I am officially at the halfway mark of my 6 month passage through South Africa. It’s been 3 months of new cultures, languages, friendships, food, and adventures! Although December is creeping up way too fast for my liking, I am excited to see what the next 3 months will look like. Working in South Africa has opened my eyes to the complicated world of development. As many of you know, my educational background is primarily in professional communications; the majority of my work experience being with for-profit organizations. Apart from volunteering, signing petitions, and engaging in dialogues, I’ve never actually worked in the sector until now. Working with VIDEA and Ukulapha has introduced me to the complexities of fundraising, sustainability, inequality, governance and public policy. Above all, I’ve seen first hand how all of these components directly affect people’s lives, a confronting realization that has altered my career path moving forward.
For those wondering why I’ve replaced my cheery ‘Music Monday’ posts with heavier subject matter (gender equality, education, race, colonialism, etc.) as of late, I owe you an explanation; Rewind to this time last year… I returned to Canada (from the best 3 years of my life) unemployed, unhappy, and regretting every penny I spent on both a diploma and degree that seemed totally worthless. I was literally “running through the six with my woes,” and if you knew me well enough you could attest to this. I wanted to work in the communications sector in Toronto, but they didn’t seem to want me. Having undergone two internships, it was the last thing I wanted to do… but my savings account was running low and my 3 months of unemployment suddenly became 9 months. My spirits were at an all-time low and I was in desperate need of a big change, so I swallowed my pride and applied for a position with VIDEA as an *cringe* i n t e r n *cringe some more*.
Looking back, I really made a fuss over nothing. Applying to be an IYIP intern has definitely earned a place in the top 3 for best decisions I’ve ever made. I applied to IYIP with one underlying goal: to bring me one step closer to a career in communications that I so desperately wanted. Now that I’m halfway through the program, I realize that I had it wrong all along. A career in communications is not what I’ve been after all these years! Gone are the dreams of working with multi-million dollar clients and trendy corporate brands. Plain and simple, I want a career in social change. Now that I’ve seen firsthand the necessity of organizations like VIDEA and Ukulapha, I want to use my skill set to further the development narrative.
In the past 3 months, I’ve learned that I can use my background in advertising to change perceptions and start new dialogues pertaining to human rights development. I’ve learned that I can use my formal training in public relations for creating programs, fundraising and perfecting messaging. I’ve learned that public policy is shaped by the collective efforts of organizations like VIDEA and Ukulapha, meaning my work is impactful and important. I’ve also learned that winter in South Africa means chilly evenings with lots of bonfires and wine sipping. That there are several ways to express shock in Zulu, my favourite being ‘haibo!’. That South Africa has a difficult, complex history which I will never fully comprehend.. even if I moved here permanently.
In closing: I’ve learned a lot… about South Africa, and about myself. I am humbled to be here, and I so look forward to the next 3 months as an intern, a word that I now wear proudly, in this wonderful place.