It seems ironic to think that I didn’t know much about HAF before this past winter break. I still remember just getting home from school and thinking about how I would spend my last semester of college when my grandfather told me about an internship with the Hindu American Foundation that he had just heard about. To be honest, I didn’t even know who or what the Hindu American Foundation was. My parents told me to apply for the internship, and like any other college student looking for a job post-grad, I applied aimlessly. It’s funny how that works though, because once I started doing my homework on the job and the organization, I fell in love with its mission and goals (apologies for the cliché).
Before coming to DC in early June, I didn’t know what to expect. I had no clue what being an advocacy group actually meant and what it entailed, nor what sort of work I’d actually be doing. So being able to start the internship with DC Days was both an eye-opener and a great introduction to the summer. For those who don’t know what DC Days entails, it’s a two-day event in which volunteers and members of HAF visit Congressional offices to advocate for solutions to issues affecting Hindu Americans. These couple days also gave me an insight to what sort of work and Congressional interactions I’d be exposed to over the course of the summer.
One of the great aspects of the internship was how my interests were taken into consideration when the staff assigned projects. Coming into the program, I asked to be tasked with human rights issues. One of my biggest projects has been to create infographs, or visual diagrams of information, for minority Hindus in Pakistan, which are used to educate the public. Projects like these outline how minority Hindus are victimized, and they are the same infographs that are distributed to Congressional staff, so it’s nice to work on projects that help influence elected officials. We had similar infographs that we gave out to offices during DC Days, but those ones were focused on Bangladesh. I have also gotten the opportunity to meet with various Congressional offices and discuss the issues that Hindus are facing, such as religious worker visas and human rights. Meeting with these staffs includes going to offices on Capitol Hill, attending reception dinners, and going to coffee hours. The receptions are also great outlets to network and meet fellow summer interns, and they also provide unique experiences and add to the benefits of working in the nation’s capital.
During this summer, I’ve also gotten the chance to spend time with seven other HAF interns. A majority of them work in Congressional offices around Capitol Hill, but a couple of them intern in the HAF office along with me. It’s been a really fun experience getting to know and spend time with them. We all come from different places, so it definitely adds to the DC experience.
Hindu American Foundation is a group that advocates, not lobbies. Before coming to DC, I did not even know there was a difference between the two words. Working for an advocacy organization has really changed the way I think about advocacy. I’ve begun to understand the different facets of our democratic system and how one’s opinions really CAN make a difference in our country. HAF is a two-way organization. It listens to its constituents and also provides them with the most relevant information to address their issues. Throughout this internship, I have learned how an advocacy group works and what it truly means to advocate. HAF works to ensure Hindu Americans are represented in public policy and it does this by taking a stand and making a difference in DC.
It’s not difficult to understand why HAF is so important to our community. Being a part of the democratic system calls for our opinions to be heard, our pleas to be answered. HAF provides that voice for Hindu Americans. Being the only Hindu American advocacy group, HAF is at the forefront in ensuring that Hindus have representation, while also finding solutions to our demographic’s problems.
Being able to take part in this internship has introduced me to the political world and how our government works. Coming from someone with aspirations in medicine, I didn’t really know what to expect once I came to DC. Yet after just a month’s work, I have been involved with a variety of projects and have gotten chances to meet me so many influential people; opportunities I would not have ever thought I would have experienced. Once I leave, I know I will be able to use this summer as a stepping stone into molding myself as a Hindu American advocate.