Mckenzie Swain, is a sophomore pursuing a degree in International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, DC, focussing on International Development Studies.
Mckenzie completed her Gender Equality & Advocacy degree with a specific slant towards sexual empowerment & education. Mckenzie had plans to study further in Women’s Studies, or Human Services and Social Justice, so decided on an internship with if i could… as an ideal way to gain practical boots-on-the-ground experience in South Africa.
In planning her trip and selecting the ideal local organisation Mckenzie’s mentioned that she was really interested in development work. She chose if i could… and Cape Town because she felt that the Gender Equality and Advocacy programme could offer her a more personal and inclusive experience in a country with such a strong focus on social justice, women’s rights and development.
Mckenzie revealed that once in Cape Town her expectations were completely exceeded – she was blown away by the energy, enthusiasm and spirit of Cape Town. Most importantly she felt the internship matured her so much more. She now feels more confident in the workplace, or leading meetings, or taking on any task.
One of her most memorable Cape Town experiences was an afternoon wine tasting in Constantia. This was made all the more significant because of the special people she met whilst in Cape Town, and the life-long friendships that were formed.
Mckenzie’s day as an intern typically included a little bit of everything. She was partnered with a South African nonprofit that sets out to challenge gendered power inequalities that continue to oppress women and girls through prostitution, sexual exploitation, and sexual abuse.
Mckenzie had come from a background of working with children and was able to create a programme that works with making children aware of human trafficking and prostitution. She planned the entire workshop and did all the research and reached out to other aftercare spaces. The overall workshop was a success and Mckenzie managed to formulate all this data from the workshops to present to potential funders to help prevent children from entering prostitution.
For Mckenzie this was the lightbulb moment. She had no idea that she had such a passion for working with data. She had explored each department which enabled her to better consider which career path she wished to pursue in the nonprofit sector. She encourages all interns to ask for and embrace opportunities to take on different tasks and responsibilities during an internship.
A highlight of her trip was meeting local children through her work, as well as forming close connections with other interns. “Being part of an organisation that makes such a big difference and working with them has been a life-changing experience for me. Keeping that connection is what I will take home with me,” says Mckenzie.
We asked Mckenzie to express Cape Town in five words/phrases and this was her response: Energetic, fun, dancing, great food, beautiful people.
Mckenzie praised if i could… staff for being so approachable and feels the close connection and contact really made her feel welcome and at ease. She has headed back to Washington DC where she is looking at another internship within the qualitative data sphere thanks to the experience she gained with if i could…