Jun 27, 2017

Summer Intern Series: Miriam Pierce, Programs

This summer, we’re excited to welcome five interns to Global Headquarters! Hailing from four GlobeMed chapters from across the country, these interns will serve as integral parts of GlobeMed’s work as we expand our technology platforms, grow our communications and partnerships strategy, and gear up for another year of chapter engagement and support.

Our fourth summer intern at Global Headquarters is Miriam Pierce, who will be working on Programs.

Miriam’s personal experiences with pain and loss as a young child have shaped her understanding of society, exclusion, and oppression. Despite, and perhaps because of, her upbringing, she is incredibly passionate about youth development and building community. A Chicago native, Miriam has been a committed member of the now inactive GlobeMed at Loyola University chapter, and believes that the intersectionality of struggles is the quintessence of the GlobeMed approach.

Miriam Pierce

University: Loyola University Chicago
Major: Advocacy & Social Change; minor in Education Policy
Year: Class of 2018
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

What’s your story?

I suppose my story began the moment I ceased to run. In psychology, the three main responses to stressful situations are categorized as fight, flight, or freeze. For the majority of my life, I was a runner too afraid to become a fighter.

I was born the third daughter to an American father and a German mother in the city of Princeton, New Jersey. When I was four years old, my father was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer and died shortly after. His passing broke me and broke my family. We soon moved to Chicago, the city I’ve since learned to call home. For years, we struggled to make ends meet as a single-parent household. I was surrounded by feelings of hopelessness, uncertainty, and grief. More than anything, my childhood was marked by my unrelenting battle with anger at the injustices I both experienced and witnessed and yet had little power to resist.

In ceramics, there is a Japanese practice called kintsukuroi, which translates to “repair with gold.” When a bowl or pot is broken, the potter repairs it using gold or silver lacquer. Though it becomes one cohesive work, all of the broken pieces are amplified by the bright gold surrounding each crack. The beauty of this art form is that by clearly displaying the brokenness, both the artist and the viewer have a mutual understanding that the piece is more meaningful for having first been broken.

In my life, there has been much that is broken. In denying this brokenness, I thought I was escaping the pain. In reality, I allowed it to define and envelop me. In this world, there is, likewise, much that is broken. Everywhere we go, systems are riddled by inequalities, oppression, war, poverty, gross misuse of power, and the like. Admitting this is oftentimes overwhelming. But as Paulo Freire writes:

“The more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can better transform it.”

Around three years ago, there came a time when I could no longer run from my reality and simply learned to stay. What followed were moments of looking my past straight in the eyes, accepting it for what it was, allowing myself the space to heal. In entering into reality, no matter how dark, painful, or broken it may be, we are better able to create sustainable change.

Recognizing my own journey has led me to develop a deep passion for social justice, particularly justice for children who are overlooked, neglected, and/or marginalized by systems of oppression. I’m currently preparing to enter my last year at Loyola University, studying Advocacy & Social Change with a minor in Education Policy. I have been extraordinarily blessed to work with children and youth throughout my life whose stories of brokenness, resilience, strength, and healing have inspired me to dedicate my life to child advocacy work. If there is one thing I have learned from my work thus far, it is that where there is brokenness, there is also hope. We all have experienced varying levels of pain and injustice, some much more than others. But our broken pieces are beautifully molded together by love, hope, mercy, solidarity, and justice—streams of gold and silver lacquer.

How has GlobeMed fit into that picture up to this point? What roles have you played in your chapter?

In her book Freedom Is A Constant Struggle, Angela Davis asserts that the key to forging international solidarities is an understanding of the “intersectionality of struggles.” Whether it’s #blacklivesmatter, justice in Palestine, immigrant rights, or affordable healthcare advocacy, all social justice movements across all national borders connect and intersect. It is precisely through these connections that we find power, and from that power, unshakable hope.

I credit GlobeMed with first pushing me to grasp this valuable lesson. I joined the organization as a member of the globalhealthU team during my first year at Loyola University in Chicago. Through our ghU discussions and activities, I began to realize that my passions for equitable education, racial justice, and structural change were all at their core passions for health. According to GlobeMed, health is “not only the ability to survive, but to thrive.” This new understanding helped me bridge the gaps between my own passions and values and enabled me to see the connections between various struggles against injustice everywhere.

The intersectionality of struggles is the quintessence of the GlobeMed approach. GlobeMed pairs determined and committed young changemakers from college chapters to grassroots organizations all over the world. Each chapter, partner site, and individual goes through different battles and sets different goals. Some of our partners focus on women’s empowerment, some on childhood development, some on poverty alleviation, and others on refugee and migrant rights. And yet, every person, chapter, and organization in the GlobeMed community is connected by a unwavering commitment to holistic health—the ability to thrive.

What sparked your interest in this summer internship and what you’ll be doing here at the Global Headquarters?

Toward the end of my first year at Loyola, our GlobeMed chapter was unfortunately shut down by our University’s administration and we are currently still in the process of seeking to regain organization status. As I have been without a chapter for over a year, I jumped at the opportunity to reconnect with the GlobeMed family by interning at Headquarters. This summer, I will be the Programs Intern at GlobeMed, meaning my job primarily consists of planning the Leadership Institute (LI) which will take place in August. My day to day tasks range from detailed logistics planning to LI material development. I’m thoroughly grateful to be a part of such a wonderful nonprofit and excited to assist the team in molding LI into the great event. Most of all, I look forward to be challenged, inspired, and transformed in any and every way.

Words: Miriam Pierce. Picture: Balungile Belz

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One Response to Summer Intern Series: Miriam Pierce, Programs
Jorge Forero says: June 29, 2017 at 9:06 am

Hi Mirian. Great interview.
I would like to know why Loyola, a Jesuit University extremely concerned with justice and social issues would close your Globemed chapter. I’m the father of another intern working with you in HQ and surprised by that. I have been deeply connected with the Jesuit community, and Pope Francis is a Jesuit. Please let me know.


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