Reflecting on a CFI Outreach Internship: Sam Farooqui
September 8, 2016
I had been all but promised an atypical internship at the Center for Inquiry this year, given the Reason Rally and the merger with the Richard Dawkins Foundation. These forewarnings were largely correct. Although my time at CFI was shorter than it has been for past interns, I was able to be a part of things very few, if any, of them had been able to be part of. The Reason Rally had only happened once before, four years ago, and such a big shift within the organization as the merger with RDF has never happened before at CFI at all. Throughout the internship, the sense that I was experiencing CFI at a very pivotal time never escaped me.
It was enlightening to see all that goes into having branches and affiliates, supplying them with resources, and tabling on behalf of CFI. Previously, my experience had been confined to the other side of this process - receiving resources and doing work on the ground. Before, I had known so much of what we on the ground do is made possible and made better through the efforts at CFI–Transnational, but I hadn’t known the extent of those efforts. Going through the annual reaffiliation drive made me more aware of just how many student groups CFI serves, not just in the US but all over the world. Aside from all the big, important things, there were also the little important things. I’m a person who enjoys a good spreadsheet, and this affinity was frequently utilized, whether for the reaffiliation drive or revamping the Speakers Bureau. I also waited for more button-making supplies this summer with bated breath so I could finally indulge in the glorious work that is button-making.
In the process of all this, I was reminded again and again of the importance of grassroots organizing, and moreover, how crucial it is to understand that which drives it. Without this kind of understanding and experience of what it means to be people-driven in all sectors of a nonprofit, those organizations may as well be flailing helplessly in the water. Fortunately, for as long as I’ve known CFI, it has supported these values.
The quality of my time at CFI–Transnational didn’t revolve exclusively around the simple comprehension of how crucial CFI has been to the secular movement(s) globally. It’s doubtful whether I would have enjoyed being in Buffalo nearly as much if it weren’t for the fact that CFI staff were wonderful to be around and work with, particularly CFI Outreach, with whom I had most of my interactions. It isn’t every day that you get to work with people who radiate as much warmth, openness, and understanding as the people at CFI Outreach do. They know what it means to work as, with, and for people, and not just cogs in a machine.
In some ways, I consider this experience to have had a tremendous healing effect on me. For the first time, I was able to find spaces which, as a brown ex-Muslim femme, are very rarely available to me but also which are very difficult to create on my own as well, despite past great effort on my part. On one notable occasion at Reason Rally, I was able to join other ex-Muslims for the first time in my life in what felt like a space made available and safe for people like me. It’s astoundingly vital to have access to people who know some part of your experience, not because they were told by other people like you, but because they have experienced some part of it themselves. I credit Debbie Goddard in particular as having a significant hand in making CFI, and especially CFI Outreach, a place where I and people like me feel not only welcome but understood.
Now that I’m back in Tallahassee, every now and then, I find jokes and observations popping into my mind and I think with a brief twinge of nascent nostalgia about how well they would’ve been received at the CFI office. Whenever I think back on my two months with CFI in Buffalo, it is and will be with a sense of fondness and gratitude.
About the Author: Sam Farooqui
Sam is a student at Florida State University studying psychology. She was a founding officer of the Secular Student Alliance at FSU in 2014. Her hobbies include defending the weak, attacking the strong, attacking the weak, and just generally being incisive.
#1 John D White (Guest) on Friday September 09, 2016 at 6:18am
As Chair of Oxford Humanists, I've been trying to engage more with local young people with Muslim backgrounds and, after several years without achieving very much, I'm currently having some minor successes.
So it's really pleasing to read Sam's feedback on her period with CFI, and I'd like to wish her every success in the future!
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