Holly Ratliff '10
Through the Johnson Opportunity Grant, I was able to spend my summer at an unpaid internship with a human rights organization in New York City. I worked for MADRE, an international women's human rights organization which uses human rights to advance social justice. MADRE operates on a model that is unique for human rights organizations, partnering with local, women-run sister organizations around the world to provide them with the support they need.
I worked for MADRE's Helping Hands program, which helps women meet urgent, material needs in their communities so that they are better able to address issues of social justice. The Helping Hands program accomplishes this through donation campaigns targeted at specific needs in specific communities. I was given the opportunity to design and run the Oral Hygiene Campaign for Guatemala. The campaign benefited the Women Workers' Committee in Barcenas, Guatemala, where many women work in sweatshops that fuel the U.S. market, and low wages and lack of infrastructure keep women and their families impoverished. The Women Workers' Committee requested MADRE's help to provide toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss to Guatemala children who lack dental care. I sought donations from dental offices, corporations, and individuals, and I became all too familiar with the perpetual challenge of fundraising for non-profit organizations. Nevertheless, I was able to raise thousands of dollars worth of oral hygiene supplies. Some of these supplies were shipped to Guatemala in August, where MADRE Executive Director Vivian Stromberg distributed them to children at a community health fair run by the Women Workers' Committee.
Additionally, I conducted some research that is forming the basis of future MADRE programming. I researched maternal health and midwifery in Palestine, where Israeli military checkpoints prohibit pregnant women from reaching hospitals quickly and safely. As a Religion major, my classes usually focus on the past or are fairly abstract, so it was interesting to examine a current, practical consequence of a religious conflict. My research helped to determine what sort of donations will be sought to address the problem.
Overall, my internship at MADRE gave me an excellent introduction to the field of human rights, the non-profit world, and the challenges it faces. I left New York with a clear understanding of precisely what a non-profit career would entail, and how I would need to prepare myself for such a career. It might seem like there aren't many careers where a Religion and Classics double major would be useful, but the solid foundation that each has given me in understanding humanity and civilization is exceptionally relevant to issues of human rights. Upon graduating, I hope to attend law school, focusing on human rights and civil liberties, and pursue a career at a non-profit organization like MADRE. My experience this summer, which was made possible by the Johnson Opportunity Grant, made clear to me what direction I'd like to go after leaving W&L, and enabled me to do a lot of good work along the way.