My summer as a CHN Intern: Why human needs work is so essential
On June 1, after a 10-hour trek from Chicago, I reached the nation’s capital, where I would spend the most of my summer as an Intern for the Coalition on Human Needs.
I drove down Massachusetts Ave., through Embassy Row, as I entered D.C. proper. I was enamored of the various embassies and how each house indicates that country’s culture: the Mexican embassy has a clay hacienda-style exterior, the South African embassy features a staggering statue of the anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela, and the impressive Brazilian embassy boasts a mix of modernity with a traditional look. The fusion of various cultures, all located on the same street, foreshadowed what my summer in D.C would entail; a time that was dictated by a narrative of helping people, especially the most vulnerable.
One of the things about my internship at CHN that I cherished was the level of autonomy I was given to pursue a multitude of issues that I care most dearly about. I wrote blog posts about some of the nation’s most pressing issues — the lingering effects of housing discrimination, the Black maternal health crisis, and the need for a strong Farm Bill.
This internship afforded me the opportunity to sit in on appropriation markups on the Hill and listen to the nation’s leaders discuss programs that affect virtually every American. Oddly enough, when I attended these meetings, even though they are open to the public, I felt I was invited into this personal atmosphere where the metrics of crucial policy are discussed. The personal connection comes from my willingness to care about issues often overlooked and dismissed. This summer, I have poured my heart and soul into the good work that must be done to protect the liberties and dignity of those with the greatest vulnerabilities, and this is just the beginning. My time on the Hill – and near the Hill — is far from over. I hope to return, and I will not stop defending the needs of the people.
Often, key human needs programs are threatened with funding cuts or worse; these are the discretionary programs (that is, those with funding that must be approved each year by Congress) that so often help people with low incomes and minorities. That is why the work of CHN is so essential. If CHN does not care about the needs of vulnerable populations, then who will?
One thing I learned about human needs work this summer was the importance of connecting the thoughts and experiences of those most in need with the people who have the power to make effective change.
My advice for future Interns is to dive headfirst into the madness that is D.C. Take time and consider what matters to you. This is one of the only times in your life when you will be the most connected to the people; use that to your advantage.
In closing: I will forever remember my CHN family, who showed me what it means to be truly selfless when it comes to caring about human needs. The character that each staff member has instilled in me will not go unnoticed in the years to come.