August 26, 2016

Two years ago, I happened on a photo album while perusing CNN. Faces etched with wrinkles appeared shot after shot. “An initiative by the Paris-based group Yahad – In Unum” in small font met me at the end of the album. Sitting in a Philadelphia apartment, I sent a cold email to inquire about volunteering.

Two years later, I sit in Yahad – In Unum’s Paris office. Open to my right is a tall window, offering a glimpse of the jade-colored leaves and lazy ivy of a petite garden below. Open in front of me is a publication on Holodomor, a Google map of the Karelian Isthmus, a testimony from Saint Petersburg, and a corresponding translation.

On one hand, my internship this summer has a practical end. Not only have I applied my language skills, I have also learned how an NGO operates, how grassroots research becomes a high-quality tool, and what lies behind Yahad – In Unum’s rural fieldwork.

On the other hand, I leave humbled. Humbled by the stories, by the witnesses, by the memories that – at last brought to light – guide us moving forward. Reading news about the crisis in Syria, negotiations in South Sudan, and peace talks with the FARC in Colombia, I am reminded of how important Yahad – In Unum’s mission is today.

Andrew will be a senior at the University of Pennsylvania this fall, where he is studying chemical engineering and international relations. He has interned at Yahad-In Unum for two months.

 

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