Elsa - Charity volunteering
In 2014–15, through the generosity of a Member, Emmanuel supported five undergraduates’ charitable works during the summer.
These works ranged from spending six weeks in India on a project running theatre workshops for disadvantaged children; to teaching English in a summer camp in Nairobi; to working on a camp in Lichfield for children with serious illnesses; to unpaid office work with a charity cutting the carbon footprint in the Winchester area; and, as Elsa (reading Modern & Medieval Languages then in her first year) describes below, a nine-week placement with an NGO in Geneva.
International Bridges to Justice is a legal rights NGO that works to reduce pre-trial detention, eradicate investigative torture and ensure that every detainee in the developing world has early access to legal counsel. From their offices in Burundi, Cambodia, China, India, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, IBJ trains and supports legal defenders, facilitates roundtable discussions between key justice stakeholders, and runs rights-awareness campaigns to educate ordinary people about their legal and human rights. The organisation also runs a number of global campaigns, which include how to use the internet to educate and support lawyers in developing countries, building an international interfaith movement and awarding JusticeMakers Fellowships of $5000 to help lawyers implement justice projects. With help from Emmanuel’s charities committee, I spent nine weeks working as an unpaid intern at IBJ’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
One of the best things about working with IBJ was the level of responsibility that I was given. There were no coffee-runs, no photocopying or other menial ‘intern’ tasks: I was plunged into the deep end from the very first day. This approach, though somewhat terrifying to begin with, meant that I learned an awful lot during my nine weeks, and felt as though I really contributed something to the running of the NGO during my time in the office.
I worked on several written pieces, including compiling and editing an exhaustive document about the work IBJ does, and drawing up a major funding proposal. I was responsible for updating and maintaining IBJ’s website and social media accounts, and I also helped to manage IBJ’s 2015 JusticeMakers competition, which involved working with a colleague in Singapore. These tasks meant that I really had to get to grips with the organisation, and become familiar enough with its operations and history to represent IBJ to potential funders and collaborators.
The office was full of interesting and inspiring people, from different backgrounds and from all over the world. I was lucky to be able to work closely with Karen Tse, the CEO and founder of IBJ. Karen is an energetic leader with a strong vision and an open-minded attitude, from whom I learned a great deal. Karen is also a fellow of Ashoka, a network of social entrepreneurs. During my time at IBJ I did some work in connection with this network, through which I learned about other social entrepreneurs across the world, and saw how these inspiring leaders are promoting innovative solutions to endemic social problems in developing countries.
A highlight of the internship was the chance to attend a United Nations ceremony marking World Humanitarian Day, at which a number of faith leaders were awarded the Sérgios Vieira de Mello award for achievements in reconciling religious groups in the Central African Republic. It was an honour to talk to the Catholic Archbishop of Bangui and the President of the Islamic Council in the CAR after their receipt of the award. I then found myself simultaneously translating between French and English, to facilitate a conversation between the two leaders and Karen, CEO of IBJ. We established a contact that Karen is hoping to maintain in the future.
Geneva is a staggeringly expensive city, and this placement would not have been possible without the advice and financial support of many people. The generous grant from Emmanuel helped to make it all possible and gave me an experience I have learned from and will never forget.