 2011

This past week, I learned more about the primary civic engagement program that the Constitutional Rights Foundation provides to underperforming schools across America: Civic Action Projects (CAPs). The idea is to train teachers from at-risk school districts how to use a semester long lesson plan to jumpstart students' knowledge of American government. Teachers then encourage students to go out into their communities and make a difference. This past year, several thousand students performed civic action projects in their communities, which included policy ideas that spread across a broad gamut (sex education revisions in the school, better environmental protection laws in the city, and campaigns to change state laws on euthanasia).

The CRF hosted an end-of-the-year reflection and celebration at the Los Angeles City Hall, and I helped conduct student and teacher evaluation reviews afterward (this amounted to me plowing through hundreds of CAP reviews and assessing response patterns). I am using that data right now to offer suggestions for program expansion and procedural revision in an effort to make CAP more successful next year. Additionally, I am making a video that broadcasts the forms of youth empowerment engendered by civic action in the community. 

Dalychia Saah, June 20, 2011

My internship for this summer is with Raven + Lily. R+L is a fashion accessory brand that works with HIV- positive women in Ethiopia, and poverty stricken women in India to combine their sewing skills and their countries’ natural resources with Western designs. For example, one of my favorite R+L pieces is a necklace reconstructed from melted bullet shell casings in Ethiopia. The goal of this brand is to empower women by providing sustainable economic opportunities. R+L is a brand changing lives for women in desperate situations and allowing westerners to be socially conscious consumers, and yet still very fashionable.  I am their design intern for this summer.

A couple of days before I started my internship, R+L made a major shift- it went from being a non-profit organization to a socially responsible for-profit brand. It was definitely fun to come into the company during this shift. Everyone I work with is extremely optimistic, because these changes only mean growth for R+L and a chance to offer our international artisans more economic opportunities. I must say that with all the changes being made daily, my job description hasn’t really been the most predictable schedule. Some days I am in the office all day compiling forms and documents, and then there are days like Thursday where I had to conduct a photo shoot and photograph some of R+L’s products to show to our wholesalers. My regular work day consists of the most random tasks and moments! It is such a different energy working with a start-up company compared to an established company. Unlike an established company where employees might have become jaded and stuck in a routine; at R+L everyone is so motivated and excited to be a part of the company that I can’t help but to be enthusiastic about all the odd ball tasks that we undertake, ie. painting our building next week. With the unpredictable moments combined with the positive vibe that I get from my co-workers I know this summer with R+L is going to be a very unique life experience. 

Lindsey Warner June 20, 2010

The transition from two weeks spent studying social entrepreneurship abroad in Rwanda to my summer internship at Raven + Lily, a social business in Austin, TX was perfect. What I learned in Rwanda made for an easy and seamless transition to my marketing internship with Raven + Lily. When I had left for Rwanda, R+ L was a non-profit design studio dedicated to empowering the women artisans who hand make their designs. While in Rwanda, we saw a lot of poverty and remaining scars from tragedy almost two decades ago but were overwhelmed with the emphasis on the whole country’s desire to improve their quality of life and the amount of social businesses located in Rwanda. Upon coming back from Rwanda, I had come to my own conclusion that social businesses, not necessarily non-profit aid is what will truly allow a country like Rwanda to rebuild itself. After arriving back home, I was excited to find out that Raven + Lily is now a for profit social enterprise, a move that will allow R + L to be more sustainable and help the women’s business grow even more.

My role at Raven + Lily is to identify our market and get that market excited for the products that we are selling. This is a period of transition and growth that I am thrilled to be a part of. It is refreshing to know that every time I go into work, whatever I do that day is going to help women in Ethiopia, Northern India and Burundi to make the fashionable jewelry that they base their livelihood off of. I am most excited about bringing more of a Raven + Lily inspired presence to the Baylor campus as well. A challenge has come in the form of how best to make this partnership work, both for the Baylor students and for Raven + Lily. Some ideas being thrown around are to bring our founder to campus for a discussion on social business or a possible benefit concert. Raven + Lily is a business I am proud to work for and though sometimes I feel like I have no clue what I am doing, the women that we are working for inspire me and so does the mission. 

Melissa Casserly and Tania Sullivan - June 20, 2011

·       Today we are installing the herb garden! Our circular bed will have a star pattern with lots of herbs like chives, rosemary, parsley and lots of fun textures and scents so get excited!

·       We will also be putting some peppers in the herb garden to have a little pop of color in the middle of the herb sections.
·       We are coming to the end of the harvesting for chard so we will be turning that bed to prepare it for the next crop.
We also have plans to fill the other two recently empty beds, some of the plants that we have in mind are turnips (so we can also donate the greens) and sweet potatoes which we will grow from slips!
·       TIP: find a local nursery to walk through and spend some time with their staff, they will give you some extra insight on your choices and is much more personal than just buying a package of seeds!

Rachel Canclini – June 20, 2011

After a week of working in Richmond, we finally managed to get internet in our house and I am able to really start this blog. We (Shannon, Yi, and myself) have been looking forward to today all week!  Myself, Yi and Angelica (who lives with the four other interns at the other Shepherd house in Richmond) all work at Commonwealth Catholic Charities within the Refugee and Immigration Services. I work as a resettlement aid and in office support (marketing, PR, development, accounting, w/e they need done). I also get to visit families who arrived recently and see what they need, help set up apartments before they arrive, go grocery shopping with them, and I signed up to teach ESL. Visiting the families and watching an ESL class has already been a paradigm shifting experience. More to come about this later though….
Commonwealth Catholic Charities (CCC), is a  large community and human services non-profit in the central Virginia area and part of the Catholic Church’s ministry. Refugee and Immigration Services (RIS) is just one of their services provided. RIS and CCC actually just merged together last year but I do not know what they were before that, although they were still a catholic charity I believe.  The state department (working with the UNHCR) basically sends “cases” of refugees, immigrants, asylees their direction and provides them with some funds to do the work. Other sources of funding are grants (outside of those form the government) and other private donations. They also run off of a lot of “in kind” donations (clothes, food, furniture, etc.)  and volunteers providing services. The Refugee and Immigration floor of the building is decorated with so many interesting pictures, signs, and facts about and of refugees and different cultures. My favorite though is actually on the main floor of CCC and it is a quote by Wade Davis on a poster which says,
“The world in which you are born is just one model of reality… Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you, they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.”
I glanced at this the very first day while we sat anxiously for the volunteer coordinator to show us around. I have thought about its truth all week, particularly in relation to the families I have met. This week we introduced a Burmese family to Wal-Mart. I don’t know how they felt about it because I do not speak their language (Yi has been awesome at translating for us) and they looked a little overwhelmed. I know they were disappointed the only shrimp available was frozen and expensive and shallots were so much more expensive than onions, but the son was having fun pushing the cart. They lived in such a different reality before and are now thrown into the land of super grocery stores and frozen foods. I always wonder what they are thinking, and admire their bravery.
There is so much more I could talk about an explain but I will save it all for other posts! Peace.

Find Rachel’s post on the Shepherd Alliance blog here.
Personal blog here.

Marissa Moschetta – June 20, 2011

The first few weeks of my internship have been quite an adjustment for me, in the best of ways. Marvell’s population of 1, 168 is quite the contrast to Waco, or anywhere I have lived for that matter. People notice the presence of us interns here, even in neighboring Helena. I chose this internship because I wanted to be truly integrated in the impoverished community I work in, and that is already proving to be the case. My role at my internship may not be as hands-on as I thought, but living in such a small community gives me the opportunity to make those connections myself.  It would be easy to come into this non-profit and get frustrated its inefficiency that is stereotypically associated with the field, but there is a broader viewpoint to have than that. I have found that it is important to appreciate the organization as whole and have a hopeful perspective. There may be apparent difficulties, but the reality is that Marvell, AR would look starkly different without the presence of the BGACDC and I am happy to be a part of the work they are doing!

Paul Baumgardner – June 20, 2011

From the first day that I came to work at the Constitutional Rights Foundation, my bosses had projects waiting for me. I've come to understand in these first few weeks at my internship that all hands are always on deck. This is largely because the task before the CRF is so daunting. Since the passage of No Child Left Behind, a greater portion of state and federal educational funds have become allocated based on reading and mathematics test scores. Sadly, this has had an adverse effect on the traditional "disposable" subjects such as art and music, but it has also largely affected the civics education of public schools.

Many recent educational reports show the importance of civics education and constitutional literacy programs- knowledge of rights, increased democratic participation, greater volunteerism- however, this fundamental component of K-12 education has fallen victim to great retrenchment in many public schools. This has placed the burden on extracurricular learning exercises- which many schools don't have the time or resources for- and non-profits. The Constitutional Rights Foundation is one of the most involved civics education leaders in the American public schools. In the past few weeks, I have already spoken to dozens of LA students who are enthusiastic about their specialized CRF learning (I am using these encounters as the basis for a movie that the organization will use to attract more public schools to our constitutional literacy programs). I am now beginning a new project focusing on bringing service-learning into the classrooms of underperforming schools. 

Jake Abell – June 20, 2011

Working at a DC non-profit quickly dispels lots of myths about the NGO world. With movies like Dave, The American President, and a collage of West Wing episodes in my head, I had some romantic expectations for the daily life of social justice work in Washington. I imagined people bustling around at break neck speeds in elegant offices making witty repartee as they passionately fought the forces of evil on to see justice win the day. In reality, life at African Wildlife Foundation is pretty levelheaded and calm, though no less exciting at times. My job involves several disparate duties, but my most consistent duty is to craft social media updates for facebook and twitter that highlight news in the organization and in the larger world of African wildlife conservation. It's a rush when you make a post about the birth of twin gorillas in Rwanda which is viewed thousands of times before the day is out; it's made me acutely thoughtful about what I write when realizing that these updates, though small, represent the organization in such a public way. While social media posts only accomplish so much, it's been exciting to feel like I've been meaningfully contributing to the work at AWF by keeping folks on the web informed about the happenings of the african conservation world.

One of the things that's been unexpectedly fun about this internship has been the awareness that what we all of us do in this DC office is in the service of AWF's staff on the ground in Africa who are implementing the organization's conservation projects. Every new marketing strategy, every phone call with a donor, every newsletter that's created, and every social media update is crafted to increase exposure to AWF, broaden it's donor base, and win the support needed to do the work in Africa. There's something very special about that, knowing that you are ultimately working to enable scientists and field workers to help people and wildlife all over Africa. Each day when I sit down at my Macintosh for another 9 to 5 day, I think about those people and dedicate my work to them. In this way, a twitter post becomes my small (very small!) act of service, my way of doing what I can to facilitate the work that AWF does overseas.