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Experience changes life direction for Chicago intern

Joleen Erb-Abplanalp
Joleen Erb-Abplanalp recently completed an internship with AFSC’s Middle East Program in Chicago. Photo: AFSC
Madison workshop leaders Nov 2014
From left, AFSC staff and volunteers Nawal Musleh, Joyce Cassel; Jennifer Bing, Mary Ann Weston and Joleen Erb-Abplanalp following their "No Way to Treat a Child" workshop at the Friends of Sabeel, North American conference in Madison, Wisconsin. Photo: AFSC

Joleen Erb-Abplanalp recently completed an internship with AFSC’s Middle East Program in Chicago. She’s a senior at Manchester University in Indiana where she’s studying history and religion.

Joleen Erb-Abplanalp’s journey to AFSC began with a visit to the Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture in Hyde Park. Their database of organizations included information about AFSC’s work for peace and justice in the Middle East. Once she met Jennifer Bing, who directs the program, Joleen knew AFSC was for her.

“Jennifer was so warm and welcoming – she’s an amazing woman – and it felt so right to be there,” Joleen says. She dived right in helping build the No Way to Treat a Child campaign, advocating for the fair treatment of Palestinian children.

Joleen says her internship included a lot advertising and marketing for the campaign. She designed flyers and toolkits while doing substantial background research on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Her experience included a lot of meetings and conferences, including a trip to Madison for the Friends of Sabeel, North America gathering with Jennifer and Nawal Musleh, another AFSC intern. She says she learned from her colleagues how to make presentations and answer questions on the spot; she later practiced her new skills while making her own presentation on the rights of children at the University of Chicago.

“I learned a lot and met a lot of awesome individuals,” Joleen says.

But what surprised her about her experience? “I didn’t know how many people care about Palestinian human rights and this conflict,” Joleen says. “And the amount of effort from so many people from such different backgrounds to do something about the situation in the Middle East and Gaza.”

She says she took away from her internship the confidence and ability to discuss issues with people on a day-to-day basis. “The experience of working with so many different, powerful women who are passionate about this issue led me to latch on to their philosophy,” Joleen says. She also realizes how much she knew about computers and office skills.

Joleen says her internship connected her to other activists and changed her lifelong goal. “It pushed me into activism and community service,” Joleen says. “I’d thought about going to graduate school and becoming a professor, but now I want to do more hands-on work and engage with people in this campaign. The internship gave me the confidence to do more with my life besides sit behind a desk and lecture.”

Joleen plans to take a couple years off from school to work and learn Arabic before starting graduate work in Middle East and Islamic Studies.

For more information about internship possibilities with AFSC Chicago’s Middle East Program, contact Jennifer Bing at