Small actions lead to big impact

Faculty of Social Sciences
From the Field
The Democratic Republic of the Congo

By Olivia

Student, Psychology

Map of the world
“My experience as an intern has allowed me to reflect on the notion that big dreams are realized when we take manageable, small steps that eventually contribute to our end goal.”

Olivia, Psychology, ALTERNATIVES, Democratic Republic of Congo, Solidarité des femmes pour le développement integral (SOFEDI)

As an eager international NGO intern, I was naturally enthralled by the idea of working for an organization with powerful, important mandates like helping to fight for women’s rights, or improving access to education. I wanted to be involved because my personal values and hopes for the world goals align with many of the NGO organizations. When I found out I would be interning for SOFEDI, I was so excited because their mission is to improve gender equality and women’s rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was even more excited by getting to choose to have my work focus on their efforts towards improving women’s reproductive and sexual rights, a cause I am highly passionate about. This passion and value alignment is something I believe to be one of the most important factors for future interns to keep in mind.

As my internship began, I found myself beginning to feel as though I was not getting the fulfillment of feeling like I was contributing to the causes I am passionate about. I believe the virtual component of these internships has a lot to do with the possibility of feeling disconnected. Completing virtual tasks on my computer at home like translating documents and readings, while my colleagues are across the world, taking action with boots on the ground made me feel as though I was not having an impact and not contributing to improving women’s rights in Congo.

I had to pause and re-evaluate my thoughts and feelings. This involved reflecting on my role as an intern, my expectations of the experience and the reality of what working at an NGO is like. In doing this, I was able to remind myself of important things to keep in mind throughout the rest of the internship, and things that are worth remembering in the future when undertaking any new role. As interns, we are assigned work that may not be directly related with the big-picture goal of the NGO but is so important to remember that those tasks so indeed contribute to the organization. I am reminding myself that although at times my virtual tasks may not seem like they are having a direct impact on the people across the world that the NGO aims to help, every big accomplishment is the cumulation of smaller actions. Our virtual tasks are just as important for the organization to run smoothly, to free up time for our colleagues/directors to focus on other projects which in turn contributes to helping the target communities and reaching the NGO’s goals.

I have found it helpful to remain as up to date as possible with all of my NGO’s activities and news to be able to witness progress in action. The best part is when I look ahead at 6 months, 1 year, 5 years and 10 years from now, I can imagine all the progress and accomplishments towards their goal they will have reached. The big impact in 5-10 years may not be obvious to me now as a remote intern, but that provides a great chance to reflect on work ethic and dedication that are needed in NGO’s. I am learning that it is about remaining committed to one’s goal every day for the greater good of the mission we hold dear to our hearts.