2022 Week 4: Environment, Sustainability & Community Health

Photo of Angelica Brooks, smiling Angelica Brooks | Farm Alliance of Baltimore

My goals for the summer have definitely changed, although it is nuanced. My initial goals involved building a sense of community and fostering deeper connections through outreach. This goal is still important to me, as community cohesion is necessary for the success of nonprofit work. However, my outlook on these goals have changed a bit after working for a few weeks.

Prior to working with the Farm Alliance, I knew that I desired a greater connection to the Baltimore community, but I viewed this desire in a lens that would aid my endeavors in leadership/representation in environmentalism. I cared (and still care) about hearing the concerns of marginalized people who historically did not have voices, but I focused on how their perspectives can lead to problem solving, rather than appreciating the beauty of sharing time with other humans.

The highlights of my internship thus far all have a common denominator: instances that involved great conversations with people, even if they were not about problems relating to my career or internship specifically. I bonded deeply with people I had only spoken to once prior, or never at all, over short, unique, and powerful conversations. I spoke to the market manager of the Waverly Farmer’s Market about farmer work inequities within the first hour of meeting them, and in the second hour we spoke about our shared interests as artists. I laughed with trainees at the Curtis Bay teaching farm while gathering bunches of garlic and doing other farm tasks. I listened to one of the managers at Hidden Harvest farm talk about the downsides of having a collective shared garden, but then we also talked about our favorite flowers. I even appreciated the simplest conversations, either with my supervisor about my interests while driving in the Farm Alliance van, or with an international intern I met (who studied soil science in Indonesia) as we bonded over our favorite Asian fruits.

In summary, I realized that my goals have changed because my new goal is to value and take in every experience as it occurs. I’m trying to worry less about the significance of these experiences for my career path; if I’m making the right connections, or if I am remembering every word someone says about solving a problem. I can just enjoy the fact that I am speaking to new people and creating new safe spaces for dialogue. For these experiences, I am extremely grateful, and it actually makes me realize that I am sad to see the program winding down soon. This internship is about more than the work that I do, or the work that the organization does. Forming bonds with people from entirely different backgrounds and sharing moments of empathy and understanding are moments that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Photo of Siena DeFazio, smilingSiena DeFazio | Joy Wellness

My goals this Summer have not changed, but I feel they have become more informed. I originally wanted to grow my social skills in a professional health care setting while expanding my knowledge about the role of alternative medicine in alleviating the symptoms of toxic stress. I learned about acupuncture and chair yoga. I also had conversations with nurses and other health professional interns that have expanded my knowledge surrounding the varying perspectives on alternative medicine. I have also been able to grow relationships with patients that I hope can continue to evolve. That is something else unique I have experienced about integrative health. The patients show up almost weekly, sometimes even more if they are coming to multiple classes. This lends it self well, intentionally, to developing relationships with patients as opposed to seeing someone for 15 minutes twice a year.

I was also interested in the role of private partnership with non-profits. Last year, I worked with a for-profit arm of the non-profit organization designed to make the non-profit as a whole more sustainable. Being on the opposite end, I have noticed some major differences. Instead of being free to make changes and having total control over hiring, advertising, and other business decisions, Joy Wellness Center has to go through Med Star. Tuesday, I went to the J Van center, which is public housing for disabled and elderly populations. My supervisor showed me this giant health robot that Med Star spent money on but no one in the community asked for. Several of the onsite nurses were even lamenting it because patients would not have any one to explain the results to them or answer questions that the machine gave to them. At my last internship we were free to implement interventions that the community felt important. However, at the same time Med Stars’ support has enabled the center to have much more economic freedom.

Photo of Jeremy Gu, smiling Jeremy Gu | Baltimore SquashWise

This week, I’ve been working with the Youthworkers on the final additions to the Summer camp for next week and meeting a bunch of the SquashWise students. It was, by far, my most exciting and fun week so far. Getting to meet the YouthWorkers brought some new energy into the work that we do. And learning about their Squash journey and being apart of a really open environment was a fantastic vibe. I also was able to play a bunch of squash with some college squash student athletes which was a really fun and eye-opening experience.

Although most of the work with planning, decorating, and preparing for the Summer program next week was in my comfort zone, I still found a lot of new methods of doing things and there was still a ton of variety. On the squash courts, I learned how to coach and some of the useful drills we can do with middle schoolers. I also was able to try out all the drills as well and experience the difficulties and the areas for improvement. On the preparation end of things, I’ve been stringing some rackets, regripping the rackets, and cleaning the safety goggles. For the enrichment portion, we decorated the facility and made sure the activities for the week were finalized.

I once again saw the idea behind serving and helping as the last two weeks of work with brainstorming the activities were an example of helping and this week’s brainstorming with the youthWorkers who have been through the program was serving. Last two weeks, my job was the brainstorm an initial list of activities. I had around 17 activities that all had guided reflection as well. But, this week, it took us only a day to revise the list, add way more activities, and reflect about what went well in the previous years. My role this week was much more about listening and probing with questions rather than doing the thinking and problem solving which I thought was a great reflection of serving vs. helping.

Photo of Brahein Richardson, smiling Brahein Richardson | Black Church Food Security Network

My personal goals for the summer have not changed. One of my main goals this summer is to really lend myself and give my all into every experience with my placement this summer. I really want to expand my mind and my dreams for the future. Three years ago, I came to Johns Hopkins with the goal to attend medical school afterwards and become an Infectious Disease Specialist, but recently this year I have been thinking a lot about that goal and if it is something that feels right for me. Coinciding with the goal I mentioned previously, by giving myself to all of my experiences this summer I am really trying to answer this question. I definitely believe I am on track to this goal and me and my supervisor have talked about the paths I could take. I think something I definitely am sure of is that chemistry is something I want to be a part of whatever career journey I take in life. Working on and around food sustainability and food sovereignty has opened my mind on how I can combine my love of chemistry with the environment and even agriculture. Traveling this weekend and being on a farm for the first time in my life was a surreal experience. I really appreciated the peace that came with being on the farms and seeing for the first time the origin story of where some of the food I eat and even do not eat. To move forward with these goals in mind, I am definitely going to be conscious of taking some classes this upcoming semester that explore these goals more, and I will continue to talk to my supervisor about it. I am most certainly also looking to get into research very soon, so it will definitely be interesting to see where that path takes me.

Photo of Harrinee Senthilkumar, smiling Harrinee Senthilkumar | MissionFit Inc.

It’s funny that this week’s prompt is about goals because that’s been a recurring topic of discussion throughout this week. A major theme emphasized in the Strength Ambassadors YouthWorks program is goal-setting. To practice goal-setting, each of the Strength Ambassadors created a physical fitness goal (for example, to do 10 push-ups with good form). They measured their baseline performance and the coaches at MissionFit developed a training plan for them to accomplish their respective goals in 4 weeks. Before YouthWorks started, I actually created a fitness goal of my own: to do a ring hold for 30 seconds (inspired by a former gymnast I met during strength class the first week of my internship). For the last 3 weeks, I’ve been doing a short upper body workout three times a week that my supervisor put together. This past Friday, we tested my ring hold to see how much I had progressed and I was able to stay on the rings for 42 seconds! It felt pretty satisfying to achieve this goal but since I was a little hesitant when my supervisor asked me three weeks ago to come up with a goal, I set a very realistic, reasonable goal that I knew wouldn’t be too much of a challenge as long as I practiced somewhat consistently. Immediately after I finished my ring hold, I knew I wanted to challenge myself more so I set a new goal to do 5 pull-ups by the end of my internship. I knew this would be significantly more difficult than the first goal as I can barely do one pull-up right now, but I’m excited about the challenge.

In terms of my assigned projects, the Strength Ambassadors curriculum and the so-called Book of Games, I am slowly but surely making progress. I expect to be putting the finishing touches on the draft of the curriculum by the end of this week and I am meeting with a PT/coach at MissionFit this Wednesday to begin discussing content for the Book of Games. I know the next 4 weeks will be a lot of work for sure but I am incentivized by seeing both of these projects, originally just ideas, take physical form and I’m excited for the final products.

Photo of Marisa Thomas, smilingMarisa Thomas | Whitelock Community Farm

This week I’ve found myself thinking about the importance of sharing knowledge. My new goal for the remainder of the summer is to gain more confidence in talking about my experiences. I love to listen to what other people know, and I want to get better at owning and speaking what I know.

Earlier in the summer, my main goals were to learn more about the operations of the farm on the business side, connect with the community, and help complete projects to the best of my ability. I think I’ve definitely gotten a better idea of administrative tasks that are necessary for farms. There are health and safety compliance standards, detailed records of purchases and sales, and inventories of the crops we harvest and sell. I knew that farming wasn’t simple, but it has been nice to get a better idea of some of the complexities outside of the nature aspect.
For the community goal, I’ve gotten better at introducing myself to people in the neighborhood. Now I know some familiar faces and names, and it’s always nice to say hello. I’ve also found community in the farming circles of Baltimore with the soil scientists who visit every week, stewards from Acres for change, and other farmers who come by to help out. I learned a lot about the people aspect from watching my supervisor interact with the community, and that welcoming, open spirit is something I hope I can continue holding in my life outside the internship. On the last goal about completing projects, I think I’ve been successful with helping wherever work needs to be done, but it’s also led me to think about how I frame my accomplishments.

We complete many tasks on a daily basis that go towards the maintenance and improvement of the farm, but I realize that when people ask me what I do, I usually have vague answers. I tell them that I’m weeding and watering and planting and cleaning, but I’m wondering if my lack of detail might downplay the hard work and strategy on the farm. As with any goal or project, there are many little steps that lead to the big picture, and my framing of the bigger picture is sometimes lacking. A new goal for the rest of the summer is to be able to better communicate the work that I do and how it connects to other larger themes. For me, this relates to the importance of sharing knowledge. Ms. Kim has emphasized a couple times that what we learn should be passed on to the next person. I completely agree because education gives people agency. I want to share what I’ve learned from others, and to get closer to that goal I want to be able to clearly articulate what we’ve been doing.