Wrapping Up

With less than a week left from our Zoom meeting with the girl’s media team, it feels like the time has flown by quickly. Avery and I are wrapping up the lessons, editing work, and reviewing our deliverables to ensure that our projects meet our community partner’s expectations.

Photo by VH S from Pexels

After completing the lesson planning, it feels like a huge chapter of our internship is coming to an end. We have been waking up early for the past few months and meeting the girls who always greet us with bright and happy smiles. We learned, laughed and at times endured our WIFI’s broadband speed but enjoyed our time.

“We learned, laughed and at times endured our WIFI’s broadband speed.”

The English conversation and the work with Mikono-Yetu have offered me an exceptional opportunity to learn about East Africa, specifically Tanzanian’s life and culture. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions, I have had the chance to connect with our East African community partners and learn about the challenges and successes of global development work done by Mikono Yetu’s tireless women leaders. I am saddened to think that my internship is ending as working with Mikono Yetu’s staff, and the girls has brought so much joy and positivity to my summer.

Mikono Yetu’s staff and the girls have been welcoming, patient and generous with their time. They have allowed us to learn with them and taught me to look at the bright side of life. My internship is an affirmation for me to pursue work related to community development and even pursue my love for teaching.

Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. from Pexels

Editing the girls’ journals have been underway for a while, but with the completion of the lesson, I can focus on them full-time. I want to make sure that I am doing their work justice when editing their written pieces. It is a huge accomplishment that I would like to celebrate with them. We planned a beach theme party for our last day, and I am looking forward to our celebration when the girls will read their articles as their surprise present.

Glitch in Planning!

Many of us know that writing is a process, but the most challenging part of writing is when we stand in front of a blank page and face many choices. Sometimes we might even feel overwhelmed by approaches that we think we should have taken. A competent writer knows that planning could be the ultimate tool for a great outcome. However, plans don’t exactly work as we might have imagined it, but a good writer knows when to cut a paragraph short or expand on an idea to create a compelling piece of written work.

The goal is not to be done, the goal is to move froward and build resilience.

There are three weeks left before the end of my internship. Although I planned every stage of my internship carefully to achieve all my deliverables and learning goals, the unanticipated events challenged my initial plans. To move forward though, I had to stay focus by communicating with my supervisor, keeping my partner’s interests in mind, and collaborating with community partners.

“Flexible planning is a context-reactive, environment-adaptive organization of plans that facilitates development and growth.” – Serban

My plans were on schedule until a turn of events interrupted my personal life. As a result, I was unable to conduct the lessons. I had to adjust to my new circumstances quickly. I first contacted my supervisor and came up with new action plans. Then I connected with Avery and discussed my plans. With her support, we were able to establish a temporary schedule. Then I contacted our community partner and explained the temporary changes to our plan. Meanwhile, the girls continued with their lessons and began to brainstorm ideas to write articles.

But this was not the only challenge. Like any other place, Tanzania has holidays. I was unaware of these holidays. Imagine getting up at 7:00 am, getting dressed to go to work, driving to work but once you get to the office no one is there. Perhaps you didn’t get the memo. Then you call your supervisor, and after waiting for a while, you find out that your company is having a holiday for all staff and employees. But, you didn’t know!

Cartoon by Dreamstime

As remote interns, we didn’t think about holidays in Tanzania. We found out that Tanzania has two holidays in July and that those holidays are significant to our community partners in Mwanza. Of course, when you travel, these things could happen too, but because you are in the environment, you can connect with the community partners. Most likely, someone will mention the importance of these holidays to you. So later that day, I found a comprehensive calendar on Tanzania’s high commission’s website and made a note of these dates. Here is the link: https://www.ca.tzembassy.go.tz/tanzania/category/tanzania-holidays

Just as a writer who delete unfocused ideas and write new ones or move sentences to finalise an essay, I had to adjust my plans and be very flexible with myself and others. Being flexible is the key to enjoying my internship and building a strong bond with everyone involve.

Making Memories

It is mid-July, and I am at the midpoint of my internship with Mikono-Yetu, an organisation that started from a Tanzanian kitchen. Mikono-Yetu is growing exponentially and continues to contribute to the country’s economic development. As I said in my previous post, the girl’s media group is in its infancy. It needs nourishment and care. Usually, organisations create a care plan to implement programs and services. With that in mind, the girls’ objectives have been at the centre of the program Mikono-Yetu provides. I endeavour to be an ally and support their plans.

A few weeks ago, we planned a Zoom cooking session with the girls. That Tuesday morning, I set up my camera in my white kitchen. We started the Zoom meeting just a few minutes past 8:00 am, which is our usual meeting time. Both Avery and I were trying to pay close attention to the instruction given by our girl’s leader. First, a metal pot sat on a single flame gas camper stove. Then gradually, we added the flour. The yellow colour of the cornflour faded as it met the water. Then we repeatedly stirred and added flour to get the consistency of mashed potato. Their Ugali looked like a mashed potato on the camera, but my pot had a different story. It looked more like baby food. I think, on my second try, I got the real Ugali, but I wouldn’t know because I have never had it before.

Screen shots of our Zoom cooking

They also brought okra, tomato, and coconut milk and transformed the fresh ingredients into a vegetarian dish in less than fifteen minutes. Once they cooked the side dish, it was time for a demonstration –how to eat it. At that moment, a void overcame my thought. How much I wished I could be in Mwanza. We could be enjoying the food and telling a joke or two. But, unfortunately, the absence of human contacts is a challenge with the remote internship because the everyday life experience of living at the designated place doesn’t exist.

Still, I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to make these experiences. To tell the story this time and be a small part of the girls’ lives. Despite everything going around the world with COVID-19, I want to keep a positive attitude and make the best out of this rare opportunity.

Pandemic has changed everything we do, but one thing I am sure of is that it could not change our desire to become an ally with our community partners. We want to work together, learn from each other, and empower one another.

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.

A Virtual Take-Off!

A Virtual Take-Off!

This year, my travel checklist is short and concise for going to Mwanza, Tanzania internship.

A laptop
A solid internet connection
A quiet space to conduct a virtual meeting
Installing all communication applications on my phone and laptop

Photo by Ken Tomita at Pexel

Typically, students at the Western Heads East have to prepare for a long flight to East Africa. This year I have the privilege to work remotely on a community development project alongside other international development student. Due to the ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, our collaboration with a community partner in Tanzanian is taking place online. However, the circumstances still allow me to fulfil my academic goals and learn more about the nature of global development work. I invite you to follow this series of blog posts to learn about my virtual journey to Mwanza, Tanzania.

Some of the challenges with a remote internship are that you do not have total exposure to and understanding of the country’s culture. During this pandemic, given this remote opportunity, I hope that we can overcome the technology glitches. So far, my Western teammate and I had a good virtual connection. We have an excellent working schedule and speak about our project regularly. However, the internet connection between Canada and Mwanza is usually unstable. Due to the time difference, we only have a short window in the morning to connect with our community partners. So, we had to adopt a flexible and informal approach to meeting with our community partners. 

Last week we had a meeting at 9:00 am, but our partners could not connect until 10:30. When we rescheduled for Monday, the internet connection made it very difficult to hold a conversation for more than five minutes, so we tried for the third time. Finally, on Tuesday, we had a good internet connection. With our  community partners’ we were able to discuss their needs, and they in turn related their ideas for the program over the coming weeks.

E-mail communication is another technology-related aspect of my internship. In the Global North, we rely on e-mail technology for sharing documents and communication. We check e-mails regularly; however, this is not the case for all our community partner members. Our group leaders in Tanzania have better access and communication through messaging apps, so we have adopted these new platforms into our routine communication.  

We are almost three weeks into our internship, and I have realised that access to various levels of technology can be an invisible privilege that we may take for granted. I have also experienced our partners’ sincerity and resiliency in trusting the process. It is heartwarming and encouraging to be part of the friendly and welcoming team. Despite all the technology-related challenges, my teammate and I have been able to clarify the program needs and goals. We established a flexible schedule to meet regularly on Zoom. I think these are reasonable first steps that have got us off to a great start.