Hi everyone, my name is Meg Bender-Stephanski and I am an incoming senior Environmental Ethics and Policy major with minors in Social Justice and Theology. This summer I am interning (virtually) at Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO). EMO’s mission is: “committed to mutual respect and understanding, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon brings together diverse communities of faith to learn, serve and advocate for justice, peace and the integrity of creation.” They have a range of different services they provide and functions they serve, such as the Northeast Emergency Food Program, public policy advocacy at the state and national levels, and immigration support services, to name a few.
Coming into this internship, my intention was to assist the organization on its advocacy side in whatever capacities would be helpful, while also providing me with experience in areas I am interested in, such as environmental justice and public policy.
The first project I started on was with their ballot measure guide. EMO is known for putting out ballot measure guides and endorsing or not endorsing measures based on their social principles. I worked to become the ‘expert’ on several ballot measures and present them to the Public Policy Advocacy Committee to see if EMO should endorse them or not.
I have also been working to bring some virtual Environmental Justice programming to EMO. We are working with and seeking out organizations local to Oregon, especially those that focus on the intersections of environmental justice and racial justice. These organizations will present virtually about issues they work on to members of EMO and then there will be question and answer time as well as small-group discussion and action items that members can part with. We originally planned for this programming to be in person prior to COVID-19, but soon realized that hosting these events virtually would actually make them more accessible to a range of people, such as those across the state, those unable to commute to a physical location, along with anyone who is homebound or high-risk during this time.
Lately I have begun working on some additional outreach to legislators, both in Oregon and nationally, around environmental justice and hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic. I helped put together a letter for EMO members to send to their legislators to emphasize the need for an environmental justice focused COVID-19 economic recovery plan. This is especially important because Governor Brown’s Executive Order on the Climate or Oregon Climate Action Plan (OCAP) was signed just a few months ago. I also helped to do outreach to state and national legislators to request additional funding for food pantries across the state as they have seen a significant uptick in the number of people utilizing their services. The pandemic has also made it more difficult to recruit and use more volunteers needed for the increase in demand for services.
I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to work with EMO this summer. I never thought that I would be able to intern at an organization so focused on social justice and dedicated to continually educating themselves and their members about a range of social issues. Although the internship hasn’t looked like how we originally planned (being in person) I know I have contributed to their work and have learned a lot about public policy and how non-profits work. I hope to bring the skills and work experience I have gained this summer into my future career as I enter my senior year at UP and start to look for jobs.