2018 Orientation: Healthcare and Health Policy
On the morning of the first day of orientation, I was frankly quite nervous. I had to make it to my appointment to the Student Health and Wellness Center and I did not want to be the person who was late on the first day. I also was unsure if my attire was business casual, but my roommate assured me that I was fine. Aside from these personal worries, I really did not know what to expect for orientation. I had assumed that we would be sitting through training after training, but CIIP Orientation week has been much more exciting, personal, and thought-provoking.
During the week, I learned about the impact of bias and the importance of being aware of our own privileges when interacting with individuals in the Baltimore community. One of my favorite activities was the interactive exercise led by Sheila Gaskins, Natalya Brusilovsky, and Brian Francoise of the Theatre Action Group. It was challenging to decide for myself which aspect of identity I was most knowledgeable about, least confident speaking about, and which one I wanted to be more educated about. My fellow CIIP cohort and my Peer Mentor, Isadora, helped me understand the importance of keeping aspects of my own identity in context and to challenge ideals and systems that have historically been ingrained in our society. Presentations from other guest speakers taught me the significance of self-care and fostering connections in the community, how to protect myself against street harassment, and how to effectively tell my story. Most importantly, I learned that I need to stay true to myself, be respectful, and to listen and learn from my mistakes.
This past week has been fun and intensive and I have met so many great people, but I am excited to start working with the Chase Brexton POWER Project on Monday!
Midway through CIIP Orientation, community activist Kim Trueheart came to speak to our cohort. Speaking about her motivation to remain one of the most active citizens of Baltimore, she said, “Those of us who know better have to keep speaking about better.”
Though the whole week has been incredibly eye-opening and engaging, I couldn’t get this sentence out of my head. What does “better” look like for Baltimore? For my placement, the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition? For the communities I’ll be serving?
If I were to guess, “better” could mean something as simple as increasing naloxone distribution around the city to fight against opioid overdose. It could mean that someone who was naloxone-trained saves the life of a person who overdosed. “Better” could mean helping to advocate for legislation to create safe consumption sites in Baltimore, fighting against the stigma of substance use. Thinking more abstractly, “better” could constitute a world where overdose death doesn’t exist.
After reflections of this week, I’ve recognized that I have to listen for the “better”. My guesses and approximations of what I think is “better” are not really important. This isn’t my definition to write. I don’t know everything — not even close. And that’s okay. Learning as I go, while keeping an open mind, is necessary and valid. I need to ask my colleagues, the community members I’m meeting and working alongside, and many more people what their definition looks like.
I am here not to define the “better”, but to hear what the community’s ideas of it are, amplify their voices, and work towards those goals of “better”. I need to also think about whose version of “better” isn’t being heard and considered, and work to hear those voices as well.
Heading into Week 1 of my internship, I can’t wait to learn, listen, and engage with the folks who know better!
First and foremost, I really enjoyed getting to meet so many enthusiastic interns who all share the same passion for social change. I walked into the room on the first day having never spoken to the vast majority of the people in the room and by the end I felt like I had connected and made friends with an amazing group of interesting individuals. I enjoyed listening to the speakers from so many different backgrounds, all of whom had their own unique advice to give to the CIIP interns. The speakers brought some familiar and some unfamiliar perspectives that really made me reflect on how I see the world and how I can better serve the community I am passionate about. Certain activities and workshops were the right amount of provoking and challenged us to step out of our comfort zones. It is not often that you have time to reflect on what you know well and what you have yet to understand, especially in the hectic lives of Hopkins students. I feel better equipped to understand the Baltimore community and make an impact this summer. Of course the food was great and Play-Doh is and forever will be fun.
I really appreciate how much thought was put into this orientation week for CIIP. Before attending the orientation, my concentration was solely on my partner organization and what I hoped I could do for them. The orientation helped me to zoom out so that I could focus on Baltimore as a whole. I loved listening to the other interns talk about their placements and hearing the Nonprofits 101 panel speak about their work in Baltimore. Charm City Care Connection in particular is an organization that collaborates on almost all of its projects—it’s especially important for the CCCC staff to be aware of other Baltimore nonprofits that share similar missions. As a student with only some prior knowledge of Baltimore nonprofits, I think orientation week was a very important step in my preparation to intern at CCCC. Getting to know the other interns, especially on our trip around Baltimore, was an enjoyable and productive time as well. If CCCC were to want to create a new partnership with any other CIIP placement organization, I’d definitely feel comfortable reaching out to that intern. All in all, orientation week was a great experience and I really appreciate the CIIP staff and peer mentors for all the work they put in to make it happen!
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at training. Although I was quite tired by the end of each session, I went home each day knowing more about myself, about social justice work, and about Baltimore. The most salient theme I took to heart was that the best thing I can do as an intern is to listen. That is, I should be listening to both those already working at my internship placement and to the people that we aim to serve at Shepherd’s Clinic. While I already knew of its importance, having humility was also hammered home. I’m excited to learn a lot at Shepherd’s Clinic in the coming weeks, and I’m ready to listen.
The scavenger hunt around the city made me much more familiar with Baltimore public transit (it was my first time taking the MTA and the metro). While I had already visited a few of the stops on the trip (e.g. Fed Hill and Lexington Market), I learned of new spots to go back and revisit (e.g. Avenue Bakery and The Ynot Lot). I feel much closer to Baltimore than before and I’m excited to explore more during this summer.
The greatest challenge I came face to face to during Orientation was that of recognizing my own privilege. Many of the activities made me realize that I have never been targeted for any aspect of my identity. I also realized that I have never had to think about my identity before, which reflects some privilege.
My favorite parts of Orientation were the talks by Kim Trueheart and State Representative Mosby. Kim’s talk made me very invested in the political processes in the city and made me understand how one person with determination can plant the seeds of change. Representative Mosby’s story made me optimistic for the future of the city and, like Kim’s story, further demonstrated the importance of determination and perseverance.
All in all, I feel prepared to work with Shepherd’s Clinic this summer, and I can’t wait to get started!
“The choir needs practice.”
After four days of over forty speakers engaging in conversations with our group of fifty, Theater Action Group’s Brian Francoise was the one to address the nagging question that had been the subject of many a side conversation: was orientation secretly just another cathartic session of preaching to the choir? Was its invitation to critical thinking really an invitation to deconstruct itself? After four days of sitting in roundtables, nodding heads, preaching “mhm”s and snaps, it was clear that we all had shared values and common goals. Yet, when a city houses over 3000 nonprofits and somehow keeps that number growing, it is also clear that the choir needs practice.
Like many, I came to Hopkins with the intention of pursuing a career in cutting edge research. Turns out the problematic institution does a good job at teaching its students to problematize its impact, like a self-conscious double-edged sword–or at least one that isn’t good at hiding its flaws. Thus, as I grew fonder and fonder of Baltimore, I decided to switch gears from a career in academia to one in non-profit work, “the one sector that should strive to make itself unnecessary.” Now CIIP’s orientation has made me question this direction too, and be critical of the non-profit industrial complex.
Are non-profits like grassroots organizations, moving towards a model of self-governance that depends less on representatives and more on the people? Or are they, on the contrary, reinforcing a system that selects for the most profitable needs to tend to, and leaves the rest to be taken care of by those who don’t have a choice? I hope that this summer, through this internship opportunity and many more conversations with the choir, I will gain further insight on the best strategies to work for our community.
At the beginning of orientation during Dr. Reverend Brown’s presentation, I jokingly admitted that I thought the only way to create lasting transformative change was through a socialist revolution. While I was being partly humorous, I was also recognizing some of my doubts about the sustainability and impact of non-profit work. There is a saturation of non-profits and other foundations in Baltimore attempting to address many of the inequalities present in the city, yet there is still immense violence, poverty, and wealth disparities present in Baltimore. I struggle to comprehend how it possible to change society when capitalism and power structures resist progress at every turn. While it is attractive to devote time and monetary resources to non-profits, so many individuals are motivated by success and their self-interest which often leads to their contribution to the capitalist system and the continuation of power structures. Throughout this week, I struggled to understand how it is possible to balance the need to fulfills one’s economic, social, and personal goals and needs, while still positively contributing to society and working against systematic oppression. While I am not necessarily any closer to an answer to this question, I feel empowered by the exposure to the variety of different careers that the speakers during orientation presented.
On the last day while walking the reception, my fellow peer mentor Awoe, with a serious face, asked me what was my dream in life. At first, I laughed and jokingly said have a baby after SAIS (the baby fever is real!), but then I stopped and considered what my dreams actually are. So often at Hopkins we face immense pressure to know exactly what our life plan is, that we spend our entire college careers figuring out how to get a perfect score on the MCAT or ace an interview to law school, that we don’t take time to consider what are our dreams. If I was being entirely honest, I would tell Awoe that I have no idea what my dream in life is – I’ve been spending so much time stressing about applying to grad school, networking with potential employers at jobs where I could gain an income to support myself and my family, or strategically planning how many years I should work before going to get a third degree.
However, something I took away from this week is that it’s okay to not know what your next step is. For someone who is frequently categorized at Type A, this is not necessarily a simple sentiment. While I don’t necessarily have an answer for Awoe or a well-crafted response for my advisor about my next career step, I’m beginning to accept that I have time to figure this out. I have many years to make mistakes, try new things, start different careers, and go on many adventures. Letting go of control and acknowledging that sometime life has a way of working out is a difficult pill to swallow, but a concept I am willing to try out this summer!Tags: 2018, Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition, Charm City Care Connection, Chase Brexton POWER Project, CIIP, CIIP 2018, Esperanza Center, Keswick Multicare Center, Martha's Place, Orientation, Shepherd's Clinic