BLOG: An internship reflection by Ashley Nguyen (Summer Intern 2021)
During this pandemic, mental health played a large part in my daily life. A year ago, I was accepted into the Thompson School of Social Work. I've never been more excited about starting this journey, especially knowing that I’m now enrolled in classes that both intrigue and prep me for a future career I’m passionate about. Due to the pandemic, classes were online and affected how I met new people. Not being able to be in person, face-to-face, meant meeting new people felt foreign and slow. Fortunately, I finally felt like I was in the right major, surrounded by people who also wanted to practice social justice. The days began to meld together. Waking up, jumping on Zoom calls 30 seconds before it started, staring at my screen for five hours straight, eating lunch, hopping back onto Zoom for work, eating dinner, going to bed and waking up to repeat the same process. By my last Zoom call, I was exhausted and drained from being online. Virtual fatigue hit me hard, and in a way where I was left unmotivated, my interest in school dwindling. There was a moment where I wasn’t interested in continuing my future career, however, when I started my internship at Hauʻoli Mau Loa Foundation, I was able to find my motivation again.
Internships seem to be nearly impossible to find, yet being an undergraduate looking for experience, I was open to taking up any opportunity that came my way. Hauʻoli Mau Loa Foundation provides internships to college students looking to build their resume and skills. They offer students an opportunity to learn and grow, and believe they should be paid for their efforts as well. Hauʻoli Mau Loa recognizes every intern’s contribution to their team by acknowledging their talents. This is something I believe should be the foundation for more organizations, they truly care for their interns.
Although the internship was completely remote, I had an incredibly fulfilling experience. Once I learned the ropes, my first major task was to better understand the history of modern philanthropy. “Philanthropy” translates to “love of mankind”, meaning it goes beyond the idea of donating to charity, it’s when people express their love for humanity by giving their time, money and experience to better the world.
My experience working at a private foundation here in Hawaiʻi gave me the opportunity to learn more about the nonprofit sector. Working at Hau‘oli Mau Loa Foundation has helped me see how private foundations have the ability to provide support to nonprofit organizations so that they may persevere and, in turn, provide their programs which help to make Hawai’i a better place. As a student in the school of social work, I have previous experience working with nonprofit organizations where I’ve witnessed how others are driven to truly make this world a better place. This past summer, I was able to participate in a number of program areas and projects: (1) I assisted on a special project related to the Environmental Leadership Pathways program; (2) I was able to participate in an ʻāina-based education community of learning; and (3) I helped coordinate a reunion of past foundation interns. Finally, I attended the Hawaiʻi Conservation Conference (HCC) as a capstone activity. HCC is a three-day virtual conference on topics related to collaborative conservation actions, existing threats to native species and ecosystems, and Hawaiian cultural practices being instilled and integrated into conservation strategies.
My experience from this internship has been valuable to my growth as a student and as a future social justice worker. It helped to re-ignite my initial interest in being a social worker. There are many causes of social, racial, economic, and environmental injustices. As social workers, we help address the needs of those who are at a disadvantage and are impacted by these injustices. Workers in these areas have the same goal, which is to increase the well-being of human life. The culture of the Foundation empowers their employees to achieve this mission. My growth has expanded into my daily life, making me strive to be a better person. I cannot express enough my gratitude and appreciation for Hauʻoli Mau Loa Foundation, an environment where I was able to connect with members of the community, learn, and grow.