"I have always known about Oxfam because of their presence in Zimbabwe, which is where I grew up and also worked with another non-governmental organization. However, I only began to truly understand the value of its work as an organization when I started my Masters in Women’s Studies at Memorial University. My research was partly looking at how the effects of climate change in Ethiopia are gendered. As this was a relatively new area of study, the literature was scarce and I found that my primary resources on gender and climate change were Oxfam publications. Oxfam is a progressive and forward thinking organization with its finger on the pulse of new issues and challenges facing sustainable development, and its research and publications are reflective of this. While reading various publications, I was excited by my gradual realization that Oxfam’s poverty reduction initiatives are actually informed and rooted in this extensive research. When I was then looking to gain more experience working on international development issues, Oxfam was my immediate and natural choice. I have had the privilege to work as an intern in the St. John’s office for the past six months.
As a person coming from Africa, my experience with poverty reduction and social justice work has been from the countries that Oxfam Canada has projects, namely South Africa, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. Getting to see how Oxfam works in Canada, a donor country, has been a different experience. One thing that has stood out for me is the implicit Oxfam message of linking the “global to the local.” While raising funds for overseas projects is a core priority, Oxfam also engages and educates the Canadian public in the issues that they are donating towards and also encourages global citizenship, which I believe is immensely important. I share Oxfam’s belief in the importance of investing in women and also helping communities to realize their own potential and create sustainable solutions to their development challenges. As an intern I have had the opportunity to share these beliefs while doing presentations at Memorial University and engaging with the public while promoting “Unwrapped” gifts. As part of Oxfam’s work in St. John’s, I was the Oxfam representative on a committee of diverse and dynamic women from various local organizations and we organized an International Women’s Day brunch for 300 women.
On a personal level, I admire that Oxfam uses positive representations of the African people that are supported and does not use the pictures of nameless, malnourished children as promotional material. One of the major projects during my internship has been to take the lead in organizing an event called “Re-imagining Africa –Two Sides to Every Story.” This event has four partners and is sponsored by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Atlantic Council of International Cooperation and Memorial University. It will begin to highlight Africa as also a continent of hope, potential and success, and importantly encourage a more nuanced understanding of the Africans that Oxfam supports through our development work.
I have learnt and continue to learn everyday during this internship and I could not have asked for a better organization to be a part of. "