April, 9 2013
LFP Placement: Chicago
Our first week in the U.S. is over. We had a great time meeting all the other fellows at the orientation session in Washington D.C.! We got acquainted with the American Councils team that stands behind the Professional Fellows Program and ensures the smooth running of things. Besides issues related to our stay in the U.S., we enjoyed extremely useful presentations and conversations with representatives of the National Democratic Institute and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the Department of State. Outside orientation hours we have visited some of the Washington D.C. most well-known places: the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument and the White House. On Thursday, April 4th, I left for Chicago together with another three fellows from Russia, Georgia and Armenia. We were met very warmly by representatives from WorldChicago Office and of course by our hosts.
Our second day in Chicago was an amazing one. WorldChicago Office made it possible meeting with Mr. Kevin Lampe - strategist, organizer, media relations expert and an extraordinary person who has been working for President Barack Obama, President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore etc. After a very interesting discussion, I went along with other participants at a classical music concert, a cultural activity authentic which was also planned by our friends from WorldChicago. In the weekend I had the opportunity to spend more time with my host, who took me to an authentic Chicago jazz concert. We had a lot of fun!
Monday, April 8th, was the first day of my internship at Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights in Chicago. Together with another LFP fellow from Armenia we were introduced to a part of the organizations' team. Later, I had attended the orientation for new employees where I had the chance to introduce myself as an intern, find out more about the new employees and about the activity of the organization.
I was glad to meet the people I will work with in the coming weeks - an incredibly dynamic and friendly team of young people. We had a discussion and established my professional interests and expectations from the internship. I will conduct my fellowship under the supervision of Kimberly Beers and Matt French from GISHR (Global Initiative for Sexuality and Human Rights) one of the programs of Heartland Alliance. I was given several materials and current projects of the organization, in order to understand better what the activities of this program are.
I also had the possibility to attend a two-day clinical institute on the best practices in torture treatment and assisting LGBT torture survivors. The conference was hosted by Heartland Alliance and the Marjorie Kovler Center and has gathered clinicians and torture treatment professionals from different states. All of them have shared their experiences with assisting LGBT refugees or asylum seekers who have been victims of torture in their countries of origin. The second week has also brought a fundraising event towards supporting Heartland Alliance International Community Care Clinic in Ghana. I have attended the event together with my host family, my colleague and LFP fellow from Georgia, and our friends from WordChicago Office. Second City Comedians, Ghanaian snacks, door prizes and West African music were all there for a great cause - support for marginalized groups to access quality healthcare and lead safer, healthier lives. In one of the evenings my host-mother took me to a Hawaiian restaurant. I have enjoyed Hawaiian cuisine and spent great time there, all thanks to Karen Brown - my host-mother! The weekend was as diverse as the city of Chicago is - very cold on Saturday and sunny on Sunday. Together with the other fellows in Chicago we went sightseeing and spent a lovely Saturday getting to know more about each other. On Sunday, while enjoying the sunny day together with my host family, we could also watch a part of the Greek Independence Day Parade that took place right next to the neighborhood I live in.
The 14 - 20 April week was the reading and studying week. It began with analyzing some reports on a refugee and torture survivor from the Republic of Moldova who has been seeking for asylum in the U.S. I have shared my opinion on the reports and had an interesting discussion with the clinician dealing with this case.
As it usually happens every week, I was introduced to a part of the legal program employees. We have decided that they would try to engage me in some of their activities or invite me to witness some court hearings or other activities of interest to me.
Together with my supervisors we have also began working on the project we expect to implement together in Moldova - planning time and activities.
I was proposed to support the shadow reporting process on human rights LGBT people in one of the post-soviet countries, a proposal which, of course, I accepted because it will be a very useful experience for me.
In the same time, I have studied publications and research that have been previously launched by GISHR. I have also studied the capacity building tool kit - an instrument created by GISHR for other organizations to be able to assess their own skills and abilities.
On Saturday I have joined other volunteers to clean and green the Humboldt Park, within the 24th Annual Earth Day. The event has been organized by an organization named "Friends of the Parks". I was glad to contribute at maintaining the cleanliness and beauty of that park and collected numerous "thank yous" from simple people passing by. I have also met a group of fellows from Belorussia who were volunteering in the same park. We have been all gathered by WorldChicago Office for a truly noble cause.
Later, I met with two colleagues who came to visit us from Wisconsin and Minnesota. We spent a great day visiting the Willis Tower - the tallest building in the U.S., and the Millennium Park. The evening was a special one. We had the chance to listen to the breathtaking performance of Diane Schuur at Chicago Jazz Showcase - a legend among Chicago jazz clubs.
On Sunday, I went to the Shedd Aquarium - a unique and interesting place. I have admired some of the most beautiful sea creatures. In the evening, I have spent wonderful time meeting some of my host-mothers' friends and had the opportunity to tell them more about Moldova.
29th April - 5th May 2013
Almost last week at the State Capitol in Salem was very exciting and full on new inputs into my proffesional experience. I had high level meetings with: Peter DeFazio, US Congressman,who visited on 30th May the State Capitol in Salem. We shared some commparative issues about the process of democratization in US and Moldova. Congressman Peter DeFazio was first elected to the U.S. Congress in 1986. He is the dean of the Oregon House delegation, and has developed a reputation as an independent, passionate and effective lawmaker. Kate Brown, Secretary of the State. The Secretary of State of Oregon, an elected constitutional officer within the executive branch of government of the U.S. state of Oregon, is first in line of succession to the Governor. The duties of office are: auditor of public accounts, chief elections officer, and administrator of public records. Additionally, the Secretary of State serves on the Oregon State Land Board and chairs the Oregon Sustainability Board. Following every United States Census, if the Oregon Legislative Assembly cannot come to agreement over changes to legislative districting, the duty falls to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State has performed this duty every decade since 1921.
Robert Taylor, Secretary of the Senate. Secretary of the Senate is an elected officer in US and the Office is non-partisan. He presented me the duties and responsabilities of the Secretary of the Senate, some of them are: to serve the Senate in order to ensure the full function of it, to ensure that the bills go through right process, to facilitate the legislative process, to proof the bills, to make improvements to computer system and other important stuff. Laurie Monnes-Amderson, State Senator, Chairperson of the Health Care and Human Services Committee.We discussed about:
• Services provided for at-risk families. In Oregon there are Social Centers that provide vulnerable families with flats, job skills and free health care. There are federal grants for supporting at risk families to byu houses.
• Health care provided to persons with special needs.
• Special programmes for pregnant mother, lonely mothers and at-risk families having many children.
John Clauder, Lobbyist in charge with land, building and zoning issues. Oregon Home Builders Association
It was very interesting to find out what is the place of a lobbyist in legislative process and how a lobbyist boosts economic initiatives. In order to become an official lobbyist, a person should be registered as a lobbyist in the Club of professionals Book. The role of the lobbyist is to explain the initiave background to the legislators, explain why the initiative is so important and the reason to be promoted further. In USA there are local, state and national lobbyists. There are a set of ethic rules in regard to this job.
On 1st of May I attended a historical event for Oregon State: The Governor John Albert Kitzhaber signed a Bill outside the building- on the steps of State Capitol. It was a May Day Protest of Latino and labor groups. The theme of the event was "immigrant spring" a fitting backdrop for Governor John Albert Kitzhaber to sign Senate Bill 833, which would provide residents who cannot provide proof of legal presence access to drivers's cards. The Oregon House passed the Bill Tuesday in a 38-20 vote with four Republicans joining Democrats. As well, in the same period I enjoyed a Legislative reception meeting the movie stars from Grimm, Falling Skies and Leverage.