As I sit at my home in Ohio in preparation to go back to school I am shocked and can't believe that my summer and internship with Feeding America Southwest Virginia has come to an end. Throughout this time of reflection I have truly realized how blessed I was to have such a fruitful and incredible internship, and to meet wonderful people and make contacts, but not only are they contacts, but good and lifelong friends.
Another benefit was the fact that I am studying Nonprofit Management at Ohio State and was able to apply my classroom knowledge to the field, in addition to taking the ideas and aspects that I learned this summer back to the classroom this fall. In that spirit I want to highlight for you a few things that I learned this summer.
1. Many problems can't be solved overnight.
Nonprofits have problems and struggles that they must overcome and Feeding America Southwest Virginia has it's fair share. A few stuck out to me and were comprised of external communication with partners, employee education and development, internal organizational communication, and lack of funds and resources. I noticed them and became frustrated and wanted to immediately fix them but I soon realized after many conversations with staff that these problems may not be solved quickly and that many nonprofits or businesses for that matter have many more obstacles to overcome. It was enlightening and I have walked away from the experience with high hopes for FASWVA that they will solve these problems and will be all the better for it. It has also pushed me to continue to strive and provide solutions for the nonprofit sector as I will be pursuing a career next year.
2. Keep good records.
I really learned this one when the end of the month reports came around. These records are beneficial when applying for grants, year end reports to see the impact FASWVA made, and when audits come around. I had to fill out forms on how much time I spent towards certain projects, my mileage and places traveled, I had to tally numbers that kept track of meals for the summer feeding program, and the list goes on. I was annoyed and bogged down, but I realized that if I would have kept track of things throughout the month instead of trying to come up with everything at the end of the month things would have been much easier!
3. Collaboration is awesome!
I am a real big fan of working in teams and seeing businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations working together to make a large impact in a community. I saw many needs for collaboration over the summer and I was constantly thinking of ways in which FASWVA could work together with another group or their agencies to improve food distribution, engage the community and improve the summer food service program, or enhance the development department and bring in more funds. There were a few great examples of collaboration that I witnessed this summer, first in watching the Catholic Heart Work Camp group that helped out a ton this summer, and the Canstruction event. Both of these are explained in further detail in previous posts, CHWC and Canstruction . Also the Hunger Study interns, Chelsea MacCormack and Katie Romano, they worked seamlessly together and with agencies to successfully run the whole study. They went over and above their duties and truly showed how much more you can accomplish when you work together as a team than by yourself.
4. Step out of your comfort zone and be willing to always learn from others.
I tried so many new things this summer and I moved 6 hours away from home in order to have the internship. But it was all worth it and I would do it again in a heart beat. People are great and hold a wealth of knowledge, so engage them, talk with them, and serve and help them. Life provides endless opportunities and I've found that I have learned the most about myself and this world when I have dove headfirst into these opportunities looking for an adventure.
I could go on and on and describe to you more of what I did this summer, from working with Summer Food Service Programs for children, helping with the Hunger in America 2014 study, reading and studying a fantastic book called Nonprofit Sustainability, to helping with planning for the Child and Adult Care Food Program, or simply meeting and hanging out with some wonderful people all over southwest Virginia. But I don't have to because many of these projects and adventures are described in previous posts, so please take another look and learn from them and I hope be inspired by the words I put down.
I want to thank my readers for without you I wouldn't have had a blog. So keep pressing on and I encourage you all to volunteer, serve, and look and come up with solutions for the many social problems that plague our world. One simple act can change a life. I am going to keep striving to help and I know that this internship has pushed me that much more, the end is just the beginning.