This summer, I’ve been an intern at the Portland nonprofit Sisters Of The Road. We’re located in Old Town, the neighborhood with the highest rate of homelessness in the city, where Sisters has been making a difference since 1979. We serve low cost meals in our Cafe that can be paid for by bartering work, run a community garden, and seek systemic change through politics and activism. More importantly, Sisters is a vibrant community. Our space is safe, inviting, and inclusive of all people. For many of our customers, access to a welcoming and comfortable space is desperately needed, even if it’s just for a meal. The ongoing relationships that Sisters staff builds with community members keep people coming back. Working at Sisters has allowed me to be part of this community, and has been a key part of what I’ve learned so far in my internship. My time working in the Cafe has taught me that even when it seems easy to make assumptions about someone based on how they look or act, you’ll be wrong a hundred times before you’re right. People who come to Sisters come from truly all walks of life, and to share in part of their story is a privilege.
When not in the Cafe, I’ve been engaged in grant research, writing, and editing. It isn’t easy to fund the large volume of programming that Sisters manages to accomplish, and the development team spends much of its time actively seeking out new sources of funding from individual donors and foundations. Grants are a strange art, and I’ve had to learn the language that comes along with them. It’s an inconvenient truth that no matter how worthy your programs are, if you can’t present them in a way that makes a foundation executive’s jaw drop, you’re not getting funded. We spend a lot of time determining not just who might be willing to fund us, but how we’re going to tailor a presentation of the work we do to suit the target perfectly. Tinkering with language is one of my passions, and I’ve been able to dive into our grant work smoothly. The best part of the day is the “take,” when we take stock of incoming funds. A recent webinar said that to motivate your grant team you should ring a bell when a grant is successful, but somehow we’ve made do with yelling “DING DING DING” instead. We manage to not take ourselves too seriously here.
Sisters has been a place where I can help to accomplish great work, but it has also welcomed me into its community with open arms. I’m incredibly grateful to have been invited to intern here, and I’m looking forward to the weeks to come!