Making a Global Impact: One Intern’s Experience With Kupenda

by Eli Scharf


At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where I attend, there is a built-in time for independent activities between the end of winter break and the beginning of the spring semester. It’s a time when many students return to campus and work on projects and internships that interest them. Without classes in session, students devote their full attention to their respective projects and are able to take a deep dive into their tasks. This year, I was fortunate enough to be able to use this time to participate in an internship with Kupenda. From my first interview, I could see the passion which drives every single person at Kupenda. Their will to do good for the world motivates me every day to do better. I am grateful to be mentored by so many of them.

Connecting to the Cause

My connection to Kupenda is also motivated by the fact that I am working to improve the lives of children with disabilities. My uncle has retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that affects the retina and has left him totally blind. He is also a diabetic. Growing up, my grandmother and grandfather spent many hours researching schools, grants, and medications to make sure he received the care he needed. Working for a nonprofit that helps children with disabilities similar to my uncle’s means the world to me. I am able to support other parents and caregivers in a role that my family and I know all too well.

Making My Own Contribution

During my time with Kupenda, I worked as a software engineering intern. I helped develop and improve Kupenda’s mobile application. Local leaders in Kenya use this app daily to interview and track children with disabilities in their communities. The app also helps local leaders understand how to best aid and care for the children. Knowing that my work directly impacts people’s lives across the world has meant a great deal to me. It’s a unique opportunity that other companies cannot parallel.

In fact, many technical internships, particularly those related to software, are for large companies with thousands of employees. Having the opportunity to work on software development for a small nonprofit, such as Kupenda, has been unique. I am able to work on one of my passions, computer science, in an intimate and personal setting.

As part of its smaller structure, I had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with Kupenda’s Co-founder and CEO, Cynthia Bauer. Hearing her story of how she founded the organization firsthand resonated with me. She fights every day for the lives of hundreds of children and has been doing so for the past twenty years. She empowers me every day to work towards goals that help humanity.

It has been a true honor to intern at Kupenda. I have been able to work alongside individuals who not only strive to change the world but who are dedicated to making a daily impact. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been mentored by so many of them. I hope that moving forward, I can implement the lessons they have taught me in both my time at school and beyond.

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