The internship with RIJ was a unique opportunity to gain complementary knowledge and experience in a non-academic environment for my master’s degree in global studies.
During my exchange semester in Thailand in 2015 I became increasingly interested in displacement-related issues in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. Therefore I decided to do the internship required by my curriculum in an organization engaging in refugee assistance. Several aspects attracted me to working at RIJ. First of all, RIJ is one of the actors who fill the gap arising from insufficient governmental assistance to the almost 60 million people currently displaced from their homes. Secondly, RIJ provides one of the most important means necessary for local organizations to create effective and sustainable solutions: money. It first raises funds in the world’s third largest economy and then channels them to projects all over the world. From my point of view, RIJ’s work is an example of what showing solidarity and taking responsibility across borders may look like. Another factor that appealed to me is its approach for choosing projects. RIJ funds community-led projects that provide support necessary to rebuild lives affected by displacement in a wide range of areas such as physical and mental health, education, agriculture, or community building. Lastly, I was interested in working in a rather small and unbureaucratic organization where I would be able to explore different areas of work.
My expectations were not disappointed at all. The work I engaged in was diverse and allowed me to achieve my objectives for the internship. I gained valuable insights into the field of fundraising, e.g. preparing an online fundraising campaign, assisting in a charity bazaar, or liaising with RIJ student groups. I was also able to deepen my knowledge about the causes and consequences of conflict displacement, especially when I worked on RIJ’s country profiles, prepared postings for social media, or dealt with the different project reports. I gained a better understanding of how displacement is dealt with not only abroad but also within Japanese society, where the success of fundraising activities may to a large extent depend on such knowledge. Furthermore, I am glad I was able to gain valuable experience when planning and implementing the (successful) awareness-raising event “Beyond the Headlines” together with the RIJ intern and volunteer team.
The internship reinforced my wish to work in the area of displacement after finishing my studies and to seek opportunities to volunteer in the future. Finally, and its impact on whole communities made me realize once more that the contribution of every single one of us, be it time, money, things, or ideas, do make a change.