Virtual Internships Abroad Finding New Passions
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September 20, 2021
Catherine Michelutti, SEAS/WHARTON '23
Orion - South Africa
My internship with the Orion Organization has prompted me to reflect on my identity in terms of where my passions and future career interests lie. My previous work experiences have all been in biomedical research fields, which is something I’m passionate about and want to continue doing throughout my career. However, working with Orion has opened my eyes to the realms of interdisciplinary work that comes with operating a healthcare NGO and the joys that come with it.
At Penn, I’m a fellow in the SNF Paideia Program. The Paideia Program is a small group of students in each class that strives to integrate wellness, service, and citizenship through dialogue. I have always had an interest in the intersection of the medical and healthcare fields with community wellness and service. Working with Orion has given me a great opportunity to explore my interests in healthcare, wellness, and service further. What draws me to working with Orion and other healthcare nonprofits, is the impact you have on those in your communities that are the most vulnerable and often overlooked. 82 adults with a multitude of different disabilities live in one of the Orion group home facilities and 50 of those adults have no family, or friends to turn to, making Orion the only home they have. Although I am ten thousand miles away from the Orion community and the greater community of Arcadia South Africa, the prospect of the financial plan I create providing those 82 people with housing and many other disabled people with employment and community motivates me and helps me realize the scale of how impactful my work can be.
I am developing this financial plan as a solo project. A typical day involves me working at home in Bellingham, WA. I conduct research on how healthcare NGOs in America operate by looking at their websites and various business review journals. I have also been interviewing some local people who run nonprofit organizations (NPO) to hear as many perspectives as possible about operating an NPO or NGO. Recently, I spoke with the head of the Bellingham Technical College (BTC) Foundation, which is a foundation with the goal of providing scholarships and funding for students to attend Bellingham Technical College. The head of the BTC Foundation also had experience working in US-based healthcare charities before he moved on to educational charities. Although the BTC Foundation is an educational NPO, it’s also a local, community-based NPO similar to Orion. I have learned a lot so far from the research and interviews I have conducted and I’m excited to see where the project progresses.