A Reflection from a Mennonite Voluntary Service Intern
By Anali North Martin
When I arrived to WATER’s office for the first time in early September 2020, I was greeted at the door by Mary and Diann, masks in and temperatures checked. I felt undeniably welcomed. Despite the difficulties that arose from working during a pandemic and the precautions that Covid required, WATER became and remained a place of acceptance and both international and incidental education.
I have spent a year as an intern at WATER though Mennonite Voluntary Service, an it’s been a year of endurance. Thanks to WATER, it’s also been an opportunity for me to witness, participate in, and enjoy the offerings of feminist theology and community.
Community has been a highly-held value my whole life, especially by my church, university, friends and family. And community was, for the most part, a very in-person experience: doing life together with dace-to-face support. WATER was a fantastic introduction to a type of community that, pandemic or not, is always spread far and wide, connected virtually, through shared commitments to social justice, love for each other, and hope for the world.
Because of our programs via Zoom, I have been able to meet many of the fantastic people who are part of the WATER community. Not only have I personally been encouraged and supported by Alliance and witnessed the sharing each other’s pain and joy, taking on each other’s burdens and lifting each other up in prayer, but even more so, I have been inspired by communal act of learning. Because of the emphasis put on connection and trust, I have seen members of the WATER community create brave spaces to get to the heart of matters of social justice, inequality, and oppression through accountability and vulnerability.
As I head into my next chapter, I leave with clarity on the kind of communities that are needed as we move forward. This isn’t easy work, to be invested in stripping ourselves of racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and classism, even and especially when it benefits us. Communities like WATER are where that work begins an is sustained through love, trust, compassion, and respect. This work requires the honesty and determination I’ve seen at WATER. WATER acknowledges both the head and the heart of matters, digging in to understand the issues and staying rooted in the passion for justice, supported by people who are just as invested.
I’m glad that, through WATER, I was able to participate in and aid this work, this community, for a year. I’ve seen the inner-workings of nonprofit management, been included in almost every part of the process from fundraising to social media to program planning and leading, and trough that, I have gained a valuable combination of hard and soft skills. Even if I don’t know what’s coming next, I do know that I feel more prepared for it because of WATER, because of the experience I’ve gained and the muscles I’ve stretched. The pandemic has tested us all, and I’m glad WATER was where I was for that. This has been a uniquely edifying experience at a unique nonprofit, a unique community.