Post | April 2022 | Reports | 3 min read

My time as an intern at the MI headquarters in Cologne | Part 1

Written by Jacob Solf

At the beginning of March, I received an E-Mail via the distribution list of the GjM, the youth organization of the Order of Malta in Germany. I had worked with the Order in multiple instances in Lebanon and Germany and had always had an interest in NGOs and the work Malteser International did. So, you can imagine my excitement when I read that they were looking for someone to work in the Malteser International Headquarters in Cologne. Of course, I answered and a day later packed my bags and left for Cologne.

This was two months ago. I did not expect to still be here and did not expect to be spending the better part of a week going through ten years’ worth of governmental budgets and looking up the tax code for various nations in southeast Asia. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

In the beginning, I worked mostly on the tragically still ongoing Ukraine conflict. I worked on weekly reports and worked on a short paper that even got to the Pope.

One of the most interesting parts of that time, was registering the donations MI received for the war in Ukraine. While the work itself was not particularly interesting, (you can be as motivated as you like, Excel will get boring) seeing the support that came from the Order of Malta all over the world was thrilling.

After two and a half weeks, I left to take part in Lebanon On Stage, the theatrical fundraiser of the Lebanon project. Within a week we had to put on a play, and because that wasn’t challenging enough, we decided to do it in a one-shot livestream. It was the one of the most tiring weeks of my life. And I will definitely do it again next year. If you want to read more about that experience click here.

When I came back to MI after two weeks my to-do list had drastically changed. Currently I am working on a research project that focuses on humanitarian aid in southeast Asia and Oceania, a project where I consistently get surprised by my complete misunderstanding of how big a task can be. In my naivety I assumed that every nation would have a budget declaration that they would make public. This turned out to be not true. Even countries that do have budgets do not necessarily make them easy to find. This probably doesn’t come as a shock for most of you - but for someone with very little experience at this sort of project, at times this was frustrating! But overall, I cannot describe my experience as anything but positive. The things I do are intriguing and pose challenges that I never experienced before, and I very much enjoy the company of the people I work with and for.

While I did learn a lot of obscure things, which probably will not stay with me very long (the before mentioned tax codes definitely being the number one), I also learned a lot of things that I definitely should retain longer than the amount of time it takes me to type this sentence. The most important one in my eyes is how to properly research and how to build a research project from the ground up. I had to research things before but the datasets and time I needed were not even a tenth of how much is in this project.

My time at MI is far from done and I do not know what awaits me still, but I am eagerly looking forward to it. 

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