Cornerstone Student Serves with Samaritan's Purse in Australia
by Jordan Grooters (B.A. ’17)
CU student Cayte Baker (B.A. ’19) is spending her summer in the land down under. She's not vacationing, although she'd tell you that the breathtaking views in Sydney may suggest otherwise. Baker is interning at Samaritan's Purse, a Christian nonprofit organization with an affiliate office in Australia.
Samaritan's Purse works to provide emergency relief and development assistance to suffering people around the world. One of their most widely-known initiatives is Operation Christmas Child (OCC), an initiative in which donors are encouraged to pack shoeboxes with gifts such as toys, clothes, school supplies and personal hygiene items for children in need.
As a marketing intern for OCC, Baker works to support the marketing team. Her internship responsibilities include helping the OCC team prepare for October, Australia's biggest shoebox campaign. She also assembles media kits that will be used by radio stations, gathering content, editing stories and writing scripts.
"This project also required that I cold call nearly 50 radio stations, several of whom we have worked with in the past, but a majority of whom have not promoted for Samaritan's Purse before, with the purpose of building effective, lasting relationships," Baker shared. "We all speak English here, but I noticed the accents to be the most challenging when cold calling!"
Baker has also had the opportunity to travel with the organization's national field ministry manager to interview OCC volunteers.
"It was so inspiring hearing some of their stories," Baker said. "We met with one volunteer that is 92 years old and started the volunteer group in her town back in 2000. She currently knits over 100 little bears each year for the shoeboxes!"
Although she faced challenges in adjusting to a new culture, Baker noticed similarities too.
"At face value, the culture in Sydney appears shockingly similar to that of Grand Rapids—similar architecture, similar ways of doing life," Baker said. "But the differences are in the subtleties, like the unique phrases they use for certain things. I've also found the culture to be a bit more laid back, both in and out of the workplace."
Baker met a recruiter from Samaritan's Purse at Cornerstone. After a two-month interview process, Baker was chosen as one of 70 interns out of over 1,400 applicants.
"I have to say that I would not be sitting in an office in Australia working for this incredible nonprofit organization if it weren't for Anne Gaertner from CU's Center for Career and Life Calling," Baker said. "She was a huge help as I prepared my resume, polished my interview skills and walked through the search process."
Beyond building her resume and developing professional skills, being at Samaritan's Purse has allowed Baker to grow deeper in her relationship with the Lord and to learn what it means for a work culture to reflect the heart of God.
"I think what I appreciate most is the heart and mission of the organization—how the work we do, regardless of how monotonous it may seem in the moment, no matter how small the task, it all holds such eternal value," Baker reflected. "That's not to say other work doesn't hold similar weight, but I feel like I can so clearly see the urgency and impact of what we do. Not only that, but 'the heart of the organization' isn't just a nice saying believed only by the CEO, but it's something that every single person at Samaritan's Purse, regardless of role or position, believes and lives out. The passion that motivates everyone at Samaritan's Purse is contagious, and it's empowering! And that is something that you don't fully know or understand unless you work in the organization daily. It's so genuine and authentic, and that's refreshing!"
Baker credits her classes at CU for preparing her to thrive in this environment.
"There is so much that I could talk about from the many classes I've taken that have contributed to my work experience at Samaritan's Purse this summer," Baker said. "However, what I've realized is that the greatest tool that CU has equipped me with is the tool of learning. No school can fully train you for every possible task you will encounter in the workplace, but a good school can train their students how to embody the posture of learning and equip them with the tools and ability to learn and adapt, and this is something that I feel CU has done well."
As Baker's time in Australia draws to a close, she is excited to apply what she has learned in her future work.
"Honestly, I needed this past summer—or winter, here—more than I even knew," Baker concluded. "I've learned and grown so much during this time away, and I've absolutely loved my time here! It will be difficult leaving, but God is so good, and I can't wait to see what He has planned next!"