Lauren Stricker, Syria Relief and Development’s Special Events and Advocacy Intern for Summer 2015 and an undergraduate student at Georgetown University, talks about her experience during her summer internship. Lauren was an instrumental member of the SRD family and the entire U.S. team is already missing her presence!
At SRD, I was not expected to make coffee and sit quietly at my desk. As the Special Events and Advocacy Intern, I helped coordinate logistics and planning for our inaugural four-city fundraising series “#Iftar4Syria;” sat at a dinner table next to overwhelmingly impressive and passionate speakers and advocates; compiled a contact database for mosques, Islamic centers, and student Arab and Muslim organizations across the country; helped draft a concept note and official platform for our programs; conducted extensive research about various facets of the Syrian conflict; wrote blog posts like this one; attended meetings and hearings throughout D.C. as an SRD representative; and most importantly, had the chance to get to know all of the incredible, inspirational, dedicated, and accomplished members of SRD. At another, larger organization, I would not have had the chance to do a fraction of the work, or played a fraction of the role, that I did at SRD. Because of the structure and culture of SRD, I felt welcome, respected, and not only encouraged but expected to make a significant contribution to the work of the organization from the very first day I began working, even as an intern fresh out of my first year of college.
Whenever I talk about work, my friends jokingly ask whether I’ve solved the Syrian crisis yet, and when I will move on to fixing the Middle East as a whole. I interned at a nonprofit for nearly 3 months, and I regret to say I didn’t change the world. Far from it. When I was interviewing for this internship, my boss, Isra, actually challenged me on the issue of the “hero complex,” and the idea that working on humanitarian issues field requires knowing all the answers and naturally ends in happy, perfect solutions. This summer, I learned that a lot of nonprofit work is not glamorous. I did not give a moving speech to the President of the United States that drastically changed his foreign policy for the better, or travel to Syria and singlehandedly convince everyone to come to the peace table. I booked flights, took notes, and sent so many emails that Gmail flagged my account, and I loved every minute of it, because I truly felt that, in whatever small way, I was helping SRD create a better world. Beyond knowing what it takes to work at and run a humanitarian organization and the difference between aid and advocacy and the respective skill sets each demands, I now have a better understanding of why it is so increasingly crucial for compassionate and capable people to dedicate themselves and their careers to causes as admirable as that of SRD.
Whether or not I continue in the nonprofit world, I come away from this internship with a genuine appreciation for its work, for everyone who works in it, for the Syrian people, and for the people of SRD. I will miss you all!