I distinctly remember the first time I held a letter from one of Food for the Hungry’s (FH) sponsored children. It was my first day as an intern. All around the letter’s edges were the smallest, dust-colored fingerprints. I rubbed my own thumb over them and had to smile. Somewhere in the Philippines, a child had held this same piece of paper. And now I held it – I felt a connection. What a special opportunity! I was a part of helping bring children from opposite sides of the world together with a letter. It may have seemed like a simple task – putting letters into envelopes – but I understood it was worthwhile to work. The only day one of my internship and I was stoked about what would come, but I would never have pictured it leading to a full-time job.
I found Food for the Hungry in an unexpected place.
My intern experience came unexpectedly and had a whirlwind beginning. I had not heard of FH before my grandfather told me about their internship program. As an English Literature major in college, I never planned to pursue opportunities to work for a nonprofit. I thought about pursuing a journalism degree, teaching, and even – very briefly – considered law school. Thankfully, the opportunity to intern at FH my senior year was practically placed in front of me.
At the time, I was in the midst of being hired for a job at my university. It was taking months to finish my hiring process and start work. I had previously reached out to a friend at FH to see if there were any internships available, but both positions were filled. I asked to take a tour of the office anyway.
After visiting the different departments, I learned how they each pour into the ministry in their own way. I heard about Dr. Larry Ward’s vision and mission. I was told one of the interns had to decline the position. There was an opening for me. I submitted my application the following day, received a callback, and then officially interviewed. This all happened in the span of a week and a half and then there I was, an intern at FH.
Almost immediately, I saw why the job at my university never worked out.
Had I started work I would have stopped looking for jobs, would not have had free time to come and tour. I would never have become an intern. God was in the midst of that entire process – frustrating as it was at the time – and I felt confident that this internship is where God wanted me to be and that it was going to be a blessing.
I was part of a bigger picture.
As an intern, I was given the unique experience of working in more than one department. By placing me in different positions, the hope of the internship was to understand how a nonprofit functions. I learned how each job plays a vital role in their vision of ending all forms of human poverty worldwide. I spoke with the supervisors from other departments and ask questions about the challenges and unexpected joys. FH has a lot of different people with varying personalities, but one thing that always remained the same was the genuine and kind heart of each employee.
I held a misguided opinion at the beginning that I would feel set apart as the internship was short term and I was not as experienced, but quite the opposite was true. People made me feel not just included but welcomed. Each employee is valued and viewed as an integral part because FH desires to invest wisely, believing in their employees because they know that this is how we can have the most impact and the best results in the end. By pouring into and encouraging employees it was naturally overflowing into their work. Even when I made a mistake and failed to have grace for myself, I was reminded by staff that we are all human.
We are a part of a team and when one of us experiences trouble we work through it, together.
The end of the internship and graduation arrived before I could fully wrap my brain around what was next. When my supervisor approached me about a full-time job, my initial instinct was to not apply. It was not a part of my original plan. I was only thinking about furthering my education and working towards a job that would “set me up” in life and use my degree. I was focusing on what I thought success meant, forgetting it means a lot of different things.
Each day at FH I learn something new about how and why we do the work we do. With each day, I am more excited than before because I truly believe in FH’s heart. From their vision to their employees, I see firsthand a genuine and humble heart to serve others – employees, donors, and sponsored children alike. Unexpected as it all began, God has proven He is in the midst of it all and I am excited to see and be a part of what He has in store for FH moving forward.
–Michelle Schlavin, FH U.S. Staff