How a Cape Town intern contributed to environmental events
Event coordinator intern…more than planning an event
My time with Greenpop was a whirlwind experience – exciting and fleeting. When starting out, I did not know what to expect as an Event Coordinator intern. I knew I would work on organizing the Zambia Festival of Action. I thought that meant the logistics of planning an event, ordering supplies, making travel arrangements, etc. I’m quite organized and have good problem-solving skills, so I thought I would be comfortable with those tasks. I got a few of those tasks, researching telecom companies to use for the campsite in Zambia, researching travel health insurance policies for the Zambia team, and contacting fuel companies to enquire about fuel availability for the teams’ overland trip to Zambia.
I had not considered the fundraising and marketing elements involved in planning an event for a nonprofit, though. That was a whole new ball game for me. In my second week, I had to reach out to local high schools to arrange a talk with the students. These talks would be about environmental awareness and social activism, and finally informing on the Zambia Festival of Action High School Programme. The idea was to generate interest and participation in the festival. Being an introvert without a knack for salesmanship, I was apprehensive about this assignment and felt out of my element.
I liked the premise of getting young minds involved in environmental and social activism, though. Education, to me, is the most effective way to rally people for change. I felt hopeful with this personal motivation behind me but I knew the reality of executing the task would be challenging.
First, I had to make contact with the school administrators. Teachers have a lot to do already, which makes them more difficult to reach. This is why I’m no salesperson; I may believe in the product I’m selling, but I hate to impose on people. Still, I had a task, so I picked up the phone and started making calls. That leads me to my second hurdle. I never expected there to be a language barrier with people who speak the same language as I do! My American accent was not easily interpreted over the phone. I had to be conscious of the way I spoke. Eventually, I spoke slowly, concisely, and with a different cadence than is natural for me. The good news: most of my phone calls turned into requests for information via email – a much better communication medium for me.
I was pleasantly surprised by the level of interest from the staff at various schools. It was encouraging to encounter people so enthusiastic about Greenpop’s mission. Then, it was just a matter of logistics and aligning schedules to lock in the dates for a talk. I am happy to report that I was successful in arranging multiple school talks for Greenpop during my internship.
Proud accomplishments as an event intern
As an event coordinator intern, I was presented many challenges personally and professionally and I am proud of what I was able to accomplish. Mostly, I appreciate the role I played in bringing people together for the Zambia Festival of Action. It was a welcome surprise to work with Greenpop and the community in that capacity.
Beyond my specific events coordination work, participating in monitoring and planting days really rounded out the Greenpop experience for me. There was the opportunity to connect with the community and experience more of the city. I loved meeting the teachers or caretakers at the schools. They were all so enthusiastic about their personal greening mission. Even in cases where trees had not fared well, the people working with the trees had not given up. Getting out into the field, so to speak, set a foundation for the marketing and production work I was doing. I was able to see firsthand how Greenpop’s work has activated and benefited the community.
In the end, I was most impressed with the people I encountered. The Greenpop staff and interns, as well as students and teachers from various schools. I met a lot of forward-thinking, well-spoken individuals with a strong sense of self and a purpose behind the work they are doing. That was perhaps the most significant part of the experience for me.
The experience is truly what you make of it
I highly recommend an internship with Greenpop for anyone looking for a large canvas to work with. Events coordination especially provides endless opportunities for personal and professional development. Keep an open mind and try to get a sense of the bigger picture beyond your department’s specific tasks. There are many components working together for Greenpop to accomplish their goals. Take advantage of the collaborative atmosphere; the experience is truly what you make it.
Photo credits Greenpop Festival of Action, Lee-Ann Olwage