Magdalena Koziol, from Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland

The image presents our former intern, Magdalena Koziol, while she is editing a website post about one of our events.

The image presents our former intern, Magdalena Koziol, while she is editing a website post about one of our events.

When I was coming to Liverpool for the internship in Merseyside Polonia I didn’t expect I would gain such work experience. When you think of Polish non-profit organisations abroad, you don’t necessarily picture them as professional, thriving places, where young people can develop their skills just before they graduate and start their careers. But, as I have been writing my master thesis on Polish organisations promoting Polish art and culture in the UK, I decided my internship would serve as a case study for my research and I wouldn’t expect too much from it. However, I was still afraid I may waste my time and end up making coffees every hour out of boredom.

Nothing could be further from the truth (but I have to admit – I do make coffees once in a time – as everybody in the office does)! The first days of my work placement have proved that – training on updating the website, writing press releases, articles and social marketing are just a few among many skills I had to acquire. I realised my worries were groundless, but then, I guess these are commonly held views. People often think that non-profit, almost entirely volunteer-led organisations aren’t ideal places to learn, that there’s nothing going on there and they take the easy way out. People also assume that managing an event or a project in non-profit organisations is easy – you get the funding (a piece of cake), contact a guest (who is more than happy to say YES), find a venue and invite your friends on facebook (who all attend the event since their your friends). Then, you gather all those friends (100-1000 depending on your Facebook activity) and hold a very successful event! Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

The work placement in Merseyside Polonia taught me how complex and diverse work in a non-profit organisation is. Preparation of each small event takes lots of time and effort – discussing the project plan that takes into account in what way the event or project will be helpful and enjoyable – budget planning, writing press releases, articles, promoting in traditional ways and via social media, engaging volunteers (who are the core of the organisation) and looking for potential audiences. What is more, there is a lot of uncertainties along the way, so you need to be as flexible and open to new opportunities and changes as possible. All that for two or four hours long event, so one could ask – what for? Is it worth the effort?

Yes, it certainly is. It’s not only about the fun it brings to the audience – the real benefits are the relations that ties between people – the Polish community and local residents, but also between the Poles that come to the events and between volunteers. Satisfaction, sense of belonging to a community, belief that what you do really matters, challenges (like managing a project in a few weeks time with a tight budget and lots of uncertainties) and self-development are worth trying.

Right now, when my work placement comes to an end, I see how many skills I have acquired and how much I have learnt about working with others, but also about myself. I learnt how to write press releases, how to manage an event and coordinate a project. I also met creative people who have various passions but all are ready to share their knowledge and skills, and contribute to the success of each event. Apart from that the city – Liverpool – which surprised me with cultural and artistic diversity So if somebody asked me if Merseyside Polonia is a good organisation to join, I wouldn’t hesitate: Yes! Perhaps it’s because Merseyside Polonia is still growing and constantly aspiring for more, or perhaps because it attracts inspiring people who contribute to diversity and success of the events, but it’s definitely a perfect place to work in.