…more than just passing through

September 18, 2018 | Sophia, Specialization - International Development and Globalization, Uniterra, Sénégal, Conseil national de concertation et de coopération des ruraux (CNCR), Conseillère en égalité entre les hommes et les femmes

To start this post I would like to give a little bit of information about my internship. I am in Dakar, Senegal. I was sent with Uniterra and my host organization here is CECI. My partner organization is called the CNCR and I am working in EFH (Égalité femmes-hommes) or gender equality. Before leaving for this internship I had very little information. I was very stressed because I didn’t know what was going to happen once I arrived in Senegal. I didn’t know what my living arrangement was going to be, I didn’t know what I was going to eat in the first days here, I didn’t know where I’d be sleeping, etc.

If you’re having any of the same worries, let me help. When I arrived in Senegal I was greeted by a man from my host organization CECI. He had a sign and was easy to find. He brought me to his car where he had an information booklet for me and an itinerary for the next few days. He brought me a water bottle and a box of juice. He asked if I was hungry, I was not but if I had been, I’m sure he would have found me something to eat that night before going to sleep. From the airport he brought me to what I now call home. The volunteer house in Dakar has security outside 24/7 and a woman who is there during the day who cleans and fixes up the house. She will change your sheets once a week, she will help you get a taxi for a local price and she will greet you with a friendly smile every day. The house has a nice living room with a small TV and a couch. A dining room with a large table and chairs. There is a computer and internet. There is a big kitchen that is quite well stocked with cooking materials, although you will have to buy your own groceries. Luckily, there is a grocery store very close by. There are 4 bedrooms with air conditioning. One bedroom has a bathroom in it but otherwise, the other bathroom is just down the hall.

The next day, I was picked up by CECI again and brought to the CECI office. At the office I was introduced to the people who work there and who I had been put in contact with a few weeks prior. You will be able to put faces to the names in your email inbox. This day I brought in my contract and boarding passes. We went to get something to eat and then I was dropped off at home to rest until the next day. The CECI office is full of great resources and people who are very willing to help you.

The next day I got a tour of the city. I was driven around and shown the city quickly by car. The CECI staff helped me get a SIM card for my phone and they took me grocery shopping for the first time. You are able to find almost everything food wise in Dakar, except for potatoes and pork. They also showed me where the bank was so that I would be able to withdraw some money.

All of the questions and stress I had about life in Senegal subsided when I got there because CECI provides you with excellent, supportive and thoughtful contacts. It was hard for me and will probably be hard for you, but you need to learn to be okay with the unknown while doing this internship. There is very little set in stone and very little that won’t change at least once.

I am now going into my third week here in Dakar although it feels like I’ve been here much longer. Every day is filled with new experiences and things that I have to try to understand. Social interactions, language, dress code, religion, culture, the list could go on. There is so much more to think about in my day to day life than I’ve ever had to consider before. I have become much more aware of all of my actions and reactions. I had done a lot of travelling before but living in a foreign country is very different. You need to learn about the culture much more profoundly than if you were just passing through. This is an experience that will change me and from which I will undoubtedly grow so much. Just being here day to day teaches me so much. I can already tell that I am going to come home a much more independent and matured daughter, sister, student and friend.

Retour sur une expérience inoubliable

September 11, 2018 | Raphaëlle, Maîtrise ès arts en mondialisation et développement international, Uniterra, Haïti, Organisation de gestion de la destination du nord d'Haïti, Conseillère en collecte d'information et en sondage

Mon arrivée en Haïti n’a pas été de tout repos. J’ai passé les premiers jours de mon mandat à Port-au-Prince, une ville qui peut sembler à première vue chaotique et un peu dangereuse. Les médias n’ont pas aidé à ma préparation avant le départ, car Haïti n’a pas une très bonne réputation à l’international. Étant moi-même intéressée par les enjeux de justice et de sécurité en Haïti dans le cadre de mes études, je suis partie avec un bagage d’idées que j’ai dû prendre quelques semaines à déconstruire. Eh oui, malgré toute ma préparation, mes lectures, mes discussions, et mon travail sur moi-même afin de partir avec le moins d’attentes possibles, je me suis installée dans mon siège d’avion, le 8 mai, avec un noeud dans l’estomac… pas super pour commencer un voyage de trois mois!

Au retour, j’adopte une toute nouvelle perspective sur le pays en général. C’est particulièrement grâce à mon mandat que j’ai pu découvrir un pays riche et vibrant. Au bureau régional du CECI, j’ai pu travailler pendant trois mois dans le secteur touristique. Le Nord d’Haïti possède une richesse et un potentiel touristique impressionnants. Chaque été au Cap-Haïtien, la deuxième ville en importance du pays qui est située dans le département du Nord accueille un nombre important de touristes nationaux et internationaux. Ceux-ci visitent tous les jours les sites historiques qui y sont situés. J’ai pu contribuer à ma manière, tout en m’immersant dans un secteur économique que je connaissais peu. Mon mandat m’a permis de sortir de ma coquille et a exigé que je fasse preuve d’entregent et d’initiative. J’ai su démontrer ces qualités tout au long de l’été, dans un environnement rempli de défis culturels, logistiques, économiques et de nombreux imprévus.

Mon mandat m’a aussi permis de découvrir à la fois les différents monuments, les plages et les sites de production traditionnelle, mais aussi de discuter avec la diaspora et les touristes nationaux afin de comprendre quelle était leur expérience touristique en Haïti. Moi-même visiteuse dans ce pays, j’ai pu en apprendre beaucoup sur la région du Nord et sur les réalités du tourisme en Haïti. Certes, c’est un pays parfois instable, mais la générosité des gens et l’accueil réservé aux touristes, l’expérience authentique et quelques fois un peu chaotique rend Haïti une destination particulièrement intéressante pour tout voyageur débrouillard.

Malgré des heures de préparation et de recherches, rien n’a été aussi formateur que de “sauter à l’eau” et d’apprendre à connaître un peuple et une culture en vivant l’immersion du terrain - une expérience inoubliable que je recommencerai à la première occasion.

Reflecting on personal growth

August 22, 2018 | Ashley, International Development and Globalization, Mines Action Canada, Vietnam, Association for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Program Support Officer

Having been back in Canada for a while now, I often find myself reflecting on my three months in Vietnam. My greatest fear upon returning home was that as time went on, the time I spent at AEPD this summer would gradually begin to feel less real, and more like a dream. I am already starting to feel that that happening, so I am trying to find concrete memories to hold onto.

Above all, I am grateful for the friendships and connections I made during my time in Vietnam, friendships that will continue long past the end of my internship. In general, the moments that stand out to me when I reflect on the internship are not big trips I went on, or important landmarks I visited; it is the mundane, everyday activities and interactions that I cherish the most. I think of meals shared with people I care about, or quiet walks through Dong Hoi. Jokes and snacks shared in the office, learning to ride a bike on roads that seem more like a free-for-all. I also think of my time at work, the valuable skills I’ve learned brainstorming and writing project proposals with my coworkers and meeting the people we were working to help – sharing smiles and making connections with people despite the language barrier. I also think of all the aspects of Vietnamese culture and the foods (and coffee!) I came to love and take part in, as well as those I have adopted even now.

While many of these experiences are ones that I did not need to travel across the world to discover, they are all made so much more special by the the country they took place in. While being a tourist in a foreign country is an incredible experience, it is a totally different experience from having the opportunity to build a life in one.

Tanzania Tourist Board - Cultural Tourism Enterprises

August 20, 2018 | Tabitha, International Development and Globalization, Uniterra, Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement, Communication and Documentation Officer

Working with the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) for 3 months as their Knowledge Management Officer, I have had the opportunity to visit a number of Cultural Tourism Enterprises (CTEs) across Northern Tanzania.

In order to identify the real knowledge management needs of CTEs and then be able to offer them relevant support and tools, I conducted a number of interviews and focus group discussions with CTE leaders who were in charge of communications, knowledge management, or the everyday organizational responsibilities of their social enterprise.

Through qualitative research, I discovered that although a number of CTEs have been managing well on their own, one of their most pressing constraints for better enterprise outcomes was the lack of a formal network connecting CTEs across the country. Without collaboration, CTEs have been unable to collectively problem solve, package-sell their products in the international market, nor learn from one another and share knowledge together.

As a pilot project, with enormous support from TTB Coordinator, Mr. Eliherema Maturo and WUSC Coordinator Mr. Gaudence Kapinga, I curated the 1st CTE Share Fair in Arusha. Over two days, CTE leaders from all over Tanzania captured this niche opportunity to learn, share, and network.
Led and organized by Mr. Maturo and myself, the two day CTE Share Fair consisted of a series of seminars and workshops for CTEs. CTE members discovered and practiced the potential for the application of Knowledge Management within and between their social enterprises, using both manual and electronic processes and tools, such as Google Drive. In addition to a training session on Knowledge Management, they were also able to present and promote their CTEs through formal networking sessions.

On the second day, with the unique opportunity to work together in small group discussion, CTE members deliberated and decided via consensus the rules governing the newly created community of practice tool, the “Tanzania CTE Whatsapp Group.” Additionally, it was important to highlight and uplift CTE leaders with deep expertise on Cultural Based Tourism, and several men and women conducted seminars on their own about topics of their speciality.

The CTE-led seminars, in addition to the widely accessible and easy to use ‘CTE Whatsapp Group,’ signifies the beginning of CTEs forming and sustaining meaningful business relationships. Using technology to facilitate knowledge sharing to better keep in communication with one another, both improves enterprise performance complementary to achieving various environmental, cultural, and human development objectives.

Summer in Sri Lanka – Recap

August 20, 2018 | Hailey, Specialization in International Development and Globalization with an Additional Minor in Business Management, Uniterra + WUSC in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, Marketing and Communications Officer with Kelani Valley Plantations

I cannot believe how fast my 3-month internship went by. The final few weeks had left me filled with so many mixed emotions. I was happy to go (home) but so sad to leave (Sri Lanka). I think that I felt the most anxious during the last 2 weeks. Between finishing up all the projects that I have been working on for the plantation, packing to go home, and exploring areas of Sri Lanka which I hadn’t seen yet; I was exhausted. I also felt as though I had not accomplished all that I had come here to do.

There was still so much that I wanted to do for my organization. In addition to the work that I had previously mentioned in my last blog post, I had completed a big project proposal to open a bed and breakfast on Edinburgh Estate, and I had just started to work on an even larger proposal to convert an old tea factory into a backpacker’s lodge.

The old tea factory is huge; the bottom 2 floors will be renovated in order to allow for small scale production. The second floor will also include a small café, where tea and coffee will be served. In the café, guests will have an amazing view of the plantation and the railway station. The third floor, will be converted into large family size rooms and a social lounge where all guests can hangout. The top floor is designated to have multiple rooms which consist of single beds and private washrooms.

As you can probably imagine, this was not a quick and easy business proposal that could be written in under 2 weeks. I am very passionate about this project, (because I know that the community will benefit immensely) so I told my boss in Sri Lanka that I would continue to work on it after I left. Now, being back in Canada, I am so busy with my personal life that I am finding it hard to fulfill that promise.

Throughout my last 2 weeks, I was also busy running around town busying souvenirs for my friends and family, so luckily packing has never been hard for me. I had a bedroom in a home with a family, so I did my best to squeeze everything that I had into 2 suitcases, a duffle bag and a backpack. Similarly, feeling as if time is of the essence, I wasn’t able to travel the whole country, as I had hoped to. When I realized that I only had a few weeks left in Sri Lanka, I did my best to pick the destinations that I absolutely had to see before leaving. Knowing that I only had a few days left was very sad because there is so much that I wanted to see that I did not have the chance to. Similarly, I was very sad about leaving my coworkers, as we had grown so close after spending 3 months together. They were my Sri Lankan family; for ¼ of a year, I spent 5 days a week with them, so it makes sense that I am having a hard time adjusting to life without them. I think that knowing that they will miss me makes leaving harder. For my birthday, they threw me a party and planted me a tree, which is probably the sweetest birthday present that I have ever received.

I think that leaving Canada to work abroad really taught me the definition of “valuables”. It didn’t take me long to realize that there are some things that I use every day that I cannot live without. For example, my tooth brush, tooth paste, face wash, moisturizer, hair brush, hair elastic, glasses, and deodorant. These are my valuables; everything else (other than clothing) is a luxury item. I was very nervous to return to Canada, because I felt like beauty standards at my workplace in Canada (a casual fine dining restaurant) was so completely different than the beauty standards of my workplace in Sri Lanka (a tea plantation).

Overall, as I mentioned earlier, I am happy to leave but sad to go. I will miss the amazing people that I met in Sri Lanka, but I am also happy to return to Canada. My work experience in Sri Lanka was hard, and my travel experience was even more difficult, but I am so happy that I chose to utilize those opportunities because now that I am back in Canada, I feel like a renewed person with a slightly more holistic view of the world.


August 16, 2018 | Husna, International Development and Globalization, Mines Action Canada, Nepal, Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal, MAC Support Officer

As my time at the Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal (NCBL) and life here in Kathmandu, Nepal comes to a close, I find myself with heartbroken but ever-so-grateful for this experience.

My experience at NCBL occurred during a time of transformation – NCBL was established in 1995 in response to the government and militia forces use of anti-personnel landmines in conflict. The mandate of NCBL was to raise awareness amongst both civil society and the government about the loss of lives and property caused by anti-personnel landmines. However, since Nepal was declared landmine free in 2011, the organization and its partners were losing the limelight required for them to continue their work. Our boss - Purna explained that those who did not see the value of NCBL’s work also neglected the ongoing repercussions of landmine use and post-conflict development. Several families lost their livelihoods due to the loss of a loved one or an injury leading to disability – to this day, NCBL works to support these individuals and their families to regain their lives and well-being through long-term and sustainable initiatives. I am thankful to have gained an insight into development work that is based on commitment. And grateful to have witnessed my co-workers work tirelessly to tackle new and existing challenges throughout Nepal. In fact, whether it was developing irrigation systems for conflict-affected districts or expanding science and technology programs for marginalized women and girls – no challenge was too big or too small. And I was ready to write a proposal for it.

Beyond my internship in the office, in the short span of three months, I was able to develop a comfortable daily routine, make loving lifelong friends and create cherished memories all the while exploring and learning about the lively character of Kathmandu. During this time, I also learned of Nepal’s ethnic and religious diversity, its socio-political history and received a glimpse into the current, and rather complex, state of social, political and economic affairs. However, my experience of Kathmandu reflected rather little of that – instead it was formed through friendships developed by the virtue of a shared love for indie music, Netflix series and a lot of really great food. While I had very few expectations about Nepal prior to my arrival, I found that there were so many more similarities between the people I had met, and myself, than I could have imagined. I realized that while the socio-economic and socio-cultural context of our countries may differ, the things we love and appreciate are almost universal. Maybe it’s human nature, or maybe it’s imperial globalization. Nonetheless, I am pleased at how easily these similarities allowed me to adapt and feel comfortable in a place so far away from home.

However, what my internship has truly taught me is that like all places, Nepal is a complex and diverse place. While I do not think I can justifiably present a neutral and holistic understanding of Nepal to others after a short three months abroad, I hope that I can encourage others to visit and explore Nepal as with the rest of the world on their own. Both personally and professionally, and as an intern and tourist, this experience will be considered as an incremental aspect of my time at the University of Ottawa and throughout my youth – for the ways it has taught me to grow and better understand the world in both its challenges and relentless beauty.

Hello… from Canada !

August 15, 2018 | Adrienne, Specialization - International Development and Globalization, UNITERRA, Alianza Cacao Peru, Communication and Documentation Officer

Coming home from my time in Peru has been an incredible, if not somewhat overwhelming, experience. In retrospect, now that I’ve completed my placement, what strikes me is how much I learned about gender relations, the organization and about myself. Throughout most of my internship I felt that I was not using my time well. Too much time sitting in the office, not enough opportunities to spend time out in the field learning from those who are actively working on the organizations’ mandate. Even though I would have liked to visit the field more often, I was able to learn by observing workshops, interviewing women for the ‘Success Stories’ project, and just integrating into the organization’s community.

These learning experiences will give me valuable insight throughout my academic future, and the rest of my career. I’ve learned a considerable amount about the type of job I would like to have. In addition, I’ve thought carefully about my soft and hard skills I have and hope to develop further and put to good use, such as problem solving, networking, knowledge of development organizational structures, gender relations and women’s empowerment in rural Peru. Not to forget, and to be learned from, the difficulties of working in developing countries as a foreigner stand out as well.

I chose to participate in this program not just to add more qualifications to my resume, but for personal development. Through all of the ups and downs, the experience did not disappoint in that respect. I learned about being resourceful and persevering, digging deep and pulling out every bit of emotional energy I could muster. Getting out of my comfort zone helped reinforce knowledge I already know about who I am; the skills I have, the kind of work I find satisfying and what helps me get through challenging circumstances. Five years from now, when I look back on this internship, I know I will still feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to learn so much about myself so early on in my life.

Cultural Differences

August 15, 2018 | Kaylea, Psychologie, Uniterra Sénégal, CNC, Conseillère en Archivage

I’ve reached the halfway point of my journey in Dakar…and I’m still thrilled to be here. We spent our first few weeks exploring the city in our free time, but now we are mainly focusing on the culture Dakar has to offer.

Ramadan is a month long, and we are soon nearing the end of it. During this time, we have distributed bread and coffee to those who are still on the road when it’s time to break the fast, and we have broken the fast a few times with the locals. When it’s time to break the fast (around 7:30pm local time), the locals start off by eating breakfast foods (coffee, dates, bread), then a few hours later, they eat dinner foods. A few locals have told me that during Ramadan, many people eat throughout the night then just sleep in during the day. It’s interesting to live amongst a collectivist culture. The people here are extremely friendly and it seems that there isn’t very much conflict in the city. Two main religions exist in harmony here- Islam and Catholicism. Both religions respect the holidays- as the public gets both catholic and Islamic holidays off of work.

Breaking the fast is often done with immediate family members and sometimes close friends. In this picture to the left, we were invited to break the fast with an entire neighbourhood of people. This was a unique situation because the neighbourhood decided to distribute food to those who were still out during the fast, then everyone ate together. There were about 75 people sitting along these carpets- women on one side, men on the other. The meal consisted of bread, some kind of thick pudding, dates, juice, coffee, water, chicken, fries and cake. The entire neighbourhood came together to cook the food, each family responsible for some task.

We buy all of our fruits and vegetables here from the local vendors who get food delivered to them every morning, then put them on display for people to buy each afternoon/evening. The fruit and vegetables are always very fresh and ripe. Mangoes are probably the most popular and plentiful fruit here, although, bananas are a close second.

I finished my mandate at work, so now I am mostly translating and working on other things people need help with around the office. I’m finding that the work pace is much slower here than in Canada, just based off of what I’ve seen in my own office. People generally take their time completing tasks, taking many breaks to speak with friends and/or family over the phone and chatting with others around the office.

One of my favourite things to do here on the weekend is to go to the various markets. There are tons of fabrics to choose from, and you can easily go to a local tailor who will make whatever you want for a low cost. The markets also include a lot of local art and food. Often, fish are laying on a blanket on the street, waiting to be bought. A local told me that they feel putting the fish on ice changes the taste of it. So, they like to keep the fish fresh.

La Teranga

August 14, 2018 | Daphnée, Études des conflits et droits humains, Sénégal, Uniterra, Union des Radios Associatives et Communautaires (URAC), Conseillère en journalisme et communication

Je me suis longtemps demandé ce que je pouvais écrire pour rendre justice aux trois derniers mois passés à l’étranger. Je pourrais d’abord vous parler des paysages époustouflants que le Sénégal m’a offerts. Des plages dakaroises qui longent l’Atlantique à perte de vue dissimulé entre mosquées et falaises. Des déserts avec des dunes qui n’enviaient rien au Sahara ; des routes qui longent la mer, puis sillonnent de majestueux baobabs qui s’étendent à perte de vue ; des îles aux villages pittoresques dissimulant la sombre histoire qu’elle porte ; ou encore des parcs nationaux abritant des trésors protégés et des animaux sauvages les plus époustouflants les uns que les autres.

Je pourrais aussi vous parler des Sénégalais, vous exprimer la sincérité et la profondeur de leur réputé téranga ; vous expliquer comment les personnes qui ont croisé mon chemin pendant ce voyage l’ont toutes influencé pour le mieux ; vous partager comment ils nous ont accueillis à bras ouvert, d’humain à humain, sans regard porté sur l’origine ou les croyances ; comment nous avons partagé des repas avec des inconnus qui nous rapidement considéré comme des membres de la famille ; vous exprimer la chance que j’ai eu de rencontrer des humains extraordinaires dont l’amitié survivra nécessairement la distance et le temps.

Mais je crois que la plus grande vérité qui ressort de mon séjour est comment j’ai approfondi ma connaissance de moi-même pendant cette expérience. Au cours de mon mandat, j’ai compris beaucoup sur mes perspectives d’avenir et mon amour pour le travail de proximité sur le terrain. J’ai constaté que mes capacités interpersonnelles ont été un véritable atout dans un environnement qui m’est inconnu. J’ai aussi pu développer mon autonomie, mon esprit critique, mon indépendance, ma confiance en moi-même et en mon intuition. Avec du recul, je crois pouvoir dire que je suis devenu une meilleure version de moi-même après mon séjour au Sénégal et je souhaite à quiconque ayant un intérêt pour l’international de vivre une expérience similaire.

In a village in the clouds

August 13, 2018 | Ranawk, Specialization - International Economics and Development and Additional Minor - Statistics, Uniterra, Népal, Central Dairy Cooperative AssociationLalitpur District Milk Producer Cooperative Union Ltd, Communication and Documentation Intern

In the second half of my internship, I was able to visit the field. For me, as a volunteer for the Lalitpur District Milk Producers Cooperative Union, this meant travelling to a nearby village of buffalo farms to interview farmers and start to develop a success story. One of the first things that CECI Nepal highlights during in country training is just how diverse the geography and climate in Nepal can be. By going to the field, I was able to see how an hour and many windy uphill roads later, it felt like I was in a completely different area. Looking out from the home I was staying in; the clouds were level with where I was standing.

By spending some time there, I was able to fully appreciate it what it means to be a buffalo farmer. Most families have 2-3 buffaloes and caring for them is not the only job. Vegetable gardens are also important sources of income which take a lot of work. I interviewed several households about their experience with the cooperative and which aspects they appreciated most. While many of the answers were similar, the breadth of responses when it came to how the cooperative has improved their livelihoods was very telling of the change that is possible.

We travelled to the village in the milk truck that travels from the village to the city every day to collect and sell the milk for the farmers. Before the cooperative existed and before the farmers were a part of it, they each individually held the responsibility of finding a way to transport and sell their milk. I can’t imagine how difficult that was but it is clear how great of a benefit it is now. The farmers also spoke about how the cooperative provides seeds for their vegetable gardens, helps advocate at the government level, and improves knowledge on health and sanitation practices for their buffalos.

My visit to the field was a reminder of how change may feel incremental at the individual level but over time, can really add up. This along with connecting with other interns made me appreciate how when we are in these roles and performing these internships, all of our actions and reactions are part of much larger global systems. Each intern before us and each intern after us contributes to our expectations and our host communities’ expectations. While this can sometimes create miscommunications, it is a testament to how powerful a global network is. For students who are considering this internship in the future, I recommend you come in with determination, self-awareness, and an open mind – there is so much you can learn.