I was an intern, but I rarely got coffee

by Emma Trayte, Minerva Intern

 

I am happy to say that in my ten weeks as Minerva Strategies’ intern, I only scrambled for coffee or lunch orders twice. Also unlike many internship opportunities, I learned a lot about fistula.

 

The word “fistula” was one I had heard before but knew nothing about. Hamlin Fistula works to prevent and treat childbirth injuries, like fistula, a terrible condition that occurs when days of obstructed labor create a hole between the vagina and the bladder or rectum. This causes an uncontrollable leakage of urine or feces, or – in the worst cases – both.

 

My primary assignment was to take a collection of patient stories written by the Ethiopian staff of Hamlin’s hospital in Addis Ababa and edit them to be used for an American audience on HFUSA’s website, Facebook, and in donor materials.

 

The stories I worked on were all of women from Ethiopia who had experienced severe trauma during childbirth. Most of them had lost their babies and been left suffering with fistula. Many of these women had lived for years without medical treatment, and were isolated or ostracized due to their injuries. Some were in their teens, their injuries caused by the trauma of childbirth on under-nourished and under-developed bodies. Others were older and had lived for decades in shame and silence, believing that there was no treatment or cure.

 

But there is a cure and thanks to Drs. Reginald and Catherine Hamlin and the hospital they founded in Ethiopia in the 1970s, fistula repair surgeries are available to women in even the most remote areas of Ethiopia. Hamlin also expanded to open a college of midwifery in the hopes of preventing fistula and providing better care to mothers and their babies.

 

Learning about fistula was a sobering lesson for me about the extent of privilege. Fistula used to exist everywhere, before C-section delivery was widely performed. Now, it is almost nonexistent in the U.S. because of the access we have to hospitals, doctors, and quality medical care. If I ever have a child, I might be at risk of having labor complications. But in the US, I would have a doctor and health insurance, and could have an ambulance at my door in less than twenty minutes if need be. This is not the case in Ethiopia where Hamlin works.

 

Through this story-building project, I learned about content marketing, intent vs. impact, and best practices in nonprofit communications. Which is good, because I applied to Minerva with the goal of studying these topics, and to see nonprofit work from behind the scenes, through the lens of communications and consulting. I also wanted to gain an understanding of how running an organization might work.

 

Through this internship, I affirmed my desire to work with talented and passionate people who are driven to make the world a sustainable and better place. From here, I plan to finish my Bachelors degree and dive headfirst into nonprofit work.