Thursday, July 22, 2010

From the Intern Files: Why Project Interfaith

By Amanda Ryan, Project Interfaith Intern

Fifteen hours a week and no pay… Why would anybody want to work more hours at a place where they don’t get paid than at their actual job? Well that is the exact question I have been asking myself for almost a month. I came to Project Interfaith so I could become more aware of the different faiths and beliefs around the world and our own community. I am a Religious Studies major at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and I saw this internship as leading to different job opportunities. However, that is only part of the reason why I decided to work at Project Interfaith.

Growing up in a small town, a person tends to be sheltered and stick to their own comfort zone. The majority of people in Minden, Nebraska, are Caucasian Christians. We have seven churches, three of which are Lutheran and the closest mosque and synagogue are at least two hours away. The people of Minden know how to farm and run their everyday lives; we know the difference between Case-International and John Deere tractors. But if you were to ask the average Mindenite what they know about different cultures and faith traditions, their perception would be pretty skewed and limited. Throughout high school I was always bothered by the stereotypes that my classmates had about the growing minority population in Minden. Speech class was used to debate the presidential election and whether Hispanic immigrants were illegal aliens. These situations shaped my choice in where I would attend college. I wanted a place where I could explore and learn about different cultures and religions, where I would be pushed out my comfort zone. I wanted to use my college career to find where I fit in with the world. That’s when I decided to attend UNO.

As I began college I was a Business Administration major. I quickly discovered that business was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Accounting and statistics just wasn’t for me. During first semester I enrolled in RELI-1010, Introduction to World Religions. This class sparked my interest in the different world religions. I wanted to find out more about them; similarities and difference, customs and holidays. My teacher made class interesting and fueled my interest. I wanted to go to her class; I looked forward to Monday-Wednesday-Friday’s at 11:00 a.m. So what if I didn’t get to eat lunch. That was when I decided to change my major. Not only was I growing in my knowledge about the different religions, but I was also learning more and more about my own faith. This was exactly what I wanted to happen in college.

Once the introduction class was over, I would find myself looking up facts about religions in my spare time (yeah, I know I’m a nerd.) Somehow I stumbled across Project Interfaith’s website. I looked around the site and decided that I wanted to get involved. The first thing that appealed to me about Project Interfaith was the fact that they want people to understand and respect all faiths, beliefs, and cultures. I thought about living in Minden and how the need for cultural diversity and tolerance is in great demand. I thought about the opportunities that working with this organization could give me, and most importantly I thought about how much I could grow. That is why I am here at Project Interfaith, spending fifteen hours a week with four other people in an office space fit for two, yet housing five.

This is the first in a series of posts by the Project Interfaith summer interns. They'll be reflecting on what drew them to interfaith work and to decide to work in the tiny work space with a big heart that is Project Interfaith as well as sharing their adventures in interfaith work. You can learn more about Amanda by visiting the Project Interfaith website, finding her on Facebook and Twitter (@amandaleigh2205), or emailing her at

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