Blog, Case Study October 2021

Internship reflections: Esther Itela

Robertson Scholar, Esther Itela, is a fourth-year student at Robert Gorden University studying Food, Nutrition, and Human Health. As part of #ChallengePoverty week, Esther shares her reflections on her summer internship with the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit, and what she learned about poverty in Scotland.

"I found this internship experience a major eye-opener in terms of the scale of poverty in Scotland"

During the summer, I interned with the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit (SPIRU). SPIRU is an interdisciplinary research group based at Glasgow Caledonian University working in partnership with the Poverty Alliance and other stakeholders to investigate and develop effective responses to poverty and inequality in Scotland and beyond. My main role during the internship was supporting the administrative duties of SPIRU, including assisting with data for the organisation's annual report, collating information from relevant reports and researching organisations that had similar goals to SPIRU.

As well as giving me valuable first-hand experience of working at a busy research organisation, on reflection, I found the whole experience a major eye-opener for understanding the scale of poverty in Scotland. It taught me that poverty goes beyond the more visible representations we are so accustomed to seeing in the media and in truth, can affect anyone at any stage in their life. I also realise now that inequality gaps can be further apart than I had originally thought, especially in relation to geographical areas. For example, two neighbourhoods, even if they are only a street apart, could have widely different experiences of poverty, with one being far more disadvantaged than the other - this was a key learning point for me. 

Additionally, I developed a better understanding of the significance of low-income initiatives such as EMA and free School Meals. These policies are upholding many children at school and keeping low-income families afloat. The statistics highlighted that this is a bigger issue than is often portrayed in the media and, for me, this has a lot to do with how desensitised we as a population have become - often, it feels as though this is a part of life that we should just become accustomed to. 

Challenge Poverty Week is a good opportunity to change this and to highlight the importance of equality and finding solutions to poverty. It is also an opportunity for organisations to come together to discuss how we overcome it as a society. This, however, goes beyond short term - we need to start thinking about longer-term solutions if ground-breaking progress is to be made.