As I’ve gotten more into the thick of the work that I’m doing at FJI this past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the mental toll that working with nonprofit groups often entails. Part of what us interns do is read through the mail that gets sent to FJI from people who are incarcerated. We then figure out whether there is any course of action that FJI can take to help the person who wrote the letter, and because of the small size of the organization and the fact that FJI typically focuses on class-action efforts, often there isn’t a lot we can do for every individual who asks for help. But after reading what can be such disheartening and emotional stories, there’s a real sense of guilt that I felt at having to say that there is nothing that FJI can do to help.
Especially considering that this is only my first week reading these types of letters, I can only imagine the emotional toll that doing this kind of work for a career would have on people. I doubt that it ever gets any easier to have to turn someone down. It just goes to show that working at a place like FJI seems to come with high highs and low lows; I’m sure that getting class-action suits passed that have an effect on thousands of people is such an incredible feeling, but having to hear about the injustices that happen every single day within the criminal justice system must be so draining. At the same time as I’m coming to realize these thoughts, I’m recognizing just how lucky I am to be in a position where I do get to see a sneak-peek into the world of nonprofits, and I know I will value the knowledge I’m gaining for years to come as I start thinking about what I want to do with my life and the types of organizations I want to be involved in.