November 30, 2012
By Mohini Ufeli
For Megan Brookman ’14, “There’s not enough focus on sexual violence, everything under that umbrella makes me mad, and I wanted to do something about it, so I started volunteering.” Having witnessed the effects of domestic violence on the lives around her while growing up, Brookman took the opportunity to help when it came to her- during Mount Holyoke’s Annual Career Fair. Safe passage, a domestic violence shelter that provides support and resources for women and children, had a table and open volunteer positions. It has now been a year and half since Brookman began as a relief worker at Safe Passage, and in Brookman’s words, “Volunteering pays off big-time,” because, “Organizations take note of their outstanding volunteers.” Brookman’s volunteer position gradually grew into a work-study position as a Spanish translator.
Brookman may be a Middle Eastern Studies major, but she also has academic interests in Latin American studies, politics and language. By acknowledging and cultivating these seemingly broad interests, Brookman has been able to gain first-hand experience in career-fields she is interested in-human rights, social justice, and social work. As a relief worker, Brookman performs tasks like answering the domestic violence hotline and supervising the residents of the safe house, which includes setting alarms, enforcing rules and resolving conflicts. When Safe passage organizes events like their annual Hot Chocolate Run fundraiser, Brookman gets involved in the planning.
As a Spanish Translator, a paid position she has held since the fall of 2012, Brookman works on content for the Safe Passage website and drafts the “Safety Plan” which suggests what steps to take for anyone who is attempting to leave an abusive environment. For Brookman, who “can’t imagine doing a career in which I only spoke English,” translating allows her to keep up-to-date on her Spanish, “I have to continuously keep looking at vocabulary I didn’t know,” and help people, “I have to be so vigilant that I don’t accidentally translate something wrong.”
Brookman’s position at Safe Passage is giving her practical, real-world experience that will be invaluable to her future aspirations either as a domestic violence advocate or a lawyer. Because of the serious and sensitive nature of the work she does, Brookman has become accustomed to paying close attention to detail and relating to people beyond cultural, religious and other differences. Brookman acknowledges that it’s ‘hard to separate your personal beliefs from your job and prioritize,” but it’s a skill Brookman has had for a long time, “and it’s very useful.”
To students looking for work opportunities, Brookman had a bit of advice - volunteer. If you have a passion that you would like to explore, keep volunteer positions in mind, and Brookman suggests looking everywhere: “Look at every website in every pamphlet, talk to your organization, ask professors, it doesn’t hurt to email an organization asking if they have employment opportunities or internships, or if they know of any organizations in the area similar to them that do, because not all companies post employment on their websites.”