Written by Rasleen Kakar

“Fall seven times, stand up the eighth.” This is a quote that reminds me failure is a part of life, and I knew I’d be holding this quote close when I started my time serving at Habitat for Humanity. Not because I was planning on making mistakes, but because I knew there would be room for improvement and the only way I could continue to grow is if I chose to stand up. 

My name is Rasleen (Raz-Leen) (Kuh-Car), and I am a first-year student at Drake University studying Computer Science and Information Systems with a minor in Data Analytics. Therefore, I was more than enthused when I learned I earned the opportunity to serve as the Data Analytics and Marketing Intern at the Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity – a nonprofit that helps low-income families with affordable housing. Overall, my time served at Habitat has been very beneficial. I have had the opportunity to develop more efficient methods in collecting, interpreting, and analyzing data. Additionally, I have attended a home dedication and helped the marketing team organize and execute a social event. Above all, my time at Habitat has been one of my biggest learning curves this school year. 

Coming into Habitat, I had a decent amount of so called “book knowledge” in the areas of coding and data, but I had yet to experience the practical/industry aspect of the Information Technology (IT) field. Thankfully for me, I was blessed with an amazing and helpful supervisor and team that offered assistance whenever I needed a push in the right direction. With their help and support, I was soon up to speed with the current standings of projects and brainstormed ways to simplify processes while maintaining rich and valuable data. Later on, I would work on projects that involved sorting related data from multiple worksheets and condensing it into one. This was done by insuring duplicate and redundant data was removed, while making sure the integrity of the data had been maintained. These projects not only help me get used to working with industry level tools, such as Microsoft Excel, but it also helped me get accustomed to some of the industry level norms. For an example, maintaining data integrity or applying the agile methodology vs waterfall when working on projects. By having the opportunity to get hands-on experience, I was able to understand why it is important to maintain correct data. I was able to understand why it is important to break projects into small parts and periodically check in with your supervisor vs completing everything in one shot, because it helps ensure you are staying on the right track. This helps save both your time and company time and also makes the process much more efficient. 

Aside from the benefits both Habitat and I reaped from our partnership, I was also able to witness the positive impact our work leaves on families by directly working with them. Earlier in the post, I had mentioned how I had the opportunity to attend a home dedication. Essentially, a home dedication is a small celebration Habitat organizes when a family finally receives the keys to their hard-earned home. This is a very significant moment, which takes place at the partner family’s home, because it marks the end of the countless hours they spent towards sweat equity. During this time, we also celebrate all the hours spent towards budget management and financial literacy. I believe this is very important because it aligns with one of Lupton’s, the author of Toxic Charity, principles of preserving one’s dignity and respect.”. Lupton stresses a lot on the fact that often times when we volunteer, many of the projects and services done are just “Band-Aids” – they help in the moment but are not a long-term solution. By having an accepted applicant(s) complete sweat equity and go through other training, the applicant(s) can feel proud of all the hard work they put into this process and get a feeling that they deserved this position. This process also helps develop lifelong skills the homeowner can use in order to maintain a good lifestyle and hopefully prevent them from going back in their footsteps. 

Overall, having the opportunity to server as Data Analytics and Marketing Intern at the Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity has been both a valuable and humbling experience. I have had the ability to get familiar with some industry level norms, tools, and skills. Yet, at the same time I have also had the opportunity to play an active role in non-toxic charity. I learned by helping one build their skill sets, helps them become self-reliant and therefore break out of the cycle of poverty. My hope is to share my new learning experiences with current and future community partners to prevent unknown toxic charity from expending, and to continue to provide ways that encourage self-reliance. After all, if you “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.