Summer of Service: each week we will be highlighting our summer Director's Interns who are spending their summer working in various fields of politics and public service. This week our interns working abroad are contributing to the blog to talk about their experiences overseas.
Michelle Denise “Michi” Ferreol is a 2013 Summer Director's Intern with Special Olympics Great Britain.
Every morning, before I head out for work, I stuff my black two-inch heels inside my backpack and slip on my comfiest pair of purple-laced canvas shoes. I don’t mind that they clash with my office skirt and blazer—I wouldn’t survive the long trudge along Old Street if I’d chosen to wear the heels.
I learned this lesson the hard way on my first day on the job, condemning myself as the slowest moving person in the station. Pressed like a sardine against the window of a subway, I spied women wearing business suits with sneakers on their feet and never wore my heels on the Tube again. In any case, it was comforting to know that—somewhere between canvas shoes and jam-packed subway rides—office life wasn’t as frightening as I thought it would be.
For about a week now, I have been working as a Public Relations intern for Special Olympics Great Britain, a registered charity that provides year-round training and sports programmes for learning disabled athletes. From the very first minute of the very first day, they’ve had me charging ahead at full speed. On Monday, I put together a 20-page press pack, and on Wednesday, I photographed a grand celebration hosted by Coca-Cola. All the grunt work is ramping up to SOGB’s 2013 National Summer Games in Bath, which I am so lucky to have the opportunity to participate in. Needless to say, my rather silly first “lesson” on the Tube has been compounded by thousands more since then, both practical and otherwise.
I like to think of SOGB as the youngest member of the Olympic family: often overshadowed by his older brothers (the Olympics and the Paralympics) but fuelled by so much heart and potential. As a perennial idealist and optimist, their mission strikes me as the kind that comprises the soul of public service: impacting individuals to work towards social justice. Small scale to large.
It is difficult to explain this concept to some—particularly those so used to the buzz word “legislation”. In fact, one of the toughest challenges so far has not occurred inside the office but at the receptions that the Institute of Politics has so graciously organized for us, where I am often asked where I work. Champagne glass at hand, I respond and am greeted with a small “oh” and confused, but respectful nod.
On the Northern Line in the morning to Morden via Bank, I still ask myself: Why does the work I’m doing count as public service? The questions zip around my head until I get to the office, where my boss Maeve has already been at her desk for a good half hour even though it’s only 9 a.m. She greets me with a cheery hello, and I find my answer in several places as the day goes on: 15-minute lunches, heated negotiations, budget constraints—all to continue “Bringing One Smile to Bath,” this year’s Games slogan.
In just one week with SOGB, I have been floored by the unbelievable dedication and kind-heartedness of those I have met. Office work at a registered charity definitely isn’t the most glamorous of jobs (pasta stains on keyboards and two sentence emails are tell-tale signs). At times, the job may even be thankless. But my officemates go day in and day out with smiles on their faces—smiles noticeably lacking on the faces of many of those riding the Tube with me in the morning