Being an intern for a small, under resourced grassroots environmental organization is not always as exciting or thrilling as one might think, or as I thought before arriving in Nicaragua. Initially, the words, “grassroots,” “under resourced,” “small,” and “environmental organization,” all took on a certain charm. They all formed to create a very novel picture in my head and I don’t think I knew what they implied until arriving and sinking my teeth into my work. At times, it can be boring, run of the mill, Monday to Friday, 9-5 office work. Development work is a waiting game. It’s a money game. It’s a creative game – my experience has become “what can I turn this internship into to make it the most rewarding experience?” Another question I have contemplated is “how can I contribute to Anides in a sustainable and long term way?” This is obviously a challenging task as I am only here for seven months, but I thought there must be one; partnership development. It was a challenge at first. I would have to dive into the pool of organizations that are aligned with Anides’s vision and mission….and that pool is very large. What an overwhelming task!
I started out doing a lot of reading and looking at the numbers. What kind of money are organizations bringing in or where are they receiving their funding from? The more I narrowed it down, the more fun the task became. I ended up learning more than I thought I would, analyzing the way an organization had designed their website, for example. Was the information accessible and was the right information presented? I have become a very good judge of an organization and their marketability. The task became easier as the organizations that knew how to get the most important information across, were the ones I ended up choosing.
From there, the next task seemed slightly daunting and intimidating, a cold call. Since Anides did not necessarily have an “in” or connection with these organizations, I would have to write an e-mail stating my case and what kind of partnership I was looking to forge. I honestly think that what has caught some of these organizations’ attention has been the mention of a “Canadian government sponsored internship.” I guess if that will be my leverage, then so be it. These are organizations that either my supervisor has always passed by, not even thinking of ways they might be able to support Anides or ones she has been dying to get even a meeting with, but has been unable due to a language barrier. I am happy that I can be the one to support, after all that is part of what I am here to do.
My initial expectations have been turned upside down and my perspective has really had to shift. I have had to go from thinking “what can this internship do for me to, what can I bring to this internship?” The seemingly boring and slow days or weeks, it turns out, are quite meaningful in the grand scheme of things. They are where the nitty gritty is planned and thought out and where idle minds develop creative ideas. They are the build-up to the most fulfilling tasks which are spent day after day in the field conducting focus groups and surveys. It is when you have a project in which you become emotionally invested, that the seemingly menial work turns into fun, creative-bursts of ideas- kind of work. I have become a report and proposal writer, facilitator, strategizer, designer, analyzer, surveyor and creator among many things.
If you had to ask me to synthesize this experience at this point into one phrase, I would say it has been like receiving a fresh slap in the face, and a voice that accompanies that slap says “ Wake up Clare and welcome to the world of development.”
-Clare Esler, Environment Project Officer, CIDA International Youth Internship Program, Nicaragua 2012
As previously noted on the YCI Blog we have 8 IYIPs in the field. They have all written a blog post detailing the beginning of their placements and are now in the second half of their internships. Check back often to find out what they are up to now!