Alyssa at Malin Head

Meet Alyssa who has interned with our Development Education team for these past 8 weeks.  Alyssa shares her journey with us, and how working here has helped challenge her “extremely critical assumptions about charities” and “develop so much respect for Development Education and the power it has to connect our work in Africa to the youth of Ireland by engaging students with social justice and global learning initiatives”.

As I’ve spent the last few days reflecting on how my time at Children in Crossfire is coming to an end, I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed for a lot of reasons, some maybe more obvious than others. One of the main reasons I am feeling so anxious at this point is the reality of when my internship ends, it means my time here is only closer to being over, which means I have to return home, figure out how I’m going to get through senior year and then I’m going to do with my life after I graduate from university next May. I know this isn’t going to happen all at once, but the thought of it makes me wish I had a remote that could pause the world so that I could spend just a little more time in the place I’ve come to love so dearly; but unfortunately, that’s not how life works. However, fortunately for me, my time in Northern Ireland and at Children in Crossfire has helped me grow and understand that I am much more adaptable and resilient than I’ve thought myself to be. I’ve always had a bad habit of undermining the positive qualities of myself while focusing on the negatives, but my time here has tested me, and required me to be flexible, brave and confident in myself. While these traits aren’t necessarily new, before I came here, I struggled to truly acknowledge their presence within myself, which made it pretty difficult to really cultivate these characteristics.

Picking out internships was a bit of a difficult process, but I definitely feel that I ended up in the right place. In our course, we often talked about possible anxieties and fears throughout the semester, but Donna and Caroline (and the entire staff really) have been extremely welcoming and made me feel very at home at Children in Crossfire. Previously, I’ve discussed my slight anxiety I had before arriving at Children in Crossfire about working for a global charity, but I’ve come to understand Children in Crossfire as more than just a global charity. Children in Crossfire is an organization that understands that global injustice and poverty cannot be solved by throwing money at issues, but instead, there needs to be a layered approach that involves not only philanthropy, but also sustainability, awareness, and education. They’ve challenged my extremely critical assumptions about charities, and I will definitely look further into work that international charities/NGOs do before making assumptions in the future. I have also come to develop so much respect for Development Education (link to web section), and the power it has to connect our work in Africa to the youth of Ireland by engaging students with social justice and global learning initiatives. I really value their model for trying to create sustainable change, which acknowledges that people across the world need to be aware and get involved in fighting against injustices and poverty.

I was scrolling through LinkedIn the other day, and saw a post about how organizations ‘hire character’ and ‘train skills,’ and I found that really comforting because I am confident in my character and my passions, and this experience has helped me on my journey of continuing to solidify this confidence in myself and the values that I believe in. Although I’m not sure how exactly my time at Children in Crossfire will impact my future career choices, I can say that I’ve really loved seeing how social justice can be applied in a career, which is extremely evident in Donna and Caroline’s work in Development Education. As someone who is constantly asked ‘what are you going to do with a social justice major?’ I can say that my experience here has made me feel a little more confident in my major, because I’ve been able to see first hand how social justice education operates in an NGO and how it can influence children through my research in Educating the Heart. Additionally, I think I am more likely to consider global charities/NGOs as my next internship at home for my Sociology Senior Seminar next fall, especially now that I’ve had a brief experience with one here. I believe that completing an internship abroad is probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in my university career, because it’s challenged me in cultural and social ways that an internship in the states would not have the same ability to do. It’s also given me such great opportunities to get involved in the local community, and in my future internships, I will definitely be seeking out opportunities to get involved in the community back at home as well.

Much love and thanks to Children in Crossfire for a great experience!

-Alyssa

Alyssa is from Boulder Junction, Wisconsin and attends Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota; she is currently participating in HECUA’s Democracy and Social Change in Northern Ireland at Magee College in Derry. She is double majoring in Sociology and Social Justice with a concentration in Conflict Studies and will be graduating from Hamline in May 2017.