Alumna Minerva Saddler key to York International internship in St. Kitts-Nevis

York alumna Minerva Saddler (BA Hons. ’04) has been instrumental in setting up a new opportunity for York students to work as interns for the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF), a poverty alleviation program in her native St. Kitts & Nevis managed and operated by the Caribbean Development Bank.

Left: York International Intern Rachel Birenbaum (left) with alumna Minerva Saddler, liaison officer at the Basic Needs Trust Fund

Delivered through the York International Internship Program (YIIP), the idea for the internship came about after Saddler gave a presentation at York’s Emerging Global Leaders Retreat (EGLR), which was held in St. Kitts. Sensing the opportunity for a perfect fit, YIIP organizers contacted Saddler to discuss the possibility of setting up the position in the Caribbean nation.

“I was very excited by the prospect of the internship and the partnership our office can build with York given the significance our program places on education,” says Saddler, who works as a liaison officer with the BNTF, and whose duties include monitoring the involvement of community groups in identifying, implementing, and operating projects and activities.

Rachel Birenbaum, the York student chosen for the BNTF internship for summer 2006, is working closely with Saddler on projects in the 24 communities that she oversees. Birenbaum is working towards an MBA in non-profit management and business sustainability in the Schulich School of Business.

Right: St. Kitts residents working on a Basic Needs Trust Fund project

“We could not have asked for a better intern in Rachel,” says Saddler. “She is very smart, a quick thinker and eager to work and contribute to all the projects we have in the pipeline at the moment.”

YIIP has received accolades from the Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE), which gave the program its Outstanding Program in International Education Award in 2004. The program allows students to live and work in another country, or in an international context in Canada, for three months.

Unlike similar programs at other universities, YIIP both organizes internship positions and administers a financial award from York to each intern.

The program first started in 2004, and has grown from 26 placements to over 50 internships in 2006. Students may apply for internships in places ranging from Arizona to Australia, India to Italy, and Uruguay to Ukraine.

Left: Saddler and Birenbaum recently visited this Basic Needs Trust Fund project, a psychiatric unit in need of repair

The Caribbean Development Bank works towards the systematic reduction of poverty in member countries through social and economic development. The BNTF is also funded by the St. Kitts-Nevis government and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

This article was originally published in the July 2006 issue of  Alumni Matters.