How my intern experience in Cape Town removed me far from my comfort zone, challenged me in ways I never expected and gave me the gift of personal growth.
Before I started my internship in South Africa, I had no idea what to expect or what my role was going to be. I was worried I would be excluded, since I would be the only intern on site, and that my tasks would be boring. As soon as I arrived, I realised that a little bit of research could have not only taken me further than packing one pair of flipflops and one sweater for six months, but also could have made me realise that this internship would be far from the usual 9 to 5 at the office; doing mindless paper work and making coffee for others.
While living and working at the volunteer house certainly took some getting used to, with the help of the business manager and the intern coordinator, I quickly discovered what my role as an intern would be. I soon became involved in and responsible for many aspects of the projects, either by physically volunteering on each project or through behind the scenes action at the office. Joining in on planning programming for the week also helped me become more involved in the projects. While basic tasks included tracking finances, donations, and merchandise that I sold; I also had to compile weekly and monthly reports, which are used at head office for the monitoring and evaluation of projects. Organising the monthly quiz night, as well as other fundraisers, was also part of my role, which involved networking with local business to get support in raising funds for the projects. Budgeting and planning a fundraising target for each project also helped direct fundraisers. A big task I didn’t think I would have been involved in was making plans for each project to develop and to become more sustainable and independent, such as finding ways for local businesses to support us through physical contributions or by having them visit the projects to share their knowledge. Planning a big trip for about a hundred kids was also an opportunity I did not think I would have at this stage in my career.
Aside from doing work in the office and on project, engaging with the volunteers was also important during my internship. Being the intermediary between the volunteers and staff helped communication between them on how things were handled on project and at the house. Holding a monthly workshop about The African Impact Foundation helped explain to the volunteers the link between the charity and African Impact, something that most volunteers would not have understood before coming to the location. This helped motivate them to join in fundraising events and for some to even do some fundraising of their own when they went back home. Going on trips or doing activities with the volunteers on the weekend also made my stay most enjoyable and gave me the opportunity to explore the area. Taking on some of the weekly roles at the house that volunteers have and joining them in learning about cultural traditions along with a new language also helped us bond over how difficult it was to pronounce the clicks and make the oven work.
This internship is not for the faint-hearted, since it includes facing the daily trial of the scorching heat and relentless wind, climbing mountains in spite of fearing heights, sharing moments of laughter and moments of tears, waving off old friends and welcoming new ones, and above all, facing the poverty and reality that is found in the world. But in the end, it is definitely worth it, because where else would you be able to make life-long friends from all over the world, all united by the need to make an impact on the world, while also gaining some credits from your university and making your CV shine above all others?