This summer I interned at the Center from Reproductive Rights. CRR is an organization which focuses on advocacy, lobbying, and partnering with pro-bono lawyers to challenge laws obstructing access to women’s health. Its mission is “using the law to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect, and fulfill.”
CRR has offices all around the world, but the New York office is the main headquarters. CRR recently moved to an office downtown near Fulton Market and I had the privilege of spending four days there this July. I worked primarily with a summer intern named Danielle, helping her organize resource materials, set up meetings, and write daily emails to the whole staff about the Center’s work around the world. I also worked with the other summer interns in the foreign office; one was from Canada, while another was from Uganda. I was intrigued by the diversity of people in the office and everyone’s shared devotion towards the mission regardless of their backgrounds. I had just returned from Kenya and Tanzania, so I was particularly interested in CRR’s work in Africa. I collected and read many reports that the Center issued about their work in Africa. I also spoke frequently with the intern from Uganda who shared my interest in stopping FGM and providing more rights and medical care to women. I was extremely lucky to be there on the day that Chile passed their bill decriminalizing abortion. We skyed the Chile office and toasted their years of hard work to achieve this victory.
I interviewed almost everyone in the office and I got a sense of the many angles of nonprofit work. For example, I met with the head of the pro-bono program to learn how they work with lawyers outside the Center to bring cases around the world challenging unconstitutional laws. We talked about the recent victory CRR had in the Supreme Court in the Texas case that overturned a law that made access to abortion impossible in much of that state. I was lucky to be at the Center for the press conference that was held about a new lawsuit they have filed in Texas to fight another obstructionist law. I recently learned that the Center won the first stage of that case in federal court in Texas. I also met with the head of development, who explained the importance of fund raising and how they try to use each dollar to advance the mission. I particularly enjoyed speaking with the assistant to Nancy Northup, the CEO of the Center, to learn about what it means to run an organization of this size. Everyone in the office was more than willing to share their time with me to help me learn and become passionate about their work and better understand how non-profit organizations work. Here is a photo of the abortion laws in every country.
While in Kenya in June, I spent part of a day visiting the Ntumburi Primary School. We brought the children school supplies that they dearly needed, and I wished we had brought much more. The head of the school came to speak with us about the challenges they face. Many of the children do not have much food to eat food at home, so the school started a garden in order to help feed them. However, they cannot grow anything because this area of Kenya is facing drought conditions and they do not have enough water. Another issue is many kids do not come to school for large periods of time because they need to help their parents harvest crops or search for food for their families. They desperately need a well or bore hole in order to get clean drinking water and water to help grow food in the garden — we discussed plans to raise money for the well. The school had recently gotten toilets which they were very grateful about; however, they did not have any water in which to use them, so the brand new toilets sat unused. We were able to sit in classes of many grade levels and hear what the children were learning. Each classroom had one open window and a few desks. The classrooms were dark because of the lack of electricity. Some classrooms had old posters on the walls, while others lay bare. We played with the children, sang with them, helped them in class, and taught them a little English. The school is understaffed, so we were able to give the children one-on-one attention, something to which they were not accustomed and enjoyed. Below are some pictures of the school and the amazing children we met.
After we went to the school we visited a local health clinic. They too are incredibly understaffed and do not have enough medical supplies, but they do amazing work for the people in the area. All the services they provide are free for everyone no matter what.
This summer I also spent a day volunteering with City Arts, an organization that paints murals in poor neighborhoods in order to improve the quality of life and put something beautiful in their parks. City Arts strives to work with members of the community, so that they feel an ownership for the project and appreciate the work it took to get there. I helped them paint a mural in a playground in Hamilton Heights in East Harlem. The mural is of a tree with quotes from Alexander Hamilton on it, because Hamilton lived very close by in this neighborhood. City Arts and the artist they were working with wanted to make the mural very green because in the winter when there are no longer leaves on the real trees, the park becomes dark and dreary. Below is a photo of me working on the very beginning of the mural alongside kids from the neighborhood.