2006 PFIG Recipient Nanda Davis
College of Arts and Sciences
2008 Graduation Year
Internship: Sexual Assault Resource Agency and Planned Parenthood
Notes on the first week
Taking on one new job is stressful to begin with, but within the first week of work I had to orient myself to both Planned Parenthood and the Sexual Assault Resource Agency (SARA). I realized quickly, however, that I have a have a lot in common with the compassionate, upbeat, empathetic, and creative women I’m working with this summer.
My summer began at the Charlottesville Farmer’s Market on Saturday. I had already received training in spring on outreach techniques as Planned Parenthood’s emergency contraception campaign. Now I was being asked to not only turn around and implement these skills at tabling at the Farmer’s Market, but also to serve as a model for other volunteers. Emergency contraception is just a higher dose of birth control, meant to prevent unintended pregnancies. Petitioning for public support will provide the tools we need to educate and lobby politicians. The ramifications for this campaign inspire me: lowering the need for abortions and providing assistance to rape victims.
At the Planned Parenthood office (Tuesday and Thursday) my time is spent coordinating volunteer efforts to enter data, write letters to the editor, participate in phone banks and table at various community events. I am in charge of tabling materials. I have been digging for information on emergency room policies on administering emergency contraception. Finally, I have been researching and preparing handouts to educate the community on issues such as the new HPV vaccine and sex education in public schools.
At SARA (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) I was given the freedom to propose my own projects, which I was thrilled to see were received with enthusiasm. My first project, updating the training manual, has led me to research topics that I had never before explored, such as female genital mutilation. I also proposed a creative writing workshop for teenage girls who were survivors of sexual assault. I have started a workbook that could be used this summer, or at another time, with outlines for topics such as “songs as poetry,” “the art of journaling,” and “found poetry.” I am working with their child advocate, who will be a resource for counseling and education on sexual assault within the context of the workshop.
Sometimes exhausting, but also conveniently interrelated I have so far found these two internships very rewarding. Often my work is not left “at work.” It comes home with me in the form of books I’ll read to educate myself, continuing volunteer coordination, or even just a pad of paper on which I can brainstorm more ideas.
This summer has been far more challenging and far more rewarding than I ever thought possible.
I am now designing curricula for two separate teen programs through the Sexual Assault Resource Agency. I am thrilled to have the creative freedom to research and design these lesson plans. I then work with another staff member to teach these workshops, each one meeting one night a week.
The first one is a healthy relationship group that we present in the Charlottesville Attention Home. I have outlined four sessions that will cover boundaries and compromise, warning signs of a troubled relationship, physical intimacy, and maintaining a healthy relationship. Because these teens are forced to attend the workshop, some are more receptive to the class than others. However, through group activities, interactive exercises, and even drawing, I am able to leave certain that I have at least partially engaged even the most difficult of the group. On the outside they may try to pretend that they are tough gangsters, but when I read the worksheets that they hand back to me, I see that many of them are sweet kids who “want a man who will cherish” them or who wish they were allowed to see their moms more often.
The second workshop is a creative writing workshop for teenage girls who are survivors of sexual assault, which I had been hoping to form since I agreed to take this internship. I have been moved by the stories of incest, rape, abuse, and foster homes that these girls share with me through their writing. These girls are at many different stages of the healing process, but they are able to all pull together to support each other. I am thrilled that I have created an environment in which they feel comfortable sharing their writing and their souls.
In addition to these two workshops, I provide staff support by assisting with various projects, data entry, helping to fill in when one of the staff is away, and working the crisis hotline.
Things are busy at Planned Parenthood; the campaign for emergency contraception has done extremely well here in Charlottesville. I am getting my first taste of management as I help to organize volunteers to work alongside me with data entry, community events, and publicity. I keep track of volunteer shift schedules. I make sure that data entry done by volunteers is finished on time. I also make sure they have the tools they need to be effective advocates for women’s health. This summer we have focused on educating our volunteers (through email, presentations, and handouts) about emergency contraception, sexually transmitted infections, the South Dakota abortion ban (and what Planned Parenthood is doing about that), as well as the new HPV vaccine.
I have also researched legislations from various states on emergency room protocol for rape victims, targeting the need to implement consistent policies that include the availability of emergency contraception. I have been in touch with members of the ACLU and the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception during my research. By starting in Charlottesville, hopefully we can begin to improve the way rape is handled in the ER throughout Virginia.
I am excited to see my two internships meld together and to be on the front line fighting for rights for all types of women.
This summer has flown by!
The last few weeks at Planned Parenthood were hectic as we were preparing to table at the Albemarle County Fair. We all took shifts out in the stifling heat and unreceptive conservative crowd. After a long day out in the heat with people scowling towards my pink Planned Parenthood t-shirt, I often felt discouraged. But then I would come home to find emails in my inbox from volunteers feeling even more frustrated than I did, and was pleased to discover a reserve of energy and optimism deep within me that I could turn around to rally others. Just by being at the fair, and refusing to be driven away by opposition or the heat, we all succeeded!
The last week of my internship at SARA I was happy to be a part of the Therapeutic Riding Workshop that we sponsored for three elementary-aged girls who were survivors of sexual assault and incest. At a farm nestled in Nelson County the girls were able to learn how to ride and care for horses as well as be a part of a functioning farm that was safe haven for every animal (and human) there.
I was incredibly sad at the prospect of ending my creative writing workshop. By the third workshop the girls were mentioning (and in some cases even bringing along) friends they thought would benefit from this setting. I felt I that I had given them girls a safe haven to express emotions resulting from their abuse and as well as describing issues that face all teenage girls. They taught me that writing can be an act of trust and that teaching is a balancing act of explicit direction and personal example.
And because I could not stand to say goodbye to these girls or this project, I have agreed to return in October to teach another creative writing workshop for SARA. I will also continue to volunteer for them and work their 24 hour hotline.
This internship has not only turned my resume into something that I am proud of, but has also given me tools that I know will be valuable resources in my role as a RA in first year dorms. Not only am I able to tell my residents about on-Grounds activities that I have been a part of, but I am now also able to show them that they are part of the city of Charlottesville as well. I have improved my empathetic listening, teaching, and leadership skills, and have a vast number of personal contacts that can help my residents address questions concerning family problems, contraception, sexual assault, volunteer opportunities, sexually transmitted infections, gyn exams, etc. Not to mention the fact that many of the women I worked with this summer have amazing education programs that I hope to share with my residents as part of dorm programming.
I want to thank the Parents Program for giving me the opportunity to fulfill my ideal summer internships. There were times when I was discouraged, tired, or envious of friends who spent the summer vacationing, but at the end of the day I always realized that the memories, experiences, skills, resources, and people I met through these internships was worth every second of it. Thank you so much!