2020 PFIG Recipient Liyon Afework

Jessica Meyers

Journal Entry #1

I am interning for the Salvation Army as the only COVID-19 Relief Response Intern. The reason that I selected this internship is because I have been a part of this organization for most of my life. I am 21 years old now, but have been an active participant and attendant in this church organization since the age of 7. I give back whenever I can, and this opportunity provides me with the greatest ability to leave positive impacts in the lives of people. Starting out in my internship, I went to the facility in which food and supplies was being prepared in care packages. I began to get an understanding of the needs of the community, who we intended to serve, and our capacity for addressing those needs. I have many specifications within my internship, but the overall goal is to maximize the resources that the Salvation Army has available to better serve the community.

The first true task I completed was contact local restaurants, school systems, government workers, social workers, etc. to understand which geographical areas in Northern Virginia required the most assistance. We wanted to make sure that we provided assistance to people who needed more of it or did not receive any help from any other the other organizations I contacted. I worked to create partnerships with these organizations and pool together resources.

I began to interact with some of the local volunteers for the Salvation Army who packed and delivered the care packages to the 1,000+ families within the Northern Virginia area. I organized their schedules and created efficient delivery schedules that were based on their geographical location, available times, and the needs of the individual families who we serve. This effectively made the delivery process much more efficient for those volunteers and increased the clarity of communication between the drivers and the people who were the recipients of these care packages.

Journal Entry #2

Interning at the Salvation Army has been a very interesting experience thus far. Coronavirus is something that caught the world off guard. Aid is needed everywhere and resources are limited. Throughout my time, I have continued to find efficiencies to better use our resources. I continued to reach out to the various schools and non-profit organizations to get some understanding of the groups of people who need help but aren’t being catered to. I began to assist more with the deliveries of our care packages, as our volunteers’ schedules were becoming increasingly more difficult to adjust to.

The new part of the job that emerged is when there were the unjust killings of Ahmaud Abery and George Floyd. I was particularly shaken by these events, and immediately asked my boss about what we could do to help the situation. While I understood that this is not a political organization, and it is strictly prohibited from supporting political movements according to the organization’s policies, we all agreed that we could do more in our stand against racism. I initiated weekly meetings with not only the Fairfax area location, but locations from other states as well. We began to have these meetings every Monday night for 1 ½ hours. We discussed our own cognitive biases, and how we would each take steps to fight racism. We also began planning a peaceful event in which we would simply console with anyone who needed someone to vent to regarding such topics. These conversations have included people from many different walks of life and of every ethnicity. It was very wholesome in nature and the meetings were always rooted in empathy and listening. I look forward to seeing how much positivity we continue to bring in the following weeks!

Journal Entry #3

The last couple of weeks in my internship have been a fantastic experience. In a world that has been so hectic, it was nice having a place of comfort that allowed me to create positive impactful change. My role as the COVID-19 Relief Response intern has continued to evolve throughout the summer. We continued to have weekly meetings regarding how the organization can continue to make positive change that leads to tangible results. One aspect that I had to bring to conversation in these meetings was how much more we still had to go for the entire Salvation Army to really leave a positive impact. Rather than outright making a commitment to cater more charitable events within the neighborhoods impacted by systemic racism and poverty that hasn't allowed for upward mobility, every location was simply given custom black, ribbon-shaped pins. I took great issue with this because the funds that were used to make the ribbons could have been better utilized in serving the communities that it claims to support. After bringing my thoughts to the meeting, some of the leaders that were present agreed. We began to plan more potential programs that could be implemented in the neighborhoods that have been impacted the most. 

There has been a lot of growth in my team with The Salvation Army, both within the organization, and myself on a personal level. I learned to be much more confident with the views that I bring to the table. I learned that I have the power to go out and be the change that I want to see within the world. I learned how to communicate my vision towards others in a respectful manner that creates great team buy-in. The value of a great team culture became very evident to me, as I would not have accomplished half of the things I did without the support of the great people that I have gotten the opportunity to connect with along the way. All in all, it was a great experience that I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to participate in!