My Canada Summer Jobs Experience — An Unexpected Journey

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The first image that pops into my head when I think of an internship is similar to what you would see in movies; a helpless student running around the office doing all the early morning coffee runs, cleaning out supply rooms covered with spider webs and accumulated dust, or running personal errands like picking up dry cleaning. I could go on but I’m sure you get the picture. My experience these past few months working a Canada Summer Job student with Islamic Relief Canada has, thankfully, been far from that.

Back in May, I joined the Islamic Relief Canada (IRC) team for the first time as a temporary contractor in the hopes of gaining some experience in the non-profit sector. As the month-long contract began to come to an end, my eagerness to continue working with IRC grew tenfold. Like a guardian angel, my fellow contractor (and friend) encouraged me to apply for an opening within the External Relations department through the Canada Summer Jobs Program. It was a leap into the dark, but somehow I landed the role and my summer with IRC began.

From the day I walked into the welcoming, vibrantly-coloured Burlington office to this day, as I write this article, I have not once been made to feel like a temporary summer student. As cliche as it sounds, I was welcomed into the IRC family, as if I had been here for years.

With gentle reminders of our humanitarian purpose beautifully written on the office walls, and with inspiring stories always coming in about our hard-working colleagues in the field and the resilient people we serve, it is easy to see what drives every individual in our office to go above and beyond in our effort to help those less fortunate.

Bearing witness to the immense work that is put into these success stories has re-sparked a sense of hope in me that had dulled from reading and watching disheartening stories constantly being circulated in the media and online.

I was able to work and learn alongside a group of remarkably genuine, open and bright individuals who were always “ready to answer the call” — that’s IRC’s slogan — and because of them I’ve been able to grow in more ways than just as an employee.

The work I’ve done with the External Relations team has taught me more about the non-profit sector than any of my courses in Global Politics (though I loved those too). I have been able to delve into gender-related policies and apply my research and writing skills to support the advocacy work that IRC does and with the Canadian elections creeping up, I have become more aware of the movers and shakers within our society. The art of establishing, maintaining and improving relationships with these people in order to get their support for our humanitarian work is something I’ve come to appreciate through my work in ER.

Islamic Relief Canada has provided me with an endless amount of support and has given me a newfound confidence to do things that I otherwise would have been too anxious to do — in fact, sharing my thoughts in the form of an article would be in that list!

Lastly, the effort put in by IRC’s senior leadership team into genuinely caring for their employees and for the people that Islamic relief effects, has been the most positively impactful and valuable lesson on leadership I could ever learn.

The Canada Summer Jobs experience ends next week for me. I’ll be walking away in September with great memories, life-long friendships, and a stronger commitment than ever to do everything I can to make sure that every person in our world has the opportunity to live a safe, dignified and fulfilling life.

The Canada Summer Jobs Program is one of the initiatives from the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy. The program provides funding for non-profit organizations, public-sector employers, and private small businesses with 50 or fewer employees to create summer jobs for full-time students.

Mashaal Saeed is part of the External Relations team at Islamic Relief Canada.

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