Reflections on a Summer Working with The W.O.W Project

Donna posing in The W.O.W Project work space where all planning and brainstorming is done for The W.O.W Project's public programming. 

During my month with The W.O.W Project, I had an exciting and interesting time. For one, I got to hang out in the basement workshop space of an antique store and for another, I got to see a grassroots initiative taking off. This internship was a mesh of interests I’d dabbled within school so I took it more as an active learning experience than anything else. A few years ago, I took a geography class on New York City and took a strong interest in learning about the demographics of neighborhoods in New York. This internship revitalized my interest in urban studies and immigration. Learning outside of the classroom is always fun because it’s something done by choice. The W.O.W Project internship forced me to deeply reflect on my own neighborhood issues and the reasons why gentrification is so widespread.

I really appreciated the public programs that we put on. It was quite inspiring to see how much hard work was put into The W.O.W Project that started with an idea to do better for the Chinatown community and has now grown into its own independent initiative. It's very apparent that Mei’s work ethic - not far off from Nike’s ‘Just do it’ attitude - is what has brought about the growing success of The W.O.W Project and her growing presence as a community leader in Chinatown. It was really refreshing to work with Mei because she was able to open up a different perspective and approach to problem solving for me. 

Prepping for our Chinatown: New York’s Newest Gallery Scene? event, we did our best with what we had. When the time came, things fell together fairly nicely. The most memorable part of this event however was the livestream, probably the most stressful part of the whole program for us as a program team. We hadn’t tested out our livestream but as the hours were ticking away, we went with what we had. Visually, the livestreaming was fine however there were issues with sound. I thought I was listening to a hoard of screeching bats. As I was sweating massive bullets in the livestream room because people were leaving, Mei swapped our livestream platform to Facebook live. And that was it. Problem solved. I realized that I overthink things and that it’s natural for people to come across issues that they can't control. I learned that keeping a cool head in all situations is important. After being involved in planning the event, I now have a better grasp on how to manage a project both logistically and efficiently. I made mental and written notes of what we had, didn’t have, needed. When others depend on you, it’s important to keep track of your tasks as well as what others are doing. Working with a cooperative team was also key to a successfully run event.

I also did some solo activities. I visited the Camaradas El Barrio bar in Harlem and interviewed the manager about how he runs his business. I really like oral history so this was one of my favorite assignments. I went to an anti-gentrification workshop and attended the Cultural Development Fund Info Session. I also felt most active during these activities as a representative for The W.O.W Project. I felt I had been entrusted with important tasks. Overall, Mei gave me a lot of independence and flexibility that helped me gain a better understanding of my work ethics, abilities, and confidence.

For more information about W.O.W Project Internship & Volunteer opportunities, please visit: http://www.wingonwoand.co/getinvolved/