After having an “amazing experience” immersing herself in the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees (MVRCR) and the sociopolitical and economic history of Upstate New York (NY) last summer, Gabriela Bezerra ’13 knew she wanted to participate in the Summer Field School again this year. Through her placement creating and administering a needs assessment on behalf of Community Action Partnership (CAP) for Madison County in Morrisville, Gabriela has not only strengthened her research and communication skills, but also has learned about poverty in Madison County and the “strength and resilience” of CAP’s clients. As a Peace and Conflict Studies major, she is well-versed in issues such as “social justice, structural violence, and the vulnerability of some people that live in the margins of society,” all of which CAP’s programs address. Drawing upon these theories and experiences, Gabriela hopes to “have a set of analyzed data and a written report by the end of the summer that will help CAP understand better the community they seek to help.”
Irene Brown founded CAP in 1983. It is one of over 1,100 Community Action Agencies (CAA’s) throughout the United States (U.S.) and the only non-profit with a mission to serve low-income individuals and families in Madison County. Through programs at the individual, familial, and community level, CAP strives to “mitigate poverty by helping families build resilience and strengthen their independence.” Gabriela says, “CAP’s programs are geared towards improving the lives of families by providing housing and food/nutrition assistance, educational trainings and working for the development of parenting skills so families can grow stronger.” It administers the Mary Rose Center, a free health clinic for those who are low-income and/or uninsured, as well as all food pantries across Madison County. CAP’s three offices that employ over 60 staff members focus on either home or office-based care.
The needs assessment Gabriela has developed and is currently conducting will clarify which current programs CAP might alter or new ones that they could develop. She says, “The statistical information gathered will help CAP to apply for future grants and raise money for the development of new programs or the improvement of existing ones.” Nearing the end of her fellowship, Gabriela has realized the challenges that accompany conducting a survey with individuals who are in distress or may feel afraid to share their information with someone unfamiliar. When administering a survey in the office, clinic, or a client’s home, she is “very conscientious and observant of the person’s body language” to gauge how comfortable they feel. Hearing their stories during home visits has allowed Gabriela to develop a deep respect and framework of ethical values for the lives and issues of the clients with whom she works. These insights have informed her work administering and analyzing the surveys and will serve her and future communities well as she begins an internship with the Protection Project in Washington, D.C. this September.