Atri Surapaneni | CIIP 2023 Blog Portfolio


I had a great time during orientation. I really learned a lot from the variety of speakers. Some of my favorites were the history presentation and the black churches food security network. It was amazing to see the impacts various nonprofits have made in Baltimore through the history of the CIIP Program. Further, I thought it was great we got some much needed context regarding the systemic racism black and minority communities have faced in Baltimore and understood the struggles of many of the marginalized citizens and also how Hopkins has participated in this. I also thought the reflection activities were very helpful. I think I “Found my Why” which is related to service and giving back. I got to better understand concepts and ideas that I think are important and connect them with how I live as a Hopkins student and just a person in general. I also really enjoyed doing the Scavenger Hunt with my peer mentor group. I got to see places in Baltimore I had never been to before and I really liked Lexington Market and taking the light rail. I feel a lot more comfortable using city transportation. I also thought the Scaenger Hunt allowed us to see some of the systemic issues in the city and also the impact of the White L and Black Butterfly. I was able to connect the MTA presentation we had with the fact that the buses in the white L (purple Line) are free while the buses going East to West in the city were MTA buses and had a fare. At the end of the week, I think I got a lot closer with my peer mentor group, which is such a diverse group of people. I am very excited to start working at the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition. I know I have a lot to learn and that it might be slow getting adjusted and learning about the projects I am working on at first, but I am confident and excited to contribute in any way I can.


Week 1

My first week of my internship was really crazy and cool at the same time. I got to meet such an amazing group of staff at the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition and one thing I wanted to learn from doing the CIIP program was to gain a better understanding of how a nonprofit functions. I really got to see this by joining meetings and understanding the needs and operations first hand of Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition. My supervisor Harriet and I developed a weekly schedule, but because of some recent developments, that schedule is now in jeopardy, but I could not be more excited about what could happen. The advocacy work and policy work BHRC has been conducting for the past couple of years could potentially be developing into real policy change and the opportunity to learn and see what could come on that end is very interesting to me. My time in the office was really dominated by learning how to make different kits that BHRC distributes. This includes hygiene kits, safe smoking kits, safe sex kits, and safe snorting kits. The space is not that big, but the team has a very solid and organized system for all their supplies and kits. I am working also on planning an event for BHRC and going to be conducting an outreach survey which I am very excited for. The survey is the most important thing for me because I value hearing members of the community’s values, wants, and feedback. I think that it is very important because those are the people we are aiming to serve.


Week 2

A challenge I have been facing this week was waking up on time. My hours technically start at 9 AM, but on Thursday and Friday, I came a bit late around 9:30. My sleep schedule has been a challenge because if I stay up one night on the weekend, it pushed the time I wake up at for the whole week. I think managing this takes discipline and commitment. If I am a bit late, I try to make it up by being extra productive or taking on an extra task. Because I am in person in entirety, it is nice to go to the office and have it as my workspace. Something I have had to adjust to, and I think I have adjusted well is finding a way to be productive when others are in a private meeting. Meetings are important to coordinate logistics, goals, and future plans for BHRC, and sometimes I am not needed to be present at such a meeting. Before I would ask for a specific task to do if I had any downtime and one of the services team members would tell me what to do, which mostly involved kit making. Now, I am able to see which kits are low and what materials we have proactively and I just start to work on that kit without being needed to be told or prompted. BHRC always needs more kits and getting ahead on kit making is a strong way for me to contribute and help out with the services team while they are unable to also do kitmaking. In the following week, I am looking forward to participating more in meetings and work on some fundraising committee topics with my colleagues.


Week 3

A typical day of work at my placement involves meetings and kit-making. I come in at 9, place my bag on my desk, and go downstairs to look at the kit-making board to see what kits are needed and what the schedule is like for today. I have learned how to make almost every kit that BHRC supplies during their drop-off times. These include Narcan kits, safer smoking kits, safer snorting kits, safe sex kits, and hygiene kits. I work with the services team to see what is needed and contribute a little bit each day to kit making depending on need and availability of products. During the other time on a typical day, I work with different formed committees on the specific tasks of the day and we have meetings to go over tasks that need to be delegated as well as progress we have made on the work. The committees I am on include the Celebration of Life Planning committee, where I am helping plan the annual fundraiser event of BHRC, the Summer Survey Team, which does a summer survey with community members about BHRC, a website committee which is looking to improve and redesign BHRC’s website, and the Mobilization Team, which is working on compiling resources, documents, and support to present to Baltimore City Health Department in favor of a Overdose Prevention Site in Baltimore. These committees have been meeting for only a week now, so we are still in the early stages, but we have set goals for the end of July and I am excited to see what we can accomplish. It is really amazing to work with such a diverse group of people at BHRC. Being in these different committees allows me to actually work with every single person in the organization in one way or another. Everyone has such a diverse background and they are all so passionate about social justice and harm reduction. Everyone is also extremely open and welcoming which has helped me transition very smoothly to working with them for the summer. Sometimes there is downtime due to the nature of the work and how meetings need to happen before we make too much progress, but I think I have adjusted to it well because when there is downtime, I can do some physical work and make kits, and when I get tired of kit making or it is less of a priority, I can contribute with computer involved tasks. I am really looking forward to getting more involved in the Survey and the Baltimore City Heald Department report work because I think can contribute the most to those. It seems like the harm reduction community in Baltimore has been gaining a lot of traction, and this time, the summer of 2023 seems like a turning point toward actual legislation in the city that can support community members.


Week 4

It is really hard to believe that I am at the halfway point of my CIIP summer. It has been a very positive experience so far and I have had the chance to learn from so many different staff members at BHRC. The first 4 weeks have slowly been picking up with more and more work and deadlines and I think it will continue that way for the rest of summer. I am excited to continue to take on more and more responsibilities and try to help out in any way I can. My goals for the summer defintely have changed and due to outside circumstances of the organization. I am not going to be able to complete the summer satisfaction survey project at the end of August, however I am still going to be involved in the planning parts of it. Services and kit making were a big part of my job description in the first couple weeks, however, they have been on pause and will be for another two weeks. Instead, I have been placed on few different committees with the goals of helping BHRC’s transition away from Fusion Partnerships and into its own nonprofit much smoother. As of July 1, BHRC is now its own nonprofit, and that means a lot more administrative tasks for the organization to get on its feet and running. I have been working on committees including the Celebration of Life committee, Fundraising committee, Baltimore City Health Department Committee, Summer survey committee, and the ACCESS committee. I have learned a great deal about how a nonprofit gets its funding, and even was able to contribute a bit to our written reports for the ACCESS grant, which is one of the main funders of BHRC. It is very cool to see all the nitty gritty details of how funding is acquired, how payments are made, how supplies are ordered and tracked, and all the management of all the staff. BHRC has grown into a much bigger organization and I am going to see some of the fruits of my labor from being a part of these committees because a lot of the project and report due dates are for the end of July. This Friday, the office also reserved an outside workspace and I got to do collaborative brainstorming activities with the whole staff. It was cool to be a part of and have an open dialogue with everyone. Although the survey got pushed back to September and October, I am also going to be responsible for brainstorming some questions about food insecurity we plan to add, which directly connects with what we talked about during our first Bites session. In the survey meetings, it was very eye opening to hear the other staff talk about their experiences and how we always run out of snack bags to give to community members and how everyone says they are hungry. I hope to come up with some good questions and work with another Board member who is working on another food insecurity project in the coming weeks.


Week 5

There are so many things that I have learned in my internship with BHRC that I can apply to my future goals. I think the first and foremost is organization. Organizing all my meetings onto the calendar and having planned out what my tasks and goals are for each day are simple things that can save me a lot of time in planning. It allows me to be more efficient and get tasks done at a faster rate. I think another thing that I specifically learned this week was being able to contextualize why a certain action is being taken and verbally speaking out about why a course of action might be helpful. During my survey planning meeting, it was super helpful to speak through and work through the different aspects of the survey question and why we were justifying adding some new special questions to the survey about food insecurity and nutrition. Having this dialogue made me understand our goals so much better and have allowed me to be more articulate in what my role and duties are for this part of the project. This week I also attended my first BRIDGES meeting, which is a coalition that is working on logistics, mobilization, and planning for an overdose prevention site in Baltimore. During this meeting, I learned the importance of remembering history, not shying away from your history, and also keeping that history in context with your future goals. Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition was started as a student organization of Hopkins students over a decade ago. Many community members and citizens of Baltimore have been harmed by the actions of Hopkins and its many branches of domains. There are countless examples of this yet it important to acknowledge that Hopkins students originally used their privilege as members of Hopkins to try to help the community. I think this understanding of history has taught me about leveraging resources but also contextualizing the actions and work you are doing in a bigger picture.


Week 7

Some of the goals that I aimed to achieve at the beginning of my internship included learning more about how nonprofit functions and about harm reduction, developing my soft skills and having conversations with all the staff, and planning and conducting a successful summer survey. The first two of my goals I believe I achieved. During my internship, BHRC was transitioning from having a fiscal partner, Fusion Partnerships, to being its own nonprofit. This happened on July 1st, and I started my internship around the middle of July. My first staff meeting, my supervisor, who is also one of the co-Directors of BHRC, presented a plan to the rest of the staff which proposed to stop or limit outreach services for a period of four weeks to allow all staff to contribute, engage, and participate in all the planning and committee work necessary to ensure BHRC can get on its feet and be prepared for the future as its own independent startup. This was a hard thing to hear for many of the staff members, especially the services team who knew about the importance of consistency and reliability in reference to outreach. It was determined that the “Extended Retreat” plan was the most beneficial way to step forward as an organization and I was assigned to a few committees. These committees included the ACCESS report committee, Syringe Service Program Committee, the Human Resource Consultant Committee, and the website committee. At our weekly staff meetings, I got to hear what the other committees had discussed. One week, the staff was deciding which healthcare plan to go with and there was a presentation by some of my coworkers. Another week, employee benefits were discussed along with an employee manual for grievances and about part time employee benefits. Everything needed to be well written, documented, and be official so there were policies and procedures that would continue to be working and effective years into the future. Being on these committees allowed me to work with almost every staff member and learn more about their background, which I considered a success of my second goal. My third goal, regarding the survey, was not achieved. The committee and retreat structure and halting of services meant no outreach was conducted and thus no surveys. Instead, I helped plan and design some special questions about food insecurity and nutrition, however the actual surveying will be conducted in September and October. I hope to continue to work with BHRC in those months and eventually achieve this goal of seeing the survey to fruition.