GoAbroad Interview

Kevin Slattery - Marketing & Communications Officer

Keven Slattery - Marketing & Communications Officer

Kevin's passion for connecting communities with impactful social change opportunities started with his first internship with the City of Chicago and continues today with FSD. Throughout his 15 year career he has leveraged his marketing and communications experience to drive the mission of several elite nonprofit and government organizations. He's responsible for FSD's business development and internal/external communications and has facilitated field work at two of FSD's program sites: Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua, and Kakamega, Kenya. Kevin holds a B.A. in Corporate Communications and Journalism from Northern Illinois University and is currently enrolled in the University of San Francisco's Executive MBA Program.

Where are you located and what are your responsibilities in your role with the Foundation for Sustainable Development?

I live in San Francisco where FSD’s headquarters is located. I’m responsible for FSD's business development and internal/external communications. I’ve facilitated field work at two of FSD's program sites: Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua and Kakamega, Kenya.

Foundation for Sustainable Development program facilitators in Kakamega, Kenya

Pollyne Khasandi, Kevin Slattery, Megan Flynnperrault - FSD's program facilitators in Kakamega, Kenya, Summer 2014

How did you become involved with FSD?

My previous position with the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program afforded me an opportunity to work on marketing and communicating community development programs for Philadelphians as they annually offer youth art education programs, a restorative justice program, and a community mural program. When I moved to San Francisco I wanted to find a position with an organization that had an aligned mission and demonstrated a strong impact on the many pressing social issues diverse international communities face today. My position with FSD is very aligned to my background and ideology; I feel lucky to be able to support this organization and the amazing mission and vision it has for the international communities we serve on a daily basis.

What makes FSD program sites ideal for internships and volunteering abroad?

Our program sites are perfect for internships and volunteering because they are located in regions that need help with capacity building and are safe areas for volunteer to do service work. We have built an established support system for the strong NGOs and nonprofit organizations we partner with and our more than 20 years of experience and sustainable outcomes demonstrate our thought leadership within the sector.

What type of internships and volunteering placements does FSD offer?

FSD offers rigorous participatory development, community engagement, cultural integration, and project management training that students apply in the field. We offer student interns three training program options, including: Intern Abroad, Group Engage, and Global Service Trips. The most popular is our Intern Abroad Program, although we have seen an increasing number of students who are unable to commit to working the required nine to 52 weeks in the field and seek out our Global Service Trip opportunities.

  1. Our award-winning Intern Abroad program demands that students be able to work creatively and independently, but within a structured and personally supported framework. Interns are selected through a competitive application process, and the program is often customized to suit the needs of our university partners.
  2. Similar to Intern Abroad, our Group Engage program provides students with significant training and project development experience. The program offers greater structure and allows students to collaborate with their peers on community-driven projects. Groups are matched to community partner organizations based on project interests.
  3. FSD’s Global Service Trip program enables students to gain both theoretical understanding and practical experience in community-driven development. This program uniquely links short-term, high-impact projects to lectures, workshops, and cultural experiences that provide participants with a broad-based understanding of international development. GSTs are customized around the interests of university groups and project work is adapted to the group’s educational objectives. 

Apart from orientations, what is the first thing interns or volunteers do when they get to the program site?

With the long flights and transportation it takes to get to the communities we serve, FSD ensures the volunteers are well hydrated, fed, and given the opportunity to rest before taking on orientation and initial educational activities. I remember my first day in Kenya being a big blur and my colleagues in country allowed me to rest up before taking a tour of Kakamega. It’s an important part of starting the FSD volunteer experience, start with a clear head, fresh eyes, and ready to make an impact when you are at your best.

What advice do you typically give first-time participants of FSD’s programs?

Everything moves at a slower pace in the communities we serve. If you are a fast paced person you will need to make an effort to slow down and acclimate to the pace of the community. 

Adjusting to life in a new place with a different culture is often difficult. How does FSD help participants cope with the transition?

FSD’s programs are structured and supportive as we provide ongoing educational and cultural activities, logistical support, and round-the-clock safety and security support by our dedicated site team staff. Our site team staff members have 10 to 25 years of experience facilitating international exchange and helping students and volunteers cope with a culture shift is part of their everyday work for FSD.

Safety is a concern not only for travelers but also for those they leave behind. How does your program keep participants safe?

Although FSD continually strives to provide a safe and secure environment for its program participants; health and safety risks are an inherent part of international development work. We seek to reduce risks by strongly encouraging participants to follow specific safety guidelines for appropriate behavior and exercising sound judgment, while requiring them to abide by FSD clearly documented policies and procedures. 

If you could go to any FSD site and participate in an FSD program, which site would you choose and why?

I would choose our sites in India, because I have not had the opportunity to facilitate trips there and would love to experience their beautiful culture and participate in the many social justice organizations we partner with in Jodhpur, Udaipur and our newest program site in Jaipur.

What are your goals for FSD in the next year?

To have a big impact on the communities we serve, our goals include: continue to place high-performing students with our community partner organizations, expand our corporate engagement and giving circle opportunities, improve our monitoring and evaluation methodology, diversify our funding structures to allow for further programmatic expansion, build a robust program in our new site in Jaipur, India, and continue to build strong relationships with host families and community partners.