Alayna Dean is our Grassroots Advocacy Intern with the United to Beat Malaria (UTBM) team. Her duties involve working closely with Wendy Dimas and Maegan Cross on a variety of tasks such as attending legislative and advocacy meetings and assisting in managing the grassroots advocacy program with all our champions. This program focuses on mobilizing people in key districts for upcoming advocacy events.
Tell us about yourself!
I am from Orlando, FL (realistically a smaller town about 20 minutes outside called Apopka, FL), and I have lived there my whole life. Literally. I have never moved. When I graduated from high school, there was a large group of us who had been together all 12 years. It was crazy to have that much stability and continuity at the beginning of my life, but once college hit, I needed a change. I originally wanted to go out of state, but after realizing how expensive it was, I decided to stay in Florida. Now, I must say I am so glad I made this decision. I go to the University of Florida, and I cannot imagine being anywhere else. GO GATORS! This upcoming fall, I will be a third-year student with a major in Microbiology and Cell Science and a minor in International Studies.
What drew you to United to Beat Malaria and the UN Foundation?
At the beginning of this summer, I had the opportunity to travel to South Africa on a study abroad trip with my university. All students on the trip were matched with a local non-profit organization for the 6 weeks we were there. This allowed us to create relationships with locals and truly get to know the issues affecting them. After this exposure, I promised myself I would learn more about these health issues that were impacting these other regions of the world so strongly including HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB. These issues are easily overlooked since most of the affected populations are not present in the Western, developed world. More and more, I realized that these issues needed to be advocated for, and I am so excited that is exactly what I am doing now.
While all the thoughts above were brewing in my head, specifically the UN Foundation caught my eye. It has always been my dream to work at the United Nations (or an associated organization). Also, it would allow me to gain experience in public policy and government since I had never worked in this environment before. This internship would allow me to be exposed to the policy side of my future and focus on a global health issue, which perfectly mixed both of my biggest passions.
What do you do in your day-to-day work with the campaign?
As the Grassroots Advocacy Intern for UTBM, I have had the opportunity to get involved in a variety of projects that highlight the work of our campaign. On a typical day, I would attend team meetings in the morning either with the Advocacy or the Communications team, and this is where I would engage and keep notes for the meeting. Afterward, I tend to focus on targeted outreach. This includes email/social media outreach to organizations I have personal connections with. My position also includes quite a bit of brainstorming ideas on how to engage and collaborate with these organizations. Lastly, I will typically end the day by completing phone outreach to champions to see if they have any questions and are interested in registering for our upcoming advocacy event. This is always my favorite part of the day: being able to talk to the champions and hear about their lives and advocacy through UTBM.
Most of the outreach I have been focusing on has been centered around the World Mosquito Day Activation Event we are planning for in September! This involves our champions meeting with their Members of Congress to raise bi-partisan support for malaria ending programs since the funding levels are being decided at the end of October with the Global Fund Replenishment. If you’re interested and want to participate in our advocacy work in the future, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to send over more information or set up a call with you!
What surprised you most about your internship experience?
I think the thing that surprised me the most was how relatable people are. Breaking into a larger organization to get hired- no matter if it is an internship or a typical full-time position- is always difficult. But I found that even some of these people who are incredibly high up in the UNF organization are extremely kind and relatable. They are human, a lot of them with have families and the same worries as everyone else. It is amazing to be surrounded by so many people with the same goal and passion. It does not take a perfect person to get into these positions, just a hard-working one.
What is next?
Get my degree!! I will finish my degree at the University of Florida and take a gap year. I need to get out in the real world, out of the bubble of academia for a while. I really want to get applied work experience in public health to clarify my specific passion within the field. I have not entirely decided if I want to do a post-baccalaureate program, work, or go into the Peace Corps or a derivative program.
After that break, I want to return to school and get my Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in Health Policy. While my future might be sitting in flux, I know I will end up in an impactful position that I am satisfied with to be due to my personal drive backed by the great experiences and connections I have gained from internships like this one at the United Nations Foundation.