PKG Social Impact Internships: Val Shum (’22)
By nature, I’d consider myself a worrywart. Sometimes I find it difficult to stay motivated when I think about social issues. It can just feel so overwhelming when I see everything wrong with the world, almost isolating. The serving part of me just wishes I could take on all of the burden of the world and make it better.
Recently, working with the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative (BCDI) has been making me focus around “community:” working in the community, working with the community, and perhaps most importantly, working as the community. As individuals, there’s only so much we can do, but with collective organizing, there’s so much more we can achieve. The dregs of academia and the MIT bubble have made life feel sterile, especially in recent months, but the vibrancy of these people revitalizes me.
In addition to power in numbers, perhaps one of the greatest strengths of communities is the culture and excitement. Unlike my class zoom calls, the first one I entered with everyone around had music I haven’t heard since walking the streets of NYC, and people yelling out words of excitement as we prepared for some facilitation! Despite feeling burnt out on my end, things just felt so alive. I didn’t have to solve other people’s problems for them, but I see my role as an enabler to uplift these voices. Community voices already exist; they just need to be heard!
Sometimes it can be really difficult to keep a community alive, but this just reminds me of why it’s so important to do so in the first place. Communities bring people together, and even if you aren’t already aware of problems others are facing, you can learn from them. They bring together ideas you might not have expected, or not think of on a regular basis. The most important thing, perhaps, is that communities teach you to listen.
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