What’s it like to do an internship with a human rights charity?
Zoe Galpin, Maryam Negm, Hannah Cotton and Tiffany Loera are all students on Masters courses at City, with Tiffany, Hannah and Maryam taking one particular module, Minorities and Indigenous Peoples in International Law – taught by the City Law School’s Dr Mauro Barelli. Dr Barelli regularly invites guest speakers from the NGO world onto the course, which he first launched at City in 2013. Last year, speaker Dr Alice Kroemer from Incomindios UK, sparked the interest of many students. The charity advocates for the rights of Indigenous peoples worldwide, with a particular focus on North, Central and South America. Through the promotion of Indigenous voices, the education of the British populace and its support of Indigenous leaders, Incomindios UK aims to improve the lives of Indigenous Peoples everywhere.
This piece speaks with Zoe, Maryam and Tiffany about their experiences at Incomindios UK.
Why did you choose to do the LLM at City, and why the Minorities module?
I am actually doing an MA in International Politics and Human Rights. My course has a lot of overlap with the LLM, so I have been able to take several LLM modules in my masters here at City. While I did not do the Minorities module specifically, I have taken several related modules in both the international politics and law schools. I therefore have a rounded interest in human rights, the rights of minorities, and of Indigneous Peoples, which encouraged me to seek an internship in an NGO in a related field. I really want to be active in change and put my undergraduate and now postgraduate knowledge and passion and channel this into proactive and effective work which seeks to change the oppressive systems that we learn about in the classroom.
I attended the American University in Cairo where I earned my Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. I was fortunate to have secured my first job just a few weeks after graduation and began my career in the banking sector where I worked in risk management for several years. I also have experience in project management. However, I sought a career shift from finance due to my growing interest in the political and humanitarian sector. My interest arose as a result of global unrest and desire to improve the lives of individuals and communities in whatever way I can and now I’m currently on track to complete my MA in International Politics and Human Rights in September 2022.
In order to have a more well-rounded education, I selected a variety of modules for my first term at City, which included a law module on Minorities and Indigenous Peoples in International Law. The description of the course piqued my interest as it’s a subject with which I am not familiar. Professor Barelli’s module shed light on indigenous peoples’ contribution, their plight in the 21st century, and the current legal framework that exists to support and protect their rights.
I am a first-generation Mexican American from the United States. Prior to moving the United Kingdom, I completed my Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Anthropology with a minor in Community Health Sciences from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2018.
My passion for interdisciplinary and intersectional research led me to pursue my higher education at University College London (UCL) in 2019. After the completion of my Master of Science (MSc) degree in Biosocial Medical Anthropology, I wanted to learn more about the legal application of human rights to health. In January of 2021, I joined the City Law School Master of Laws (LLM) programme as a part-time student specialising in International Human Rights Law.
My decision to pursue a degree in international law stemmed from my desire to build a career in policy. I chose to attend City, University of London because of the flexible approach to higher education and access to industry that no other university offers.
What was it about Dr Kroemer’s lecture that prompted you to contact her for opportunities?
As I wasn’t in the Minorities module, I did not have the opportunity to attend Dr Kroemer’s lecture. However, my amazing friend Morgan Goldstein here at City was in the lecture, and her great review of Dr Kroemer’s talk and the work she does really painted an inspiring picture of Incomindios. As Morgan was not able to apply for an internship, she passed Dr Kroemer’s details on to me, as she knew I was passionate in the area of Indigenous and minority rights especially. Therefore, I contacted Dr Kroemer based on the recommendation of one of my friends at City, and this community aspect is something I love about the university, and I am incredibly thankful to Morgan Goldstein for thinking of me in this lecture and this opportunity.
Professor Barelli invited Dr. Alicia Kroemer to give a guest lecture on her work with Indigenous peoples in Incomindios UK. The lecture was very grounding, in the sense that I wasn’t just learning about previous human rights infringements through case law but I was also being exposed to the ongoing violations. I felt that, while all minorities are victims of an insufficient legal system, indigenous peoples suffering is where I should divert my attention and so I reached out to Dr. Kroemer for any opportunities with Incomindios UK.
Since attending City Law School, I began an internship as the Research and Communications Manager for the UK Chapter of the International Committee for the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas (Incomindios UK). Incomindios UK is a not-for profit organisation that advocates for the rights of Indigenous peoples globally, with a particular focus on North, Central, and South America.
I first learned about Incomindios UK through Professor Mauro Barelli’s module on Minorities and Indigenous Peoples in International Law. In taking Professor Barelli’s module, I learned about various international legal mechanisms aimed at protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Minorities. Dr. Alicia Kroemer, Director and Co-founder of Incomindios UK, gave a guest lecture on the work of Incomindios UK and the importance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). At the end of her lecture, Dr. Kroemer informed the class of an opportunity to intern for Incomindios UK and offered her contact details and ways to get in touch.
Within the same week of Dr. Kroemer’s lecture, I sent my interest to intern for Incomindios UK. I provided Dr. Kroemer with a CV and a covering letter highlighting my interest in working for Incomindios UK as well as a short bio about interests and relevant work experience. Dr. Kroemer was very responsive and let me know that there were opportunities to intern in February of 2022. I had an interview with Dr. Kroemer in January 2022 and at the end Dr. Kroemer revealed that she offered me the internship role because of my persistence and eagerness to work for Incomindios UK.
What have each of you learnt during your time volunteering at Incomindios UK? And what existing skills did you bring to the table?
I have learnt so much during my time at Incomindios UK! Especially that of the importance of a supportive, encouraging team. Working with Hannah, Tiffany, and Maryam has been so lovely, as we have been able to be a great support system for each other, and help each other whenever needed on our individual projects.
I had plenty of previous volunteering and academic experience which has helped me develop skills specific to this internship. I completed an award with my undergraduate university which encouraged volunteering and the completion of employability and workplace skills workshops. This award has been essential in the development of interpersonal communication skills, teamwork and motivation methods.
I also had a vast volunteering experience prior to Incomindios UK, from volunteering in charity shops to being a wellbeing support volunteer at a summer camp for deaf-blind children. I think this element has really aided my work at Incomindios, as it has given me the background knowledge to understand how NGOs and charities like Incomindios UK can have an amazing impact within communities. I am now working on the other side of the sector by helping generate funds for programmes of change, which is a new and amazing perspective to have.
I joined Incomindios UK as Head of Project Management, given my experience in the field, and I oversee the implementation of various projects including the Incomindios-Lippuner Scholarship, UNPFII, IHREN, grants and fundraising, and other internal projects. Each team member is responsible for their respective project, but we work together to make sure they’re well-executed.
I’ve learned quite a bit about the non-profit sector but would love to dive into it some more. I’ve learned about how organisations interact with one another, how they make bids for certain projects, the fundraising process, and most importantly, educating future generations on the lives of indigenous peoples and how they can be helped.
As a Research and Communications Manager, I developed and executed marketing campaigns for the 2022 Incomindios-Lippuner Scholarship Webinar Event, 2022 United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), and the Incomindios Human Rights Education Network (IHREN). I also worked on ad-hoc project such as building the grants and fundraising database, video translation and transcription from Spanish to English using adobe editing software, and website editing and management.
In addition to learning from my internship, I was able to apply my previous experiences in communications and logistics planning to supporting with webinar events put on by Incomindios UK and at the United Nations. I recently attended the online Incomindios side event at the 2022 UNPFII where I provided logistical support and had the opportunity to work closely with our Indigenous representatives at the event.
Could you tell us about a particular element of your work there…
I am the Grants and Fundraising Coordinator for Incomindios UK, and this has given me many differing tasks to complete which has been really exciting. My main role is to select and apply for eligible grants across the world. This is a technical and incredibly detailed process which is crucial for NGOs like Incomindios UK to carry out. The generation of grants and funding is essential for charities like us to be able to continue pursuing our missions and projects by campaigning for change.
I have also been given the opportunity to have my work published on our website, which is an amazing experience! My colleagues and I have written summary posts for some of our webinar events we have run, and these have been added to our website, which is really exciting to see.
My role has been very versatile, and has encompassed several tasks which each have given me the opportunity to develop skills that are essential in the workplace. I have been tasked with the development of a charitable bank account, so we can generate funds from supporters and donors this way. The grant applications themselves are incredibly detailed and have required me to develop budget breakdowns of spending costs of potential donations. Which therefore means that I am well versed in Excel and spreadsheets now (a skill that is desirable and essential in many workplaces)!
I’ve recently been given a project of my own which I’m working on with the guidance and support of Dr. Kroemer. The project is to research grassroots organisations in the South America, North America, or Canada that help indigenous peoples and see with which we can realistically help. Once we narrow down our selection, we’ll reach out to an organisation, do our due diligence, and then make a call for donations to support the project.
Above all else, it is the people within and outside of Incomindios UK that made my internship experience so special. I have had the privilege of working alongside Indigenous Activists, lawyers, students, and impassioned individuals with a shared desire to promote Indigenous and Environmental rights globally.
During my internship, Incomindios UK partnered with the Programme for the Heritage of Ogiek and Mother Earth (PROHOME), a community-based organisation founded in 2013 to advocate and champion for the Ogiek rights. Working in collaboration with Executive Director of PROHOME, Leonard Mindore, my colleagues and I led the call for donations for PROHOME’s Project: Preservation of the Heritage of Ogiek People. This experience has allowed me to work collaboratively with international NGOs while also giving me the opportunity to develop my project management and communications skills
Has this changed or reinforced existing plans and ambitions for the future? Tell us about it…
My work at Incomindios UK has definitely reinforced my plans and ambitions for the future. While I always knew that I wanted to work for an NGO or charity, I was somewhat unsure of what my role would exactly be. But, thanks to this internship, and the support of Dr Kroemer, who saw my skills before I even did, I now know that grants and fundraising is absolutely the specific field within the nonprofit sector for me.
My plans for a future career in the field remain unchanged, if anything, it has shown me that there are so many avenues to go down and that skills I hold securely under my belt are translatable to the field.
During my time at Incomindios UK, I have gained valuable insight into the work of not-for-profit organisations at the United Nations level and ways in which this work shapes policy. This experience has reinforced my desire to build a career in policy and upon the completion of my LLM, I hope to begin applying my skills and experiences to a role in policy research and development.
I have truly enjoyed interning for Incomindios UK and I recommend this organisation to anyone interested in building a career in policy and human rights advocacy.
What tips would you offer to others about trying to secure internships?
Be patient and passionate! It may take weeks or months for people to respond to you, or for internships to be finalised, so patience is definitely needed in the early stages. Passion is also essential to have. You have to be passionate about the work you are doing. See it as an opportunity to develop and improve on your skills, and treat your internship as a mutually beneficial tool, whereby both you and your employer have something incredible to gain. Internships are an excellent way to propel your career, so jump on any opportunity to see, and make sure your passion for the company is obvious in your application.
It can be quite nerve wracking to speak to professionals in your field to keep you in mind for any internship or work opportunities but networking is key. The worst thing that can happen is that they don’t have any positions available for you, don’t miss out on an opportunity and go for it.
Find what makes you feel happy and stay true to yourself. Before applying to any role, make sure you do your research on the organisation. Consider whether their mission statement and values align with that of your own. Seeing your work come to fruition and make a difference (even if it is in a small way) will give a sense of fulfilment.
When opportunities come your way, seize every one of them. And most importantly, build meaningful relationships with others. The network you develop now will be incredibly supportive both in your personal and professional life for many years to come.
So you heard them! Go for it…! We hope you’ve enjoyed this piece on internships and that we’ve given you some pointers on the sorts of activities that might be involved in such a position. If you’d like to find out more about Incomindios UK check out their website. If the LLM at City interests you, then City’s programme information is available.