What percentage of the U.S. budget is dedicated to foreign aid? Come on, take a guess. 25 percent? Sorry, too high. 15 percent? Nope, still too high, guess again. How about 5 percent? That seems fair. Ah, you’re still overshooting. Turns out that the correct figure is less than 1 percent! This summer, my internship as a member of The Borgen Project’s public relations and marketing team has been dedicated to debunking misconceptions and myths about our global poverty crisis and showing various audiences the steps that we as individuals can take in order to remedy this issue.
Looking back to day one, I was quite uninformed about the severity of the problem at hand and the organization’s methods for combatting it. Luckily for me, not just day one, but all of week one was scheduled as a crash course orientation for me and the rest of the new hires on my team. I’ll walk you through the topics we covered a day at a time.
Day One: I learned about the statistics showing us just how big a problem we are facing and met the organization’s leadership team. My manager Tatiana is intense, but definitely someone to look up to.
Day Two: I learned about The Borgen Project’s legislative approach to combatting poverty and the philosophy behind it. To sum it up – if you build a well in a struggling village, you can provide clean water to hundreds. If you help pass a bill that will fund the building of wells across multiple continents, you can provide clean water to hundreds of millions.
Day Three: I familiarized myself with the key humanitarian aid legislation that is currently up for debate and vote in Congress and was told to know all the bills inside and out. If you want to know more about them yourself, you should checkout www.borgenproject.org/legislation.
Day Four: I attended numerous meetings on various topics, including how to successfully fundraise, how to mobilize others, how to gain visibility, how to start a branding campaign, and how to contact your representatives. So. Many. Meetings!
Day Five: I got to attend a final orientation meeting consisting of all our team members and leaders during which we got to review all we had learned and ask questions. After the questions, my manager left us with these unforgettable words: “If you don’t want to be here, quit now. If you ever want to complain, quit before doing so. And this should go without saying – be relentless.”
Well-equipped after surviving this content-packed week of learning, I ventured on to start on my projects. To date I have worked to contact my representatives weekly in support of our key bills by way of email, phone, and handwritten letter (see photo #1!). I have mobilized others to do the same. I have worked with my manager to develop outreach materials about the organization that I will later send out to newspapers, magazines, radio stations, websites, and other media sources in an effort to get them published and disseminated to the public. I have uploaded my first YouTube video (see photo #2!) and posted other content on numerous social media platforms in order to garner support for our key bills from my representatives. I have launched my fundraising campaign and have aimed to raise over $750 for the organization by the end of my time working. And I am currently working to produce a branding campaign that will show people just how easy (and cool!) it is to be politically active by contacting their representatives.
Overall, this internship has been a lot, but none of it has been done in vain. I get to go to work every day knowing that I am fighting for solutions to a global problem. There’s still a lot of work to do ahead of me but trust me when I say I won’t be quitting any time soon, because Whitman has helped to teach me to be relentless.
Experiences like Grant’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff.