Izzy Skelly, is studying BSc Human Geography at university. She has recently undertaken an International Development internship with Play Action International, she talks about her experience.
What inspired you to intern with us?
I knew that I really wanted to pursue a career in the International Development sector whilst also learning & contributing to NGOs that make positive change to the communities that they work in. The organisation has given me the opportunity to not only provide important research to help them grow, but to also understand the ins and outs of what this NGO does. It is the best of both worlds!
How did you come to learn about Play Action International?
Technically I first heard about the organisation when two girls in my university course volunteered for them and went to Uganda. However, I knew the CEO Murielle from when I fundraised at the previous charity she worked for. I got in touch with her asking if I could volunteer and the rest is history!
What do you think about the work we do?
To be honest I did not really know what to make at first; to me play for children was just for fun. Since being here I have opened my understanding to the fundamental importance of play education for the cognitive brain development in young children. Being brought up in a developed country I have somewhat been ignorant to how the element of play in my life helped me develop, so the work they do, which is to build playgrounds for pre-primary and primary school children, is vital.
Will you be involved in the future?
Definitely! Working with the team has highlighted clearly how much they care about this cause, and how much they all want to promote play education. I am happily going to keep in touch and potentially go out to Uganda in the future.
What has your interning role involved?
Since being here I have had a multitude of tasks to be getting on with. When I first joined, the team were in the midst of submitting proposal forms for upcoming projects to the Department for International Development. I was tasked with getting extra research on the general education and WASH statistics in certain regions before the deadlines. Mainly, I have been collecting different contacts to help with future plans they have (stay tuned), whilst also supporting the work that others have started.
What are your current career plans?
Once finishing my undergraduate degree, I would like to take a year out to do some overseas volunteering and building my cultural awareness, and then do a master’s in international development. After that I would like to work for a small international charity and potentially even start my own.
How do you think your internship has helped you with your studies, future career prospects?
As a Human Geography student, I think working for an NGO has massively benefited my studies. The work that I have been doing for them, like researching education statistics in East Africa for DFID bids, has been relevant in understanding the world we all live in, which is fundamental to my course. In terms of my career, working with Play Action International has provided me with valuable work experience that will help me understand international development as a concept, which will set me on the right path for my future.
How have you found interning with us under lock-down? Have there been any challenges?
Working from home has its perks, especially since Play Action International is a very relaxed environment, whereby people can work the hours that benefit them the most. Knowing I can just roll out of bed and start working is a lovely thought that I will miss! I honestly see working under lock-down as a luxury; it gives me a routine and the motivation to get up and start the day. It just goes to show how people, even in a global pandemic, can still work together to promote change.
I feel the main challenge has been knowing that I will never physically meet the team. Obviously we now live in an age where it makes it easy to connect through Zoom or Skype, but it would have been nice to go into the office and get guidance face to face, rather than through a screen. Leading on from that, communication can sometimes be a bit more confusing, as we all know text does not convey tone! That was slightly hard to navigate at first but now it is all good.
What have you learned about yourself and Play Action International during your internship?
One thing I realised for myself was how I *sometimes* do too much work. Obviously, it is important when working for a company or an NGO to put in effort and produce high quality work, but sometimes your full effort can be too much. A lot of the time the work I produced which I thought was not finished was more than enough and helpful, so I need to use that balance in my final year of study. I also realised how much I like researching and finding out new information. I know that makes me sound like an utter nerd but finding out how one country’s education policies differ from your own is thought-provoking, and something to think about.
The thing I learnt about Play Action International in the time that I have been here is how close-knit the team is. Unfortunately, it is not always common to have the whole team get along and have nice moments together. It truly is like a family, and I felt instantly welcomed. It is one of the main things I’ll miss; having coffee mornings, making Bitmoji’s that look nothing like the team, and even watching a video of Jack’s intense swing-ball game with his girlfriend (in which she annihilated him!). They genuinely care about the cause and each other, and I am glad that I was a part of it.
Are there any key skills you would like to develop further in the future?
Play Action International has helped me to develop my research skills further, as well as communicating and working in a team under severely adverse circumstances. For the future, I feel that the main thing I want to work on as a skill is how to be the most open-minded version of myself. If I want to go to less-developed regions, I need to understand that I am not a ‘white saviour’, I am just here to support them whenever they would need me to and respect that. Another skill I would like to develop further is adaptability; I want to be able to work better under pressure when given multiple tasks to do. However, I do feel like I have massively improved on this through my internship.
What advice do you have for others wanting to undertake an internship?
One piece of advice I would give to others would be to take the leap! Employers are impressed by those who contact them and take the opportunity to gain valuable experience. Even if there are no current internships available, you will be in their mind for when something new arises. I have had countless rejections from placements before, but I realised if you do not ask, you do not get. Another important note is always knowing your worth. Just because you want an internship does not mean you have to settle for something that might not treat you as well. Employers should always be thinking about how to help you, rather then how you benefit the company. You know how good of a worker you are, never underestimate it and you will go far.