Did YOU intern abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?
Keiko: I interned with FSD in Kenya in 2007. After several months of research into almost every volunteer abroad organization, FSD stood out as the best bang for my buck, and I loved the mission of long-term sustainability. I wanted to combine my love for travel and learning from new cultures and people with my career goals of working for an international nonprofit.
The hardest part was learning to both take initiative and be proactive, but also step back and just listen to others. The best part was the relationships I made and the knowledge I gained about development work through experience.
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
Keiko: Working at FSD has opened my eyes to many new perspectives on international development. As an intern, I learned about the need to be flexible, adaptable, and listen to others before sharing your own ideas. Then as an FSD field coordinator, I learned from experiences of others- I saw some interns excel and others struggle, most experienced both. I learned it is essential to build relationships and trust first and that even small positive change is still change, and lot of times the most sustainable.
Now, in FSD’s headquarters, I oversee our programs in East Africa and India and strive to facilitate successful experiences for interns, staff and partners. What I love about the FSD Team is that we reflect on our work and take a critical eye to make sure that we are really achieving community-driven goals and advancing (rather than hindering) efforts of our local partners.
What unique qualities does your company possess?
Keiko: FSD focuses on the assets of communities before looking at the problems. In this way, we make sure to focus on local resources and human potential to be the leaders of change from within. FSD sees the role of volunteers and interns as facilitators, not the do-ers.
While this concept is becoming more widespread, I think it is still quite unique. The communities we work in are so used to top-down, aid-based programs so it can be quite challenging to engage with people in a very different way that shift the power to the local community, rather than the outsiders. In this way, we believe that FSD’s work with volunteers is truly to work with, rather than for, the community.
Describe a time when you felt especially proud to be part of the FSD team.
Keiko: When I went to Jinja, Uganda I met with FSD’s local partner organization, St. Francis which is a hospital- but much more than a hospital .They have a “grannies” project, which is one of the many FSD has supported at St. Francis. Grandmothers are often the caretakers of children who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS, which causes emotional and financial strain. This “grannies” program provides a support network and opportunities for them to create income-generating activities.
I met with the grandmothers who excitedly shared everything about their mushroom-drying business with me. The FSD Program Director, Margaret Amanye Nassozi said,
“Though it is one of our interns that facilitated the starting of this project notice they do not mention or praise FSD for helping them – that’s because they did it themselves.”This mindset makes me very proud to be part of FSD and to work with such amazing staff!