Our #SummerOfPurpose blog series follows this year’s Cleveland Foundation Summer Interns and Porter Cleveland Fellows as they spend 11 weeks working with Cleveland-area nonprofit and public sector organizations. In today’s blog, we hear from Meshal Muzaffar, a Porter Cleveland Fellow who is working with The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland this summer.
College: Wheaton College
Hometown: Dubai, UAE
Internship Host Site: The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
Why did you initially decide to participate in this internship program?
Throughout my life experiences, I have come to realize that, as members of a larger society, we are only exposed to the end product of government workings, and we may not fully appreciate the process by which it was achieved. The Legal Aid Society is a pro-bono law firm that does incredible work resolving legal issues that address critical needs for families living in poverty in Northeast Ohio. My desire to have a direct hand in the services that Legal Aid provides was the primary motivating factor to participate in this internship program.
What has been the most valuable aspect of your internship experience?
One of the most valuable experiences I have gained while interning with the Legal Aid Society has been helping to prepare for the silent auction part of Legal Aid’s annual summer fundraiser, Jam for Justice. My colleague and I would walk around the city and ask local organizations to consider donating a gift card, item or experience to be auctioned at the fundraiser. The Legal Aid Society has also provided me with the incredible opportunity to take part in brief advice clinics and community outreach events, where I was given a chance to speak to individuals about the services that Legal Aid provides.
Prior to my internship, I had very little understanding of the technicalities and nuances that go into private fundraising and donor outreach. Working in the development and communications department has not only provided me with the opportunity to recognize the sheer importance of fundraising for a nonprofit organization, but has also allowed me to acknowledge the challenges that inevitably come with working for a pro-bono law firm.
When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing around Cleveland?
This is my first time in Cleveland, so I have really enjoyed exploring the city and immersing myself into the events that are constantly happening around the city. While Parade the Circle, Edgewater Live and Wade Oval Wednesdays have all been incredible experiences, I have to say that one of my favorite things to do is discover all the different food trucks that are stationed across the city!
How has this internship helped you grow professionally?
Interning at the Legal Aid Society has helped to broaden my outlook in both the legal and nonprofit sectors. I have made invaluable connections with attorneys and law students practicing in various fields of law, allowing me to further expand my knowledge whilst also fulfilling my desire to pursue a career in the legal field.
How has this internship helped you grow personally?
This internship has taught me to always take things one step at a time. While one may have a very different goal for a project in their mind than what was actually achieved, it is important to always look at the progress of the individual steps that go toward the final goal – it’s every little bit of effort that counts, no matter how small.
What advice would you give to someone considering applying for the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship program?
Like any other opportunity, your experience with the summer internship program will be what you make of it. The Cleveland Foundation has provided me with all the guidance, resources and opportunities necessary to help me grow personally and professionally, and being a part of such an incredible program has been rewarding in ways that have far exceeded all of my expectations.