Written by Rebecca Reed
Flashback: It’s 9am on Tuesday, June 3, 2014. I nervously walk the few steps from my parent’s house to Strategic Applications International’s (SAI) office next door. It is the first day of my internship and I have anxiously done what I could to prepare myself to work with SAI for the summer. As I take those few, though uncertain steps (I had to call my mom right before I headed over to ask where the office actually was), I realize that after all of the preparation and information I have been given about the organization, I had no idea what I could offer.
Having just graduated from university, equipped with a Corporate Communications degree, I remember walking across the stage to get my diploma and feeling extremely accomplished, ready and able to take on the world. But as I walked down the path to SAI’s office, I felt unprepared. I even began to wonder what sort of false advertising my proud father had committed when he connected me with the organization! In taking those steps, I mentally prepared myself for the disappointment I was going to be to everyone.
Present Day: It is 4:30pm on Wednesday, August 20th. I’ve just finished my last post on SEMA’s facebook page as an SAI intern. As I pack up my computer, notebook, and other things, I think back on that first day. I came to SAI feeling uncertain of what I had gained during my four years at college. But as I walked from the office to my parents’ house next door, I looked back and felt a sense of pride. I knew exactly what I had gained and accomplished over the last three months; or rather, what had been done to me. During my internship with SAI in Kenya, I had been given a gift—several, in fact.
As a missionary kid who grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, I was given an opportunity to return to the home of my childhood for the first time in over two years. I was a nervous senior in university—unsure of my future, what I would do after graduation, where I would go, how it would work out—and yet I was suddenly given the opportunity to intern with SAI in Nairobi.
I had gained skills and experience in university that would prove useful in my SAI internship. During my time with SAI, I learned tosee a need within an organization and use my skills to fill that need. I learned the inner-workings of an organization, and I know this will prove valuable for my future. I developed my communications skills with donors, partners, and community members. I was able to actually put into practice those items learned in the classroom, and I found value in the education I received. Between my university education and my experience at SAI, I had been equipped with the tools needed to prepare myself for the future.
Finally, and most importantly, as a well-rounded young woman who had been given opportunities throughout life to dip my toes in all sorts of activities, I never felt a particular pull towards one area or another—until now. SAI gave me a passion.
After three months working with SAI and nearly complete with my internship, I found myself in a meeting with Kariobangi North Girls Secondary School, an SAI partner, and I suddenly couldn’t contain my emotions. I was having a panic attack as my mind strayed, and I thought about the fact that I had to leave SAI. My mind was racing as I tried to imagine not getting to work with these amazing partner organizations again or even simply working just a regular 9 to 5 job. While with SAI, I saw what they believed in through every action and activity.
SAI’s mission to “come alongside organizations to build their capacity…” isn’t just something they slap on documents that they send out to potential partners and sponsors. Through their holistic approach, everything SAI does helps build up and aid other organizations, so that they can make our world a better place. SAI uses their core values of compassion, integrity, excellence, teamwork and hope to ensure that everything they do is backed by a fundamental desire to change society for the better. And I witnessed that. Working in their various programs, I got to see firsthand how each initiative is fundamentally rooted in their vision.
As my time with SAI is now coming to a close, I realize just how much I believe in this organization. I feel a passion for the work of SAI. I see the direct results that come from our initiatives and the positive impact we have on the world around us. And I realized there is a part of me that cannot go back to working in a place with little impact—I have experienced meaningful work and now passion needs to motivate everything I do. So as I prepare to leave SAI, I am extremely grateful not only for the people and experiences they gave me this summer, but also for the passion they brought out in me.