12 young adults descend on U.S. capital for social justice work placements


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Twelve people, ages 20 to 22, began work early in June in the Ethnic Minority Young Adult (EYA) Summer Internship program of the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS). They are working in nonprofit and nongovernmental social-justice organizations in the U.S. capital for two months. This year's group of interns includes one North Alabama young adult.

Young adults are selected annually, primarily from the five ethnic caucuses of The United Methodist Church (UMC), to participate in the internships. In recent years, Central Conferences (outside the United States) have had an increasingly more prominent role in the internships.

To qualify, applicants must be passionate about social justice and active in the denomination, according to the Rev. Neal Christie, GBCS assistant general secretary for Education & Leadership Formation who directs the program.

Christie, an EYA intern himself in 1984, said the internship is The United Methodist Church’s only leadership development program with a public-policy and advocacy focus that reaches out to under-represented racial and ethnic young adults of color.

“This summer we have students from across the United States, representing Asian, African, Pacific Islanders and Mexican ethnicities, and four from Africa.” Christie said. “This is the second year in a row that we have had such a significant involvement across the global church.”

This year’s placement sites include the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) and National Council of Churches of Christ-USA (NCC).

7 U.S. conferences, 3 jurisdictions

The 12 interns come from seven United Methodist annual (regional) conferences, and four from African Central Conferences. Three of the denomination’s five U.S. jurisdictions are represented.

The 2012 interns include four African Americans, one Mexican American, one Asian American (India), two Pacific Islanders and four Africans. The African interns include two from Democratic Republic of the Congo, and one each from Kenya and Liberia.

2012 Ethnic Minority Young Adult Interns

  • Mataiasi Ahokava, Pacific Islander, 21, Sacramento, Calif. (California-Nevada Conference). He majors in Communications at San Francisco State University. Placement is with CMEP, a coalition working to encourage U.S. policies that actively promote a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ensuring security, human rights and religious freedom for all people in the region. He attends Oak Port Tongan UMC.
  • Siera Barksdale, African American, 20, Spartanburg, S.C. (South Carolina). She studies Psychology at Spartanburg Methodist College. Placement is with NCADP.
  • Lizeth Hernandez, Mexican American, 22, Tempe, Ariz. (Desert Southwest). She majors in Global Studies and Human Rights at Arizona State University. Placement is with the NCC Poverty program. She attends First UMC in Glendale.
  • Ann Jacob, Asian American (India ethnicity), 20, Norristown, Pa. (Eastern Pennsylvania). She majors in International Relations and Economics at Boston University. Placement is with Results, a nonprofit, grassroots citizen's lobby working to create the political will to end hunger and the worst aspects of poverty. Her home church is Lima (Pa.) UMC.
  • Kyle Jamison, African American, 20, Springfield, Mass. (New England). He studies Criminal Justice at American International College. Placement is with NCC Eco-Justice program. He attends Wesley UMC.
  • Olga Tshiwew Kangaj, 22, Likasi, Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo Central Conference). She majors in Business at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. Placement is with Feeding America, which addresses hunger through a nationwide network of member food banks. She attends Mount Carmel UMC in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Walter Manuefetoa, Pacific Islander, 20, San Bruno, Calif. (California-Nevada). He is pursuing an Associate Degree with a concentration in music at Skyline College. Placement is with Men Can Stop Rape. He attends First Tongan UMC.
  • Sullivan Nimley Jr., 22, New Kru Town, Liberia (Liberia). He studies Economics at United Methodist University in Monrovia, Liberia. Placement is with the NCC Eco-Justice program. He attends Trinity UMC in New Kru Town.
  • Junie Nkonge, 20, Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo Central Conference). She is studying Management Information Systems at Martin Methodist College, Pulaski, Tenn. Placement is with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which seeks reproductive justice in the United States. Her home church is Lubumbashi UMC.
  • Mercy Rehema Oduori, 21, Nairobi, Kenya. She majors in Theology at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. Placement is with Methodist Federation for Social Action, which mobilizes clergy and laity within the UMC to take action on issues of peace, poverty and people’s rights.
  • Usha Satish, African American, 21, Bronx, N.Y. (New York). She studies Biology and Political Science at Bennett College, Greensboro, N.C. Placement is with the NAACP. Her home church is Westchester UMC.
  • Koneisha Timmons, African American, 20, Hanceville, Ala. (North Alabama). She majors in Psychology with a minor in Sociology at Alabama A&M University. Placement is with Faith & Politics Institute, which has served hundreds of members of Congress and their staff members by offering experiential pilgrimages, reflection groups, retreats and public forums since 1991. She attends Pleasant Grove UMC.

In addition to their work placements, interns also participate in weekly seminars exploring issues that affect different racial/ethnic communities.

The Rev. Doris Warrell and Cindy Heilman are the 2012 Ethnic Minority Young Adult (EYA) program coordinators.

Warrell is a deacon in the Baltimore-Washington Conference, and is CMEP Field Director. She supervises EYA intern placements and leads their seminar experiences.

Heilman is Education & Network Coordinator for the General Board of Church & Society Education & Leadership Formation work area. From Council Grove, Kans., Heilman earned a Masters in Divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary and is seeking ordination as an elder in the Virginia Conference. She has been handling administration and logistics of the internships.

Ben Richards, a Masters of Divinity student at Duke Divinity School, is serving as EYA resident adviser and chaplain during his summer internship with Education & Leadership Formation at GBCS.

George Washington University

Interns are housed at George Washington University. They attend church together each Sunday, and meet for weekly evening devotions and Bible studies. Richards leads the Wednesday worship.

“The EYA interns truly embrace what it means to live in Christian community day in and day out,” said Christie. “They know that this summer is more than professional stair stepping or positioning to pack a resume. It’s about witnessing to the Gospel in their placements and in their Friday seminars.”

The interns will travel to New York City July 19-22 to visit GBCS’s United Nations & International Affairs office. It is in the Church Center for the United Nations, owned by the United Methodist Women, across the street from the United Nations.

Following the trip to New York, the interns will be in Cincinnati, Ohio, July 22-25, for the Children’s Defense Fund National Conference.

Cooperative endeavor

“Funding for the EYA summer internship is, of course, very limited,” said Christie. “Costs for housing continue to rise. With increased funding, we could open the EYA internship to many more students from Africa, the Philippines and Europe.”

Christie said EYA money comes from World Service funds, missional giving from local churches. “A significant portion of those World Service funds are set aside by the General Board of Church & Society to strengthen racial and ethnic leadership ministries in the local church and conferences,” he said.

More information about the EYA program can be obtained from Christie at (202) 488-5611 or nchristie@umc-gbcs.org. Application details are available at EYA Internship Program.

The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. Prime responsibility of the board is to seek implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements on Christian social concerns of the General Conference, the denomination’s highest policy-making body. The board’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City.

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