Alumni Spotlight: Zachary Goldman
What motivated you initially to participate in an AJWS Alternative Break?
In college I studied anthropology and sociology. I spent a lot of time studying, talking about and lobbying around the HIV/AIDS pandemic, as well as other international issues, but I had never really experienced these issues firsthand. Nicaragua was my first trip to a developing country, and it was the first time that I could actually see, hear, smell, taste and experience and what it meant not to have access to water for a community, education or electricity.
What work did you do in India through AJWS World Partners Fellowship?
I was in Mumbai working for Committed Communities Development Trust (CCDT), an agency that provides services to marginalized or at-risk populations. I worked on Project CHILD (Children of HIV Positive Individuals Living in Dignity), a service initiative for children who are either infected with or affected by HIV. The program offers nutritional, financial, psychosocial, and medical support and legal advocacy.
Instead of just counseling, the case workers walk to the homes of the children and bring food, money, and contacts for legal advice. I served as their documentation officer. It was my role to record the state of the project at the time, investigate its history and determine if it was it effective.
How did your work there influence your career path?
After school I didn't know where I was going professionally; the non-profit world was appealing, but I wasn't sure in what capacity I was going to work. I learned in India that my skill set and interests lie in administration and management.
Now I work for an agency called Outside In, a non-profit that's been around since the late '60s. We provide a wide array of services to at-risk or homeless youth and other populations. I oversee a project assessing the needs for medical and social resources in an adjacent, historically rural county. I'm working toward developing a community clinic out there, as well as a school-based health center, and a youth recreation center to provide social resources to the communities out there.
Have your experiences abroad impacted the way you do or think about your work domestically?
Completely. When volunteering, you can't help but learn that it's crucial to incorporate those who it's going to affect into your project. You work within a community and can see the grassroots mobilization. That experience has greatly influenced the work I do now. The agency I work for is based in downtown Portland, but most of the work I'm doing is well outside of the city, in rural settings. You have to involve the people who are already there working on the ground by talking to people, doing needs assessments, and involving the service providers that are already doing the work out there. I think involving them in the development of resources, as opposed to a top-down or only policy approach, is extremely valuable.
Do you have a support network among other AJWS alumni?
Definitely. So many of my friends have had international experiences, particularly with non-profits or social service agencies, many through AJWS and some not. I keep in contact with a few of the other World Partners Fellows in India, and it's amazing how we're all working in the non-profit world. It's interesting to see how they're applying the skills they developed when we were living in India together. I'm sure they can see that in me as well.
It's great to have those personal and professional relationships. These are my peers and no matter where we are in the country or the world, we can rely on each other.
What would you say to someone who wants to apply to an AJWS program?
I've had the opportunity to speak to a number of folks who were in the application process for an AJWS program. Sometimes people will ask, "What did you do afterward? Was this just another six months?" I tell them that this kind of experience, regardless of the limited time frame, leaves you with lessons and experiences that you can transfer to virtually anything.
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