2021 Orientation: Healthcare/Health Policy

OZIOMA ANYANWU | MOMCARES

In the past 30 days since I submitted my last final, I’ve taken a lot of time to myself. Frankly speaking, I probably spent a few too many hours aimlessly scrolling on Tiktok in my post-junior year/pre-CIIP existence. Consequently, transitioning into participating in CIIP Orientation over Zoom and discussing some of the most intricate and emotional societal issues was a bit of an adjustment, to say the least.

For example, on the last day of Orientation, we discussed the sordid history Johns Hopkins University has in the history of Baltimore. Although I was familiar with the history, hearing it once again still elicited a sense of despondency that I couldn’t shake.

It may have been the feeling that I’m inherently complicit as a privileged Johns Hopkins student. Or it could have been that I feel discouraged going into this work this summer feeling like there are so many odds against me. Regardless, I began to feel better when I started discussing with my peer mentor group. The passion and drive coming from my group’s desire to learn more and take their knowledge into their internships reminded me of my own.

Among the many valuable lessons, I learned in the past week, the one that has stuck with me the most is to go into this summer with intention. In my experience, it’s been way too easy to go through the motions of workshops and Zoom meetings like it’s second nature. But without consciously taking a step back I find that I lose sight of the circumstances that have brought me to this position as a CIIP intern in the first place. Feelings like despondency and discouragement held a valid place in my reflection during the week of Orientation, but they won’t stop me from taking a step further and choosing to use them to my advantage.

The work isn’t easy, the discussions aren’t simple, but I think I’ll come to find that the difficult moments will remind me that it’s all truly worth it.

CARLOS BURI-NAGUA | CENTRO SOL

One thing that challenged me about orientation was creating a space for myself within a larger virtual space to open up and partake in important conversations given the virtual format. Don’t get me wrong; I appreciated all aspects of orientation and how interactive and well-thought-out the workshops and activities were; however, for me, processing everyone’s responses and allowing time to listen was difficult. I understand that no matter how much effort is put into a virtual program or event, it may not have the same effect as it would if it were in person. Despite my personal challenge, it was eye-opening to hear everyone’s perspective, as many of us come from different backgrounds.

As I further reflect on virtual programming, I also think about the pros that come along with attending a virtual event, such as zoom breakout rooms and unique interactive elements. I personally enjoyed the breakout rooms as we were able to interact and reflect in a smaller setting. A set of breakout rooms that I specifically enjoyed were those from the TAG workshop, as I was able to share and listen in a space that I am more comfortable in. On top of that, it was great to learn more about a fellow CIIP intern. Additionally, TAG’s hand-dancing and continuum activities were interactive and helped with the zoom fatigue. At first, I was a bit hesitant when the workshop leaders announced we were going to do hand-dancing since I don’t dance. However, once I started to participate in the hand-dancing activities and get over my own worries, I actually enjoyed it; in fact, the activity woke me up and got me ready to engage with the workshop throughout the morning actively. Also, I appreciated the ability to place our feelings or perspectives on the continuum graph with the “annotate” feature. I enjoyed being able to see the thoughts and feelings of other CIIP interns and, later, hearing their thoughts on the matter; it was great to listen to views on both sides of the continuum since we all have different backgrounds and perspectives that influence our thoughts.

JULIA BURLESON | BALTIMORE HARM REDUCTION COALITION

This week has made me more aware of inequities in conversations and social spaces. I’ve started paying more attention to who fills and dominates conversational spaces. I’ve been thinking a lot about the extent to which we consciously or unconsciously privilege certain voices by not leaving space for others at the table. One of my goals during my internship at the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition (BHRC), is to be conscious about the amount of space I give and take. I aim to listen more than I talk and serve with humility to uplift the community that I work with and the broader Baltimore community.

One of the biggest challenges I faced this week was being vulnerable over Zoom. Expressing my views and sharing personal experiences to a room of about 50 strangers, made me extremely nervous at first. The Theater Action Group’s “I can tell you about…” small breakout room activity helped me feel more comfortable being vulnerable by asking me to share vague personal sentences with a fellow cohort member who I had never talked to. Although we never elaborated on our sentences, I felt closer to my partner and more comfortable in the larger Zoom room afterwards.

This week has also helped me realize how important being reflective and honest with myself is to growing and being a better community member. During their presentation, Wide Angle Youth Media asked us to be honest about the reasons we joined CIIP and how our perceptions of Baltimore have changed while we’ve been at Hopkins. This activity helped me honestly examine my intentions and previous biases and learn about how to be more mindful about them. During my internship, I want to listen to people’s stories and goals without imposing my biases so that I can clearly understand what the community wants and needs.

I can’t wait to listen, learn, and work with everyone at BHRC next week!

KOYE OPUTA | EPISCOPAL REFUGEE AND IMMIGRANT CENTER ALLIANCE

I took CIIP Orientation to direct me in how I would move forward in social service. I did that by asking questions. CIIP seemed to be the most critical place for someone trying to learn about their community, and the most hostile place to ask questions. This myth was quickly identified and dispelled on my first day as community mentors and peers set community norms such as “Permission to be messy,” “Express and explain [how someone offended you],” and “Own your [mistake].”

I found greater promise in watching my peers live out these norms. They encouraged my curiosity and were also eager to ask their own questions without rebuke for lack of knowledge. Furthermore, people were always willing to answer questions in respectful and unassuming manners, making it clear that they sought to see you grow in understanding more than they sought to correct you.

It is quite easy to think only of yourself when you think no one else cares to see you grow, but in CIIP we grow by caring for one another. The people in CIIP made it easy to cast off concern for how I appeared, and focus more on the people I am meant to be serving. As I begin my first week of working with ERICA, I go to forget myself and learn about others.

INDIRA SUMMERVILLE | SHEPHERD’S CLINIC

Orientation challenged me in many ways, but I think that the week-long experience challenged my thought process the most. During orientation, I found that I am a very product-driven person, placing the majority of my focus and motivation toward the product, leaving little room for appreciating the process. While I do not think that is a problem inherently, I realized during orientation that the work we do within our placements will not necessarily be focused on a certain product, as a product is not representative of the values and missions that are ingrained in the organizations we are working with this summer. The process, however, will be. The collaborative effort, the values and communities prioritized in decision-making, and the lessons learned along the way are the most important. As a product-driven person, realizing this during orientation was a challenge, but it was also exciting to imagine pushing my boundaries, and reshaping my thought process. On the other hand, I really enjoyed getting to know the people in my peer mentor group during orientation. With the majority of my college career being virtual, I had not had many opportunities to meet people, let alone people who were equally as invested in civic engagement. Discussing some of our orientation topics, as well as doing our other awesome activities (ex. Scavenger hunt) with my peer mentor group was an opportunity to gain various other perspectives, which is extremely valuable to me, especially going into my placement. It was also interesting to just get to know who they were as individuals, learning of their interests, talents, and backgrounds. Getting to know them made me even more excited for the summer as we strengthen our relationships. Lastly, learning more about Baltimore, and some areas that I will be able to explore this summer was particularly exciting! Again, I have not had much of a chance to really experience this great city since I came to Hopkins. So, learning about the many things to do in the city was super exciting and I really look forward to exploring Baltimore and all it has to offer throughout the summer, and the rest of my time at Hopkins!

VEENA THAMILSELVAN | KESWICK MULTI-CARE CENTER

This past week I had the amazing opportunity to interface with 52 incredible people on the most engaging pandemic zoom call I’ve ever experienced! I think the one thing I valued most about this week was the ability to share my thoughts and opinions in a space where I did not feel ostracized or belittled. In fact, the one thing I appreciate so much about our cohort is the ability to embrace each other and uplift each other. I am always an inquisitive person, and I appreciate my peers taking the time and patience to share their thoughts and knowledge with me! Yesterday, we had the opportunity to meet other cohort members in-person at the Waverly Farmer’s Market and the biggest challenge was trying to figure out cohort members and their height! Needless to say, some folks turned out a lot taller than I expected based on their zoom rectangle! Not to mention that my peer mentor Michael came through with the Poppay’s Rolls from Avenue Bakery!

As I transition to my internship this week, I hope to take the lessons about empathy, understanding, and humility forward as I work with older adults at Keswick center. Especially with understanding the history and context of the present in the greater scheme of Baltimore history. In working with another CBO that supported older adults, I learned so much about how George Floyd and protests have evolved and stayed the same throughout Baltimore history. My goal this week is to learn from them and ask about their perspectives on community and civic engagement and how I can support the livelihood of elders in my community respectfully and inclusively.

MICHAEL VIDAL | ESPERANZA CENTER

I’ve completed two CIIP orientations, but this one was different. My perspective for this orientation changed. Instead of a new, unaware Hopkins’ undergrad, I am an experienced member of the CIIP community and spent an entire semester working with a community partner (St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center). As a peer mentor, whose task are to facilitate conversations, I considered myself well-seasoned in the lessons from a CIIP orientation. Yet, the last week subverted my expectations, and I learned more on the community and on being a leader.

A major deviation from Spring 2021 orientation is the time and content. Spring orientation lasted only two days with presentations and activities crammed within the few hours available. This orientation was much longer – five days, approximately 40 hours – providing much more room for reflection on the content. Furthermore, as a peer mentor, I found myself frequently confronted with the task of synthesizing new information and leading discussions, relying on previous experiences in the city to inform my direction. But in these moments of reflection, the most enjoyable moments of orientation emerged.

Beginning as a group of strangers, my peer mentor group underwent as series of transformations. We began on Day one as shy individuals, hesitating on what to say and how to say them. As a facilitator, this naturally worried me. But as the days progressed, new activities continuously brought us closer. For example, the scavenger hunt highlights this transformation. The start was nerve wracking. We barely knew each other and were now expected to participate in a two-and-a-half-hour-long activity filled with challenges that pushed our social boundaries. At the final activity, it seemed we were long time friends, willing to be vulnerable to film a (epic) performance. The relationships only grew with more conversation at the close of the week. We were no longer strangers but friends.

This transformation is guided through conversation and vulnerability. As we learned more about each other and allowed other to learn of us, the group dynamic changed. These changes enabled future reflections to run automatically. I rarely interjected with a question or urge mentees to participate. In placements, this lesson is also valuable. With conversations between community members, other CIIP members, and supervisors, the ability to reflect and learn about the Baltimore community and our placement expand, leaving no dull moment in a CIIP internship. Even in week 8, our capacity to reflect meaningfully and critically allows more learning – or unlearning, depending on your perspective – to continue. I am looking forward learning more from my placement and peers this summer.

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