by Liliana Conroy
This semester I’m one of six Vassar students working with UIDN. I was drawn to the organization because of the broad array of needs that they work to meet: UIDN provides rent assistance, food support, connections to lawyers, transportation, and many other services to members of immigrant communities in the Kingston area.
Over the past two months, I’ve worked on a webinar to help community members prepare for their learners’ permit exams, researched Covid-19 prevention messaging, helped put together a handbook for future interns, and organized an initiative to provide donated restaurant gift cards to people who use UIDN’s food pantry (see sidebar), among other projects.
When I started working with UIDN this semester, I didn’t realize how many different (and at that point, seemingly unrelated) issues I’d be working on. Since then, I’ve learned much more about the incredibly varied needs of community members, and I’ve seen how UIDN develops new initiatives and adapts existing ones in response to these needs.
A large part of my learning this semester has come through regular communication with my supervisors. UIDN is an all volunteer organization, and the team leads all have very different career histories and paths to activism.
The other Vassar interns and I have gotten the chance to attend a few team meetings, and I’ve appreciated the chance to learn more about the logistics behind running a small nonprofit and to observe how the leads work with each other given their different backgrounds.
I’ve gotten a lot of support and feedback on my work, but I’ve also been given the independence to figure out how to schedule my own time and get things done in a way that makes sense to me.
Later in the semester, I hope to do some research on mental health programming that UIDN might be able to implement in the future. I’m a psychology major and this connects to my interest in providing mental health care in the future. My work with UIDN has solidified my understanding that providing crucial necessities like rent, food, transport, and legal support is essential to mental health care as well.
Lily is a psychology major, Vassar College class of 2023