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Internship Sparks African Adventure, Job

Alexis Nadin, SIS/SPA/BA ‘10, blogged her way through East Africa for GlobalGiving while studying abroad in the spring and summer of 2009.

It is difficult to predict how past experiences will lead to future opportunities. But as Alexis Nadin recently learned, holding high-quality internships at home and abroad can help lead you to your future job in exciting and unexpected ways.

After completing an internship in GlobalGiving’s D.C. office in the fall of 2008, Ms. Nadin, SIS/SPA/BA ‘10, thought her work with the foundation had ended. She never imagined that the internship would lead to a trek through East Africa and a full-time job. 

In the spring of 2009, as Nadin studied abroad in Kenya, GlobalGiving contacted her with an exciting offer. The foundation, which connects donors with grassroots projects around the world, invited Nadin and her boyfriend, Brian Banks, SIS/BA ‘10, to visit 18 of their project partners in Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda to see for themselves how donor money can  transform lives and communities. After visiting each site, they would update a blog created for the trip to show donors how their contributions through GlobalGiving help support these projects.

The trip was in line with the couple’s interests and career ambitions in international development, so they jumped at the chance. While studying in Nairobi, Nadin and Banks had already interned with local NGOs focused on income generation and water sanitation, respectively. The GlobalGiving blog project provided them an additional opportunity to gain valuable work experience abroad.

Nadin says that visiting the sites to see first-hand how aid can be effectively implemented was an invaluable experience for someone who wants to work in international development.

“[The site visits] gave more insight into the field than any classes I’ve taken,” she says. “And I’ve taken some pretty amazing classes!”

One of Nadin’s favorite projects from the trip, RARUDO, was named after the small village in eastern Uganda that it helps support.

A large population of the men there have died from HIV/AIDS and related complications, leaving behind widows, children, and unassisted elderly. GlobalGiving is helping the community by distributing donated funds to RARUDO, which in turn provides medicine and information about HIV/AIDS prevention, offers subsidies for families who care for orphans, and teaches marketable skills like agricultural techniques and sewing.

“Financially empowering people in uncertain circumstances is key to international development,” says Nadin.

While interning in GlobalGiving’s D.C. office, one of Nadin’s tasks was to read letters from donors who held a special event to raise funds, or made it a community effort. She was touched by one letter from an 11-year-old girl who donated money raised through her lemonade stand. While Nadin visited the communities in Africa, she relayed these stories to community members and project leaders.

“We got to show them GlobalGiving isn’t a sterile corporation. It is [real people] that genuinely care about them,” says Nadin.

Nadin and Banks’s experiences in Africa helped prepare them for their current development jobs in D.C. Banks now works for the Global Environment and Technology Foundation, helping communities in Africa gain access to clean water, while Nadin is a program associate with GlobalGiving.

This past summer, Nadin led five GlobalGiving volunteers throughout the West African nations of Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo, and Mali to conduct formal project evaluations, and to speak with prospective partner organizations.

“I was able to use what I saw in Africa to fill the gaps in GlobalGiving’s field program, improve site visits, and add efficiency by increasing the size of the group traveling,” says Nadin.

Nadin notes some major differences between her role as an intern and now as an employee.

“As an employee, I am finally able to implement a lot of the ideas I had as an intern,” says Nadin.

From an intern, to international blogger, to a full-time position, Nadin’s role within the organization has grown significantly. She encourages other AU students to intern and volunteer both in D.C. and while studying abroad, since you never know when a past experience will lead to the next exciting chapter in your life.