Eye-Opening Experience

5 juillet 2018 | Bradley, Specialization - International Development and Globalization, Forum of Federations, research

It has been well over a month since I arrived in Yangon, Myanmar, and began my internship at the Forum of Federations (FOF) Myanmar Office. It has been a great opportunity to put my knowledge of international development into practice in an interesting and dynamic country, and I am so lucky to work with such enthusiastic, knowledgeable individuals.

I was attracted to this internship because of the scope of the changes Myanmar is undergoing, and that the Forum of Federations is involved in this transition. By educating stakeholders, the organization hopes to enable them to make informed decisions regarding the country’s political future. I like that the organization is not attempting to influence the outcome one way or another, but rather is attempting to ensure that stakeholders and communities are as informed as possible before they decide for themselves.

A large portion of the Forum of Federations’ work here in Myanmar is comprised of hosting workshops on various aspects of federalism. These are held for stakeholders, such as politicians and civil society organizations, as well as community leaders and the general public. The objective is to spread knowledge of federal systems to citizens of Myanmar, so that aspects of this model of governance can be taken into account when implementing changes to the legal and political systems in the future.
The highlight of my trip so far has been attending one of these workshops, held in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, Myanmar’s national parliament, in Naypyitaw. This workshop focused on fiscal federalism, and involved a lecture delivered by the University of Ottawa’s own Dr. Jean-Francois Tremblay and question periods. It was attended by members of parliament and parliamentary staffers, and was organized with the cooperation of the Joint Coordination Committee for Hluttaw Development.

The planning and effort that went into the workshop was immense. Dr. Tremblay was flown in from Canada, the event was scheduled and rescheduled to accommodate members of parliament with busy schedules, and members of the FOF team were transported to Naypyitaw from Yangon. All of it culminating in a two-day workshop attended by over 100 members of parliament. I was told during the first few days of my internship that the Forum has held dozens of these workshops during its time in Myanmar, but seeing how much work and organization goes into a single one gave me a new appreciation for this achievement.

Although the scale of the changes Myanmar is undergoing — and the Forum of Federations’ involvement in this process — is what attracted me to the position, my time here has really driven home how large-scale change is incremental, rather than abrupt. For each hour of the workshop there was probably 20 man-hours of preparation behind the scenes. And while the impact of each individual workshop may be small, the cumulative effect of many of these workshops over time, combined with the Forum’s other activities, will hopefully have a significant impact over time.

Just living in Yangon for an extended period has also been an eye-opening experience. It is interesting to see firsthand a city in a country undergoing such a dramatic transformation. As sanctions against Myanmar were eased throughout the 2010s, Myanmar experienced significant economic growth. However, the potentially uneven nature of economic growth is clearly visible in Yangon. Near my apartment, for example, is a huge, brand new air conditioned shopping mall which houses luxury retailers, while just across the street people live in makeshift houses, and stray dogs are underfoot.
Even so, Yangon is an amazing city and living here has been wonderful. There is so much history it’s incredible. From my office I can see the tip of the breathtaking Shwedagon Pagoda peeking over the trees. A short walk from the Shwedagon is the tomb of the last Mughal emperor, who died in exile, largely forgotten, during British occupation. Downtown the 2500 year-old Sule Pagoda serves as a traffic circle and important landmark, a feature you would be hard-pressed to find in any other city. History is everywhere you turn in Yangon.

Overall, the experience so far has been almost overwhelming. There is so much to learn, see, and experience, and I am excited for what the coming weeks might bring.

Amaraba!

5 juillet 2018 | Maria, International Development and Globalization, Tamale, Ghana, Uniterrra, RAINS (Regional Advisory Information & Network Systems), Youth Engagement Officer

Hello from Ghana! Or, Amaraba as they would welcome you in the local language of Dagbani. Throughout these past couple of months, I’ve come to appreciate the value of greetings and realize the integral role they play in Ghanaian culture. You’re expected to greet everyone you encounter throughout the day, even strangers, making it easy to start up a conversation. There’s a specific greeting in Dagbani for every situation imaginable; from greeting someone who has returned from the market to someone who has fetched water. This friendly nature has made me feel extremely comfortable living in Tamale and able to adapt. It’ll be difficult to say goodbye.

Tamale is the capital of the Northern region of Ghana. I’m volunteering at an organization called RAINS (Regional Advisory Information & Network Systems) which works to improve the quality of life for vulnerable groups in the northern region, primarily focusing on the promotion of child rights and tackling the issue of child labour. My job as the Youth Engagement Officer is to review previous and current programs and see how they can be improved to further engage youth, a group that has often been excluded. To complete this research, I’ve been reviewing documents, consulting with staff, facilitating focus groups, and meeting with program beneficiaries. I’ve also been doing miscellaneous tasks within the office separate from my mandate which allow me to join my coworkers in the field and attend various workshops and events.

As an international development and globalization student, I’ve always been eager to see development happen at the grassroots level to further understand the process and intricacies of project implementation. So far, this placement has given me the opportunity to witness community led development directly. It’s one thing to sit in my coworker’s office and be briefed on the current projects being facilitated by RAINS, and another to go into these communities and see the projects in progress: the school buildings that have been funded by RAINS, the fruits and vegetables being grown in the community gardens that have been built to facilitate participatory learning in primary schools, the bicycles that have been donated used by children to get to and from school, and the women that have been taught how to bee-keep receiving money for the honey they have produced.

Despite its small size of 14 staff members, RAINS is extremely well-known by residents of Tamale. Whenever I tell someone that I’m doing an internship at RAINS, it’s always followed by an eager response of praise. Almost everyone has either been a beneficiary themselves or have heard of the work that they do. It’s great to be working with such an engaging and active organization and alongside some very passionate coworkers. I’m excited to see what’s to come in the next month of my internship!

Summer in Sri Lanka

5 juillet 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 have been thinking a lot about how to summarize my living, working and travelling experiences in Sri Lanka thus far. I thought about it on the train from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy and I thought about it on the beach in Trincomalee, but I decided to take a few moments in my “home town” of Nuwara Eliya to write about it.

I will start by asking a question: what are some things you think of when you think about Sri Lanka? If you asked me this question 2 month ago I would have said beaches, tea plantations and temples. Although there is an abundance of all the above, my understanding and appreciation for this beautiful country has grown immensely in the past 2 months. I am particularly enthralled with the immense nature and wildlife of the country; there are so many different species of flowers and animals which seem to inhabit every part of the island.

Additionally, the people in Sri Lanka are incredibly welcoming and hospitable, and the culture is unbelievably rich. Between the 4 prominent religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity) it seems that there is always some sort of festival or celebration happening. Most notably, the monthly public holiday called Poya which occurs when there is a full moon.

To me, the most amazing thing about Sri Lanka is the diverse landscape and climate. In about 4 hours you can drive from the Oceanside capital city of Colombo to Nuwara Eliya in Hill Country. At an altitude of about 1,868m, Nuwara Eliya is located in the misty mountains of Central Province. The terrain is picturesque; endless acres of tea trails that are bordered by lush jungle. It is also the coldest region in Sri Lanka; the temperature difference between Nuwara Eliya and neighbouring towns can be very dramatic. Before arriving in Nuwara Eliya I knew that it was the start of monsoon season, but I was very unprepared for the constant heavy rain, blustering wind and frequent power outages. According to locals, the monsoon season starts a little earlier every year (thank-you climate change), and this year it was particularly severe. Dealing with weather extremities was rather challenging throughout the first month and a half of my internship, however the days seem to be getting sunnier which leaves me hopefully that monsoon season is almost over.

The vast differences in landscape and climate also means a large variety of activities that can be done in different parts of the country, so it is no surprise that Sri Lanka is becoming a popular tourist destination. Some attractions include surfing, snorkeling, diving, whale watching, kite-surfing, hiking, touring tea plantations, golfing and safari excursions.

In Nuwara Eliya, I am working as a Marketing and Communications officer with Kelani Valley Plantations; a partner organization to Uniterra + WUSC Sri Lanka. Before arriving, I had no idea what type of work I would be doing, nor did I have any preconceptions of the work environment that I would be emerged in for three months. I am stationed at Tea Train, which is a small café located on Edinburgh Estate (one of the many Kelani Valley estates). Aside from redesigning menus, managing the restaurants social media pages and updating the Trip Advisor profile, I also get to work on business proposals for upcoming ventures which will further Kelani Valleys position in the hospitality/tourism industry.

Soon I will be starting a new project that I am pretty excited about: I will be sorting through 5 years of photographs in order to showcase the social work that Kelani Valley Plantations has done to improve the community. I will select photos then write captions in order to create posters which are to be displayed at Tea Train.

The end of my internship is quickly approaching, and although I am sad that I will not see the final product of the business proposals which I have been working on, I am looking forward to coming home to Canada. That being said, I will be back to visit this alluring island, and Nuwara Eliya will definitely be on my itinerary. I am hopefully curious to seeing how my work will be expanded upon in the future.

Apprendre à s’adapter

5 juillet 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

Depuis longtemps, on nous inculque l’art de l’adaptation. C’est une qualité recherchée par les employeurs, c’est une pratique sociale qui nous permet de naviguer les obstacles et les défis, et de s’en tirer avec brio. Depuis mon arrivée en Haïti, « adaptation » a été un mot clé qui m’a permis de faire de mon stage une expérience positive et enrichissante. Voici donc un bref aperçu de ce qui attend tout coopérant volontaire en Haïti :

Le créole et le français. Haïti possède deux langues officielles. Chez mes partenaires, la langue de travail est souvent le français. Toutefois, le créole est la langue parlée dans la rue et dans les familles. Bien que similaire au français, il est au départ difficile à déchiffrer. Avant de quitter pour un stage en Haïti, il est judicieux de se familiariser avec la langue. Les Haïtiens sont fiers de leur culture et de leur langue. La plupart des interactions sociales en sont facilitées. L’adaptation à cette dualité linguistique a toutefois été facilitée par le fait que le français soit ma langue maternelle.

Le transport a aussi été un ajustement. D’une part, les transports en commun sont les plus abordables. Posséder une voiture n’est pas accessible à tous. Je suis chanceuse! Le Cap est une des rares villes en Haïti où un transport « formel » existe : les taxis motos et les taxis machines sont similaires aux taxis qu’on retrouve au Canada. Ils ne possèdent toutefois pas de compteurs, les prix sont donc établis selon le trajet et doivent être négociés. D’autre part, le centre-ville est organisé en quadrillé : horizontalement, les rues sont identifiées par des lettres (A, B, C, etc.) et à la verticale, les rues sont identifiées par des chiffres (1, 2, 3, etc.). Il m’a fallu quelques jours avant de bien comprendre comment les lettres et les numéros s’organisent.

Dès le premier jour, il a également fallu s’habituer à l’argent. Il existe plusieurs « formes » de monnaies utilisées en Haïti. Malgré la loi récente obligeant les commerces à utiliser la gourde, la monnaie nationale, de nombreux vendeurs utilisent toujours le dollar américain. Il existe aussi un concept, le « dollar haïtien » : il s’agit réellement de gourdes, mais le prix est indiqué en dollar. Pour en calculer le coût réel, il suffit de multiplier par cinq (1 dollar haïtien égal 5 gourdes). Cela a mené à de nombreuses erreurs et hésitations de ma part, quand vient le temps de négocier.

La météo a également nécessité de l’adaptation. Travailler dans une chaleur et une humidité étouffante ne relève pas de mes habitudes. Les journées débutent tôt et nous devons rapidement composer avec le soleil, les bruits environnants, l’accès imprévisible à l’électricité et l’accès à l’internet. La relative sécheresse qui persiste cet été n’a d’ailleurs pas aidé certains de nos partenaires, qui ont perdu des récoltes. À l’inverse, la pluie peut également limiter nos déplacements et rend les transports plus dispendieux.

Ce qui a sans doute été le plus grand défi d’adaptation a été la gestion de tous les petits imprévus du quotidien. Par exemple, la prise de rendez-vous en fonction des calendriers religieux, culturels et sportifs, ou encore, les difficiles communications interculturelles. D’une part, il peut être stressant ou difficile de devoir s’intégrer dans une nouvelle équipe composée de personnes diversifiées en âge, en nationalités, en expériences et en intérêts. D’autre part, il m’a fallu beaucoup de temps pour connaître les différents projets du CECI dans le Nord, connaître les différents partenaires et leurs habitudes de travail, tisser des liens et établir des relations de confiance avec mes collègues nationaux. L’équipe d’Uniterra et du CECI a toutefois été accueillante et généreuse en m’intégrant rapidement à leurs activités professionnelles et sociales. Je me considère choyée de pouvoir apprendre d’une équipe aussi variée en expériences et en connaissances.

Mon expérience de stage se déroule donc bien, malgré une période d’ajustement importante. Haïti est un pays riche et très intéressant. Avoir l’occasion d’apprendre dans ce contexte me permet de pousser mes réflexions plus loin, et d’apprendre à surmonter les petits défis du quotidien! Les tâches simples qui paraissaient insurmontables au cours des premières semaines sont devenues, petit à petit, banales.

Travailler à l’international requiert beaucoup de qualités, et la capacité à s’adapter en fait définitivement partie. Apprendre à faire face à autant de nouveauté, aussi rapidement, peut paraître intimidant. Après quelques semaines ici, je peux dire que c’est d’abord et avant tout, une étape enrichissante. L’important est de garder l’esprit ouvert!

The people who help you along the way

5 juillet 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

After reflecting upon my last few weeks in Nepal, there is no simple way to sum up this opportunity. It has been a bit of a blur. I realized that although my experience has been personally challenging at times, I find myself grateful for a number of things.

Firstly, I am grateful for the opportunity to get practical experience pertaining to my coursework during my undergraduate degree. I love UOttawa for a lot of reasons but the number of opportunities available for international experience really isn’t something available everywhere. After spending a few weeks here, I feel lucky to be able to observe some of the concepts and theories learned in class in a real-world setting. Being immersed in a cooperative setting gives me a further appreciation for community-based initiatives and the power and accessibility they create. Talking about challenges in implementing development projects in a classroom on a slideshow is completely different from learning about them from colleagues who are also looking for their own ways to solve them. Cooperatives as a mechanism for development are something that I have been interested by since second year when I first explored their potential.

The second way I find myself grateful is that despite not knowing anyone in Nepal before I arrived, the small network I have here has been great in my times of feeling unsure or confused. This is my first international cooperation experience and I was apprehensive about the kinds of things I would be able to contribute. This is where CECI Nepal and their experience in facilitating local organizations and international volunteers has been really helpful in giving me options, preparing me, and giving continued support. Part of the reason I did this internship was to see if development work was for me and even if I find that is not the case, I know the people who helped me along the way will stick with me.

Finally, I find myself privileged to be able to experience another culture so fully. Travelling to travel and travelling to work are different feelings. I am able to pause, develop connections, and live a life. Working in an international setting isn’t always easy but being able to learn, question, and continue to open my mind and eyes is something I will never take for granted.

A bit about my mandate

5 juillet 2018 | Constanza, Specialization - Psychology, Haïti, Uniterra, Organisation de Gestion de la Destination Nord d’Haïti, Conseillère dans la création de l'Association des Jeunes Artisants de Milot

We have passed the half way mark of the internship and it has gone by fast! I have been busy working with our partner organization and country team, that I never realized how quickly the days were passing. I have been working six days a week, since our partner organization (the association of young artisans) is mostly made up of students, we decided that Saturday was the best day to meet, so I have been officially working Saturdays! I honestly don’t mind, it is always a pleasure working with the young artisans, they have so much enthusiasm and drive to advance their association, which has passed onto my own motivation to continue to work hard and do well in my mandate.

As a counsellor for the association of young artisans, it requires me to be able to go from Cap-Haitian to the small city of Milot, which is about 45 minutes away. I have come to embrace the bus ride on the ‘tap-tap’, with the swerving, the sudden stops, the kompa music and encountering locals, recently however, I have been fortunate enough to get a ride with a cab driver, and we have become acquainted with one another throughout our 40 minute drives. Milot is known to be a popular city for tourists, it holds one of the many popular attractions in Haiti, the historical monuments of ‘la Citadelle’ and ‘le palais Sans-Souci’. For this reason, every time I arrive in Milot, I always get stopped in my tracks and asked if I need a tour guide or information on these sites. It feels overwhelming at times since some locals are very persistent however, as I continue to walk, I know that once I see the pink house on the street of artisans, which has become our meeting spot, I begin to feel at ease again. It is also a town where you will find many artisans, who produce and sell a variety of crafts from wood work to painting to sewing. The artisanal work you see, you can tell is made with technique and detail and you get to interact with the artist who created such work, an experience that I found very endearing and special. I knew I wanted to buy a traditional artisanal piece made in this beautiful town, so I decided to buy a traditional wooden mask made by an artisan named Benjamin.

Throughout my internship I have had the pleasure of going to Milot every week, and now that we have passed the mid-way point, I still feel like I have so much left to explore in this town. Luckily, these past couple of weeks I have been going more often to work with the association of young artisans, which has given me the opportunity to travel over this beautiful town. Throughout these busy weeks, I have been working alongside my CECI supervisors and the association, in trying to write a project proposal in order to acquire funding from the World Bank. There have been tough times throughout the process, while trying to balance the vision of the young artisans and trying to manage a certain budget, it was a matter of deciding what would be possible in the first phase of the project and what could be continued in a second phase in another project proposal.

Even though there were differences, it amazes me that regardless of the strenuous moments endured, the young group maintained their motivation, and continued to focus on their objectives for this project. A valuable lesson that I will take home with me, knowing that working in a team will bring differences in opinions, but that it’s still important to continue to stay motivated and focused on the end goal, which in this case is submitting a completed project proposal. The project proposal itself, which is almost completed, has also taught me some valuable insight on what goes into a planning a project, in this project specifically it has been a project on construction and restoration. It requires leveling the road and sidewalks, building mobile and permanent kiosks and restoring murals. All of which requires a knowledge of different types of materials, techniques and terminology in order to execute this project. To say the least, it has been a learning experience for me and my knowledge in project management has slightly increased, and it has become quite exciting once you get the hang of it. It is a bittersweet moment knowing that my time in Haiti has come down to a month, but I know that I will continue to enjoy the weeks ahead and I will cherish the moments with the association of young artisans and our country team.

Experience of a lifetime

5 juillet 2018 | Marwan, Specialization - International Development and Globalization and Additional Minor - Public Administration, Tanzania, Arusha NGO Network, Research and Advocacy Officer

I am located in Arusha, Tanzania and I have been here for two months. By far, this has been the greatest experience I have had in my life for numerous reasons. The first reason would be the fact that I am able to work on the field in a developing country and witness the everyday lifestyle from residents of the country. Secondly, it is being able to network with local NGOs in Tanzania and understanding their needs as well as demands. Lastly, it is gaining knowledge and expertise from residents I meet day-to-day.
I meet around five new people each day on my way to work and back home. The conversations we have are great and really stimulate new ways of thinking on how to improve living standards in the country. The main difference I get from being on this international internship compared to being in a classroom, is that I can get multiple incite from citizens in the developing country and increase my knowledge on the barriers they feel that are holding them back.

I believe international development students should highly consider taking international internships because it enhances and develops your thinking processes as well as perception of “development”. In addition, it allows you to mature and become accustomed to new cultures and traditions. Each country is different from another and have different needs and demands. Once you experience the lifestyle (living, work, leisure, etc) you get a general sense of areas where improvements/projects can be successfully implemented.

To any student reading this, do not hesitate to apply for this once in a life time experience. It will only benefit you and allow you to grow as an individual.

Halfway there…

4 juillet 2018 | Kristina, Specialization - Psychology, Mines Action Canada, Nepal, Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal, MAC Support Officer

I work for the Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal, and although landmines have officially been banned in Nepal, we work on victim assistance, mine risk education and advocacy & awareness. The organization works to help support victims of landmines and their families, and working with the government to make sure that the new constitution’s provisions for disabled persons in Nepal are carried out.

At the office, every day is different from the last; from grant proposals and organizing events to managing social media and animating videos about our programs, there is always something new to learn. I had been a bit worried about being the only intern this semester that is not in DVM, and the challenges that might pose at work, but it’s been an incredible learning experience, and I’ve been able to use knowledge from my program (Psychology) more than I had expected.

I am just about halfway through my internship, and it’s feels a lot like a glass-half-full/half-empty situation; I’ve enjoyed the trip so much and I’m excited to spend another month and a half here, but it also feels bittersweet to think about how fast time has flown by, and how soon I will be back in Ottawa.

Over the past 6 weeks, I’ve fallen in love with life in Kathmandu. I was worried about having certain expectations and falling prey to the habit of comparing things to life back home in Canada, but everything is so new and different that even everyday tasks often turn into adventures.

We live with a host couple who have shown us the culture (and food) in Nepal, and our coworkers and the friends we’ve made are just incredible. I say “we” because I was fortunate enough to travel here with another student from uOttawa who has become my roommate, coworker, travel buddy, and good friend :)

We quickly got used to the walk to work, through small streets with a picturesque view of the hills, and also bigger roads which are often travelled by not just cars, buses and scooters, but usually a few goats and cows as well.

We’ve travelled around the country, visiting some small towns around Kathmandu, as well as the beautiful city of Pokhara and some trekking in the Himalayas around the Annapurna range; it has been nothing short of amazing. Although the altitude might be in part to blame, there’s something about waking up to see snow-capped mountains outside your window that literally takes your breath away.

This entire experience has been made so amazing by our kind coworkers, and all of our local friends who have helped us navigate our new lifestyle. My roommate and I have organized a Canada Day party for our local friends and coworkers to try and share a bit of our home with everyone. We will be attempting to make some poutine and s’mores, so we are praying for a stroke of luck finding ingredients and working our way around a kitchen that we aren’t used to.

After this week, we are bracing ourselves for yet another adventure; the monsoon. We think we’ve come prepared but I know we are in for a rollercoaster of surprises which will best be tackled not just by the rain boots, raincoats and umbrellas that we’ve packed, but with more importantly with an open mind and a strong-willed sense of humour :)

Nepal: constant sensory overload

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

There are a few places in the world a 15-year old girl will hop in a taxi with you and your friends to help direct the taxi driver to your destination.

At the end of our sixth week in Nepal, Kristina and I were invited to spend the weekend at a lovely cottage among rice fields with some of our expat and local friends. We took a taxi at around 8pm on Friday - and while, we and the taxi driver got lost on our way, a young girl hopped in and gave us directions as we drove. For me, that night, was the perfect representation of what my time in Nepal has meant to me.

Nepal is constant sensory overload - one where sights, sounds, colours flourish. It is elusive moments of serene beauty among constant chaos. It is like a place I have never been to before and one I could have never imagined. And with all that I could not have imagined, I am blown away at the speed at which I have grown to love and feel comfortable in a place so far from home. I would like to dedicate this to blog post to all of the people I have met that have helped me to feel this way. From some of my closest friends to strangers, I want to send a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has made this place a place I have to grown to love in such a short time.

Avoiding all generalizations, for me, the young girl in the taxi represented the sheer kindness, openness and patience of the people I have met. As it occurred on our way to a weekend meant to be spent with some of our closest friends, I realized that it was nature among Nepali society to value friendship, community and trust - these are the reasons I believe I have always felt so welcome and included from the start. But Nepal, like all places, is a complex place. It is hot and long bus rides, impossible traffic and unpredictable weather. It is moments of frustration and miscommunication. A constant worry of your body refusing the changes in sanitation (yup…), food and environment. However, these have yet to overshadow my sense of comfort in Kathmandu - funnily enough, they have become a mundane aspect of living here.

I chose to participate in an internship to learn more about a different part of the world, develop my professional skills and learn about grassroots mobilization and development. Spending the last six weeks with Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal (NCBL) and its partner organizations Women Development Society and Nayayatra, I have witnessed the care and passion that drives NGOs around the world - and having had similar experiences in Canada, I recognize the similarities between the challenges and accomplishments such organizations will face in both the Global South and Global North (by whatever factors that distinguish them). Thereby, when we question our impact as foreigners in the NGO-realm of another country, I continue to realize the benefits of collaboration in global expertise and partnerships.

Over the last six weeks, I’ve watched as my co-workers work in collaboration to tackle the key issues they see fit. One day, we’re conducting outreach to increase awareness on landmine issues and the global proliferation of weapons; another day, we’re brainstorming on how to include indigenous communities and women within our campaigns; and some days, we work to increase the participation of young and women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Throughout all of this, whether I am writing proposals for funding or creating promotional material for social media, I am happy to be working in a friendly and encouraging work environment, where I am constantly learning something new. Most notably, I have learnt that “development” work can mean a lot of things - learning about the history of the organizations that NCBL works with, I have learnt that evolving and expanding mandates are an important aspect of work in the NGO-world. They are crucial to an evolving and expanding world!

However, I am also happy that a lot of my learning has occurred in my daily interactions and social networks. From adventurous pursuits to intimate gatherings, my time in Nepal has pushed me to conquer my fears, step out of my comfort zone and achieve a level of personal growth I have not before.

I am sad to be leaving in a little more than five weeks - and I dread leaving behind my co-workers, friends and co-worker friends but as I write this, I am determined to cherish each and every moment - as cliché as that may sound - and grasp all that I have learned - both personally and professionally - so that it may be put into practice in the next five weeks and thereafter.

Malawi - Warm Heart of Africa

29 juin 2018 | Samantha, Specialization - International Development and Globalization and Additional Minor - Arabic Language and Culture, Malawi, Uniterra, Art and Global Health Centre Africa, Youth Leadership Officer

I’ve been in Malawi for just under 6 weeks now and I cannot believe that it is already nearing the halfway point of my internship! Time is going by quickly and I know already that I will be sad to leave. Currently, I am sitting on the back porch of my office around lunch time, watching a couple of baboons chase each other through the trees and over the roof of a nearby house. Here in Zomba, Malawi, monkeys and baboons are a fairly regular sight to see but I’m not sure they will ever lose their novelty to me!

I am working with a small local organization called Art and Global Health Centre Africa, or “ArtGlo” for short. They aim to use participatory arts and creative leadership approaches to tackle health issues in Malawi. They have three main programs currently running: Umunthu which trains healthcare workers on LGBTQ issues and non-discrimination in accessing health care, Make Art, Stop Aids (MASA Youth) which uses theatre for development and other art forms to educate university and secondary school students on Sexual Reproductive Health issues, and lastly, Students with Dreams, which provides leadership training and funding to university students who want to implement creative development solutions in local communities.

I feel lucky that I get to work a bit with different teams at ArtGlo. Rather than being relegated to one department, I am working with various counterparts to fill in the gaps and build capacity by doing things with others rather than for them. Mainly, my work has consisted of analyzing data from this year’s SWD program to make recommendations for improvement, working on funding applications with the communications team and helping develop cohesive toolkits for MASA. One day, in my 3rd week, I got to go into the field and see a MASA festival in action. The secondary students had prepared dramas, dances, poems, drawings and more and the festival was attended by their families, police officers, health workers, and the chief of the village, among others. Because the idea is based on forum theatre, the actors in a drama would pause their skit and ask the audience for input on what a character should do or how he should react to, for example, his wife telling him she wants to get tested for HIV. It was really interesting to watch these conversations play out (even with the English/Chichewa language barrier, it wasn’t too difficult to tell who was positively or negatively reacting). These conversations are controversial and not always easy but it’s been fascinating to learn from my colleagues and the students we work with how the arts are actually a powerful force in generating dialogue about important issues.

Regular life here in Zomba is quiet, as it’s a fairly small town. I live in the back room of a cake shop so sometimes on the weekends I just sit and drink coffee and chat with whoever stops by! I’ve also been enjoying hiking the plateau that dominates the Zomba skyline and taking some weekend trips to explore this beautiful country such as going on a game drive or visiting the famous lake! The people here in Malawi are also incredibly warm and kind; the country is definitely living up to its name as the “Warm Heart of Africa”! I feel like I’ve lucked out in being here as I never have felt overwhelmed by culture shock, language barriers or safety concerns. Of course part of this is from taking precautions but overall I feel that I’ve settled in quite easily and I am so enjoying my time here!

One more thing before I go is that last weekend, I got to go to a traditional Malawian wedding! My landlord’s sister lives abroad and had come home to have her Malawian wedding and I was invited to attend. I got a dress made out of chitenge from the market and participated in a part of the wedding called perekani. Perekani is basically the bride and groom dancing while various groups of friends and family (i.e. all the aunties, all the siblings, all the friends etc) are called up to shower them with money. It is quite the sight to see and even more fun to take part in! People bring lots of small bills (in Malawi a 50 kwatcha bill is worth about 10 cents Canadian) and spend literally hours just dancing, eating and throwing money. It was a cultural experience I feel very lucky to have gotten!