Our Programme Foci
Learning about Sustainable Living (Past Programme Foci)
Where We Work: National and Urban

Young interns

Learning on sustainable living, nurturing facilitators

First launched in late 2004, PCD’s internship project embarked on three different platforms through which young people would be able to reflect on the mainstream development model, rural-urban and people-nature relationships, through extended work experience in civic groups and community based organisations. The three platforms, operated and managed by different partners, adopt different approaches and cover different geographical areas. As of early 2008, three batches of interns had been sent to tens of hosting organisations for some 10 to 12 months in different provinces around the country.

In collaboration with the NGO community and the Sichuan Community Capacity Building Centre, PCD participated in the formulation of the stages of implementation of the Sichuan Youth Internship Programme right from the start. A comprehensive system that takes care of the full cycle of internships from recruitment to servicing in hosting organisations, intern exchanges, trainings and counselling has been put in place. Organisations and individuals dedicated to the development of internships have formed a project management committee that steers the direction of the project.

Reflection and growth

Ma Chu is an environmental science graduate of Sichuan University. She was one of the interns recruited in late 2006, and was placed with the Chengdu Urban Rivers Association (CURA) . It was the second time the institute had taken on interns. “Now I understand better what life is like in the villages. I have the desire and passion to know more. To me, environmental protection is no longer a slogan, but the initiative to take action to protect your home,” Ma said after her 10-months internship working on an eco-toilet project in a village.

As of early 2008, some 100 interns had been recruited. They are mostly fresh university graduates. The ideologies, worldview and even the ordinary daily routines of these city-based young people are challenged in their host organisations. Assessment after the first two years of implementation has been positive in the areas of personal growth of interns, incentives of local civic groups, and network building. Many interns have become more capable and mature persons upon completing their terms. One said that she was at a loss most of the time as there was no good work plan. However she appreciates the experience as she has been able to reflect more on what kind of living she desires most.

Flexibility, localisation and negotiation

Meanwhile, PCD supports another window for internships with the China Non-Profit Organisations (NPO) Network. Small grants are provided to support motivated young people to run their own projects in rural community development or environmental conservation under the auspice of hosting organisations in Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi and Guangdong provinces. It allows more flexibility and initiative for participating volunteers and civic groups. The third platform is a collaboration of PCD and the Liang Shuming Rural Reconstruction Centre. The programme provides young people with practice-based training on rural development, and supports university students to develop long-term work commitments in rural areas.

It is still too early to conclude whether the designated project objectives have been met. Much has to be done in particular in localising trainers and training materials, and in addressing the different emphases of hosting organisations, who often value professional capability more than fostering critical awareness on development among their young colleagues. What participants treasure most, be they interns or organisations, is that young people now have an opportunity to engage in social development. This movement is gaining momentum within the NGO community. There are many ways young people can grow and make a positive contribution to the area in which they serve.