So as my time in Tearfund comes to a close I thought I’d finally get round to blogging my experiences at Tearfund. I intended to blog more, but if I’m honest I had little time to do anything but sleep and work! However it would be a shame to not mention all the exciting moments in the 8 months I worked in the office.
It ended up merging into three distinct chapters. First , the initial euphoria of getting my foot in the door somewhere I wanted to work. Working Monday through to Wednesday at an office which I had only imagined of working in was a massive buzz. Nothing gets close to the sense of purpose you get from doing something you’re passionate about. Secondly, somewhere down the line, when the euphoria wore off, the reality of working two jobs set in. Being constantly tired, having no days off, working 7 day weeks, that was maybe the best time – I’ll explain why later. And finally I moved into actually getting paid, which was a brilliant experience, but certainly not without its pressures, being an intern had a freedom to it, and paid work isn’t without it’s stresses, but I settled into an office which now feels like a second home.
When I joined Tearfund in October last year it was after a summer of not much, so it felt like the beginning of an adventure. The early mornings on the train were exciting. Sunrise and sunset I would take the train back and forth from Teddington to Reading. An hour and a half if everything worked out right – which most of the time it didn’t. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I’d work for the Humanitarian Support Team (HST), so called because – in the event of a disaster it was our job to provide surge support to the geographical teams based in regions across the world.
My first taste of relief work for HST was the devastating Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. In November the east and central regions of the island nation were leveled by the worst Cyclone to make landfall in recorded history. It fell to the awe inspiring team at Tearfund to respond. Within days the first team members were on flights out to the country, I was furiously organising travel plans, collecting first hand needs assessment reports, but most excitingly putting pins in maps attached to string!! I’m not sure I was totally the most useful person in the office, unfortunately disasters are when the team spend most days working long hours with furious attempts to try and collect information and process large quantities of data, fast! But I did my bit. What it did provide me with was a crash course in humanitarian work. Especially considering the processes Tearfund went through only a few weeks earlier with Cyclone Phailin which hit India.
To see the incredible dedication of the team, who just so happened to be miles away spread across the globe when it made landfall, was truly galvanising to me, I gained a work ethic from the team which is above and beyond what I thought was humanly possible. My boss Oenone is amazing at getting stuff done, at one point she had 3,000 unread emails, and was managing million pound disaster relief budget! The woman is incredible. Ali is an intrepid explorer, who jetted off to the Philippines to help without a second thought for her own safety. Abi, my boss, was the organisation behind the whole process, and calm under immense pressure. With tonnes of other teams across the building who pitched in from the outset dropping their existing workloads along the way.
Tearfund is an amazing machine, with systems and command structures which lumber into life within seconds of alerts being sounded. But my own system is not so amazing. The more knackered I got the less I managed to concentrate in important meetings. Euphoria and adrenaline wore off around December/January time, I don’t quite remember when Tearfund started to become normal but it certainly felt like home in the new year. I finally had settled into somewhere epic, meetings and projects started to follow, I managed to get some work done which felt like it would improve the lives of thousands of people around the world. But I then had to get up after finishing a close at the pub on a sunday at 1am. 5 hours sleep a night is not cool. But I loved it! I couldn’t shake the feeling that Tearfund was an incredible place to work, my days were incredible, skype calls with India, proposal for projects in Angola, visits from partners in America. Trips to Brussels including the AIDEX conference! It was awesome, every day, all day! But even with the pub work funding my living, and the internship satisfying my need for vocation, I felt exhausted. I feel like this was the best part of my time at Tearfund, but I was ready to get some decent rest and relaxation. And friends again!
In the end I decided to apply for some temp work which came up in the office, and got it. At the beginning of March I moved to the Programme Funding and Support Team and quit my job at Wetherspoons. The work wasn’t quite as exciting, and I had a lot more off it. Suddenly reports and high level meetings turned into spreadsheets and (still) high level meetings where I had to furiously minute everything which was said! I remember my first meeting minutes I made, I had no idea how spell or say half the things which were mentioned, I heard certain words said and recognised several faces, but it was a mess. I was tempted to call in the HST myself. But weeks passed and I soon got into the swing of things. I owe a lot to my bosses in Tearfund, they mentored and pushed me to achieve a lot. Getting paid do something you love is an incredible feeling and long may it continue.
It felt like I was moving forward in my life, a feeling which I really enjoy. Being unemployed felt like being stuck waiting for a train which was delayed. Being an intern felt like being on the train, but getting paid felt like I had arrived.
Tearfund finally felt like home. I worked long hours, I worked hard and achieved quite a lot. But for me the satisfaction was waking up knowing I was doing good for a living. I made amazing friends, and got to meet incredible people. I moved from Programme Funding and Support back to HST for a little while in April and then jumped right into job applications.
I got the opportunity to move up to the second floor for a while, working with lovely ladies in Data Centre and Reception, yes I know, me on reception! It was a fitting end to my time really, I loved meeting everyone coming into the building everyday and talking to supporters on the phones.
That I applied for three jobs and got interviews for all of them is testament to how good the internship scheme is! I ended up then moving up north! I recommend applying to next years cohort here. I got so much out of it and now am in another totally amazing job doing what I love. I wouldn’t have got anywhere in life without the experience, I love it.
To cap it all off I just got back from the Big Church Day Out. I spent a weekend camping in Sussex trying to convince the wonderful punters at the event to give to No Child Taken. It was an amazing weekend and a brilliant send off. A brilliant time was had, and watch this space – I’m sure I’ll be back!