Friday, August 21, 2009

Intern's Voice, Cyrus Jalai

The days of a GAA intern consistently offer something new, unexpected, thus fostering a true sense of purpose and responsibility. It’s this quality about working with GAA that first caught me and drew me in. I really relish in the thought that I can actually do something profitable to actively help people.

My name is Cyrus Jalai and I’ve been with Global Action on Aging since July 1, 2009. I am currently an upcoming senior at Riverdale Country School at the top of the Bronx. Riverdale is the type of high school which offers a challenging liberal arts education yet manages to balance that with great spirit and extracurricular involvement. In particular, it’s that liberal arts-style education that first inspired me to pursue other interests and to expand my horizons, first leading me to GAA. Riverdale also encourages its students to go out and truly make an effort to have an influence in people’s lives, another reason for my internship.

Something that GAA celebrates is the cultural diversity of its interns, and though I am a full-time resident in the US, I am no exception to this rule. I moved from Toronto, Canada in 9th grade in 2007 to New York City. I’ve been living in New York City for two years, and yet, when I’m away from the city, I feel the constant nagging feeling that I need to return. I’ve really only started to get to know the city, but despite my short time here, I feel like a true part of its proverbial “soul.”

Being one of the only two high schools students here at GAA can be daunting, yet it makes me work harder in an attempt to put myself on par with the majority of the other interns here, who are mostly college-level and graduate students. Indeed, it’s challenging to pit my knowledge against that of twenty-something year olds, but the obstacles, as well as the other interns, teach me immeasurably every day.

My tasks here at GAA are generally very similar in nature: researching articles pertaining to world and local elder rights, rural aging, and armed conflict situations; creating the front page. In fact, the majority of my time here is spent researching various articles that I find appropriate and interesting contributions to our cause. One of the articles that I particularly identified with was entitled, Niger Delta Elders Declare August 11 Non-Violent Day. It states that the Elders of various groups within the Niger Delta region called for a Non-Violent day. They have created a communiqué to instruct their people to embark on a nation-wide rally to combat violence. This cause really resonates with me, because this is an example of an older person taking it upon himself to make a change in his life. Rather than waiting for a third party to do so, these seniors are taking charge to protect themselves.

I find that GAA’s work is truly laudable and noble. It’s a rare thing, at least to me, that an organization reaches out to the older population of our country. It seems to me that even in the city, where we promote cooperation, teamwork and inclusion, that these are little more than empty words, false promises; the truth being that older people are perpetually being subtly neglected, and reports of elder abuse and fraud are becoming more and more common each day. But fortunately, that’s where GAA steps in, to give voice to seniors’ troubles and achievements. I’m really thankful that GAA has given me the opportunity to help them on their hard mission, and will remember what I’ve learned in my time here for the rest of my life!

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