By Jeanelle Daus
Hi everyone, I’m Jeanelle Daus and I was an intern at APIFM this past Winter Quarter for UCLA. I am a fourth year Biology Major and Asian American Studies Minor in hopes to go into the Public Health field to make resources, such as health and education, equitable and accessible to all. In the class, I learned a lot about community organizing skills and practices that helped me get a better understanding of APIFM and the frameworks that cause for these organizations to come up in the first place. Doing work for APIFM on the ground really connected me to the community outside of UCLa and with groups of people I never have worked before.
I hail from Long Beach, CA, where I was fortunate enough to be around so many cultures and communities as a young Pinay. It really shaped my upbringing as I saw the disparities that privileged and oppressed different communities, and growing up there made me want to get the best education I could in order to ensure that everyone in my community would not have to worry about those things. Fast forwarding to my time at UCLA, it was always split between my studies and Samahang Pilipino, where I am currently the Assistant Project Coordinator for its educational outreach program, Samahang Pilipino Advancing Community Empowerment (SPACE). There, I usually work with high schoolers or community college students to help them reach whatever post-secondary goals they have after their graduation. So to come into APIFM as an intern in my Senior year was a whole new realm that I never explored but wanted to know much more about.
It started with the weekly Friday morning Kids Town Lessons with Courtney Shojinaga, who created the lesson plans and sent them to me and my group. Since nobody had a car at that time, we had to wake up extra early to get onto the bus and to the preschoolers. That’s right – preschoolers. Yet another age group I get to work with. Coming into the first day, I was nervous and slightly tired, not particularly excited to work with such high energy little people, but I was ready to do the job. While the routine for Kids Town was generally the same each time we went there, it was definitely a new adventure that surprised me every time.
One time in particular was during one of our first lessons, which was about kiwis. As Courtney handed out the kiwis for me to cut and distribute, I saw the kids’ faces light up as they figured out that they were going to have the fruit in their stomachs very soon. I let the kids pass the kiwi around and use all their senses to explore it, and when it came back around to me, I began to cut into it. I gave each kid a piece of kiwi (with their permission of course) and watched their eyebrows raise in excitement because they liked it so much. Some of the kids had difficulty understanding that they can in fact eat kiwi seeds, as they were originally taught to not eat seeds at all. Others decided to devour the whole piece I gave them, skin and all. One kid in particular asked for a piece of kiwi and cried immediately when I gave it to her. My jaw dropped in shock, and I froze up as Courtney took her hand to calm her down with another piece of kiwi for herself. Thank you, Courtney!!
As the weeks went by, I got to know a little more about all of the kids, and they got to know me more than “Teacher with the Long Hair.” Aside from my initial feelings about working with kids that young, I knew that what I was doing with and for them was much more impactful; we, as a community, were building up their healthy eating habits (and ours as well!). In doing this, I really got the chance to feel like I made some sort of difference in my community.
Interning with APIFM, despite it being 10 short weeks, was an amazing experience for me as I was able to make connections with a variety of different people from different backgrounds. Getting to know about the organization through talking with other APIFM members, such as Corina and Nare, while also having to do research on it for the class gave me much more of an appreciation for the work being done to better our community. There is so much work to be done and there are so many people who have the skills to do it, and it definitely is difficult to work with so many people – trust me, I’ve been there. But to see the love and passion that everyone I’ve worked with put into their projects is something I will always remember from my time here.