Cassidy Bennett, Communications and Research Intern
If you had to tell the story of how you got to where you are now in your life in seven minutes, what would you say? Where would you start?
As I closed my internship with CFJC this summer, I had the opportunity to ponder these questions. I told my story of how I got to this point in seven minutes and then I envisioned where I thought I would be one year from now. One year ago today I did not know I would be here, though I certainly hoped I would be interning for an organization in the Bay Area. I had no idea CFJC even existed, let alone that as a social change organization that focuses through a food justice frame, it would be the perfect place for me to work this summer.
I thought my internship here would be worlds different from the internship last year, which placed me in Uganda for a month. I think of it often, but I had not drawn parallels between my internships until the last day with CFJC. That internship in Uganda focused mainly on building relationships – building relationships with the American team of college students, the Ugandan team of college students, the leaders, and everyone we met in Uganda along the way. In order to build these relationships we had to build trust, be honest, and form connections with each other. We were all going through new experiences and, although we came from very different backgrounds, sharing our stories with each other allowed us to come together and work in the communities we visited.
At some point I panicked about my story, my history – I felt it wasn’t worthy. I hadn’t gone through anything like the Ugandans had. One of our leaders in Uganda was a night commuter, meaning that when the Lord’s Resistance Army was active in Northern Uganda he had to walk each evening from his home in his village to the city so that he was safe from abduction. I grew up in a small beach town with my two parents, my younger brother, and my many pets. I grew up with an amazing education, travel opportunities, and had just completed my first year at Brown University. The students we were with were well educated – all of them were in or had just finished university. Many of the local people we would meet had grown up in rural areas, lived in slums, and had been displaced by war. When I sat and conversed with them and heard their stories, at times through translators, we connected despite our different backgrounds. I was also able to share my own story and how I got to Uganda that summer with them.
The day after my internship with CFJC came to an end, I attended a Leadership Summit that was put on by the organization that originally sparked my interest in Uganda, child soldiers, and the LRA. Of course, the overarching theme of the weekend was telling your story. Throughout the weekend we heard many powerful stories – people who had overcome huge obstacles to get where they are today; people who had given up everything because of compassion that had drawn them to brand new strange places; people who had lives entirely different from mine; people who were more similar to me then I could have ever guessed. As I heard these stories and thought more of my own I thought about how I would continue to thread my passion for justice through my life, including pieces of environmental justice, food justice, human trafficking, and human rights.
Thinking about it that weekend and reflecting on it afterwards, I am so thankful for my time at CFJC this summer. Not only did it give the chance to see how a non-profit organization can function, I saw how closely a team can work together and support each other while still bringing interns into the mix and making them feel included. I also gained experience with social media and wordpress, and most of all was mentored and given the chance to be independent and still part of a team.
Though I was only at CFJC for a few months, I met people that will inspire me in my pursuits of social justice for the rest of my life. There will be times when I doubt my story as I continue through life, but working at CFJC this summer built further confidence in me. It reminded me there is power to my story no matter who I am, where I came from, or who I am speaking with. CFJC reminds people that their story is important, that their community is built on individual stories, and we cannot let regional and national legislators forget that. Stories build a community and that is what matters.
This semester I am starting on a brand new adventure, in another country that is new to me – and I could not be more grateful that it is coming off of my summer with CFJC. My internship was a reminder that every piece of my story and what brings me to the next place matters. People who care are working on things that matter. They cannot be stopped when working together and lifting up one another’s stories.