After three months of working in the wonderful Earth Hour team here at WWF, I’ve been reflecting on the things that I’ve learn’t and achieved in such a short amount of time. This is my story…
For anyone who is trying to bust their way into the world of NGOs and charity work, you’ll know how hard it is. It can feel like a never ending catch 22 of needing experience for a role, but being unable to find anywhere that will take you on for lack of experience. ‘Internship’ has become one of the defining words of ‘generation Y’, often shrouded in a stigma of free work and becoming a pro at making tea. I know it well – I’ve been there first hand! My time here however, has been completely different to all of those stereotypes. It’s been a fantastic three months packed full of highs.
If you don’t know, Earth Hour is the largest global celebration for the future of our planet where people, landmarks and organisations across the world switch out their lights in a symbolic display. It’s huge, and with such a huge project comes a lot of work. But if I had to sum up my experience during Earth Hour in four words, what would they be?
We all know what an incredibly huge organisation this is with projects spanning the entire world. The breadth of it’s conservation programmes is astonishing: from species conservation to climate change; from creating methods of sourcing food sustainably to helping people to live more eco-friendly lives.
Due to the diversity of projects, it follows that day-to-day working life here is also extremely, well, diverse! There aren’t many jobs you can head home from each night and tell a completely new story about. I can still picture my partner’s look of confusion when I came home one evening and described how I was asked to wear a panda costume that afternoon and lie on the floor outside surrounded by tiny panda toys for a photo shoot. It’s almost a mandatory requirement of the internship that each of the interns has to don the panda costume at one point or another.
Aside from the hilarious stories, the more day to day tasks were also diverse. One morning I was in London helping to film a cook-along video with Tom Aikens, and the next afternoon I was putting together a news story for the website and all of the social posts to go with it. From Photoshop and Hootsuite to more internal systems, you’re always learning a new trick or tool that could be applicable to a future role.
Although Earth Hour involves working together as a team, everyone takes ownership of certain aspects of the project, which means there’s plenty of room for you as an intern to muck in and manage a project of your own. I found that I was encouraged from the very first week to take an idea and run with it. Each year for Earth Hour a competition is launched called Hidden Heroes and this year it was decided that it needed a revamp to try and encourage new entries.
Instead of taking on a hunt to find the UK’s greenest hidden champions, we set out to find new and innovative ideas for making a workplace, school or community more eco-friendly. I was asked to manage it from start to finish, which involved writing social strategies and promotional plans as well as putting website copy together and working with the PR team to promote the competition. Seeing something through from start to finish was an exceptional feeling!
Whilst working on a project that titles itself as a celebration for the future of our planet, it makes sense to learn as much as possible about all the amazing projects the organisation is working on, right? I was encouraged to set up meetings with project leaders and people in different departments to gain insights into how the organisation worked as a whole. From supporting rhino conservation in Africa and working to double wild tiger numbers, to creating sustainable fishing practices for companies around the globe and restoring fresh water sources – the sheer breadth of projects presented during lunch time lectures and email alerts is amazing. Not only did speaking to so many inspiring people excite me even more for Earth Hour, it also gave me a fantastic insight into the different directions it’s possible to take your career here.
It gets pretty hectic during the months running up to the final switch off event, with everyone working hard to spread the message of Earth Hour as far and wide as possible. Chocolate is a necessity to get everyone through the final weeks of writing content for the website and organising the ‘on the night’ event – but once the night hits and the lights are out, I felt a real sense of pride at what you were a part of.
Millions of people from a phenomenal 178 countries switched off their lights and celebrated our brilliant planet. My role on the night here in the UK was to keep track of the Earth Hour Facebook page and reply to supporters. It was wonderful seeing all of the positive photos and comments coming in from people holding candlelit dinner parties or playing board games with the family in the dark. That’s when I realised the sheer scale of what the project was doing and how it was inspiring different people across the country and around the world.
I can’t rave enough about my time here and I was lucky enough to be asked to stay on for a while and work on different projects. I’ve really felt part of a team that are making a huge difference to wildlife populations around the world – but it isn’t just wildlife. I was amazed at all of the collaborative work going on with corporations that are working hard to change their practices and make positive impacts on the planet. Earth Hour is such a global and inspiring event, that working as an intern really gives you the opportunity to see how everything comes together behind the scenes in an amazing charity like this.