Reflections: My Experience at the NYF SICO Orientation

August 12, 2015
Written by: Simone Sevilla

Damayan Intern Simone’s reflections on the NYF SICO Orientation in July. All photos are courtesy of NYF Communications Manager Kenny Polyak.

On Wednesday, July 15, I attended the New York Foundation Summer Internship in Community Organizing (SICO) Orientation, representing Damayan as an intern. I was amongst eighteen interns from a wide diversity of other organizations, similar to Damayan, that engage with marginalized communities through organizing and outreach.

The day consisted of various team building exercises designed to familiarize interns with the community organizing process. It started off with icebreakers for the interns to get to know each other and to become comfortable working together. We then discussed the different types of community change. Organizing has many shapes and forms, but it certainly has some fundamental components. These include providing services, self help, education, and advocacy, while bringing people together to collectively address a shared issue.


My favorite part of the orientation was when we had to apply these community organizing components to a mock debate regarding the imaginary mountain town Swisstown. It involved a luxury hotel development harming the villagers by throwing rocks down the mountain to scare them into abandoning their property, a low-budgeted relief agency trying to protect and provide shelter for the villagers, and the villagers who wanted to angrily confront the hotel development. We were split into the 3 different groups, and each group had to brainstorm strategies to negotiate the best possible outcome for their respective group, while having the least amount of concessions. Needless to say, the debate was intense and heated. This hypothetical scenario had underlying themes of displacement, gentrification, class warfare; many of these issues hit home for my fellow interns. But after several minutes of constructive criticism, we were able to reach a consensus; simply put, as soon as the villagers evacuated Swisstown, the hotel would provide the villagers with work at a fair wage, insurance, luxury housing, and a free membership to the hotel’s golf course.


Another great part of the orientation was the one-on-one outreach scenarios. We were assigned partners and had to role play as a community member and an organizer. Our goal was to determine how an organizer can motivate a community member to address a problem they may have by informing them of available resources and services, and by assuring the community member that they aren’t alone in their struggle. There were four different scenarios: an isolated worker whose employer withheld their wages, an undocumented student needing guidance for attendance, a tenant whose landlord is charging him illegal fees, and a homeless person who’s constantly harassed by police in a gentrified area. I really enjoyed this exercise because it gave me an opportunity to get feedback on how I articulate Damayan’s services, and how I can improve my approach to connecting with a community member. Since the first two scenarios are applicable to Damayan’s cause, it’s essential that I continue to hone my outreach skills.

I’m very glad to have participated in the NYF SICO orientation. It was great networking with fellow community organizers and learning about their particular lines of work. Everyone in attendance was smart, driven, and passionate; it was truly inspiring being amongst such exceptional individuals.