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Amnesty International Interns: More Than Just Busy Work
Volume 22 Number 1
Friday, 15 January 2010 11:54

by Roman Sokolowski

Nerisse Mandigma and Eva Adora are students at Manila's De La Salle University, both earning degrees in International Studies.   Their courses include an internship component, and, because of its strong international reputation and years of experience in hosting volunteer interns, their first choice was Amnesty International Pilipinas (www.amnesty.org.ph).

AI Pilipinas did not waste any time in putting Nerisse and Eva to work.  During the first week of their internship, they hit the ground running, attending a peaceful mass protest outside the United States embassy in Roxas Boulevard.  Reflecting Amnesty International's combined global and local focus, they protested to demand the closure of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp.  Nerisse admits that they were nervous at first, since they had never attended a political protest before.  They were also afraid that, as a result of their participation, they might be denied U.S. visas in the future.  But in the end, she says, the protest was a very positive experience.

But the interns at AI Pilipinas do a lot more than attend protests.  Although menial office work is often the norm for internships, internship program manager Wilnor Papa explains that he wanted to give AI Pilipinas interns the kind of experience that would be more meaningful for both the interns and the organization.  Since Wilnor took over the internship program, AI Pilipinas has begun to give interns more hands-on experience managing campaigns, granting them the freedom to plan and implement campaigns from scratch.  Nerisse and Eva have personally been responsible for handling AI Pilipinas' Stop Violence Against Women and Arms Control campaigns.  They also had the chance to apply what they learned about lobbying by visiting the House of Representatives and encouraging legislators to support the Global Arms Trade Treaty.  Instead of just handling random bits of office work that anyone could do, Wilnor says that the interns become "an integral part of the organization."

Wilnor acknowledges that Nerisse and Eva will move on with their lives after their internships, and perhaps even find work in the corporate sector.  But, he says, you don't have to work for an NGO to make a positive contribution.  Volunteering at an NGO office is a form of activism, but so is picking up a piece of garbage off the street.  The trick, says Wilnor, is to always find time for the things that matter and that make a difference.  Through their internships, Eva and Nerisse haven't just helped AI Pilipinas with its campaigns or earned invaluable work experience; they've also gained a heightened awareness of human rights issues that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

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