Abigail Punt '16
Current activities: World Renew Donor Relations Manager for Michigan and the East Coast
What sparked your interest in global development?
Through my studies in the GDS program, I became interested in nonprofit administration and how direct service providers are supported by other people in an organization. While I was still at Calvin I started an internship at a local organization that turned into a full-time job after graduation. Over the two and a half years I spent at that organization, I got to see and experience almost every aspect of fundraising. In the fall of 2017 I accepted a position at World Renew on their donor relations team, working with families and individuals who are passionate about ending poverty through World Renew's programs. My job is to connect these donors with projects that speak to their particular interests and the callings God has given to them. Having an GDS degree helps me feel more confident in talking with donors about the effectiveness of World Renew's programs and the reasons our development philosophy is what it is.
Why is the Global Development Studies degree valuable?
I first became interested in global development when I learned about human trafficking. At the time, human trafficking wasn't talked about or recognized as a widespread and global problem as much as it is now. As I read stories and learned more about who tends to be vulnerable to human trafficking and how hard it is to uproot trafficking rings, I noticed the convergence of economic, social, historical, and power dynamics. Gaining tools to unpack how all of these factors and more interact to reinforce systems of oppression – from human trafficking to gender based violence to land rights and beyond – continues to be the reason I value my IDS degree.
What is your most memorable experience in the field?
In the fall of 2018 I had the opportunity to join a World Renew reconstruction team working in the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas that was working on renovating houses that were damaged due to heavy flooding dating back to spring 2016. I learned how to mud and tape drywall, demo a ceiling, and just how important careful measurements are in construction. But what I appreciated the most was getting to know the family that owned the house that my small group was renovating. The homeowners only spoke Spanish (my French minor was minimal help here) so we communicated primarily through their granddaughter, who would come by every day to translate. This family had owned the house for at least 50 years, raising children and grandchildren in it, feeding three different generations each day. The modest home that we were repairing was the focal point of this family's life, and until recently the elderly couple had pretty much managed the home maintenance on their own. But the water damage from flooding combined with health issues had pushed them to their limit and they just needed a little extra help. Being one small chapter in that house's life as a home was an honor, and getting to walk alongside this family for just a short time is something I will forever be grateful for.
How has your faith influenced your work in development?
God's heart for justice has always been central to my faith and relationship with God. Isaiah 61 is the passage that I return to most often for my motivation. I think it's very clear that God's heart breaks for people who are suffering under the burden of oppression and injustice, and he calls us into those situations to both empathize and act. This certainty is what drives me to seek out work that is defined by walking with people that have been failed by human systems, people whose voices are not being heard. World Renew's work is designed to strengthen local partners that are oriented toward the "poorest of the poor," and our disaster response teams are especially attuned to parts of the country and the world that have been left out of robust relief efforts. Knowing this orientation motivates me in all that I do to support our staff in the field.
What advice would you give to current IDS students?
My advice to IDS students would be to take advantage of the flexibility that your degree gives you and pursue every opportunity that piques your interest, even if you aren't sure it's what you want to do forever. There is no "one way" to be in nonprofit work or use your IDS degree, so figure out what skills you already have and which skills you want to sharpen and lean into those. Your IDS degree gives you tools to navigate the public or even private sector, and you shouldn't feel limited in choosing how to use them. If you had asked me while I was at Calvin if I was going to go into fundraising, I probably would have said "No, I'll do anything but that!". But the reality of supporting practitioners in the nonprofit sector is that fundraising is critical to success, and that's a story I want to be a part of.
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