To Borneo—And Beyond

Neuroscience major does photojournalism internship with an assist from the Center for Life Beyond Reed.

By Chris Lydgate ’90 | January 22, 2019

Volcanoes. Mangrove swamps. Orangutans. Neuroscience major Stephanie Gee ’20 spent six weeks in West Kalimantan last summer as a communications intern for the nonprofit Health In Harmony, taking photos to document its work protecting the rainforest and providing healthcare to the local villagers.

The experience was made possible by the Center for Life Beyond Reed’s internship awards initiative, which defrays expenses for students who want to do unpaid internships with organizations in the fields of social work, public service, education, arts, journalism, publishing, policy, and other nonprofit institutions.

Health In Harmony, which was founded by Reed grad Dr. Kinari Webb ’95, conserves ecosystems around the world by supporting local communities. Stephanie’s striking photos will help the organization document its work and communicate its mission to a broader audience.

In addition to being a photographer, Stephanie recently won a fellowship to explore multiethnic food and architecture in Peru. She is also one of the operators of Reed’s nuclear reactor.

The internship awards have helped Reed students intern with a variety of organizations, ranging from Mercy Corps NW, the Danish Institute Against Torture,, Saturday Academy, OMSI, and many more. Awards are up to $4,000 for a minimum of eight weeks of full-time engagement. Reed made more than two dozen awards in 2018 thanks to generous donations. Please consider supporting this program with a gift to Reed.

Last week we posed some questions to Stephanie—here are her answers.

Why did you select Health in Harmony? I knew I wanted to spend my summer doing photography abroad, but I didn’t just want to take travel pictures—I wanted to make art that would make a difference. So I started looking for international nonprofits with positions open for photographers, and I ran across Health in Harmony. Their mission is to support environmental conservation through providing affordable healthcare. It was the most innovative initiative I had ever heard of and it combined two fields that I was (and still am) hoping to pursue a career in—and I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of it.

What were your responsibilities as a communications intern? My job was to document the impact of each of Health in Harmony’s programs in Indonesia through photography and interviews. I then prepared the raw material I gathered for use in marketing, fundraising, and social media campaigns, and I also taught photography to communications staff in Indonesia.

What did you learn? I learned that social media can actually be a powerful tool for making positive change. Previously, I had thought that Instagram and Facebook were only for cat videos and clickbait. But my posts, which used photographs and interviews I had gathered, actually played a major part in the success of a campaign that raised $50,000 for a new truck for the mobile clinic. It was incredible - images, hashtags, and captions that I created gave hundreds of people access to healthcare. Before, I would have never believed that posts on Instagram could make the world a better place, but I’ve never been happier to be proved wrong. Furthermore, this internship showed me that the number of times you get rejected for funding has no bearing on how successful, educational, or change-making your project will be. I was rejected for seven sources of funding before receiving the Reed Internship Award, and I almost didn’t apply for this award – but I’m glad I did!

How did the internship impact you? This internship showed me that I could make a difference by using my skills in science and photography at the same time. I never thought I’d be able to integrate the two for a career and I had always thought I would have to choose one passion or the other. But my interdisciplinary (and what I had previously thought were disparate) interests made me particularly well prepared for this job: I was able to create media grounded in quotes from recent research papers with ease, while at the same time making the those quotes more accessible and relevant to the general public by pairing it with a photo I had taken showing the tangible, real world impact of that research.

This internship also showed me that I could still do (and be good at) photography without my dad. He passed away the summer before I started at Reed; he was the one who taught me photography and, the last day I saw him, gave me the camera that I have now. I hadn’t been able to touch my camera until this internship, and I wasn’t sure that I would be able to create strong images without him. But the resoundingly positive response I’ve gotten from this work (and having one image being accepted to a museum in Athens, Greece) has given me the confidence to keep shooting on my own. Because of that, this internship allowed me to reclaim a part of myself that I wasn’t sure I’d ever get back—and I feel so incredibly lucky that funding from Reed allowed me to do that.


Deadline for seniors graduating spring/fall to apply for "early" awards is January 25, 2019 at noon. Deadline for all students (including spring/fall grads) to apply for awards is April 3, 2019 at noon.

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