(Images: left, Michaela as a 2013 Wadadli Pen Challenge finalist; right, Michaela as 2017 intern co-emceeing the Challenge awards ceremony)
To truly give an accurate account of my experience as a volunteer intern of the Wadadli Pen Challenge 2017, I must first state that I have participated twice in the past. I always thought that it was so difficult to get the right story, express one’s self in the right way, and paint the picture of your story so vividly that the readers experience it as if they were sitting with you, in your thoughts, as you wrote. This year allowed me to understand that the people who “just had to read my story” also faced difficulties and in most cases, difficulties that were more than my own as a participant. For that I am deeply thankful.
(Image: Internship orientation – Michaela, right, with Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator, author Joanne C. Hillhouse)
My internship began in December 2016 and came to an end in May of this year. My tasks were, but not limited to, administrative and promotional work. I became a youth media ambassador, making media appearances promoting the programme on youth friendly traditional media platforms & recommending and targeting youth social media platforms. I also assisted with flyer distribution. Additionally, I checked the group’s email, responding to requests or concerns, and relaying urgent information to my boss, Ms. (Joanne) Hillhouse.
Initially, I thought that the tasks listed were going to be a walk in the park but I soon learned otherwise. For the duration of this internship, I was also attending the Antigua State College as well as managing the youth arm of a community service organization, Junior Chamber Youth under JCI Antigua. I quickly developed a rhythm of doing things; check the Wadadli Pen inbox every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, do college assignments on a Saturday, and plan the meetings for the Youth organization on Sundays. At first it worked, but the unpredictable nature of life soon took things for a spin. Assignments that were due in the same week could not be done on a Saturday. Time also had to be allotted to studying for upcoming tests. Making time for activities with family and friends was also a factor I hadn’t considered initially because I never thought it would be too difficult. I am proud to say that I never gave up even on the days when it all became quite frustrating, and I owe that to not only the support of loved ones around me but to the facilitators of this challenge. Ms. Hillhouse would always encourage me, in a short but effective email, to keep pushing and allow myself to develop from this learning experience. However, as this was not a suicide mission, I was always encouraged to express when it was too much for me to handle. Short visits to see Wadadli Pen volunteer and partner Barbara Arrindell at the Best of Books were also very motivating. She would always share kind words with me and smile that could brighten anyone’s day.
(Images: post-awards, Michaela stopped in at the Best of Books again to collect her certificate for successful completion of her internship and to assist with the prize giving to one of the winners, Ava Ralph, who did not make the awards ceremony)
The ways in which I developed from this internship are numerous. I first and most importantly was challenged to learn better time management skills as a young adult. My writing, whether in emails or for my previously submitted blog post was soundly critiqued by Ms. Hillhouse to encourage better writing each time. An immense level of professionalism was cultivated as I was entrusted with access to the email account which held confidential information. I also gained experience with both the prep and appearance for a radio interview at Observer Radio Station. My final task was to co-host the Wadadli Pen awards at the first Best of Books book fair this year alongside Ms. Hillhouse and Ms. Arrindell. It was truly a pleasure.
At the end of my time with the Wadadli Pen team, I realized the great deal of work put in by all members of the team to make this initiative a success. The judges who had to read 93 [Blogger’s note: actually 96 eligible submissions at final count] pieces this year and be able to select the top three in each category, those who were responsible for soliciting and accumulating prizes for the worthy young writers, the set-up of the event itself, and the task Ms. Hillhouse held of overseeing all of these activities and more were mind blowing. As a participant in the past I only knew of attending the well put together ceremony not knowing the effort and dedication necessary to allow that seemingly small event. I therefore take this opportunity to express a heartfelt thank you to all who assisted me along this journey. A special and certainly deserving thank you to Ms. Joanne Hillhouse for the opportunity she gave to me. I hope to continue to learn from her and that many others will grasp the opportunity to do so in the future. Wadadli Pen is only getting bigger and better each year, let us continue to encourage our young people to do positive things with their lives.
My name is Michaela Harris, and I encourage you to start writing!
Blogger’s Note: Michaela’s internship completion letter from me as Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator read, in part, “(Michaela’s) experiences would have helped build her communication skills, her appreciation for the administrative tasks behind the scenes of any major project, her time management skills (as she had to manage the time on the project with her responsibilities as a student at ASC), and her sense of responsibility to the tasks she takes on (it’s worth noting that when the internship ended officially she offered to stay on to complete one of her major assignments). I found her to be enthusiastic and responsible, executing most of her tasks and taking direction and feedback well. It was our pleasure to have her on and are delighted to have served as a stepping stone toward her future goals.” This was our first time taking on an intern, my first time taking on an intern, so it was a learning experience for me as well, and we were fortunate that it was Michaela. We will do this again, I hope. Hopefully, an intern for each person on the team so that they can have more support while sharing their skillset and assisting with the development of a young person – Michaela’s critiques of her experience in the internship programme will assist with the shaping of these future relationships. Hopefully, we will be as fortunate in terms of the young people we attract as the programme moves forward.