Willamette students participated in a wide array of internships and research projects this summer. This is the second of a five-part series highlighting their experiences. Here, Natalie Pate '15, gives her first-hand account of working two communications internships in Colorado.
Through my two internships this past summer, there was no such thing as a typical day.
With Direct Relief International (DRI), a non-governmental organization based in Santa Barbara, Calif., I did everything from interviewing clinic executives to photographing the Black Forest Fire. At Global Health Connections, a Denver-based nonprofit focused on global health and water sanitation, my responsibilities included writing newsletters and grant proposals, among other things.
While the work for both organizations was extremely challenging, the skills I learned from my summer experience will open the door to an incredible future in nonprofit work.
Trial by Fire
I learned about DRI while in professor Megan Ybarra’s Politics of the Developing World class. Direct Relief, which provides medical care and supplies to disaster areas around the globe, was ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the most efficient nonprofits in America.
The organization needed journalists to cover the domestic clinics with which it partners, especially outside of California, and I had the experience DRI needed from taking journalism courses at WU with Dick Hughes and working for two years as a staff writer for The Collegian.
Once I learned about the difference DRI makes, I knew I wanted to be part of the organization.
While working as the communications intern, I spent two months traveling from clinic to clinic.
Each visit began by meeting with the clinic executives — primarily directors who were more than happy to tell me about their programs and their work with Direct Relief.
I then would move on to take photographs of the clinics and the patients. It was touching to hear patients’ stories, learning how unbelievably thankful they were to receive something so small as a new pair of pants or glasses.
Another part of my job was helping with disaster relief caused by the wildfires that engulfed much of the state this summer. I took pictures of the fires for our blog and newsletter to keep our readers informed and active, and I also met with medical staff at our partner clinics to help receive shipments from DRI headquarters.
As the fires spread rapidly, I, myself, had to pack my house since my neighborhood was under pre-evacuation. I was in the shoes of the clinic patient.
I remember trying not to cry and to steady my breathing as I sorted through my belongings in the house I lived in for the past 10 years.
Just the thought of deciding between which school projects, clothes and baby pictures to keep made me realize how scared some of the other families must be.
But I was one of the lucky ones who neither lost loved ones nor my home.
Through my other internship with Global Health Connections, I was a “typical intern.” I wrote grants, designed logos and worked as the lead editor of its newsletter. I also set up registration pages, called sponsors and sat in on conferences. You name it; I had the opportunity to do it.
The staff members were extremely helpful, making me feel welcome the second I started. They taught me important skills I never thought I would learn this early on in my career, such as grant writing.
Because nonprofits are always looking for potential grants and investors, knowing how to write grant proposals is extremely important. By acquiring this skill, among others, I have become someone nonprofits around the world seek to hire.
Though I don’t want to write grants the rest of my life, my summer experiences may very well open the door to an incredible future in human rights advocacy.
Since I was 15, I had the desire to work with an organization that helps people in need.
Human rights became my interest as I started learning more and more about the terrifying things that happen in the world, particularly severe human rights violations such as torture or rape.
I was particularly touched when I heard a speech given at Harvard by J.K. Rowling. Rowling worked as a researcher for Amnesty International, one of the world’s leading human rights advocacy organizations. She said while working for AI, she learned about the most horrific things a human being can do to another, but she also witnessed the drastic measures people may take to fight for a complete stranger.
I knew from that moment that lobbying for change was something I was meant to do.
Because of the skills I gained through my summer internships, Amnesty International has offered me the opportunity to visit their San Francisco office and potentially become a student activist in Oregon.
I am excited to continue to impact the world and truly become a voice for the voiceless.
— Story by Natalie Pate '15, politics major