Introducing Konso Mbakire, our fantastic intern!

This summer, HOAS was lucky to have a superstar intern working on our team.  Konso Mbakire, a rising junior at Amherst College, spent her vacation working to help make us a stronger and more impactful team.  She delivered high-value work on a number of key projects and got to know our mission inside and out.  Indeed, we've asked her to stay on and continue helping us as a volunteer for several hours a week while she is back at school.  At the end of her summer, she wrote a short piece describing her thoughts on working for HOAS.  Here it is!

I’ve only ever met Bennett Rathbun once, and that was a week into my internship in New York city. I immediately felt right at home, talking about Amherst College and my experience as an international student. Short of Amherst College, it wasn’t immediately apparent that we would have much in common or see so many things so similarly. But that encounter solidified my excitement to spend the next seven weeks as a Hope on a String (HOAS) summer intern.

I chose to apply for this position because of my passion for development. HOAS seemed to uphold the same values I believe any nonprofit should: managed by the target population, in this case Haitians, and modified to suit their culture and needs, which the Haitian team has been able to do because they are from Arcahaie.

I was simultaneously worried and excited about the “remote” aspect of my internship, the fact that I would not have any face-to-face interactions with either Bennett, my supervisor, or the rest of the HOAS team, to whom I hoped to be of benefit. My first week, before I met Bennett, I struggled to figure out how I would do anything. But after that meeting, I was set at ease. I slowly begun to ask more questions as they came to mind and the projects I chose to work on started to materialize into something I could write about, speak about, and complete!

As part of my internship I worked largely on three projects: HOAS College, Social Media and an analysis of the pre and post surveys given to the four schools HOAS has been working with this past year.

HOAS College was initially supposed to be a brainstorming initiative to consider ways in which HOAS could better utilize its existing relationship with Amherst College, and, if concrete ideas were laid out, consider how that could translate to other colleges. I had a wealth of ideas, some outrageous, and others feasible. But one idea, to have Amherst College students, like me, volunteer a few hours of their week to HOAS, helping with some of the tasks I’ve been doing this summer, especially took root. I created a draft application and tied it heavily to the work I had done on social media, because it would be one of their primary tasks. I got so excited about this that I asked if I could continue on a volunteer basis after my internship to ensure it gets off the ground.

Social Media had two aspects to it: creating a playbook, which could be used by Bennett or any volunteer after me, as well as managing HOAS Social Media during my internship. The latter was less of an objective given to me, and more of a natural progression as I realized I needed to see how my playbook could play out. This project really helped me get into the ethos of HOAS as I came up with captions and got Bennett’s input. A few weeks into this I began to feel like I could teach another volunteer about HOAS!

Bennett did an amazing job of creating a dataset using the pre and post surveys for the four schools that I could analyze. I found it difficult to navigate at first, being relatively new to the data analysis world, but it was a very cool challenge. This was the project that used my academic strengths most, and as a Math and Economics major, I welcomed the growth that came along with it.

I believe I’ve created a long-term relationship with HOAS and I have gained so much from it! I just hope I’ve given back as well.