Lyn Phang is returning to finish her second year in the International Development program. She spent this past summer interning with GK Indonesia, an organization dedicated to ending poverty, in Jakarta.

The IDEV Summer Internship Series highlights the experiences of IDEV students participating in internships this past summer. Each year, IDEV students intern with various development organizations around the world. These internships are generously funded by SAIS donors, and offer valuable opportunities for students to gain real-world experience between their first and second years at SAIS. Lyn's internship with GK Indonesia was sponsored by the Ferris Family Foundation.

I was fortunate to be a part of the Gerakan Kepedulian Indonesia family this summer. As a Malaysian, I was excited about the opportunity to work close to home with a grassroots organization involving community and youth development. For me, it was an opportunity to work in a new country in Southeast Asia and gain experience in a field I am passionate about. My internship with GK Indonesia was certainly an enriching and inspiring one for me, and it was a privilege to work with an organization that is doing such important work with the urban poor of Jakarta. GK Indonesia is a community-based organization that serves the residents of government-subsidized housing communities in the heart of the metropolis. GK provides important support for residents as they navigate the transition from slum life to apartment life, including security, health, workforce development, and education.

This summer, GK Indonesia recruited me and three other SAIS interns—Hannah Selles, Eddy Trang, and Antonia Gramsamer—to consult on the development of a new youth empowerment program. During our two months in Jakarta, we worked closely with the GK staff to conduct a needs assessment, draft a program proposal, write a life skills curriculum tailored to the communities’ needs, and train the staff and volunteers to implement the program. Finally, we were able to secure funding from the Young Professionals’ Organization, an Indonesian philanthropic group, in order to hire a full-time program coordinator. Throughout this process, our primary concern was for the suitability and sustainability of the program.

My two-month internship working with the urban poor communities of Jakarta opened my eyes to many different aspects about working in a NGO, as well as about Indonesia and its people. I learned a lot about working with people at all levels of the organization and the challenges of having important information get lost in translation—yet still being able to work together to get things done. I learned about becoming aware of time management and teamwork. Most importantly, I heard the unique stories that each individual shared with me in the communities, each one compelling and humanizing in its own way. Working with GK Indonesia and helping fulfill its mission in the communities, I saw the value of "Pancasila," the foundational principles of Indonesia, which uphold unity and social justice for a shared future.

Malaysia and Indonesia are similar in many ways, including our language, the diversity of the people and cultures, and even food. During my time in Indonesia, I found myself comparing both countries constantly, particularly in terms of the development of our nations and the people. The hustle and bustle of city traffic, the warm climate, and the proliferation of construction everywhere all seemed only too familiar. Yet, I also found myself adapting to many features that are uniquely Indonesian, from the madness of Jakarta traffic congestion (it’s no joke!) to the swamp of ‘gojeks’ (motorcycle taxis), the warmth and patience of the people, and the natural beauty and diversity of the country. Indonesia is a beautiful country with much to offer and the potential to develop into a powerhouse nation.

Working for GK Indonesia provided me with a mirror to reflect on myself. One of my most rewarding moments in this internship was witnessing the eagerness of the community’s youth to learn, to be empowered and to move forward together. I saw the energy and passion of the youth to make change for themselves and in their own communities. It reminded me of the reason I want to work in the international development sector and further solidified my passion and commitment to social change and development. The experience has helped me better understand how I can make a tangible impact in my own capacity at the community level and the responsibility to give back.

I am grateful to everyone who made my GK Indonesia experience a memorable one, from the GK staff, volunteers, and communities to my fellow GK Interns. It was not only an opportunity to work with underprivileged communities and to learn about grassroots initiatives, but also a time of personal character-building. I learned about myself, about my collaborators and coworkers, about the communities we were working with, and about the country, and overall I believe we all learned we have the ability to affect change and make the world a better place.

Thank you GK Indonesia for having me!

PHOTO CREDIT: "Day of Jakarta" by Iqro Rinaldi, from Flickr Creative Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Below, the author with colleagues and fellow SAIS students in Jakarta.