Community Service at Athenian: Crystal C. ’21 at ARM of Care

By Crystal C. ’21

Over March Term in 2020, I was fortunate enough to do an internship with ARM of Care for a second year. ARM of Care uses the creative arts to restore and empower individuals who have been commercially sexually exploited through human trafficking or are at risk for being trafficked.

Despite the unexpected social distancing a week into my internship, it went smoothly overall, and I was ultimately able to accomplish all that we had planned. I am really grateful for and owe a lot to the experience I got working with ARM of Care since March the previous year. Because of that connection, I got to know the organization and its mission a lot better, which helped me with self-motivation and helped deepen my level of consideration for my work this March Term. There were a few major changes in my internship this year, which brought new challenges, different perspectives, and more introspection.

One difference was the increased independence asked of me. By “independent,” I don’t mean “remote.” A lot of my work with ARM of Care last year was remote, so I luckily did not have to go through a big a learning curve about that. This year, I got to experience a different meaning of “independence.” For instance, my artwork this year has been all on paper by hand, rather than online last year, so errors could not be as easily undone. I was given the creative freedom to choose my own mediums for the cards and gift bags I was asked to decorate. At first, I felt stuck between choosing something that would yield the best possible quality versus something that would be more forgiving towards mistakes. In the end, I decided that I wanted to put as much care as possible into making something really nice for the girls (the gift bags) and representative of the organization (the thank-you cards). I chose to use watercolor, a medium that is not very forgiving, but looks great if done well. As a result of this choice, my work took a lot of patience. I had to be even more attentive and cautious than last year. Sometimes the painting did feel tiring, both physically and mentally, but I learned to understand that working “independently” is not just working remotely. It’s also being able to work through challenges and motivate oneself even without a supervisor or mentor always there.

Because of current events and social distancing, I also had a lot of time for reflection and introspection. Although my age and skills limit how much I can help ARM of Care as a whole, I realized that even small things–like painting gift bags for some of the girls they serve–can bring joy and aid in the organization’s mission. I also realized how much my consideration for my work has grown since last year. Last year, I did a lot of digital marketing work, but I did not know much about how the organization operated and I knew almost nothing about the girls they served. Over the past year, as I continued to work with ARM of Care, I was able to hear a victim speak. I heard first-hand about what happens to a lot of the girls they serve and about the organization’s philosophy in facilitating the healing process.

I didn’t really realize how much my perspective had changed until one day during my internship this year. I was adding paint splatters to gift tags for artistic effect, when I was suddenly worried that the dark pink-red splatter might be triggering for some of the girls. I immediately went back and modified all the splatters into tiny flowers. It might have just been me nitpicking, but it’s not something I would have considered last year. I realized that motivation and care for work comes from an understanding of and commitment to the underlying purpose.

Angie and I have talked about continuing to work together, which I am also looking forward to.

This article was originally published on the Athenian Community Service Blog on January 29, 2021.