Tag Archives: NGOs

Mia Mazer Gains Significant Humanitarian Experience at InterAction

Mia Mazer is 2018 graduate of the Maxwell School, where she earned a joint MPA/MAIR degree. This past fall she interned at InterAction as part of the Maxwell-in-Washington fall program.

This fall I set out to Washington, D.C. to complete coursework through the Maxwell-in-Washington program and intern at InterAction, an alliance of over 190 NGOs working in the humanitarian and international development sectors. InterAction serves as a convener, thought leader, and voice in the community, representing and advocating for legislation, policies, and practices that impact its members’ work at the international, regional, and national levels. The organization’s mission is to be a leader in the global quest to eliminate extreme poverty and vulnerability, strengthen human rights and citizen participation, safeguard a sustainable planet, promote peace, and ensure dignity for all people.

I worked for the The Humanitarian Policy and Practice (HPP) Team which is dedicated to providing leadership and support for InterAction members that are active in humanitarian response and advocacy. Humanitarian organizations within the InterAction alliance provide services, materials and logistical aid to affected people in crises. InterAction supports the work of these members by providing a forum for consultation, coordination and advocacy on emergency response. Apart from providing immediate response to emergencies, many NGOs engage in activities to improve the overall response of the international humanitarian system. InterAction engages at various levels with United Nations agencies, various policy bodies of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), the U.S. Government, NGO consortia and individual international NGOs on cross-cutting issues and country-specific situations. The HPP team’s work is organized across the following four work streams: humanitarian policy, humanitarian practice, protection (inclusive of results-based protection, gender-based violence, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, and NGO security), shelter and settlements.

As an HPP Intern, I gained invaluable experience while supporting the humanitarian policy, humanitarian practice, and protection work streams. I conducted research, drafted summary notes and reports, and attended and reported on Congressional briefings and hearings, working group meetings, and member events to inform InterAction’s humanitarian policy and advocacy work.

My work allowed me to gain a better understanding of the linkage between international policy and programming in the humanitarian field as well as core elements of the global humanitarian architecture. I also gained a tremendous amount of knowledge on various technical, thematic, and regional issues pertinent to the humanitarian field, including some of my own interests, such as the intersection of humanitarian assistance and gender issues.

This experience helped define my goal of pursuing a career in policy and advocacy in humanitarian assistance and/or international development. My work often informed my contributions to class discussions in both classes I took on global sustainability and public policy and African conflicts. Living and working in Washington D.C. allowed me to connect with numerous Maxwell School alumni and other professionals working in my fields of interest and begin to cultivate a meaningful network which will be there for me when I graduate.

Maxwell-in-Washington Programs

MPA/MAIR Dual Degree Program at the Maxwell School

Maxwell Students Make a Difference in Nepal

Rachel Penner was searching for a summer internship in 2015, when a staff member recommended that she connect with Beau Miller, a 2010 MPA graduate and the Executive Director of a development NGO in Nepal known as Aythos.

Beau was excited to take Rachel on board with Aythos to work on post-earthquake recovery. Upon arrival in Nepal, Rachel was thrust into the earthquake recovery efforts using her specialty in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) to serve devastated villagers outside of Kathmandu.

Two Maxwell students, Jeffrey Pu and Trace Carlson, followed in Rachel’s footsteps and interned at Aythos in 2017. As an MPA student, Jeff first had to complete the MPA Workshop with a team of fellow students for the U.S. Department of Justice designing a human rights and human dignity course for foreign police. After wrapping this project up, Jeff hopped on a plane to Nepal. Upon arrival, Aythos put Jeff to work doing program evaluation for one of their projects by designing and distributing a survey to local villagers. After two months working for Aythos, Jeff found himself taking another long haul flight to Berlin, where he is currently finishing his MPP at the Hertie School of Governance as part of the Atlantis Transatlantic Dual Degree Program.

Jeffrey Pu in Nepal

Trace Carlson won a Foreign Languages and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS) from the Moynihan Institute’s South Asia Center. With this fellowship, Trace journeyed to India to study Hindi, but was most interested in applying his academic knowledge to the field. After reaching out to Beau, Trace found himself heading to Nepal to conduct research on kiwi fruit agriculture for Aythos. Immediately, Trace found it very eye opening to compare the gap between research and field implementation. One had to be flexible and ready for anything. He once had to carry five kilograms of potatoes down a mountain for a village family, just because they asked him to.

Local Aythos staff receive feedback on kiwi fruit cultivation

On February 22, Beau, Rachel, Jeff, and Trace all came together on a Skype presentation for SU students interested in interning at Aythos. All agreed that it was one of the most fulfilling experiences of their lives and were completely humbled by the kindness and generosity of the people in Nepal. They fondly remembered backpacking into villages after encountering washed out roads—while dealing with leeches on the way—only to find countless cups of tea pushed on them upon arriving. While students spent about half their time in Kathmandu, they genuinely felt the impact of projects while working in the villages.

An Aythos staff member talks to a farmer. Women’s empowerment is a goal of the organization, since many Nepalese men go abroad to work leaving women to manage farms and businesses independently.

Maxwell’s partnership with Aythos fulfills the goal of professional degrees by creating graduates who are resilient and ready to enter a career upon graduation. According to Beau Miller, “If you can work in Nepal, you can work anywhere.”

Temple in Kathmandu

Maxwell’s MAIR Degree

Atlantis Transatlantic Dual Degree

Nepal Connections:

Trace Carlson’s blog post

Rachel Penner’s SU Today article

Ashley Saulcy’s Internship at the Asia Foundation in Kathmandu

Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu
Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu

James Sinkovic Applies Data Analysis to Education

James Sinkovic is a 2017 Master or Arts in International Relations (MAIR) graduate of the Maxwell School.

When I first learned about Room to Read through a group project in Professor Lux’s class – Managing NGOs in Developing Countries – I never thought I would be interning with them this summer. While I was interested in gaining and practicing data analysis skills, I didn’t think that it would be in an organization close to where I grew up and in a field that I am passionate about; international education.

Room to Read is an international education NGO focused on helping children gain a habit of reading through literacy training and helping girls complete a secondary education throughout Asia and Africa. I have spent the summer working in their San Francisco, CA office on the Research, Monitoring, & Evaluation team analyzing reading assessment data. Their emphasis on data-driven decision making has made this a rewarding opportunity. Projects have included research on the EGRA assessment tool, early grade dropout, and the relationship between fluency and comprehension; analysis on reading assessment data and tablet use in the data collection process; and report drafting and editing.

James Sinkovic at Room to Read.

While I learned an array of skills at Maxwell, this internship has enabled me to practice specific skills such as data analysis and visualization skills – as well as research skills – in a fun and cutting edge environment. In addition to the skill-building projects, I have been able to take time with several of the departments at Room to Read giving a rich and full exposure to NGO work life. The wide variety of projects and experience have really helped me to understand the type of work I would like to do and have further kindled my passion to empower others through education.

Without knowing it at the time I applied for the internship, this experience has been everything that I could hope for; great experience, great people, and an amazing organization.

MAIR at Maxwell

Robert Gaudio Applies Maxwell Skills in Argentina’s NGO Sector

Robert Gaudio is a Public Diplomacy student who will complete both a Master of Arts in International Relations and a Master of Science in Public Relations by the spring of 2018.

I was fortunate enough to spend the summer of 2017 in Buenos Aires, Argentina as the Investor Relations Intern for Red Argentina para la Cooperaciòn Internacional (RACI). RACI is a network of Argentine NGOs working toward equal and effective distribution of aid and funds throughout Argentina. In conjunction with the multi-national organization, CIVICUS, RACI seeks to create a conversation between citizens, civil society organizations and those who hope to invest in their causes.

Buenos Aires street scene.   Photo credit: Kevin Dooley (Source)

While at RACI, I attended and facilitated events for and with partner organizations, created funding calls, helped launch an online platform that tracks Argentina’s progress toward the UN sustainable development goals, and did my fair share of translating.

Every project I worked on and event I attended were full of invaluable experiences. From learning how to navigate foreign embassy funding calls to facilitating conversation about meaningful issues in my second language, each day was new, exciting and always surprising. I was pleasantly surprised how much of what I learned about cross-cultural communications in my Newhouse & Maxwell courses translated to professional scenarios. I would say that I used every bit of my skills acquired over my first year at Maxwell, down to things in my statistics course, that I never thought would be relevant to my professional career.

Robert Gaudio.

This internship was also incredibly influential to my personal development; I gained a lasting appreciation for my peers and colleagues who study and work in a language other than their native tongue. As you can imagine, the work was both fulfilling and challenging- but I also was able to have a bit of fun! Buenos Aires’ proximity to Uruguay and the rich climate and diversity of Argentina made for full weekends.

Having the opportunity to travel abroad to both work and experience a new culture has made me a better person, student and (hopefully!) a more attractive job candidate.

Trace Carlson Conducts Research in Hindi

Trace Carlson is currently finishing up a Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) degree from the Maxwell School.  He was awarded a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS) from Maxwell’s South Asia Center.

Trace Carlson.

My experience this summer was both difficult and rewarding. I used the summer global program award to help finance my second year of Hindi language studies in Jaipur, India and to help offset the costs of my short internship experience in Kathmandu, Nepal. The language program was incredibly difficult because it packed the entire second year of Hindi into just eight weeks. We spent half of the summer reviewing what we had (or had not) learned during our first year of Hindi and then the second half learning entirely new material. The experience was so difficult purely because of the speed at which we were learning new material. We would be learning something new one day and then everything would change the next day. Ultimately, I was able to improve my understanding of the grammar rules and my speaking skills rapidly improved much more than they would have if I took the second year of Hindi at Syracuse because I had to use it every single day. We also stayed with host families so it made the experience feel as though we really got to understand the daily life and routine of your average Indian family. Overall, it was an extremely difficult learning experience, but deeply rewarding as well.

Jaipur, India.

The last part of my summer was spent working with a local NGO in Kathmandu. While I was in India, I was doing some research for the organization on the Indian supply chain of kiwi because it is often imported into Nepal, undercutting the local market because the kiwi is better developed. After the language program ended, I was able to join the team on the ground in Kathmandu. I helped develop some surveys with the organization to better understand the Nepalese side of the kiwi supply chain because the organization works with one hundred apple and kiwi farmers. We needed to better understand the supply chain so we could connect the farmers to the appropriate supply chain based on their needs and their output. My greatest memory of the experience was getting to head out into the field and actually speak with the farmers to hear about their experiences and what they needed from the organization in order to be successful. The rural areas of Nepal are absolutely stunning. I also got to continue practicing my Hindi because so many people in Nepal know Hindi as well. My experiences this summer were challenging, but incredibly rewarding because they helped me grow personally, academically, and professionally.

Maxwell MAIR Degree

Maxwell South Asia Center

Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship Program

Vahid Khatami Does Data Analysis at Microfinance Opportunities

Vahid Khatami is a recent graduate of the joint MPA/MAIR program. He is going on to work in an international financial institution in New York City.

Vahid Khatami at MFO

Lack of access to financial services is still an economic barrier for many households and small businesses around the world. Based on the global Findex database in 2014, only 34% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to a financial account and less than 16% use formal savings and borrowings. Similar data for other developing regions has emerged leading to the use of microfinance tools to expand financial inclusion globally. But, promoting the best financial tools for low-income households is very complicated, since one must consider the variety of outflow and inflow categories in their financial diaries. It raises the demand for in-depth research on these micro economies.

Microfinance opportunities (MFO) is a research organization, based in Washington, D.C., committed to understanding the financial realities of low-income households.  They work with other organizations in the microfinance industry to conduct research on behavioral economics of beneficiaries.

During my internship in MFO, I worked on three major projects. First, I was doing statistical analysis on household survey responses in four African countries including Zambia, Senegal, Uganda, and Burkina Faso. I did statistical analysis and data visualization on poverty likelihood scores by controlling demographic characteristics and types of packages provided for beneficiaries. For my second project, I designed an Android application for on-line uploading of financial diaries. The idea was raised after talking with the executive manager where I let him know about my skills in computer programming. The final product, which is going to prepare for alpha testing, makes beneficiaries enable to insert their daily financial diaries without interventions of any third party or interviewer. That data is stored in a cloud-based storage for further auto-analysis. For my third internship project, I helped MFO’s team to provide a comprehensive report on all transactions data in previous and current projects, including more than one million transaction records. Reformatting all data to a uniform structure and applying statistical measurements such as clustering methods was the focal point in that project.

Over all those assignments, I was in almost daily communication with the executive manager to present my progress in work and get guidance on the next steps. I had realized that there were no straightforward answers for problems, which motivated me to do research and ask about possible solutions regularly. I also got a valuable insight into the microfinance industry and its technical aspects, which will help me to take the next steps in my career track with more confidence.

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Melissa Horste Assists Civil Society in Chile

Melissa Horste is a joint MPA/MAIR student who will be graduating in June 2017. She took advantage of SU Santiago to intern and take courses at Pontificia Universidad Catolica.

Melissa Horste

During the fall of 2016, I interned for a small nonprofit in Santiago, Chile, called Fundacion Multitudes, which seeks to strengthen civil society and improve government transparency in Chile and the region. Admittedly, I felt like the oddball in the organization at first. As a former legislative aid, the nonprofit world is a little foreign to me and in Chile, I found myself having to navigate a different culture in terms of both the sector and the country itself. However, over the course of 4-months and more than 300 hours, my role in the organization shifted from a researcher to project manager as I gained a deeper understanding of the problems facing civil society in the region and put into use the tools we have gained at Maxwell.

Small nonprofits like Fundacion Multitudes rely heavily on a team of energetic, but unpaid, volunteers. As a relatively new nonprofit, Fundacion Multitudes doesn’t have a lot of financial resources, but it makes up for it in networking with other organizations both within Chile and abroad. Fundacion Multitudes has a lot of potential, and I aimed to help them improve their internal processes to build their own capacity. After helping them apply successfully for a grant, my boss made me project manager, and I quickly went to work on developing a Plan de Trabajo. What I thought was a simple Gantt Chart was a revolutionary tool for the organization. (A special ‘Thank you’ to Professor Schnell for introducing us to Tools4Dev, which I used as a constant reference during my internship.) I hope to leave the organization with a packet of tools like this so they are better equipped to develop proposals and implement projects in the future.

Melissa Horste at a geyser in Tatio, Chile

Learn More about SU Santiago

More Global Programs

Tim Stoutzenberger, Balkan Research Leads to Job

Tim Stoutzenberger is a recent graduate of the ATLANTIS Transatlantic Degree Program, where he earned a MAIR from the Maxwell School in Syracuse, New York and a MPP from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.

Last Summer, I was fortunate to receive a field research grant from the Moynihan Institute. I spent thirty-five days working in the Balkan region, conducting site visits, interviews, and performing general research for the Global Black Spots Project. That experience helped me further formulate my thesis, which focuses on security and development trends in the Balkans during European Union accession.

With that in mind, in June I began a three month consulting contract with Caritas Switzerland at their Western Balkans Regional Coordination Office in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H). A bit of background…I got in touch with Caritas Switzerland by reaching out to Raymond Bach, director of the SU Strasbourg Center in Strasbourg, France. I knew Professor Bach had friends in the Balkan region, and sure enough the wonderful Maxwell network came through.

For the month of June I teleworked from The Hague, Netherlands while finishing classes at the International Institute of Social Studies. During the first few weeks of my contract, I collaborated via Skype wtih the Balkan Regional Delegate, gained a better understanding of current programs, and began developing the frameworks for upcoming projects.

I arrived in Sarajevo on July 1st during an interesting time for the B&H office and for Caritas Switerland’s regional activities in general (the organization is present in Kosovo, B&H, and Romania). 2011-16 projects were ending, the corporate strategy in Luzern was shifting away from unfettered humanitarian aid, and the local offices were beginning to draft their country programs for 2017-20 with the new strategy in mind.

At the B&H office I work with projects focused on regional food security, youth education and vocational training, income generation, market expansion, migration/refugees/human trafficking, and socio-economic rights for marginalized communities. Larger programs dealing with everything from resource sustainability to public health to conflict resolution are in play as well. I get to travel a good bit, meeting with partners in Tirana, Gorazde, and at our Kosovo office in Przren.

The Global Programs Award I received proved essential during these last few months, especially while I was getting set up in Sarajevo and working locally on my thesis. Additionally, Caritas Switzerland recently agreed to extend my contract which came as welcome news.

Tim Stoutzenberger working at Caritas Switzerland's Western Balkans Regional Coordination Office in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Tim Stoutzenberger working at Caritas Switzerland’s Western Balkans Regional Coordination Office in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarah Baumunk Grasps the Ground-Level Experience of Immigrants

Sarah Baumunk is a joint MPA/MAIR student who also interned at the U.S. Department of State’s Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau, Office of Policy Planning in Washington, DC. She also took evening courses as part of the Maxwell-in-Washington program.

I sit on the phone on hold while trying to help an Eritrean asylee file a claim with his insurance company after a recent car wreck, when a Haitian immigrant—who only speaks French—comes to ask for help with applying for jobs. In the living room outside the office I can hear a crew of Cubans and Mexicans cheering on a soccer match together.  I walk out of the office to see that a generous community member has left two giant bags of donations that need to be sifted through, but before I can get a start I’m intercepted by a group of West Africans who remind me we’re still out of vegetable oil to cook with.  Once I get the extra oil and bring it into the kitchen, I’m waved down by about a dozen Ethiopians and Eritreans insisting that I come eat with them. They treat me to one of their specialties—lentils in a tomato sauces on top of injera (a typical East African spongy bread)—and we practice their English.  With a full stomach, I shoo everyone off to their respective rooms just in time to make the 11 o’clock lights-out, and retreat to the office where I pull out the futon that I will sleep on that night.  All in a typical day’s work while interning with Casa Marianella this summer.

Casa Marianella is a homeless shelter that provides hospitality and support for immigrants and refugees in Austin, Texas. While the nonprofit organization was originally founded 30 years ago to assist primarily Central American and Mexican immigrants, it has since evolved to encompass a much wider variety of noncitizens, with the majority coming from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and French-speaking West African countries. Casa has 38 beds to offer (although it frequently is home to many more) to residents who are either immigrants who can no longer work due to medical problems or asylees who arrive in the US and have no friends or family in our country.  Residents stay for three to six months on average, while they receive legal help from pro bono lawyers and case management from staff members like myself.

Working at Casa Marianella this summer was a life-changing experience that brought practical experience to my studies, allowed me to sharpen my soft skills, and showed me what a compassion-driven organization looks like.

Sarah Baumunk with all of the Casa Marianella staff from summer 2016
Sarah Baumunk with all of the Casa Marianella staff from summer 2016

Over the past year, I have studied immigration policy and law through a number of Maxwell and law school courses. Given this background, I entered my position in Casa Marianella with a broad understanding of immigration in the US, but was surprised by how much I had to learn about the ground-level experience of immigrants today.  From the job search for non-English speakers, to the tedious paperwork, to the hour-long drives every six months to check in with the government, working at Casa gave me valuable insight into the way our immigration laws and policies play out day-to-day.

My time at Casa was additionally an excellent practice in honing those soft skills that are so difficult to learn while sitting in a classroom. In a lot of ways, working at Casa was very similar to being a summer camp counselor.  The job involved almost constant multitasking, and I quickly had to develop the ability to gently let people know they would have to wait while a more pressing issue was solved.  I learned how to use a combination of enthusiasm and tough love to push our residents to do challenging things like find work, apply for an apartment, or meet with a lawyer. I saw how establishing a relationship of mutual respect and caring was essential to maintaining fruitful relationships with each resident.

Finally, Casa opened my eyes to the value of prioritizing compassion and hospitality as an organization and personally.  One of the most surprising things about Casa was how willing every staff member was to go the extra mile for each person that walked through Casa’s door or called on the phone. The Executive Director Jennifer Long always described the goal of Casa as doing the most good for the most people—regardless if they are our residents or not.  This attitude toward life and public service is particularly poignant in our global political climate today.  As we see so much negativity being hurled at people that are different than us, Casa stands as a reminder that our world is seriously lacking in compassion—and for some groups more than others. This summer I was shown that the practice of unfettered compassion can be the most effective tool to encouraging others to become their best selves.

For more information on Casa Marianella, check out their website www.casamarianella.org and the trailer to an incredible and immersive documentary about Casa Marianella being created by Jason Outenreath: https://vimeo.com/167387279.

Sarah Baumunk with a couple of Casa residents, who are both asylees from Eritrea
Sarah Baumunk with a couple of Casa residents, who are both asylees from Eritrea
Sarah Baumunk in front of the main house of Casa Marianella
Sarah Baumunk in front of the main house of Casa Marianella

Oleksiy Anokhin, The Carter Center: Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope

Oleksiy Anokhin is a student in Maxwell’s Executive MPA and MAIR programs. These programs are aimed at mid-career professionals with significant management experience.

I spent summer 2016 in Atlanta, GA, as an intern at The Carter Center (TCC). I chose this organization as my internship opportunity intentionally for several reasons. First of all, my previous work experience in Ukraine was primarily related to public service, elections, and law. I regularly communicated with representatives of US NGOs, which observed several electoral campaigns in Ukraine. As a result, I became interested in their activities and wanted to learn more about their internal management process.

The Carter Center, which is still actively managed by the former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, has an excellent reputation in international development. The Center observed more than 100 elections during last 25 years across the world, is actively engaged in conflict resolution and human rights advocacy projects, and manages various health programs. For instance, TCC fights several diseases in developing countries. Due to efforts of TCC and their partners, one such disease, the Guinea worm disease, which infected approximately 3.5 million people in 1986 in 21 countries in Africa and Asia, has almost been eradicated. In 2015, only 22 cases were observed. One more example of their impactful activity is TCC’s Syria Conflict Mapping Project, which analyzes information about a complicated military conflict in this country.

I was an intern in the Democracy Program, which is primarily focused on elections and improving TCC legal knowledge about European electoral standards. This work gave me a chance to learn more about the real-life work of an exceptional US NGO, build connections with excellent experts, and gave me several ideas about crucial skills necessary for working in international development such as data analysis and budgeting. As a result, I picked my fall 2016 courses based on my experience in TCC and have been very pleased so far.

The second reason for me was a chance to be involved in amazing humanitarian work, which is conducted by Jimmy Carter. He still remains extremely proactive, participating in various TCC events and making decisions in the Center. Jimmy Carter became a moral leader for millions of people across the world, and especially effective in the humanitarian field. TCC makes for a great job, organizing different social events for their interns with the former President and the First Lady and inspiring the younger generation to follow their life path.

Finally, TCC and Atlanta became an interesting cultural experience for me as a foreigner. After one year in Upstate New York, I was interested to see the South and compare it with the North.

In general, internships in TCC are unpaid, but partial funding is possible (and I got it). However, right now I understand the benefits of internships in the US professional culture more. In my case, having almost 10 years of legal and government experience, I was more interested in TCC activity as a professional, not as an intern. I tried to note their effective and ineffective managerial processes, and understand how to cooperate with such organizations and their experts in future as a Ukrainian public servant.

I strongly encourage those Maxwell students who are interested in conflict resolution, human rights, elections, and health management to consider TCC as a possible internship and future job opportunity. I was impressed that people in this organization are so focused on values promoted by TCC and work hard to make the world a better place. Jimmy Carter still remains their fierce chief and a moral leader for many others. TCC is an excellent place for those who are driven by Maxwell’s Athenian Oath ‘to transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us’.

Oleksiy Anokhin
October 17, 2016

Oleksiy Anokhin with Former President Jimmy Carter and Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter
Oleksiy Anokhin with Former President Jimmy Carter and Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter