Nicole Zamostny is a student at Virginia Commonwealth University. She was selected from more than 1,500 students for the Chegg for Good and ONE internship. Nicole just returned from the intern trip to South Africa and Zambia. Stay tuned to the ONE Blog for more updates from the trip participants!
Finding the words to accurately reflect upon my experiences in Zambia and South Africa is not an easy task. It was such an incredible opportunity to be able to visit sites that are being funded through US foreign aid and to personally witness the effects of the life-saving programs being implemented. At the end of our trip, several of the staffers asked the interns what our favorite site visit was, and while many had an exact answer to that question, I found myself struggling. Honestly, I was completely blown away by the people we met at each visit. Each time we got back onto the bus, I was certain that our latest visit was my favorite, and each time we stepped off the bus, I was sure that the current had surpassed the last.
There is no way to choose my favorite visit because they all taught me something different. I was humbled by the positive outlooks from the individuals we interviewed at the HIV clinic in South Africa. I was moved almost to tears by the resilience of the women at Jessica’s House. Women who have lost their husbands to HIV, yet continue to fight the virus themselves, all while still supporting their children. I was overjoyed to feel the love that radiated from the staff and children at the Little Stars Day Care Center on Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday. I felt a renewed sense of urgency to be a catalyst for change growing inside of me when I heard the director of the HIV clinic talk about how budget cuts to US foreign aid would be devastating to the incredible progress the clinic has made in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
While I don’t have a favorite visit, there was one quote that resonated with me during our first site visit at the Kliptown Youth Program. Executive Director Thulani Madondo said that his work would always focus on finding “African solutions to African problems.” His words made an impact on me so heavily because as I plan to pursue a career in international social work with a focus in development, I try to operate with a cultural sensitivity to create sustainable programs. Seeing how the directors of these programs tailor their services directly to the needs of their communities inspired confidence in me that American efforts allow the leaders of each site we visited to create culturally relevant, effective, sustainable life-saving programs.
To say that my experience as an intern with Chegg for Good and ONE was life-changing would be a serious understatement. Really, this entire process from start to finish has flipped my world upside down and reshaped every idea I’ve ever had about politics and policy-related issues in such an incredible, inspirational way. This internship was able to teach me that my voice is powerful, and that through continued advocacy efforts, it is possible to create meaningful change.
At top: Nicole high-fives a young girl at Little Stars Day Care Center. Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo credit: James Townsend