The most valuable thing that I have learned this summer, in my opinion, is exactly how an NGO actually works from the bottom-up. A lot of the work that I’ve done has been lobbying various projects and causes that my company has developed. To do so, I have been making a lot of phone calls to politicians, news sources, and other organizations (such as student unions, universities, other NGOs, and other sponsors/supporters). Additionally, I have participated in various protests and marches in my work here for different causes related to our work done in the office in order to spread the message of our work to the public.
Working in an NGO such as the one I am placed with, which does a lot of humanitarian activism and champions a lot of worthy causes, takes a certain skill-set. The demand for this work is, of course, created by hateful acts and violence against innocent lives and it takes not only a lot of courage to stand up for and support some of our causes, but it also takes a lot of political allegiance. For example, every year my organization works with other NGOs to put together a Commemoration for the Armenian Genocide in Turkey. If anyone knows anything about Turkey (and if you’ve been reading my blogs, you know that I tend to rant on this subject) knows that the political situation, particularly regarding the Armenian Genocide (which is not officially recognized), is rather volatile. Many of the employees of EGAM go to the Commemoration expecting to be detained by the Turkish forces. When I talked to my coworkers about it, they explained that it’s risks like these that make it so important for them to have certain political ties. In the case of Turkey, they always take along a member of French Parliament with them so that in the case of their detention, they have guaranteed international protection.
Therefore, when working in an environment such as an NGO that fights against hate crimes, discrimination, genocide denial, racism, and other important issues, it is imperative that the members pay attention to the political and social makeup of the areas in which they are trying to make change – not just for their work, but for their own safety.
For this workforce, it is imperative to be flexible with your work – one day, you may be doing something and the next, you will be moving onto the next project in order to keep up with the ever-changing nature of global politics. There is always something that is happening; likewise, there is always something that can be done in order to change a situation for the better. Attentiveness and flexibility, I would say from my experience, are the most important skill-sets in this profession.