Jeanne Crump, Social Performance Intern & Treasury Intern
After making the decision to return to school after nearly six years in the “real world,” I wasn’t sure how rewarding or valuable another internship would be. I’ve worked in marketing, communications, journalism, and public relations, and well, I’ve had an internship or two. But, as required by my graduate program, I would have to secure an internship for credit to graduate.
Within a few weeks of beginning the Master’s program in International Development at the University of Denver, I came across Adelante, an organization that provides microloans to women in Honduras. The idea of microfinance lit a spark in me like any great idea would, and I knew I’d found the field I would pursue work in. After exchanging a few emails with Adelante’s director, I was told there wasn’t an internship program in place (at the time), and was quickly in search of another opportunity. A professor of mine suggested reaching out to Friendship Bridge, as she always spoke highly of their performance and what they continue to accomplish in Guatemala. I jumped at chance of using the contacts she had provided, and reached out to Caitlin, the Social Performance Manager.
This past January I started interning at Friendship Bridge in the Social Performance department. I assisted with research and data organization and analysis. One project that was especially rewarding was researching existing monitoring methods of agricultural development programs for smallholder farmers. With the launch of our new Agriculture Farm to Market Access Program, I was looking for resources that could help us create our methodology for measuring progress of our clients and effectiveness of the program. In addition, I helped analyze survey data results and compile a report about a loan product we offer, CrediSalud, that assists clients in purchasing a clean-burning, ventilating stove. I also (if reluctantly) learned how to use a few fancy Excel tools (hooray for V-Lookups!).
Yet, perhaps just as important was the fact that my work in class was supplemented by the work I was doing at Friendship Bridge, and I felt that my worlds were aligning in an almost perfect way. I continually felt stimulated and proud of the new work I was doing both in school and at the organization, and the crossover made me appreciate this internship for its incredible value.
But, my time at Friendship Bridge doesn’t end there! In May I was offered the chance to stay with the organization as the Treasury Intern. Now, as someone who has close to zero professional knowledge of finance or accounting (and sometimes still counts on their fingers), my first response was, “I don’t think I’m the right fit.” Rebecca (the Treasury Manager), assured me I’d do great, so I reconsidered and decided to dive in with my newly minted Excel skills.
It’s hard to sum up what this internship offered me in a few short sentences. Every month I updated the financials in our loan portfolio workbook, which was beyond overwhelming at the start, but gave me incredible insight into financial management. I conducted extensive research on Currency Exchange Risk and created a dashboard of indicators that would be used to monitor Guatemala’s economic, social, and political environment so the organization can better assess their risk. My capstone project consisted of compiling financial and social performance data on 20 other microfinance organizations within the Latin American region so we could benchmark it against our own performance. I then helped conduct an analysis of our financial and portfolio management performance against the other MFIs.
Not only did I learn more in this role than I could have feasibly imagined, my work was used and distributed at the annual Board meeting and Finance Committee meeting, and has informed our CEO on various occasions. That is what I would define as a useful and rewarding internship.
Perhaps one of the best outcomes for me personally was the barriers I broke throughout the past seven months. We can so easily be conditioned by our experiences as a child or teenager, or even an undergraduate, that we are good at some things and bad at others. The opportunities I was given at Friendship Bridge broke down that conditioning and renewed my desire to keep learning and growing (even if it involves seemingly scary things like exchange risk exposure!).
I’m happy to end this reflection as one of the newest Friendship Bridge employees. In the position of Grants Coordinator I am working to establish new partnerships – and develop the existing ones – for grant funding by writing diligently about our programs and the work we do to improve the lives of impoverished Guatemalan women. I am grateful for the continued opportunity to work with such an outstanding organization in a field I believe has – and will continue to – make a real difference in the lives of others. I’m thrilled I’m able to do that at Friendship Bridge.