Compiled by Gilbert Makore
JOINING ZELA AS AN INTERN
I joined the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) team as a ‘green faced’ intern in 2005. I was still studying at the University of Zimbabwe and the organisation was recruiting interns to work on World Resources Institute supported project titled ‘The Access Initiative’. The project was aimed at assessing legislative environmental representation in Zimbabwe. I was charged with providing statistical and research support towards the project. The project research results were published in a book titled ‘Legislative Representation and the Environment in Zimbabwe: The Case of Guruve North Constituency’. My internship at ZELA represented my first job opportunity and I was excited. I, however, only imagined myself working with the organisation for the 12-month internship period and not beyond.
Never would I have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be still be working with the organisation in 2015! This is testament to the organisation’s belief in developing talent and in developing employees that are passionate about environmental justice and natural resources governance. The organisation does not just talk about developing youths but evidently ‘walks the talk’ in this regard.
What struck me when I joined ZELA as an intern was the learning and accommodative atmosphere within the organisation. An intern at ZELA, I was soon to learn, is not just engaged to photocopy, print and file papers. There was a high expectation placed on me to actually lead on certain project components. I vividly remember poring through parliamentary hansards and having to design spread-sheets that would adequately capture the number of times Members of Parliament publicly mentioned anything related to environmental rights.
I was very quickly inducted into an organisational culture that emphasised hard work, producing excellent quality work, open debate at all levels and the permission to try and test out new ideas. The organisational culture within the organisation lends itself to human capital development as interns have an equal say at the decision-making table provided they are prepared to back up their proposals with evidence based on logical arguments.
Some of the practical skills that were honed during my internship period and that I have seen being sharpened in other interns include;
- Research capability
- Presentation skills
- Writing skills
After the close of the internship period in 2005, my contract was not renewed. I had learnt a lot within a relatively limited time-frame and had to go back to concentrating on completing my studies. ZELA had not only developed in me the necessary skills to navigate any work-place. It had, more importantly, planted a seed. A seed of interest in working on natural resources governance and an interest of working at the ‘coal-face’ of community rights capacity building and organising around environmental justice.
The internship was complete and successful, yet I missed the rhythm of going to work. I missed the challenging environment, the need to come up with solutions to difficult assignments. I missed the jovial yet serious work environment and the open and frank debates that had continuously shaped my thinking. I missed the organisation more as I thought that I had parted ways with the organisation for good.
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