Gaia shares her experience of supporting the non-profit Penda in Cape Town.
Gaia from Milan reminisces about the hardest but best decision of her life: doing an internship for an NGO in Cape Town. In May 2017 she had to choose between two very different internship positions: one in the private sector, one for an NGO. In the end, she went for the second one – a Marketing and Fundraising internship at Penda. This non-profit organization is a young social enterprise that uses photography to both create amazing experiences and generate positive change around the world. We asked her about her experience these past few months.
Why an internship with a non-profit and why Penda?
In a non-profit you learn to deal with local partners and stakeholders, you struggle for funds, you reach great results. You deal with people, and most importantly you learn from your managers. They are an example to look up to, and they stick to the mission of the organization. They also play an important part in motivating the team to put all its efforts to achieve a result.
Especially Penda inspired me, because of the great mission of this organization. Development can be promoted in many different ways. But, storytelling – especially photography – touches upon humans at a different and deeper level. Visual literacy is much more common than alphabetic literacy. For anybody lucky enough to see, there is the chance to talk, inspire and tell stories by capturing a moment.
Penda gives this opportunity to more and more people. They enhance the capacity of any story-teller to have an impact on social development. Today, after almost three months of experience, I can say I have made the best choice and I feel proud to be a part of Penda.
What are your main tasks as a Marketing and Fundraising Intern at Penda?
I usually wake up, drink a coffee and get ready to go to work with my other flatmates. I live in a shared accommodation managed by Roots Interns and many of us work either for Penda, Greenpop or Roots, etc. The average working day is from 9:00 to 17:00, but it might slightly vary upon changing needs or events.
In the beginning, I approached new partners for future photography workshops and initiatives. I developed the application process further, while always keeping contact with different stakeholders to promote the mission and find new grants.
Every Friday I went to Muizenberg High School. There, Penda runs the project ‘Ibali Photo Collective’ in cooperation with a photographer to teach kids in underprivileged areas. The purpose is to have them reporting on relevant social issues affecting their communities. I supported this pilot project immensely. It has reached high visibility and a great turnout because even a well-known South African TV show filmed the workshop. I think I contributed to this, which is an amazing feeling.
Furthermore, I learned how to run AdWords Campaigns. I also optimized the website and exploited Online Marketing to its full potential. I have used these skills to also help to develop a Wellness Tourism business: an interesting side-project that I plan to use for my Master thesis!
How was your working environment?
The team and supervisors were unique. The most surprising aspect of the internship was the close contact and the dedication of my managers. We developed a very good relationship and we created a strong synergy resulting in great outcomes. They taught me what I needed to know in the most professional way. They also met the expectations a student from abroad might have. Most importantly, they were amazing people to work with, and I feel I have learned a lot from them even on a personal level.
What advice do you have for future Cape Town interns?
I would surely recommend an internship at Penda to anybody who wishes to see how non-profit works, and who is at the same time curious to explore its connection and development in relation to private business.
Moreover, gaining this experience in Cape Town is a unique opportunity for several reasons. The impact of a relevant historical background is still somehow displayed in social relationships and inequalities. A flatmate once told me: “Cape Town is so close to a first-world city, but it still displays third-world dynamics.” You will experience contrasts and inequalities. You will learn how to deal with them both during work and more generally during your life here.
Also, South Africa has the most amazing landscapes and attractions that I have ever seen in my life so far. In these months I have lived some of the best days of my life, and the unique scenario that this place offers is something that can make the difference for you.
What are you going to miss most?
Of course, I am going to miss the Ibali project and the feeling of working on a pilot project that one day, I am sure, will make the difference. Be it for a class or just for a child, it is something extremely valuable. Other than that I will miss the working environment and the good vibes of living with people of the same age that often share similar attitudes and world visions.
But most of all, I am going to miss Africa and the unique beauty of the landscapes that it offers. In this country, I have had a lot of experiences that made this stay unforgettable and I will always have emotional and intense memories of my Cape Townian days.