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School and internship with Carolina for Kibera prepare MSW grad for career in nonprofit work

By Susan White

When Julie Goldberg (MSW, ’11) left for Kenya on June 12, she was embarking on the final leg of a year-long internship that the recent MSW graduate says has well prepared her for a career in nonprofit work.

Since the summer of 2010, Goldberg has worked as a program assistant for Carolina for Kibera, an international nonprofit affiliated with UNC’s Center for Global Initiatives. Founded by a UNC student and Kenyans in 2001, CFK oversees a youth sports program, a medical clinic, a reproductive health and women’s rights center, and a waste management program in Kibera, East Africa’s largest slum.

Goldberg, who graduated from the School of Social Work in May, spent much of the last year coordinating and evaluating internships in Kenya for fellow UNC undergraduate and graduate students. She also honed her marketing and fundraising skills by among other things, helping to promote the recently released memoir of CFK co-founder and UNC alumnus, Rye Barcott; by coordinating an art exhibit as part of the organization’s 10th anniversary celebration, and by helping to renovate CFK’s website.

“I’ve been doing a lot very small tasks that have to happen every day in a nonprofit, so I’ve really been getting lots of great hands-on experience in how to manage nonprofits,” Goldberg said. “It’s really been an awesome experience for a social work student.”

CFK is just as appreciative of Goldberg’s contributions.

“Julie has been a phenomenal asset to the organization,” praised Leann Bankoski, CFK’s executive director. “A lot of times, I feel she’s given us more than we’ve given her. But I also think Julie’s work speaks not only to the quality of the School of Social Work’s internship program but to the quality of the students that the School works with, which is really exciting.”

Although she learned a lot in Chapel Hill, Goldberg is eager to visit CFK operations in Kibera, where she is expected to spend two weeks. Because of her experience with CFK and interest in asset development, Goldberg was tapped to work with a School of Social Work research team on a new collaborative project designed to improve the financial wealth and stability of Kibera’s youth. Gina Chowa, an assistant professor at the School, is directing the joint venture, which will investigate whether existing CFK programs and services can be used to teach young people to save or build assets. Anna Scheyett, the School’s associate dean for academic affairs, and Rainier Masa, a doctoral student at the School, are also assisting with the study. (Read more about the experiences of School of Social Work faculty and students in Kenya on their Kibera Blog.)

By helping Kibera’s young people accumulate wealth—such as savings, livestock, household goods, and home and land ownership—UNC researchers hope to determine the effects on the youths’ long-term security.

As part of her work on the ground in Kenya, Goldberg will interview CFK staff to help assess how asset development work would best fit within the organization’s existing programs. She’ll also help explore potential partnership opportunities with nongovernmental organizations that are already operating micro-financing and savings programs in Kibera.

Assisting with such an important project is very rewarding, Goldberg said, and reaffirms her passion for social work. Goldberg chose to pursue an MSW after working as a volunteer recruiter in Atlanta for a refugee social service agency.

“With social work, you’re not focused on numbers and economics; you’re focused on people and how to make change happen, help people have better outcomes in life and help communities become more self-sufficient,” she said.

Goldberg isn’t sure where her career will take her after returning from Kibera. Like other recent MSW grads, she’s searching for the right professional opportunity and hoping for work with another nonprofit. Regardless of where she lands, she knows that her experiences with CFK and with the School of Social Work have equipped her with the necessary knowledge and determination to be successful.

“The one thing that I’ve learned is that it takes time to build relationships,” she said. “The School of Social Work really instilled that in me. It’s important to build trust within the communities that you’re working with, whether you’re in Kibera, or Durham or wherever you might be.”