Intern Journal #2:

About Growing Roots and Expanding Branches

JUNE, 2020
By Jan-Niclas Schindzielorz
This is me, Jan-Niclas Schindzielorz. I’m from Tostedt, a small village in northern Germany. And I am a Creative Writing Intern at Greenpop.

Next Steps

I finished school in June of 2018 and I wasn’t ready to jump into university or a career. Instead, I came to South Africa, where I volunteered at a Community Centre in Lavender Hill.

Half a year later I met Greenpop. Through some research, I heard about the Eco Hub Open Days at their nursery in Woodstock and instantly wanted to take part. That’s how I got to know Deon and some of the interns of that time and the experiences they shared sounded almost too perfect to be true.

My heart always had a strong connection to the environment and in recent years my life’s focus has shifted towards a sustainable future and the ways to get there. At the same time, I began to fall in love with Cape Town and its people. When I found the Creative Writing Internship Greenpop was offering, the decision to apply was an easy one. This was a dream opportunity to combine my passions for writing and the environment in one job.

At home in Germany, I love spending time with my family members. (This is Sven, one of our donkeys. Behind him, Django is disappointed that he doesn’t get enough attention.)

Joining the Treevolution

January 2020. A new century. A time for new adventures.

On Tuesday the 24th of January me and my fellow intern Luco went to Greenpop’s office for the first time. Immediately I felt surrounded by friends and enjoyed the vibrant atmosphere in this co-working space in the middle of Cape Town.

Someone had come up with the idea that an intern’s first day should include a little of everything. So we got a little tour of the office and a city walk with Nadine, our Office Manager, who introduced us to every coffee shop and all the great lunch places. The afternoon we spent at the Eco Hub in Woodstock, where I had the honour to dig a big hole to prepare a new bed. In the heat of the summer sun. Thanks, Misha. After that, I was deemed ready to go and officially joined the team in the office.

For someone who always worried about ending up working only for the sake of work, this was heaven. Everyone shared the same drive and passion and being free and creative was most important. Feeling that was very reassuring.

Now I am back in Germany. In March, I decided to rather be with my family instead of being in lockdown in an apartment in Cape Town. Also here I can cuddle our donkeys and alpacas. Who wouldn’t want that?

Luckily, I never lost my connection to the team back in South Africa. Twice a week we have a virtual meeting. Those we use to check in on everybody’s feelings, get updates from all departments and have a little chat. Sharing thoughts and feelings but also success stories and achievements really helped me get through the tougher times of working from home. Also, the interns get a little motivation booster of their own now and then when Nadine get us all together to chat and laugh.

Everyone does their best to stay positive and help each other wherever possible. Like a real family.

Nadine, Saida (flatmate and intern at roots) after a day at the Eco Hub.

The Intern-Life

Whilst in Cape Town I got blessed with the most amazing pack of roommates imaginable. We shared a beautiful place close to the parliament, called Cape Town Loft. Originally this was the first-ever Greenpop office.

Up to eleven people, travellers, interns or students from all over the world, fit into this place. At some point, we represented eight nations and five continents. Together we went hiking, hit the clubs or did grocery shopping, but the best times I had whenever someone was so nice to share the meal they cooked. This group of people was perfect to get a balance between work and free time.

Well, I guess I shouldn’t complain. Even work was mostly more fun than exhausting. Even though Tuesdays and I had more of a love-hate relationship. Those were the Eco Hub Days where I and the other Greenpop interns joined Deon, the Urban Greening Manager, in the nursery. Every time I was excited to get my hands dirty and every time I underestimated the amount of energy that takes as well as the cruelty of the Capetonian sun.

Besides that, Plant Days offer another chance to leave the office and have a great time outside. As part of the Fynbos for the Future Programme they’re held at the fynbos gardens Greenpop planted. Those are mainly situated at schools in marginalised communities. On a Plant Day, the team, as well as sponsors and volunteers, come together to host a workshop with a group of young learners and work on the gardens. For the interns that means to help wherever needed, take pictures, keep the participants in check, and, of course, get those plants into the ground.

Looking back at five months of interning, the most exciting part so far was the camps. Every year Grade 8 and Grade 12 students from St. George’s Grammar School get to go on a school camp with us where they plant trees, learn about different aspects of the environment and how to protect it. The heading picture for this blog post I took at the camp with the learners from Grade 12. By playing some simple games we learned about leadership and what you see is a group of students trying to open up a human knot. Making connections with the youth over these kinds of activities and our walks and talks as well as bonding with the team and getting to be in beautiful nature sure felt like paradise to me.

Opposite that, being in the office could be quite exhausting in its own way. The negative sides to a co-working space are the constant noise level as well as the busyness with many organizations and companies sharing one office. On the other hand, I met new people every day and got to experience a very unique atmosphere. As a creative, this place was a treasure chest of inspiration. That mirrored in the huge variety of tasks I got and still get to put myself into.

One of my main priorities is this blog, putting out entertaining and informative content for our community. I’ve been writing my whole life and getting the chance to do that for such a cause is the true jackpot.

The very first task that I started my internship with was the Bright Green News newsletter. That’s our bi-monthly mailer sharing positive news with our subscribers to inspire them to get active and not anxious about the state of the environment. Researching and collecting the stories we wanted to share is a roller coaster every time. It’s like finding those diamonds of positivity between rather dark headlines. But that’s exactly what makes this task so precious and satisfying in the end. (Sign up and read the latest edition.)

I am even more excited when I get to experience completely new tasks. For example the upcoming Father’s Day campaign. Carla, my supervisor, asked me to come up with my own concept, meaning I could play with colours, fonts and of course designs.

As a Greenpop Intern, especially in the communications department, I get to express and be myself. Also, I grow with my tasks, which I can see looking back at the past months. Every challenge helped me develop my skills and grow in my abilities. So I can do some brown-nosing in all honesty and say that I truly appreciate the opportunities Greenpop gives me and the way, I get to let my creativity have a voice and have an impact on the broader goal.

Fellow interns Luco, Annelies, and I planted our own tree at the Eco Hub.

Interning at Greenpop – A win-win adventure

Looking back at when I started this internship, I feel a little bit older. Or rather grown-up. When I had my orientation in the office, Carla and Nadine asked me what I wished to do and learn, especially if there were any skills I wanted to improve or new things I wanted to try. I kept it quite simple and open and said I wanted to be “a creative asset” and “develop my skills as a writer”. At that time I actually felt kind of brave to say I was a real writer.

I read the document again where I filled that in and if I would get to start over, those responses would look much different. My horizon has shifted immensely. I grew to love doing a little bit of graphic design or playing around with the website and its layout – things I never saw myself interested in before. This internship became a lot more than a little bit of blogging and I got to know myself a lot more.

For example how shitty I am at editing my own content, or sticking to one message in my writing. But also how much I love designing and creating content for a campaign. This list could go on for a while but my supervisor has taught me to keep it short and precise. But you get the point, right?

Being in this position helped me grow and develop. But I guess it’s fair to say that Greenpop also profited from my work.

The treevolution is a family, it’s a project where many people come together for the same cause. Everyone gets to shape its form and path with their own input and ideas. I get my shot at that with my Legacy Project, which is putting together a new website section for the Fynbos for the Future programme. Usually, every intern gets assigned a bigger task to work on for the whole duration of the internship. That is mostly something the main team doesn’t find the time to focus on. But with a fresh perspective and a less packed schedule, there’s a great opportunity to hand this project over and let an intern leave their mark. Hence the name “Legacy Project”.

In addition to that, other things like Plant Days or Camps as well need a lot of people. Here the interns can prove truly helpful by taking over some responsibility and some weight off the main staff’s shoulders.

Besides that Greenpop thrives from new input, creativity and passion. Interns, international or local, always bring fresh perspectives and ideas that the whole organisation can profit from. To support those there are limitless options to bring them in. That’s what makes this internship such a great experience for me: The freedom to be creative and the encouragement to be curious and follow my passion.

Greenpop Foundation NPC is a registered non-profit organisation. Registration Number (NPO): 151-411 NPO.