As a high school student, having the opportunity to help coordinate a course on human rights issues while learning about the role of a university professor, was a tremendous experience.
That was my assignment as part of my summer internship with the University of Winnipeg’s Global College; a placement sponsored by The Winnipeg Foundation’s Summer Internship Program.
Not only was I exposed to an office workplace, but was introduced to human rights issues around the globe. In the short time I was working at the College, I gained a greater perspective about the world.
I still can’t believe the amount I learned in such a short period of time. By the end of the summer, it felt like my mind and heart were full of all sorts of important knowledge and ideas.
My internship was based around a university course that ran from Aug. 4 – 14, called Emerging Issues in Human Rights. The course is in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, The Winnipeg Foundation and Rotary World Peace Partners.
My summer was split into three time periods; before, during and after. Before the course, I envisioned what the ten day course would be like, looked for resources and gathered materials.
While the course was in session, I was on hand to help run it. I worked with students to make sure the week was as flawless as possible.
When the ten days were over, I helped with the closing by cleaning up the facility and organizing items for the next year. You wouldn’t believe how much work goes into the preparation of a course. I know I was surprised.
During my internship I read the book Half the Sky. I was introduced to the book when I met my mentor, Marilou McPhedran, earlier in June. This book has always been used for the course in August, so it was important I be familiar with it, in case the students needed help on navigating it.
The book focuses on women’s rights violations around the world in present day. It’s a very deep, moving and compelling read that addresses worldwide issues that many never think about in daily life.
It also brings about willingness to change and help. Every time I picked it up, I couldn’t wait to get back to school and back to my Youth In Philanthropy (YIP) group. It gave me inspiration to change things. The deeper understanding I gained from Half the Sky, along with being exposed to these issues, makes me want to work in my YIP group more than ever before.
In addition to summarizing Half the Sky, I went with two other interns to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) so we could match the exhibits to chapters in the book.
I had been looking forward to seeing see the CMHR ever since it was announced it was being built. I don’t know why I didn’t go earlier. I guess I was waiting for the perfect moment.
The outside of the building always looks beautiful, but when you’re walking right alongside the walls, you can see the grand scale of it.
The day we spent there was amazing. It’s so hard to put into words. There is so much at the museum; so much detail and information. On every wall, there is something to look at and something to read. The technology there is highly advanced and there are endless opportunities for interaction with the exhibits.
Out of the whole day, my favorite gallery was probably Canadian Journeys. This is due to the fact there is a lot of different information everywhere that connects to home. Plus, the visuals around the exhibit bring you right into the story being told.
All through the museum tour, I was amazed by the grandness of the architecture and the technology. It was beautiful and captivating.
At the same time I was amazed, I was also horrified; shocked at the information presented. How could one not be impacted while reading about the atrocities that happened and continue to happen?
There was so much information there I didn’t know before. I learned so much about events from around the world and ones that happened right here at home.
I would highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t been there before as well as to those who have visited. I know I’ll be returning soon. I don’t think I was able to absorb all that information despite the hours we were there. The visit was fantastic and haunting at the same time. It’s worth repeating that it was an amazing day.
Upon returning to work the following day, I sat down with the other interns and talked about what we saw at the CMHR. We discussed how the museum linked to the course and the readings, specifically Half the Sky. I went through my notes from the museum and summarized them on a Word document.
The morning flew by and, before I knew it, I was leaving the office to go on another visit. This time, it was to Ka Ni Kanichihk.
Ka Ni Kanichihk is an Aboriginal centre that offers culturally-based Aboriginal services in a safe environment. Every year for the Global College course, students are welcomed at Ka Ni Kanichihk for a day.
We met with staff representative, Leslie Spillett, and with Bernadette Smith to talk about Aboriginal issues, as well as to discuss the day during the course when students are scheduled to visit Ka Ni Kanichihk.
Spillett and Smith were both very knowledgeable and they mentioned several helpful resources, one of them being the Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes experiment by Jane Elliot.
In preparing materials for the course, I researched many online resources, such as YouTube videos related to Half the Sky, and decided which ones to include in the course curriculum. This was a lengthy process, but fascinating nonetheless. I thought I learned a lot from the book, but the videos added a whole other dimension to it.
My summer internship at UofW’s Global College offered me more than I could ever have imagined. Learning about the role of a university professor, preparing materials for a course on human rights, as well as researching resources and ideas online and at the CMHR, all contributed to what I will remember an amazing experience.
Vanessa McKay is one of 15 high school students sponsored by the Winnipeg Foundation this summer to work alongside non-profit organizations within the city. To read more stories about the 2015 Summer Internship Program, click here.