Like a Kid in a Candy Shop

Animation created by Pixton for one of the lessons

One month into my internship and my goals and objectives have come to a better focus. My teammate Avery and I are meeting with a group of 15- to 19-year-old girls three times a week. They are part of Mikono-Yetu’s girl empowerment program, and they hope to become journalists and broadcasters. The program is in response to the UN’s sustainable development goals to be achieved by 2030. It addresses the need to achieve gender equality and empowerment for all girls and women. At the start of our internship, Maimuna our community partner supervisor shared few video interviews with us. She told us the girls’ goals and that they planned and initiated these videos. The videos were all in Swahili, but I could tell that the interviews were about the young girl’s career or educational successes.  Mikono-Yetu also registered a Television channel where many people in Mwanza will view these videos on the television. One of the program’s goals is to empower girls to pursue their careers by building their self-esteem and confidence. My goal is to become an ally and collaborate with Mikono-Yetu.

From the start of our internship, Maimua has given us the creative freedom to design a program to help the girls achieve their goals. This feels like someone has taken me to a candy shop and let me choose whichever candy I want. Very exciting. There are very few internship that give you this much freedom. Everyone’s creative process is different and my creative process usually begins in this way. At first, I reflect on some of my past experiences. Next, I look into resource and research. Then, I draft an outline and use it to guide me.

I thought the best way to get to know the girls was to have an icebreaker activity. I sent the draft of the activity to Maimuna for approval. Once I got the green light, it was time for implementation.

For the past few weeks, I have been researching, designing, and implementing the English learning lesson plan series. I tailored the plan to meet the girls two primary goals.

1- To improve and practise English conversation

2- To learn more about journalism and broadcasting

Like any other project, the research is taking most of my time, but it is gratifying once we are on a Zoom call. I feel that the girls are not the only one learning; I am learning so much from them. They are full of energy and curiosity. After every call, I feel inspired to learn more about Tanzania. Usually, after a Zoom meeting in the morning, I research for few hours and plan our next activity. I am lucky to have Avery working in the project with me. We bounce text messages most days, and during Zoom calls, she is the one who can clarify and answer questions spontaneously. We complement each other, and I feel that makes us a great team.

But our collaboration wasn’t always smooth sailing. Two weeks ago, I got sick. We had to cancel the session because I didn’t have any instruction with the lesson plans for Avery. I always know what the sessions should look like in my head but to communicate those thoughts I had to include them in my lesson plans. Later, I reflected on best communication practices. It was apparent that I had to add instructions to the lesson plans. How to start a lesson, how to encourage students to speak, what are the correct answer to some of the exercises. We now have a student and instructor manual for the first unit. It takes more time writing the instructions and formatting them, but I feel it is more effective.

One of the animation I created for a conversation exercise.

This week, the girls’ questions led us to discuss cultural differences. We have been having conversations about the difference and similarities between English speaking countries cultures and accents. This topic led us to discuss differences between Mwanza and Canada.  We identified that climate in both of our countries influence the type of clothing people wear or a type of food they eat. For example, lettuce is an expensive vegetable in Tanzania, but most people have an avocado tree in their garden. However, lettuce is something that we can easily grow in our backyard, but avocados are imported pricier fruit. Another typical everyday ingredient in Tanzania is corn or maize flour. Tanzanians make Ugali an everyday dish with corn flour. It’s a side dish like potato or rice. The girls wished they could teach us to make Ugali so we planned to have a Zoom cooking lesson. I am looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, I am working on my second deliverable goal, creating a manual for video and sound editing. We usually take it for granted. When we are in an environment, we see, feel, and observe things around us. Our senses do a lot of the work for us. But in a virtual internship, we rely on second-hand information, other people’s experiences, and our imagination. But, the regular meeting with the girls allowed me to understand Mikono-Yetu’s environment better. This week, Maimuna introduced me to another staff member. He is the technology specialist at Mikono-Yetu. I wanted to know more about the programs that girls use for editing videos so I can write the manual for the program (there are several video editing programs that professionals uses). He explained perimeter of their needs and shared that the girls have some basic training on Premier-Pro. I am hoping to complete the Premier-Pro beginner’s manual in few weeks.

Despite the pandemic, my internship gives me a sense of belonging, a purpose and something to look forward. I truly hope that once the world is safe for travel, I can visit Tanzania and meet all the girls in person.

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