2007 PFIG Recipient Jason Walke

Career Administrator

Jason Walke
McIntire School of Commerce
2008 Graduation Year

Internship: Interlink Resources, Inc. in Taraz, Kazakhstan.

Notes on the First Week 

Today marks the beginning of my fourth week in Taraz, Kazakhstan. I am here as an intern for Interlink Resources, a non-profit organization that focuses on youth, business development, and English teaching.

I have really enjoyed the work I have been doing at the Interlink office. I am working in the business department as we develop a new program designed to help youth who will soon be graduating from orphanages. Typically, graduating orphans have very little hope for a meaningful future. I am helping Interlink develop a program that will teach these youth basic life-skills along with employment training. We would also like to teach a subset of these youth entrepreneurship skills and then help them start their own small businesses. It is great to be working on a project that has the potential to improve the lives of youth.

Working in a third-world country provides for some interesting cultural experiences. One of the biggest challenges has been learning the public transportation system in Taraz. Little busses (called marshookas) travel all over the city on different routes. In the mornings and afternoons, they are extremely crowded. That plus the act that there are no street signs in Kazakhstan has made it difficult to learn which one takes me where, and when to get off.

Despite the challenging parts of adjusting to life in Kazakhstan, there have been some great experiences too. I went with a few coworkers to the mountains outside of the city last weekend. We had a picnic and then climbed to the top of a mountain and enjoyed the incredible view.

To see pictures and read more stories about my trip you can visit the blog I set up for the trip at: http://randomwalke.blogspot.com.

Midway

I am now a little over half way through my 3-month internship in Taraz, Kazakhstan.

At the office, we have made a lot of progress in developing the Youth Impact program. The program will teach life and employment skills to Kazakh orphans. I am now working on writing the curriculum and developing marketing materials to promote the program both here in Kazakhstan and in the US. I enjoy that my boss has given me a lot of freedom in choosing what parts of the program I want to work on. It has given me a chance to get experience working in different areas.

Outside of the office, I have been making progress in my Kazakh language learning. I am taking lessons 3 days a week and I have the opportunity to practice my Kazakh at my Kazakh speaking host home.

On the weekends, I have gotten a chance to visit several nearby orphanages. It is nice to see the kids that the Youth Impact program is designed to help. Some initial surveys we have done have indicated that the orphans are very interested in participating in the program.

Over the next few weeks, we will be working on finishing the development of the program and getting ready to launch the life-skills portion of the program.

Final Reflections

In a few days I will be heading back to the US. It is hard to imagine that my three months in Kazakhstan has gone by so quickly.

This week has been an exciting one. Two delegates from the US arrived to kick off the Youth Impact program. It is great to be here for the launch of a program that I have spent the whole summer working on. The delegates are putting on a one-week life-skills conference that will teach a group of 30 orphan graduates crucial skills for dealing with life after the orphanage.

While the delegation is going on, I have been at the office working. Every day I get photos and video from the conference and work on putting them into promotional materials. By the time I leave Taraz (in just two days) I will have completed promotional videos in both English and Russian.

I am very happy with what we have been able to accomplish this summer. Much of the framework for the Youth Impact program has been laid out and the early parts of the curriculum are nearly finished. A couple of weeks ago we found out that we won a grant that will cover the first year of the program’s operations. It is exciting to start to see the program evolve from an idea into something that is actually being implemented.

Looking back on the whole internship, it has been quite an amazing experience. From rewarding work, to relaxing days in the mountains, to all of the relationships I have formed, this has been a pretty incredible summer. I am deeply thankful that I have been able to able to participate in this internship.