Looking back, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. After reading the job description of interning at our placements 25 hours a week and coming together on Fridays for reflection, I thought to myself, “I can definitely do this.” After 8 weeks of interning here, I would have given my answer a little bit more thought. At GLIDE, we work and get the work done. We serve meals, give out TB tests, facilitate the Women’s Center, listen to residents’ needs and much more.
However, the work does not just stop once we clock out. Every day, we continue to challenge ourselves to that higher degree of radical inclusion and love in order to embrace our edges and continue to work on ourselves. Although it’s very hard to do soul-searching work, I have found it to be very liberating and rewarding thus far.
In fact, it is impossible to not change while working with groups of people who are typically pushed to the margins of society and ignored when we know that in reality, these people are just like any human beings longing for communal desires of trust, friendship and love. When we extend that trust, we are also doing ourselves a favor by opening up the heart and accepting ourselves even more. The work that we do is transformative and in turn, we are transformed by it.
Every Friday, the interns regroup to reflect on our work and discuss racism, discrimination and identities. We engage by listening, sharing our personal stories, singing and crying. Like Isoke Femi, our facilitator of the group says, “Crying does not necessary mean that we are sad. Instead, it’s a way of expressing emotion.” We have been able to understand, appreciate and respect each other because the group has opened up to vulnerability and in turn, developed trust. At GLIDE, the work starts from the bottom up.
- Patience, trust and empathy
A majority of my time is spent at my placement in Cecil Williams Housing. With nine floors of 52 households consisting of families, children and singles, many of these residents are low income people and/or are recovering from drugs and homelessness. Within this capacity, I have been able to reach out to many residents, who have all welcomed me in with warm hearts to their safe community.
In the beginning, it was definitely hard trying to build relationships. However, after countless hours of hanging out in the community room and extending my welcome, residents began to open up to me. Specifically, I was able to connect to many of the Cantonese-speaking families who have never really reached out for help before because they have always felt confined when it comes to not speaking the language. However, after they discovered that I could understand their language and culture, these Cantonese-speaking families slowly but surely let me into their worlds. Moments like that make up for the slow days, frustrations over unanswered phone calls and difficulties connecting residents with resources. From working with the other case managers and listening to the residents, I have learned to harbor the patience and trust in humanity to serve people who only deserve the best.
As my internship winds down to an end, I will continue to grow with these lessons and values that I have testified to wherever I go.
By Tammy Tang, a Summer 2016 GLIDE Emerging Leaders Intern. She will be a junior at the University of CA, Davis this fall and is double majoring in Sociology and Chinese.