Contributed by Sarah-Lee Chun
Before I came back to Honolulu for summer break, I was looking through craigslist for opportunities to work or volunteer. I came across an ad that offered an internship with an organization that offers free arts programming to at-risk youth and creates public works of art around O’ahu. The internship promised an environment that would be stimulating and hands-on experience in working with artists and youth.
I was excited because of my interest in art, a new-found fascination with graffiti and my desire to contribute to the community in a positive way. Being an intern at 808 Urban sounded like a unique learning experience because of all the different facets of the organization. I remember talking on the phone with Sierra about HIstory productions, the Junior Board Initiative, Community Murals and the Refuge space. At first, I was overwhelmed by all of the programs 808 Urban had in place, but I felt at ease when I arrived home and was able to meet both Sierra and Prime in person. Their friendly welcome and enthusiasm for the programs at 808 Urban made me feel like I had made a good decision about how to spend my summer.
My experiences working in the Refuge made me realize how important it is to be resourceful, proactive and assess how I can best contribute in a given situation. I found that my organizational skills and writing abilities were useful and I challenged myself to engage with others while at the Refuge and during the Mai’a project workshop sessions. Prime, Sierra and Nikila allowed me to contribute to various programs and gave me the opportunity to explore what programs I wanted to put my time and energy into. I was able to observe the graffiti workshop on Saturday, meet members of the Junior Boards, help out at the art auction, research information about graffiti in Hawai’i, participate in the Mai’a project workshop, develop merchandise for the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, take on administrative responsibilities and learn more about the structure of non-profit organizations.
My internship last year involved sitting at a desk for nearly eight hours for five days a week. This year, I was able to learn more about community outreach, the significance of community revitalization and meet fascinating individuals. I was not bound to a desk and I was actually interested in what I was doing.
I am grateful to have been surrounded by the members of the 808 Urban community. Meeting Prime and hearing him talk about his youth and how he envisions 808 Urban in the future was inspiring. Meeting Sierra, helping her with the Mai’a project, laughing about our indecision in determining t-shirt designs and learning by her example to be more nurturing and encouraging were invaluable to my experience at 808 Urban. Meeting Nikila, helping her with organizing The Refuge space, hearing about her experiences working at other non-profits and receiving her guidance in administrative tasks all contributed to in my increased interest and knowledge about organizations like 808 Urban. Working with the other interns and adolescents in the various workshops helped me discover what I can give and how to value what I give.
808 Urban provides a wide variety of experiences for each individual, as long as he or she takes the opportunity to learn and contribute. Even though I am sad to be leaving 808 Urban, I am excited to see how it expands and grows. I feel extremely blessed to have been able to work with an innovative, creative and passionate group of people who believe in social change through art and creativity.