My first month at National Consumer League

I am currently working as an intern for the National Consumer League, a consumer advocacy organization, representing consumers and workers on the marketplace and workplace since 1899. The organization deals with real-life knowledge-based education for high school students (LifeSmarts program), eliminates hazardous child labor and fraud, and develops programs to help patients keep up with their medication schedules.

NCL is a small organization, with a total of around 20 employees, which makes it a perfect environment for an intern to get to know everyone, from the director, department heads, to other interns, and learn about what they are working on. NCL is accommodating to the interns’ needs and preferences to improve ourselves. We have C (for privacy purpose, I will only include their initials), who is the general supervisor of all interns. In the first week, the interns will have a one-on-one talk with her about our field of interest, what we want to improve about ourselves, and what goals we would like to achieve. Then, she lets us choose who we will be primarily assigned to. We will work with our supervisor of choice on specific field and assist them with research, blogs, and manage their social media outlet.

I chose to work with R, director of Child Labor issues. Honestly it was not a field I had much background knowledge of prior to the internship. In fact, I hardly ever thought of such matter at all. Talking to R, I realize that is the exact problem we are having with fighting child labor. It is so far removed from the supply chain that average people would never even consider the possibility of some children aged 9 or 12 doing back-breaking work to help produce things consumers use everyday. It startles me to realize virtually everything has some tint of child labor, the cotton in our clothes, the tea leaves and coffee beans in our daily beverage, the bricks in our house and everything else.

My primary work here is to manage the social media outlet of Child Labor Coalition (please follow us on Twitter if you are interested in news and facts about child labor). I respond to questions by followers, follow people who share the same interest, and post facts and news about child labor, or other related issues. It is a never ending job, in a sense of you have to keep doing it everyday. To be honest, there is no sense of accomplishing anything as every morning you wake up, you have to do it all over. It is also never ending because everyday, there is some news about child labor no matter how elusive, as long as you know where to search for them. It is mentally and emotionally draining when you think that it is the 21st century and there are still 168 million children out there participating in labor, often too hazardous and without proper protection, when they should be in school, learning and playing. It is taxing but I am also learning so much.

My goal in dealing with child labor is to think of a way to better communicate this issue and assist consumers out there to make direct, informed and conscious choice in their consumer behavior. So far I am thinking of writing a series of blogs, suggesting how consumers can notice signs of child labor and other types of modern slavery and sweatshop, which sustainable brands to buy from and which unethical ones to avoid. It is a work in progress so far. I will update in my next report.

Credit: All photos belong to NCL Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/nationalconsumersleague/

Trang Nguyen

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