Jul 27, 2009

Internship Reflection Time: What I am taking away and what I am leaving behind -- Sandeep Gautam

What is the relationship between NGOs and military actions? Why does Africa continue to suffer with increasing hunger, poverty and chaos despite billions of dollars of aid from developed countries? Is the US foreign policy working in Pakistan and Afghanistan? How can financing be used to fuel economic growth?

These are some of the many questions that I tried to untangle during my internship at Asia America Initiative. Often internships are what you make out of it. For me, it was a truly learning experience, to say the least. One thing that I am really taking away from my internship is the knack of getting right into the core of a problem while still looking at the bigger picture. I read a lot, indiscriminately from all sources, just to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. Lively conversations with Mr. Santoli and fellow interns often brought together any missing pieces. This became a process through which ideas were developed and recorded in the blog.

This brings me to a question of what I am leaving behind. Well, I am not exactly leaving but I will write it any way. I was mainly involved in promoting views and ideas, particularly through blogging and I want this to continue in the future. This should go on because this is important. AAI is partly a think tank in itself even though we go a bit beyond just advocating policies – we implement our ideas and live through the changes. Future interns should understand that not everything you write will get responses, not all views will be celebrated. But we should continue to write what we think and why we think so.

That everything we do here at our office in Washington helps impoverished families in underprivileged and at risk South Asian and South East Asian communities was very inspiring throughout. For someone who has seen and lived through ordeals of war-ridden communities in Nepal, to get a chance to help heal the wounds of war victims was a real treat.

Write-up about Internship: Karolyn Wojtowicz

When I started my internship at Asia America Initiative, I had no idea what to expect. I did not know the current situation in the Philippines, where the majority of AAI’s programs exist. I did not know how a non-profit international organization worked and achieved its goals in an economic recession. And I did not think that another intern and I would be starting a program in Afghanistan on our own during our first two weeks of being at AAI.

The process of creating Families for Hope began with researching information about the BiBi Mahroow and Afshar camps located near Kabul. Pictures and stories of families located there were collected by Marzia Meena, who leads MRSDO, an organization in Afghanistan that AAI occasionally partners with. Reading the stories of the people who are living in tents in the middle of winter, not getting enough food, and having no health care cried out to me as a dire plea for help.

The struggles of the families became more evident as the photos were looked over to create a one page handout and a powerpoint presentation. The powerpoint presentation led to the idea of a promotional video that would share the stories of the families on its own. The video begins with “Imagine - you've lost everything. You're a single mother, heading a household of twelve, including your sister and cousins… Then the Taliban came.” The entire video, located on this link, was created by Clare and I – we chose the images, wrote the script, recorded, compiled, and placed it on youtube. The families in Afghanistan don’t need much to survive and the hope is that with AAI’s Families for Hope program, these families will receive the food, water, shelter, health care, and education that they need.

As I near the end of my internship with Asia America Initiative, I can say this about my summer: I had an internship in Washington D.C. where I worked with an organization doing international humanitarian work; I worked directly with leaders, founders, and presidents of organizations and companies around the world; learned about the dire situation in the Philippines - where even the United Nations is no longer because it is deemed an unsafe area; learned the dedication that is required to successfully run an international non-profit organization; and another intern and I created a program and advertising tools on our own within two weeks that could help thousands of people in a country halfway around the world. What did you do with your summer?