Interning in the time of COVID-19
Editor’s note: CHN Intern Abby Huebler is a senior at the University of Delaware, where she is double-majoring in Economics and Environmental Studies, and minoring in Geography. This is her final blog post as a CHN Intern.
“Unprecedented,” “uncertain,” “challenging,” our “new normal.” These words have appeared across headlines endlessly for months to describe the better part of 2020.
When I applied for an internship with the Coalition on Human Needs in February, I was expecting my experience to be slightly different than what it has been. I knew I wanted to do advocacy and non-profit work and gain experience in the realm of policy. I was eager to work in D.C. and join a network of people advocating for those facing issues that I cared about.
Today, I write this from my bedroom in Baltimore, Maryland, working from my laptop at home like I have been since March. COVID-19 has brought upon a situation that I can imagine almost no one was expecting.
Not only has it sent many people home to work virtually and kept us from seeing family and friends, it has made clear the stark inequities that have been baked in to our country’s politics and that have consistently been overlooked. It has brought record unemployment, threats of eviction, and deaths, so far, to more than 160,000 people in the U.S., who are disproportionately low-income and minorities. It has laid bare the failures of our current administration and the response, or lack of response, to the public health crisis that it facilitated.
This summer, I worked with CHN to assemble data about the impact of COVID-19 on joblessness, food security, poverty, education, etc. I witnessed the inner workings of a legislative push for unemployment insurance and for the protection of essential workers. We joined in the calls for racial justice and fought against voter suppression.
It has, at times, been overwhelming, frustrating, and heartbreaking to understand that around 25 percent of Black households with children have not had enough to eat in the last few months. To know that one in five people has been unable to pay their rent. To watch politicians let unemployment insurance expire and leave families with $15 billion fewer dollars a week.
However, my time interning at CHN has shown that amidst immense divides on local, regional, and federal levels, there is hope. Calls to uproot and to permanently better this old “normal” that we long for are being amplified. This challenging time has also been a time to create great change.
Not only have I watched CHN and its member organizations take action in D.C., I have seen a new wave of advocates from my generation step up. This summer, young people nationwide organized protests calling for racial justice, set up petitions, made donations, called our legislators, registered to vote, and created a wave of digital activism. The growing impact that my generation has on politics is not one to be underestimated.
There is no doubt in my mind that younger generations are ones full of changemakers. We are an up and coming force of advocates and activists, and as I have seen in the past few months interning here, we do not back down from a fight for what we believe in. And working with CHN, I have learned that there is an endless list of mentors and teachers in the world of legislative advocacy that have come before us. There are people that have been committed to this work for decades and continue to do it every single day. It is the job of my generation to learn from them and to continue the work. From CHN and its alliance of non-profits, faith-based organizations, and service providers, to local organizations, to high school and college students, there is unity in the movement towards justice.
A pandemic and protests have traversed the world. The U.S. is grappling with the political stress of a presidential election that could be nothing short of transformational. We are witnessing a turning point in history. History that my generation is beginning to be able to write. I give my sincerest thanks to CHN and advocates across the country for the role they have played in paving the way for us to do so.