By Corrie Cron, Project Coordinator for Civic Engagement for Nonviolent Peaceforce in South Sudan
An internship during graduate school can be incredibly important. It can be your first entry into the actual field of where you want to work. Whichever organization you join can influence who you meet, what kind of work you'll do and, often, what jobs you'll be considered for in the future.
I began an internship with Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) in December 2014 at the head office, located in Brussels, Belgium. I had never heard of the organization before I saw the posting for a Communications Intern. I went to the interview trying to manage my expectations, but what I found out was that the things I was passionate about and the things that drew me into the humanitarian field were mirrored in this organization. They were passionate about peacebuilding, community dialogue, empowering women, but not trying to radically change a host country’s culture. They built relationships with all sides of a conflict and believed in sharing information and equipping others. Before the end of the interview I was hooked. Thankfully, they offered me the position.
(Published July 25, 2016) I worked in the Brussels office for seven months and learned a great deal about the work in South Sudan, Myanmar and the Philippines. I was able to meet Tiffany Easthom, who was the Country Director for South Sudan at the time and who is now the current Interim Executive Director. Tiffany’s passion for the work being done in South Sudan was infectious. And while I was genuinely terrified of living in such an unstable country, I was also drawn to being a part of the work.
Almost one year after meeting Tiffany, I landed in South Sudan as a new International Protection Officer for Nonviolent Peaceforce. That first day I wondered if I had made a mistake. It was so hot and I felt like such a soft, incapable, spoiled westerner. How was I going to make a difference? How was I going to live in this heat?
While adjusting to life in South Sudan was challenging, the work motivated and engaged me. I found a spot on the Civic Engagement team, which works with Civil Society Organizations in Juba, the capital city. Mostly, my days consist of lots of meetings. But, our team supports local projects, holds trainings to build local capacity, and encourages a network of organizations to share information and work together. Every day I work with South Sudanese people, who work very hard and face very difficult circumstances, in the hopes that their new country will one day be a place of safety, freedom and stability for all citizens.
Ever since my first day in South Sudan I’ve become used to the heat, made some amazing friends from all over the world, and have learned how to move around in the city, even receiving my South Sudanese driver’s license! I’m quite comfortable in a geographical environment that seems to pride itself on being uncomfortable. But most importantly, I’m passionate about the work I get to do every day.
I’m not saving the world and I’m certainly not saving South Sudan. But, I am being a part of what the South Sudanese are doing to fight for justice and help make this country succeed. I’m grateful to be here to help make a difference. My life changed the day I sat down in Brussels for that interview. And I’ll be forever grateful to the organization that I had never heard of before for letting me be a part of the work that they do.