Thursday was the last day of my internship with AmeriCares. As I walked around the office saying my goodbyes, I was surprised at just how sad I was to go. I had truly immersed myself as part of this organization. It is a bittersweet end. I am leaving, but not without a new perspective, new friends, and new work experience.
I had updated more than 50 contacts for their emergency response appeals, I had complied research on six new sources for fundraising in the online gaming sphere, and I had written acknowledgements and analyzed third-party giving sites, it really was a comprehensive product of what development does in a nonprofit organization. I was also able to dip my toes into communications in designing marketing materials for AmeriCares Student Ambassador Program.
The opportunities to address my goals came naturally. The program strongly encouraged networking, and I was able to exchange information with not two employees but more than ten. Networking also pushed me to work on my communication skills and think about where I want to go next after completing this internship. I was really interested in what communications and multi-media were working on so those were two areas where I reached out the most. As I began working on research and updating contacts, developing organization methods and finding the best way of extracting information, was critical to making deadlines and prioritizing my schedule.
Some of my biggest takeaways were communication skills, researching and reporting techniques, and an understanding of how a nonprofit operates. This knowledge will help me in the future as I decide what field of work I want to explore and pursuing and securing a position in that field. If I do decide that nonprofit work is for me, I have a much better grasp of what that entails. Although AmeriCares operates much like any organization, there are certain differences. There is careful mind to budget, and how budgets, reports, and press releases contribute to nonprofit ratings and public appearance. It appeared that the approval process for external communications was much stricter for reasons of public perception as well, in addition to regular company policy, copyrights, and messaging consistency.
I would definitely encourage anyone to pursue work in not only the nonprofit sector, but also global health or emergency response. The work is extremely important and fulfilling, and it also attracts a certain type of person. Everyone at the organization is so caring and dedicated to what they do– they know that working harder means helping more people. For my first internship I could not have worked with a better group, everyone was willing to take time to welcome me and make sure my questions were answered.
Working at AmeriCares has changed how I look at disasters and global health issues. I watch the news and I read the paper, but it’s so different when you talk directly with people who have witnessed disaster first hand, and especially disasters that don’t even make it to the media headlines. Just this week we had a meeting with two directors from partner organizations who work in Sierra Leone and Liberia who came to speak about the Ebola crisis in Africa. These health care workers quite literally put their lives in danger to help people. They are clearly exhausted and weary from the horrors they’ve seen, but they continue to fight and do not let statistics break their spirit. These people inspire me make change and confront global issues, because it is clear from talking to them that one person can make a difference.
Getting the opportunity to talk with people who work on the frontlines is part of what has made my internship experience so meaningful. I had the chance not to read about disasters or programs, but talk with the people who witnessed disasters and initiated programs. Through pictures and reports I got to see the faces of children and families consumed with emotion whether it was joy or devastation. The stories were real and it proved to me that there is a human touch to everything AmeriCares does.