Summer was approaching and, like my fellow NYU Abu Dhabi juniors, I was eager to secure an internship. Just weeks later I found myself in Lahore, Pakistan, standing in front of the national office of South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-Pakistan), a civil society organization focused on human rights and committed to solving development issues through village-level empowerment and mobilization. Working in the development field is exactly what I want to do after graduating from NYUAD, so I was excited for the opportunity of a test run!
As I entered the office on the first day, I was nervous. After all, I had practically no work experience and didn't know what to expect. After an introductory tour, I was shown to my cubicle in the program department where I was surrounded by national program coordinators handling the organization's various projects, from livelihood and human security to political accountability. I couldn't wait to learn from them.
As part of the program department, my everyday tasks consisted of writing event reports and assisting in the logistics of several events — including the Land Reform Forum, the Journalist for Human Rights Award, and the Ending Torture Seminar — as well as compiling and editing progress reports and engaging in administrative tasks. Along with my daily responsibilities I was also given a long-term project to research Participatory Rural Communication Appraisal (PRCA), a development methodology focused on communication. In doing so, I created a mock model for the district of Rajanpur and provided recommendations for SAP-Pakistan. While I was initially overwhelmed by this largely technical task, the project was a great learning experience in combining development literature with the discovery of similarities in the organization's existing projects.
One of the main lessons I learned during my internship was SAP-Pakistan's methodology in solving issues: by forming village organizations, it ensures that individuals are empowered to solve their own problems in a collective manner. Their commitment to the poor was visible in everything, from this methodology to the easy-going atmosphere of the office that broke down barriers based on status, gender, and religion.
Despite my initial nerves, my experience at SAP-Pakistan was memorable. The level of responsibility with which the staff members entrusted me, as well as the willingness with which they shared their work, really allowed me to develop as a person and feel like a part of the organization. Their vast wealth of knowledge and commitment to working to help the poor — in the face of political instability and security concerns — was a source of admiration and inspiration for me.
After eight weeks of living and breathing SAP-Pakistan, my internship ended. As I looked back at the organization's yellow building on the last day, everything looked just as it had the day I arrived. What had changed was me.