My time in NY is coming to a close — and I have some mixed feelings about it. Since we last spoke I have taken up two other jobs (that pay…thank God) and have really been experiencing the “grind” lifestyle that NY cultivates. Between working for a celebrity chef, taking guitar lessons in French from a man on craigslist, and becoming the Director of Social Media for a human capital firm…I have been keeping busy. There’s an energy in this city that is guaranteed to lift you up, and then knock you down.
Internships are wonderful in that they are not only a time to get a taste of what you may want to pursue as a career, but they also can help you discover what you may not want to continue doing. My internship with NMAP has been very fulfilling in that I am much more aware of human rights violations globally and how a small non-profit functions. That being said, my time at NMAP also gave me an itch, an itch to forget about school, get on a plane, and start helping people hands-on in the countries I saw in their documentaries. I am grateful to have been hosted by NMAP because I have been exposed to human rights organizations globally that they partner with, and I am inspired to do more work internationally.
I have now spent two weeks working with New Media Advocacy Project. NMAP is an organization of filmmakers and human rights specialists who are paid to create documentaries that raise awareness of human rights violations and/or act as instructional videos for those suffering from injustice. These videos are then given to NMAP’s clients and partners to be shown to the particular audience that the client, and film, had intended to reach. There are about 10 people in the organization, but their presence in the office varies weekly because there are people constantly traveling for “shoots”, many of which are international such as in Ghana, Nigeria, and the Congo.
I have been given two projects that fill most of my time. The first one is to go through the archive of NMAP’s videos (and let me tell you, there are a lot), and give them titles and descriptions so that NMAP can put them on their website and public accounts. This task allows me to learn about international and domestic human rights issues through watching the videos. I am constantly brought to tears by the stories of people who have suffered/are suffering devastation and injustice. The personal narrative is powerful. I also get to use my creative and concise writing skills to capture the goal of the film and the injustice done to the protagonists in about 100 words!
The other project I am working on is transcribing raw audio clips that were taken during shoots that will then be used in the documentaries. While this is a tedious job, listening to the dialogue between a chief and her/his community about ways to challenge the mining company that has destroyed their land and community is very fulfilling. Sometimes when I close my eyes it feels like I’m there.
This video is an overview of what they did in 2016:
This is an example of a documentary NMAP creates for its clients:
This blog entry is the first of many that will document my time interning in Brooklyn, NY with New Media Advocacy Project (NMAP). I have been in NY for a little under a week, and so far, so good. NMAP is a very small organization with an office space–more like room– that is smaller than the average CMC classroom. Their floor hosts 20 or so organizations that are all separated by glass walls. From what I’ve seen, the other organizations in the building are human rights or environment related–so great people and vibes overall! The office next to NMAP has two french bulldogs, and in moments of silence I can hear them snoring–pictures coming soon. Brooklyn is a wonderful and diverse borough. I am staying in an airbnb and have 1-5 roommates depending on the week. There is one girl who will also be here all Summer and then there are people who come and go. Because I am close to Pratt Institute the people I have met in the area are young artsy folk. So far I have attended a feminist art gallery, taken some film editing tutorials, and debated with a Pratt student over whether Matisse or Picasso had more influence on radical contemporary art of the 20th century (incited by my Picasso, and her Matisse, tattoo). When in Brooklyn…
Yesterday, NMAP asked me to attend a seminar in Manhattan that was about women and young girls and their relationship with technology. Once I write my summary of the discussion on NMAP’s blog I will make sure to share it on my blog.
On the third day of my internship, the organization sent me to a “colloque” (seminar) on the subject of Hepatitis B and C at the Ministère des Affaires Sociales et de la Santé. The French Republic held this seminar on the french national day dedicated to the fight against hepatitis.
I received a name tag at the door with the title “Paloma Palmer, stagiaire au Comede” and felt immediately as if I had shrunken and become lost upon entering the room full of french professionals, all of whom were speaking faster than my brain could process. This problem of keeping up in fast past and familiar conversation persisted for not only the duration of the eight-hour seminar, but for the next 8 weeks. The seminar was in honor of the country’s national day dedicated to fighting hepatitis and was spoken entirely in french.
I was still adjusting to hearing french from native french speakers, so it was difficult to keep up with every topic they discussed, let alone understanding the scientific terms- which in all disclosure would have been lost on me even if it was in english! I did learn a lot more about the different types of hepatitis, their causes, and dangers, and became more accustomed to the medical terms that were used in the hospital – all while advancing my fluency! After my first few days in Paris I realized that eight years of french studies in America isn’t necessarily going to prepare me for discussions among french professionals.
Everyday at COMEDE came with a new challenge, along with a constant effort to communicate in French. Sometimes I would get frustrated when I was overwhelmed with patients, especially when I was the only one at the desk. I would often find myself getting mad and blaming my struggle on the patients who were being impatient or who asked questions that I didn’t have the answer to. A lot of my anger came from my insecurity that I was incapable or not good enough to even solve a simple problem alone, but I was able to get some perspective on the situation when I thought of both the journey of the patients and my own journey and how they led us to this small health center, in the outskirts of Paris.
Just as I had to research the organization, contact them, and eventually find the little wooden door that had the sign “COMEDE” on it, in a small alley within the hospital, everyday patients have to do this same trip. I had to wander for 1 hour to find the wooden door, for others it took 3 months. But while this job is my main focus, this trip to the hospital is just one stop out of many in their day in an effort to survive. Being in exile is a full-time job.
Especially in Paris, where it seems someone is always striking about something, it can be challenging to be organized and prompt to appointments, meetings, or deadlines when you must depend on things you don’t have control over like the muni or post office. Because COMEDE is very busy every day, if a patient misses her appointment, she may have to wait an entire month for the next time available; some people don’t have that kind of time. Patients may need immediate help such as a doctor’s note to escape deportation, a life-threatening illness that must be treated, or psychological help to avoid depression or suicide, the list goes on, but because they were late to their appointment, everything is delayed. To manage mental and physical health, while also trying to find housing, a job, and food, not to mention with a language barrier? I think they have a right to grow impatient at times and I think I owe it to them to offer compassion and as much help as I can.
Someone that I will miss greatly is my coworker and unofficial supervisor, Assane Aw. Assane is a Senegalese man who lives in Paris and is head of reception. Although Assane was not my official supervisor, or head of COMEDE, he became someone I looked to constantly for guidance. There is a team that mans the reception. The team will change depending on the day and the hour, but the one constant for my 8 weeks at the reception was Assane, we worked together as equals. The woman who usually was in my seat was sick during my entire time at Comede. Because the organization was down a person, and they need as much help as they can get, I had to rise to the challenge, and was soon someone that the organization had to rely on. This was the best part. I was fortunate enough to be taking on the work and responsibility of full-time employee.
I believe that my growth at Comede and in Paris was significantly greater because of the opportunity I had at Comede and because of Assane. Assane’s role is very important at Comede, although not the highest ranked or paid. His leadership does not come from superiority and a position of power, but from the way he sets an example for his co-workers. He is someone who respects everyone and has been very supportive and patient with me during my time under his wing. This type of leadership resonates well with me because the sense of equality and mutual respect allows for more open communication and growth.
Bonjour from Paris!
COMEDE (Committee for Health of Exiles) has created a wonderful internship plan for me and everyone there have been great hosts. During my past few weeks here I have learned how COMEDE functions as a safe place for exiles, refugees, and illegal immigrants, who may lack papers and/or housing, to receive medical, psychological, and juristic assistance.
I was shocked on my first day when I arrived at the Kremlin Bicetre hospital, just outside of Paris, and realized I was not going to be working in a big fancy hospital like the ones I am accustomed to in the United States. COMEDE is just a part of the hospital and is a one-floor, intimate heath center in a run down building. At first glance someone may not believe it could be well-known or efficient, but COMEDE’s waiting room is full everyday with people coming in waiting to tell their story and ask for assistance.
The under-grown appearance of the organization is actually beneficial because although COMEDE does amazing work to help the helpless, it is better if it is a quiet and almost secret place for people to come to who may fear imprisonment or deportation.
Because of doctor-patient confidentiality, which includes the intern sitting in the corner, I cannot recount details of the devastating stories I heard or the torture wounds I saw, but I can give an example of one patient’s story.
A Bengali journalist came to us seeking medical attention and psychotherapy for his insomnia after the Islamic government tortured and imprisoned him for two years for writing against Islam. When the government came after his family, he lost both of his parents, and the rest of his family fled for their lives and are now exiles, dispersed around Europe. He cannot sleep at night because of the constant fear that someone is trying to hurt him, and he has longterm medical problems resulting from the torture and his time in prison.
This is just one example of the cases we hear every day. I am so grateful that I have been given the opportunity to hear the stories of each patient and work with COMEDE to ensure they are on the path to a better future.
These photos are of the building I worked in (La Force) with COMEDE within the Kremlin-Bicêtre Hospital.