Written by our Cape Town intern, Jess OConnell
Six months ago, I left home for a highly anticipated experience with The Happy Africa Foundation in Cape Town. Since volunteering with African Impact in 2012, I knew I wanted to do more. I finished my bachelor’s degree, and leapt at the opportunity to become one of The Happy Africa Foundation interns. For myself, the chance to dive right in and experience projects for a longer term was reason enough to seek out this internship. The diverse nature of the Cape Town projects and the ever-varied daily schedule does not actualize the typical internship many recent graduates seek out. In fact, for argument’s sake, there was near to nothing reminiscent of a work placement or internship that you might find in your hometown. My internship with The Happy Africa Foundation was a far more unique and rewarding experience than anything I could find at home, or than I could have expected.
On a daily basis, waking up surrounded by volunteers and staff, the singing of children’s songs, prepping of crafts and creative lessons were the norm. In a house constantly filled with newfound friends from around the world, my workplace was a bustling hive of activity and fun. Regardless of the weather, the time of day, and any hardships, everyone is united by their passion for the projects. I did not spend this internship following a mundane task list, or fetching coffee, or mindlessly plugging data. I spent this internship interacting on our projects, and learning from each and every one of our community partners. I got to work alongside a driven international and local African Impact staff. I spent time learning about the behind the scenes running of a charity. I was able to be a part of the team working towards our project goals, and was privileged enough to see major progress on our Educational Support project, be a part of our GAPA Enrichment Project, and help extend our Sporting Chance Street Cricket Project.
The mix between the day-to-day project life, and the bigger picture towards sustainable development of our projects meshed into what was my normal work week. One day, I may have been getting pricing quotes and making budgets for our projects, the next helping to administer a workshop on compost to teachers as part of our Health and Nutrition Project. I was able to work with a wide variety of people in the day-to-day administrative working of a charity, to meetings about our goals and the next steps for The Happy Africa Foundation and their partners. Each and every day was a unique learning experience, an experience that was no doubt resonant of my location and the truly amazing organizations I have worked with. This internship taught me that with creativity, problem-solving and teamwork, you can get almost anything done. I have learned that being in a ‘typical’ work environment, with all the resources and supplies you could think of is not necessary for great work to happen.
I could list countless items learned, or tell you hundreds of amazing stories from our projects, but the experience is something immeasurable. Yes, every day is different. And no, you won’t know what to expect. Taking myself out of a conventional work environment has opened my eyes, and only furthered my desire to work in African development. This opportunity has helped with my application and preparation for graduate school, providing practical experience to back up academia. Furthermore, my internship with The Happy Africa Foundation has led to a position with African Impact. I’m going to be coming back to Cape Town, happily and with many thanks to this internship getting me here, helping me to meet both my professional and academic goals! The past six months has been a blur of rewarding activity, and I am nothing short of grateful for the opportunity I had to take this internship and run with it.
To intern with The Happy Africa Foundation check out the Internship page.