Intern Kate Cornelius Reflects on an Incredible Ride

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As a recent graduate of American University, I thought I had experienced the gamut of typical D.C. internships—meaning menial tasks and limited project ownership. Everything changed last fall when I became an Advocacy and Outreach Intern at Syria Relief and Development (SRD). In addition to finally working for a cause that I truly cared about, SRD gave me the responsibility and challenging tasks of a real full-time employee.

I hit the ground running on my first day and never stopped: I arranged consultations with Congressional leaders and met with staffers on the Hill; I researched U.S. legislation and policy regarding various aspects of the Syrian conflict; I nurtured a new grassroots collegiate partnership that would help advance SRD’s advocacy plan; I planned multi-city SRD fundraisers; I drafted an academic research paper for a medical conference in Geneva; and I contributed press releases and advocacy letters for SRD’s website and annual newsletter.

In just a few months at SRD I took on more meaningful and exciting projects than I ever could have imagined as an intern anywhere else in D.C. Every new project I completed and challenge I overcame instilled more confidence in my abilities, something I used to lack given my prior inexperience in the nonprofit world. Needless to say, I now possess the self-confidence to take on any new job that comes my way.

Though I can honestly say I have never been busier anywhere else than at SRD, I do not regret the effort I put in for one minute. First and foremost I am happy I could contribute in any way to furthering SRD’s mission of creating a better situation for Syrian civilians. I am lucky to have been able to work for a Syrian diaspora organization, as SRD has the cultural knowledge and historical understanding over larger, international NGOs to provide specialized humanitarian initiatives that are best suited for Syria.

Just as important, my SRD coworkers will always be some of my favorite people I have ever had the privilege of working with. I am so grateful for the constant encouragement and support of my wonderful supervisor, Isra Chaker, the companionship of my fellow intern Ailia Alam, the guidance from SRD’s incredible field team, and the leadership of the Qaddour family. I consider myself truly blessed to have had the opportunity to take on such important work while also being surrounded by inspiring individuals such as yourselves who are truly dedicated to improving the lives of Syrians in such a dark time.

I hope to put in as much effort into my future career as everyone at SRD has put into running a small but mighty humanitarian nonprofit. Though my internship has come to a close, I leave SRD with a real sense of the scale of its work and a deeply ingrained gratitude for everyone who works for SRD. Thank you, my SRD family, for welcoming me into your organization with open arms. I miss you all and wish SRD the most successful future!

–Kate Cornelius