Advocacy Intern Program

August 2, 2010

Reflection from the Director

Amy Woolam Echeverria

A little over two years ago my office was the broom closet of a former convent.  The two other offices that comprised the Columban JPIC Office were slightly bigger former bedrooms.  All together we had about 350 sq. ft. of office space.

Upcoming Events and Opportunities:

August 1: Deadline for China Exposure Trip applications

August 15: Omaha Affiliates Meeting

August 28: LA Affiliates Meeting

August 28: South-Side Chicago Affiliates Meeting

September 15: Deadline for Border Exposure Applications

September 19: Omaha Affiliates meeting

September 19: Spiritual Retreat in LA

Today, our office is about three times that size.  While it’s nice to have a bit of breathing room, the reason we moved was not simply to have more space, but so that we could invite people to join us in the JPIC ministry.

On July 22, 2010, the CCAO hosted its seventh “Intern Appreciation Gathering.” Since the Advocacy Intern program began we’ve celebrated 27 interns and two full time volunteers for their commitment to social justice advocacy through our JPIC ministry. Each celebration has taken on new elements including time for reflection, sharing, breaking bread, games and a celebration of the Eucharist.  We are usually joined by a Columban missionary who never fails to inspire and delight.

During the celebration as we shared what the summer internship has meant to each of us, I was struck by what has been possible as a result of the office move.  How many seeds of justice have been planted because of our intern program?  How many signs of hope are visible to the world?  How many points of light shine brighter in what can be a dark world?

I am filled with deep gratitude to all who have made the Advocacy Internship possible, especially Columban donors and benefactors.  I am grateful to all who have responded to our invitation to share in the JPIC ministry.  I look forward to planting more seeds.

If you or someone you know would be interested in interning in our Advocacy Intern Program or volunteering through our Columban Volunteers USA Program (CVUSA), please visit our website for more information including how to apply:  http://columban.org/get-involved/

CCAO Interns: Helping Shape the World Together

James Hurley

For many college students, an internship has become a rite of passage. We huddle around in our student unions, dorm rooms and campus offices discussing where we want to go and what we want to do for a semester or a summer. My experience was no different. I was set on going to Nairobi this summer to practice my ki-Swahili, but circumstances changed drastically and I find myself in Washington, D.C., working at the CCAO. And I must admit that it is an awesome setting!

Summer 2010 Interns, from left: Katie, James and Kena

Shortly before arriving in Washington I was told that the issues and countries I would be working with were water/extractive industries and Australia, China, and Ireland respectively. I was a little uncertain what my work was going to be like. After all I was going to be working in Washington, D.C., the capital of the U.S. and the center for U.S. laws, not international affairs.  I do not think I could have been more mistaken.

As a student, I study history and international affairs. I have been fortunate to have extensive opportunities at the United Nations due to my college’s location in New York. I thought that was the be-all-and-the-end-all of international affairs.  However, once I got used to reading U.S. legislation and sifting through congress members’ websites I learned there is a lot that goes on in U.S. advocacy related to international issues. I think the truth is I never cared to see the connections before, but now they are ever present in the work that I am doing in the CCAO.

During my internship I have been following the Financial Reform Bill, and in particular Amendment 4050.  When I first got here all of the letters and numbers describing bills and laws were like a foreign language to me.  I felt as though I jumped into an upper level foreign language class with no experience.  At the end of my internship, I am confident that I know the issues, which Columban communities are affected and how; as a people of faith, we are expected to be good stewards and respond to the legislation that is “on the Hill.”  For example, the Financial Reform Bill through Amendment 4050 will require companies to “publish what they pay” to foreign governments for access to various natural resources. This step towards greater transparency hopefully will help give individuals the tools to hold governments and people responsible and ensure that the individuals and communities who are most affected by natural resource extraction receive just compensation for their commodities.

The CCAO Summer Advocacy Internship is finished, and I am beginning to reflect on the experience.  I have three conclusions. The setting is wonderful, and I have never felt so involved in policy making. The people are spectacular, particularly those in the advocacy field; their hard work and dedication as a result of their convictions, faith based or not, are admirable.  Lastly, I have confidence in the group of individuals who will take over this whole process and field of work in the coming years. It is unique I think to Washington, D.C., to have so many interns together for such a concentrated period of time.  We have bonded with each other and with interns of other groups, and as a result have become stronger people, inspired by our motivating forces and ready to help shape the world together.