May 19, 2014 | Matt Kucinski

Corrin Timmer helped organize a flash mob in New York City's Times Square.

Corrin Timmer
Hometown: Zeeland, Mich.
Year: Senior
Major: Business 

Where are you?

Washington, D.C.

Why are you there?

I am doing the Washington D.C. semester through Calvin. Currently I am working as an Events Intern for United Nations Relief Works Agency USA. (UNRWA USA)

What are you doing?

I am working as an events intern for the United Nations Relief Work Agency USA (UNRWA USA). The main focus of UNRWA is providing humanitarian assistance, human development, protection and advocacy for more than 5 million registered Palestinian refugees. These refugees live in the West Bank, Gaza, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The Palestinian refugees I advocate for were scattered throughout these countries when Israel became a nation back in 1948.

What's your typical day like?

I get into work every morning and I first read the media update that my boss sends me. These news articles give me updates on what the UN has been doing across the world over the last 24 hours. I try to focus in on the articles about Palestinian refugees. My bosses want me to read these media articles to make sure I stay current with what is happening across the globe.

I assist in the planning, promoting and implementation of UNRWA USA’s fundraising and outreach events. Currently, I am helping plan our Gaza Solidarity 5K walk/runs that are happening here in Washington D.C.; San Francisco and Los Angeles. I have to communicate with donors, local organizations, university departments and student groups to recruit participants as well as to call to get donations and corporate sponsorships for the 5K.

How has Calvin prepared you for this?

My academics at Calvin have challenged me to think strategically and thoughtfully. For example, my accounting classes taught me a lot about the way that businesses are run and the details that go into this. The cheaper I can plan an event, the more money we can send to the children in Gaza, Syria, etc. My business professors would be so proud because I am always crunching numbers and thinking of new ways to plan an event so that I can save money. 

My experiences/extracurricular activities at Calvin have also helped me with this internship opportunity. I was the activities coordinator on my floor my sophomore year; I was also a weekend programming event intern. Working one-on-one with my bosses at Calvin taught me how to negotiate numbers, how to do research on different organizations and compare prices, and how you never know if a company will give you a better deal unless you ask.

But the most important thing I learned is to love others better. Each day, I am trying my best to use the gifts and talents God has given me to better His Kingdom. At Calvin, my professors/mentors/bosses challenged me to figure out these gifts and talents, and now I can use my detail-oriented and creative business skills to help others. If it weren’t for my professors/mentors/bosses at Calvin taking the time to invest in me and help me figure out this passion, I would have never gotten into event coordinating. I have loved using these skills in my internship to advocate for refugees and try to bring peace and normalcy into their lives through UNRWA’s education programs and health care programs. I really do feel like I am being an agent of renewal because I am trying to love others justly and genuinely by raising money to help others in need.

My trip to Israel before my junior year at Calvin also prepared me for this internship. I have had many people ask me how Corrin Timmer became interested in Middle Eastern affairs with a focus on Palestinian refugees. I can honestly say that it all has to do with God’s beautiful timing and little events that led to my internship here at UNRWA. While in Israel, I had the wonderful opportunity to work in a Palestinian camp called Tent of Nations in Bethlehem for two days. Daoud, the owner of the camp is Palestinian and faces persecution every single day because Israeli soldiers try to make his life miserable by blockading his road so he has to walk two miles if he wants to go anywhere and the soldiers threaten his family on a daily basis. But Daoud is a Christian and still finds joy because he loves Christ and genuinely wants to build peace between Palestine and Israel.

Daoud is one of the lucky Palestinians who had a written document that he owned the land he lived on. (When Israel became a nation, most Palestinians had been living on their land for thousands of years, but had no written document that said they “owned this land.”) This lack of documentation caused millions of Palestinians to be removed from the land they had lived on for thousands of years. This was the first time I had ever encountered/learned about the development of Israel as a nation and how it affects Palestinians every single day. I have had three different event coordinating internships during my time at Calvin so I wanted to continue that passion here in D.C.

What has surprised you so far?

How trusting my bosses are. They have given me a lot of initiative to plan these events myself and have really helped me develop my professional event skills. I do not feel like an “intern” at UNRWA USA, but a colleague, someone who is learning alongside my bosses.

How do you see this experience shaping your future?

This experience has really shaped who I am today and who I will be in the future. Before coming to DC, I had no idea that I would love event coordinating for a purpose/cause. I have come to realize that someday I would love to plan events to raise money for others. I feel like I have a purpose when I am planning events to help others. Every dollar I save my organization goes towards helping Palestinian refugees. So negotiating prices and finding the best deals directly impacts the people I am serving.

Best food you’ve eaten?

Pad Thai. There are so many amazing Thai restaurants around D.C.

Any memorable experiences?

On March 20, 2014, I had the amazing opportunity to go to New York City to help coordinate/organize a flash mob that happened in Times Square. The purpose of the event was to show the refugees in Syria that we stand with them and are advocating for them. This flash mob came into place after UNRWA started a campaign on Twitter called the #LetUsThrough Thunderclap campaign to demand that the Syrian government stop this pitiless conflict that has been on going for over three years now. The goal of this Twitter campaign was to demand immediate, secure, substantial and permanent humanitarian access for all civilians, including countless children in Syria. UNRWA urged all parties on the ground to listen to the voice of the international community to act now and to halt the march of death, injury, hunger and suffering.

UNRWA’s goal for this campaign was to generate 23 million tweets (which is symbolic for the pre-war population of Syria). We did not expect that the #LetUsThrough hashtag would generate more than 40 million views and over 23 million retweets. It was incredible to see all kinds of organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Refugees International, Save the Children, The United Nations Association and UNICEF joining together with UNRWA to support Syria.

So where does New York City come into play? UNRWA made a deal with Reuters saying that if we got 23 million tweets, then Reuters would place the Thunderclap image with the Syrian/Palestinian refugees on their jumbotron screen for five minutes two times. On Thursday, March 20, the Thunderclap image appeared on the electronic billboard in New York’s Times Square, not far from United Nations Headquarters, sending a powerful message to the global diplomatic community that we demand they unite and “LetUsThrough.” I had the opportunity to send out emails, facebook messages and tweets to all of UNRWA’s followers to congregate in New York City for this flash mob. The kicker was that we only had 24 hours to plan this flash mob.

See Corrin Timmer front and center in NBC News' cover photo of the event. 

Corrin Timmer

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