The Alpine Internship

By Jeff Bartelli

Bonjour my fellow interns.  I’m writing to you from Geneva, Switzerland.  As I write this I am looking out my window at beautiful Lake Geneva and the mountains of France.  The sun is shining and life is good.  Though it may be more interesting to tell you about the hikes I’ve taken in the Alps, or the nights I spent on farms in Tuscany, or the wandering teenage horn bands I mingled with in Chinon, France, I’ll tell you about my internship instead.  Before we start, I’ll recommend that you find the song (and entire album if you have the time) titled ‘Geneva’ by Russian Circles on your favorite music streaming website to accompany this blog.

I arrived in Geneva on May 21st to discover that the International Labor Organization only starts interns on the 1st and 15th of the month.  This gave me a considerable amount of time to lay in the grass next to the lake reading books.

Soon all the fun came to an end and I started my internship with the Cooperatives Branch of the ILO.  I immediately began working on creating a new database of cooperatives from around the world that either employ or serve people with disabilities.  This meant I would spend a lot of time on the internet.  In the first week I identified over 100 specific cooperatives that fit this bill while I discovered references to hundreds of other possible matches.

This may seem like a relatively easy task until you realize that the majority of the world doesn’t use the internet.

Consequently I began searching the internet for keywords like ‘cooperative’, ‘disabled’, ‘invalid’, ‘blind’, and ‘deaf’ in thirty different languages.  This netted a number of new leads but was still cumbersome and minimally effective.

My current efforts focus on utilizing the professional networks of various people I’m working with throughout the ILO.  This has produced some results but nothing truly significant yet.

With my database work winding down I am beginning to shift my focus to phase 2 of my internship: an ILO/COOP Information Brief.  This is a 1200-word report for global distribution in support of the International Year of Cooperatives.  For my Sanford friends, it is a long form policy memo.  Consequently, I don’t expect this task to be too difficult.  The publication credit this Information Brief will afford me is one of the main reasons I accepted this internship.  There is the potential for me to begin drafting a much longer report on the status of cooperatives and people with disabilities though this particular project has been called into question due to current funding issues.

I think it is worth noting that I receive a very minimal amount of supervision here.  My hours are flexible and there are days where I don’t even see another person from my department.  It was a little disconcerting at first but I think I’m adjusting just fine to the freedom.

So, that’s my story.

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