My time as a Voice4Change England intern

By Yasmin Begum, former Development Intern for V4CE

(Pic: V4CE CEO Kunle Olulode, Yasmin Begum and Development Officer Saqib Deshmukh)

In August 2013, I landed an internship at BME third sector infrastructure organisation Voice4Change England. After weeks of searching for jobs both in my hometown in Cardiff and in London, my temporary home where I currently study, I finally got an interview and was successful. 

The benefits of this internship have been immense in particular the things I have learnt; cliché but true. Working in the third sector over the past few months has given me knowledge of social policy and the ways in which it works, along with keeping up to date with political bills and writing about them. Previously I had never encountered social policy or understood the law making process, and have found out so much about what is relevant not only to the sector but to my own interests. In addition, I was able to write articles and think pieces with the valuable input of my colleagues, such as the think piece I wrote with Saqib Deshmukh on Police and Crime Commissioners, along with shadowing other members of staff in the office. This, too, was beneficial as I was able to carry out research and gather a wider picture of the day to day workings of what it’s like working in a BME third sector organisation. 
Not all of it was based in the office, though, as I had the opportunity to attend numerous events on behalf of Voice4Change England, relevant not only to my work, but also to my interests. For example, I attended parliament for an event held by Operation Black Vote, an organisation set up to address the BME electoral deficit. In August, I attended a meeting at Goldsmith’s University held by the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London over immigration policy and the racist van, which was a fascinating night.
Throughout my internship I was paid London Living Wage, and that’s more than what I can say many of my friends receive. Without it being paid, I would not have been able to move back to London, pay rent or buy food. My student finance, like many of my peers, did not appear until February, so this paid internship allowed me to remain self-sufficient throughout my first term. It gave me a breath of independence that I had never really felt before. Some of my friends had to hold down a job and an unpaid internship at the same time, or moved back in with their parents for financial support. According to a report called ‘Interns in the Voluntary Sector’ written by Unite and InternAware (an organisation which campaigns around internships), unpaid internships are often seen as the “entry point” to third sector jobs. It has gotten to such an issue that HMRC is targeting up to 200 employers who recently advertised internships to ensure that they are paying the minimum wage. 
Overall, this internship has allowed me to gain insight and skills that I can not only transfer to other jobs, but a great experience to look back on and knowledge I can use in all aspects of my life both personally and professionally. The research skills I’ve gained have been priceless, and I feel that my writing quality has also improved. I would recommend this experience to anyone and look back at this internship as a valuable part of my learning which will no doubt benefit me in years to come.