Humanitarian Action Minors Intern at NGOs

Humanitarian Action Minors Intern at NGOs

Sketch of global citizens, stock photo

Fairfield University’s minor in humanitarian action, one of very few such undergraduate programs in the United States or elsewhere, has continued to grow since its launch in January 2016.

Four undergraduate students received stipends through Fairfield University’s Center for Social Impact Fellowship program and were offered the opportunity to bring their innovative ideas and apply their classroom studies to NGO (non-governmental organization) internship positions this past summer. Three of the internships were also funded with course credits through the College of Arts and Sciences Internship Fund.

Typically, NGOs are independent nonprofit organizations whose purpose is to address social or economic issues. These summer assignments allowed the students – all of whom are humanitarian action minors – to explore potential career paths in the nonprofit sector while gaining hands-on global experience and making meaningful contributions to the missions of their assigned organizations.

Callie Hunnewell ’24 worked as a summer fellow on Save the Children’s Emergency Protection and Psychosocial (EPP) Team. Part of her responsibilities at this large, international NGO involved an overhaul of her teams’ situation reports, or sitreps, which are used to disseminate information to and from relief workers in the field. Hunnewell surveyed stakeholders to evaluate the most utilized and vital information in the unwieldy 19-page documents, and pared the reports down to just two and a half pages. She also learned to use Sway, a new app from Microsoft Office, to create and share an interactive report of her team’s work at the Afghan border, highlighting the personal experiences of team members working with children, engaging with parents, and offering critical resources to refugees.

Hunnewell found herself on her own at the Save the Children offices in late July when her team was deployed to eastern Kentucky to assist families affected by catastrophic flooding. “My coworkers were gone overnight,” she said. “I was amazed to see how fast they responded and how quickly resource allocation was set in motion.” From the home office, she assisted in compiling a gift-in-kind (GIK) tracker to document the distribution of essentials such as diapers and wipes, hygiene kits, cleaning supplies, food, and potable water to families living in hard-to-reach, flood-ravaged communities.

Avery Fenton ’24 had a very different experience working for the small, international Unite the World With Africa Foundation, a U.S.-based 501c3 organization founded in 2014 and operating in Tanzania. “Unite the World With Africa puts young Tanzanian scholars through their A-levels, which is the equivalent of high school,” said Fenton, “and assists women with farming, career growth, and small-business loans.”

Working with the organization’s founder, Anne Wells, Fenton learned new media formats and modes of fundraising, and created a video of Tanzanian scholar testimonies for donors. She researched grant opportunities, investigated new donor pools, and brainstormed innovative fundraising ideas. “Looking for inexpensive ways to raise money was really tough,” said Fenton, who gained a new appreciation for the capabilities – and limits – of small NGOs. “Without a single U.S. home-base, Unite’s donors are spread across the country, which made it challenging to come up with low-cost fundraising strategies.” One idea Fenton brought back to campus this fall involves collaborating with the new Fairfield club, Girl Up, to possibly sponsor a Tanzanian scholar.

Sarah McGowan ’24 and Ann Dailey ’24 both served as interns at Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), which has a volunteer program partnership with Fairfield University. A medium-sized, faith-based NGO, CMMB provides medicines, medical supplies, and medical and development aid to vulnerable communities affected by poverty and unequal access to healthcare.

McGowan’s summer project was to organize and update a Smartsheet of all the websites CMMB uses to solicit volunteers through advertisements. “The list was disorganized, messy, and hadn’t been used in three or four years,” she said. But by the end of her internship McGowan had it cleaned up and color-coded. The transformation of the Smartsheet into an accessible and user-friendly asset will have a lasting impact on the organization, considering CMMB’s reliance on volunteers. With field offices in Haiti, Kenya, Peru, South Sudan, and Zambia, “local CMMB staff members can’t stay on top of medical advances unless volunteers come to these locations to teach new skills and train on new technologies,” said McGowan.

Dailey worked on CMMB’s partnership team, researching potential donors. “It was rewarding to sit in on team meetings and learn how some of the donors I’d found were actually impacting the work of the organization,” she said.

Although the CMMB internships were primarily remote, McGowan and Dailey did have an opportunity to visit CMMB’s Distribution Center in Queens, N.Y., where they assembled medical supply bags to be sent around the world. The interns have also been invited to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan for a special Mass on Sept. 18 to celebrate the 110th anniversary of CMMB’s founding. Said Dailey, “They really encourage us to stay involved, even after we finish our internships.”

Humanitarian Action Internships: Student Panel

Date: Oct. 13, 2022
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Canisius Hall, Room 200

Additional Details:

Hear from students who worked at Save the Children, Unite the World With Africa Foundation, and the Catholic Medical Mission Board this past summer. This panel is free and open to the public.

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