The 2016 Sorensen Fellows Intern Across the Globe

July 29, 2016

The 19th cohort of Sorensen Fellows – Jennifer Almodovar ’18, Marcelo Brociner ’18, Jake Greenberg ’18, Yael Sammi Jaffe ’18, Brandon F. Tran ’18, and Sophia Warren ’18 – scattered across the globe for their summer internships. Their experiences so far have been challenging, surprising – and even inspiring. Read on for more about their internships, and some thoughts from the Sorensen Fellows, reporting back from the field:

Jennifer Almodovar ’18, from New York City, has been interning this summer at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) in Boston. Some of the issues that Jennifer is working on at IJDH include women’s rights, immigration, the UN cholera situation, and the citizenship crisis for Haitian descendants in the Dominican Republic.

"One of the most surprising things I have learned during this internship is how hard it is to get people to support social justice financially. Charitable organizations have a much easier time getting funding than organizations such as IJDH, because it is much easier to support change that you can physically see. It can be very rewarding for donors to see that they are giving people in need supplies, like food and water; especially when they are shown sad pictures. However, when you ask them to support lawyers fighting for justice and accountability of organizations like the U.N., it is a completely different ball game."

Marcelo Brociner ’18, from Somerville, Massachusetts, is Cuban-American, the grandson of Rene Mederos, a Cuban political artist who was sent to Vietnam in 1969 to paint scenes of the war against the United States. Marcelo interned at the Work Room Four art studio in Hanoi, Vietnam. His responsibilities included researching potential projects, supporting a major art installation, maintaining the studio space, and connecting with local artists. Marcelo also worked on plans for an exhibition of his grandfather's artwork, scheduled for 2017.

“Being a Sorensen Fellow has presented me with the beautiful challenge of living independently. I had never lived alone in any setting before leaving in late May for Vietnam, and here I am living alone for two months in a country that was, and still is quite foreign to me. Exploring such a new environment on my own has allowed me to simultaneously explore the depths of my own identity, which is going to help me in more ways than I can imagine come future challenges down the road. My funniest experience thus far came in my first week when I decided to get a haircut in order to fight the extreme Hanoi humidity. The barber who cut my hair spoke no English, and more importantly I spoke no Vietnamese. I showed him a picture of a previous haircut and he proceeded to cut my hair with absolutely no dialogue. He did a great job, but it's moments like this where I can somewhat appreciate the language barrier.”

Jake Greenberg ’18, from Old Tappan, New Jersey is interning for the Rockland Conservation & Service Corps in Rockland County, New York, working with the Cornell Cooperative Extension. His work involves building environmental stewardship while increasing preparedness for disaster and emergency situations. During his internship, Jake is building hiking trails, mapping storm drains, cleaning-up rivers, and other conservation service projects, combining technical GIS and data collection tasks with community engagement work focused on environmental advocacy and protection.

"As a hiker and runner, I have always loved venturing the woods. Always moving, I never stopped to appreciate the achievement beneath my feet. After completing a full day of trail building, from clearing brush to developing its foundation, I learned to appreciate the labor involved in making nature accessible through outdoor trails."

Yael Sammi Jaffe ’18, from Hollywood, Florida, is interning with the Yerushalmit Movement, a grass-roots organization that works to build a vibrant, pluralistic, and inclusive Jerusalem. Yael is involved in the group's various community organizing initiatives as well as their "Meeting Point" project – a weekly public gathering for music, art, and peaceful dialogue surrounding controversial issues affecting Israeli society.

“Working with the Yerushalmit Movement, I have the opportunity to take part in and contribute towards projects that are creating incredible positive change here in Jerusalem: cross-cultural dialogue, LGBTQ+ activism, women's community and empowerment, and more. In the office, I develop my understanding of non-profit structure and community organizing. On the streets of Jerusalem, whether I'm assisting in a program run by the organization or shopping for groceries, I develop my understanding of Israeli society, its particular sociocultural and political dynamics, and the experiences of its marginalized groups. Navigating this familiar city in the unfamiliar capacity of an intern and activist has been an entirely new and eye-opening experience. I look forward to continuing to learn from this organization's staff, from the broader community, and from this country.”

Brandon F. Tran ’18, from Houston, Texas, is spending July and August in New Delhi, India where he is residing in the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple, a Chinese Mahayana Buddhist temple that trains novice monks, called sramaneras. There, Tran hopes to to assess the motives and reasons why these children have led the monastic life as well as how their cultivation and practices have shaped and changed their lives. He teaches English and follows members of the temple in their community service, providing healthcare services, and documenting the healthcare disparities in the rural areas of New Delhi.

“In many parts of the city, residents scatter throughout whatever space there is…. Life in the city is so fast paced where many works carry boxes on their heads and large bags of paper items on their backs. Children are seen on the streets begging for whatever they can get to bring back home. Vehicles of all sizes fight for space in all possible means while busting open your ears with their horns. Contrarily, at the sramanera school, the novice monks, adult monks, teachers and volunteers reside in one large land that provokes an environment of happiness and peace. All the novices work together harmoniously, sharing their equal share of work, while having to take classes from 9am-4pm with an hour for lunch in between. The two worlds within the same city are tremendously different, yet provide any visitor to experience a learning experience that may not be found easily in the States.”

Sophia Warren ’18, from Scarborough, Maine interned this summer with The Jerusalem Youth Chorus of the Jerusalem International YMCA. She is contributing to the Choir’s work empowering high school singers engaging one another in musical and verbal dialogue, using skills in community building, communications strategy, and technological programming. Sophia has also conducted research on integrating mediums of art in higher education.

“As I navigate in the gift of this internship experience with the Jerusalem Youth Chorus, I enter this building of Abrahamic religious tradition with the quote: ‘Here is a place whose atmosphere is peace, where political and religious jealousies can be forgotten, and international unity fostered and developed.’ - Lord Edmund Allenby, April 18, 1933.”

Read more about the Sorensen Fellowship, including details of how to apply.