Friday, July 17, 2009

Intern's Voice, Jacqueline Foeslter

A Global Action on Aging intern’s assignments vary from week to week, as he or she may meet with diplomats, experts or retired union members, read lengthy reports, or yes, even stuff envelopes with greeting cards beautifully crafted in-house. However, there is one task which ties us all together: the GAA Newsletter. We consistently work on the weekly newsletter from finding articles, truncating them down to a blurb format, posting them on our internal website, transferring them to the external website to share with the public, and all the editing that goes on in between…

My name is Jacqueline Foelster and I have been with the GAA team since January 2009. I graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelors of Science in General Business, a minor in International Development and Conflict Management and in Spanish. Itching to leave the DC suburbs upon graduation, I moved to New York City with only the plan to jump into the city’s vivacity and see what I could make out of it. Could I even make it, is what I asked myself when I landed flat off the Chinatown bus onto 31st St and 7th Ave, and into the epicenter of the nation’s drowning economy. My application submissions for entry-level positions with NGOs and foundations were becoming futile as donors’ budgets, mostly Fortune 500 companies and the upper echelon of the city’s wealth, were drying out. I made do with serving and bartending as people are always up for a fun night out as soon as the clock strikes 5 o’clock and even more so when they had just been handed the pink slip. As I walked to and from work, I read headlines about a lousy Dow Jones, an increasing unemployment rate, and filings for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, not ideal to keep in mind right before starting a shift. It was particularly disheartening to listen to former senior employees of all walks of life having to consider other income alternatives and hashing out their retirement plans, especially because they were so close to enjoying their golden years, yet now very far. I called home every night and kept track of both my grandmothers’ individual dilemmas – Oma’s house had been on the bear market forever and Mak Yeay’s cataract eyes and varicose veins were becoming unpleasant to live with.

The times are tough for everybody, but they are taking an enormous toll on older persons who, I realized, are too often neglected in our daily lives. I geared my job search toward the aging field and gratefully so, as it lead me to an internship with GAA. I have had the opportunity to work alongside Susanne Paul and Magali Girod and a handful of brilliant fellow interns who have kept the organization’s momentum on fire in advocating for Member States of the United Nations to adopt a Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons. One of our most effective ways of doing so is by producing the weekly GAA newsletter which touches every one of our audience members with its featured articles.

The article I would like to highlight is the ‘Government Bets on Chilotean Microenterprises and Older Persons’ article, written in Spanish, which can be found in this week’s Elder Rights, World Section. It presents the efforts of a Chilean community taking a grassroots approach of taking care of their elderly through local social enterprises. Briefly, the field of social entrepreneurship is a rapidly developing field in which the efficiency and profitability of a business meets with the social goals of a NGO. According to the article, regional authorities visited the city of Castro on Chiloé Island to meet with beneficiaries of microenterprises, including older persons. The Regional Secretary for Planning (SEREMI), Armando Pérez and the Regional Director of the Fund for Solidarity and Social Investment (FOSIS), Eugenio Pérez went with them to three of the many microenterprises that improve the quality of life of the island’s residents. They also learned about projects which focus on older persons to improve their quality of their lives and maintain their working capacity.

The article clearly illustrates that, contrary to current stigmas and their respective policies, older persons are active agents in their own lives and still have the vitality to participate in the local community. As a young adult, I draw strength to carry out the goals I have set for myself and to support the rights of older persons so that ultimately they, and I, may enjoy the fruits of our life-long labor.


  1. Hi,

    Have you thought about having "elder" interns? Whenever an internship is offered, it is usually for a person of college age. Perhaps you could reach out to older or retired people who are looking to continue working because they need to or want to. After all as you note, older Americans face discrimination in the workplace, especially during tis recession, and at the same time many of us older Americans are eager to work and look for ways to stay current or to change to new careers.

  2. You have just welcomed this senior to the blogging world. Thanks for your interest in "us" and best of everything. Glad you are at GAA.

  3. Thank you for both of your comments.

    In response to the first comment, I agree with you about the importance of reaching out to older persons and creating opportunities for them to participate in an organization's daily activities, that is to give them the option to continue being active in our communities. GAA also stands firmly by your opinion as we have had older interns join on our team who worked on the same assignments our younger interns work on...and doing so just as well!