We all had quite a different summer than we would’ve all imagined given the pandemic. Even if we had our trips to the cayes, or the river or even dinner with friends it had to be a bit more spaced out and masked up than we would’ve liked. Staying productive while still taking care of our mental health is super important for me that usually means ‘finding sumting fu do befo’ sumting do me’. What did you spend your summer doing?
I spent my summer interning at the Programs Department of the Belize City Council (BCC)! A good fit right? I was tasked with working in the area of foreign affairs to strengthen the platform sister city relationships, assessment of the first cohort of the BCC’s Youth Shadow Council coupled with supporting the restructuring of the program to welcome the 2nd Cohort who are on the last leg of the selection process. Super grateful to have met the young people from the first cohort as they exited the program; we are most certainly in good hands. Finally, I was tasked with coordinating a summer program. Traditionally sports centered the program, through a great partnership, enabled us to ADD skills-building ranging from life skills, the arts, history and health education. The last of which was super exciting for me since the Local and Central government had the great opportunity to partner on the Rising Stars Summer Blast. The Hub Resource Center under the Ministry of Human Developme et al. was the perfect place for the Council to seek partnership with to plan a safe, enjoyable and impactful 3 weeks. Together the dynamic team of the Hub and Belize City Council including the Belize Family Life Association financed, planned and executed a truly impactful summer program for 60 youth across our city.
There was so much that I learnt during this process including better insight on how local government operates, which sharpened my negotiation skills and improved diplomacy even though hey, I think the last thing is overrated! I’m happy to have had a department lead that allowed me to be myself and challenge him and a coworker that challenged and supported me to produce good work even on tough days at the office. Special shout out to tamales, tea and Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate chip cookies!
Of course, we’re not fans of unpaid internships BUT the caveat to that is taking time out to sit and consider what you want to gain from the internship. There’s more to it than the money attached. You get to interact with policymakers, hear their ideas and show what you’re made of to improve your community! We move through this world by the relationships we build, so you must understand HOW INVALUABLE it is to create a silk strong network. You never know, a good recommendation can land you an opportunity that pays you the big bucks down the road. All that said though I STRONGLY advise agencies offering internships to pay the young for their time and talent! We are coming to you with an amazing set of skills that we’ve worked hard to build and just want a place to put it to work. Han’ Wash Han’! Kudos to the BCC for granting a stipend for their short term internship.
My advice to my fellow young people: Apply for that internship you think you’re not qualified for, write that letter of interest and if you’re lucky enough to get an in, put your best foot forward with servant leadership at the center of the work you do!
“l am a simple African man doing my duty in my own country in the context of our time”– Amilcar Cabral
- Research– You don’t want to end up being a Lego block that doesn’t fit so unless you’re taking an intentional leap of faith to do something new, find somewhere that you think suits the skills you have and at the same time enables you to build the skills you want. It’s helpful to run your ideas by a mentor or friend
- Apply– You think you don’t qualify but trust me, apply!
- Ask Questions and Take time to Feel out Organizational Culture– When being in a new environment you can feel like a fish out of water but take some time to observe the workings of the space and it’ll make navigating your work 1000x easier. Hint: find out the escape route in case of an emergency.
- Speak Up– You won’t agree with everything that you’re tasked with but ensure that you don’t compromise on your integrity. If you’re not comfortable with something, ask your supervisor to be given something else to do. If it’s something that you don’t entirely have an issue with tactfully suggest ways to improve it.
- Document. EVERYTHING– This ensures that you’re on top of your game when hauled into emergency meetings and makes reporting such a breeze!
- Build Relationships– If you’re introverted take small steps. Contribute during meetings, talk to someone at the water cooler or the printer, ask for help and before you know it you’ll be right at home. If you leave the internship without making new friends and or dependable colleagues, you haven’t used the opportunity well.
- Have Fun– If you’re not having fun, leave. What’s work without a little downtime!
All Photos Courtesy the Public Relations Department of the Belize City Council Photographer Carlos Perez