August 19, 2011
Elizabeth Fisler ’12, a production intern with South African nonprofit Impumelelo Social Innovations Centre, said the experience was life-changing.
Fisler’s duties included producing marketing videos of six of the nonprofit’s awarded organizations.
In spring 2011 Elizabeth Fisler ’12 studied with the Semester at Sea program. It was a goal of hers to travel to Africa, and the study abroad ship had three stops on the continent: Ghana, Mauritius and South Africa.
What she discovered was that she’d have a later opportunity to spend two months in South Africa as an intern with Impumelelo Social Innovations Centre.
“Africa holds a huge place in my heart,” said Fisler, whose parents instilled in her a love for Jane Goodall, a primate researcher who worked extensively in Tanzania. Fisler’s childhood fascination eventually expanded to a love of all of Africa.
While on the Semester at Sea ship, on the leg between Ghana and South Africa, Fisler found herself enthralled with an on-board lecture by Rhoda Kadalie, executive director of Impumelelo, who spoke of social development and her passion to help the people of South Africa.
“She is the most amazing person,” said Fisler, explaining that Impumelelo is a nonprofit organization that identifies, rewards and promotes innovative public-private projects that improve the quality of life of the poor in South Africa. “She is very passionate.”
Fisler gave Kadalie her resume, and a few weeks later, she was offered a summer internship. She had just days to pack and head south of the equator from her Rochester, NY, home.
The South Africa Fisler experienced while a part of Semester at Sea included shark diving, bungee jumping and other touristy adventures. This was the opposite of the South Africa she got to know as an intern.
“It was almost like I had gone to a completely different country,” said Fisler, a film and media arts major as well as a member of Delta Zeta sorority, University of Tampa Film Society and Student Productions.
As the nonprofit’s first production intern, it was Fisler’s responsibility to visit some of Impumelelo’s award winners and create informational videos about them. The idea was to highlight the organizations and to publicize and encourage new applicants for the annual awards.
One such organization was a mobile unit that provided HIV testing, eyeglasses and dentistry at nearly free cost. The crowds of people who lined up for services waited hours to be helped. Fisler recalls an elderly woman who received glasses and who for the first time was able to see clearly the face of her grandchildren.
“This experience was extremely life-changing for me,” said Fisler. “I will never take for granted what I have. It really puts things in perspective.”
Working independently, Fisler found the internship a technical challenge. Without much support staff, she had to stretch beyond her comfort zone. She sent a lot of emails to her father and to Assistant Communication Professor Tom Garret to answer her technical questions. In the end, she said it was empowering.
“I didn’t know I could do these things,” she said. “When you’re pushed, and you’re in the deep end, it all comes together in the end.”
Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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