The Western Heads East internship program is a challenging, dynamic, multidisciplinary and international learning opportunity for students to grow and assist with health sustainability initiatives in East Africa. To learn more or to apply for an internship, visit our Become an Intern page.
This summer, 13 Western University students participated in internships in Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania. Students worked in groups with their host supervisors towards mutually agreed upon goals and outcomes. The interns document their experiences, challenges and learning in their blogs, and here we have included a short summary from the interns of what they completed this summer.
In addition, some of the interns have shared their experiences by completing the following statement. “My greatest learning about myself in this experience has been…”
Host Organization: University of Rwanda
Interns: Keyona Gallucci, Nordiah Newell & Michael Tesfay
“Throughout our internship we sought to explore the feasibility of establishing the first Fiti probiotic production and research centre in Rwanda. After submitting business and funding proposals to introduce the project, we coordinated partnership roles and responsibilities to engage UR staff and students. We established many connections for future endeavours with the Western Heads East Program, such being with Rwanda National Standards Board, Kibagabaga Hospital, Biryogo Health Centre, Les Enfants de Dieu, and Gardens for Health international. Practice producing the Fiti yogurt was essential, as was sensory testing and facilitating workshops to teach UR staff and volunteers how to make it. Over the course of our internship, we have contributed to building a foundation by which UR students, staff, community members, and future WHE interns, can build on to maximize the socio-economic benefits of Fiti probiotic yogurt.”
Keyona Gallucci: “In this experience, my greatest learning about myself has been after deep self-reflection. Every day presents a new set of challenges and experiences that I have worked to take in stride. I now believe development work to be a true reflection of my passion, career aspirations, and skill set. I have learned to accept my privilege and to use it where I can to help others help themselves in leading lives that they deem valuable. Rwanda has reiterated the significance of 'community' to me through social efforts such as 'Umuganda;' I am a reflection of my own community and in that, I have the capacity to bring forth a different set of perspectives, values, and skills. Cultural difference does not invalidate opinion or expression, it simply provides more opportunity for understanding ourselves and each other.”
Nordiah Newell: “My greatest learning about myself in this experience has been to be more patient and open minded when adapting to a new culture. I've learned one of the best ways to work within Rwanda has been working in solidarity with others instead of working for them, that way I can ensure I am doing my best to help elevate the voices around me that aren't often heard. I learned to step back, listen to the tasks that were required of me to accomplish and ask questions whenever I needed clarification. Overall, I'm glad I took part in this experience and hope to engage the campus community with this type of learning.”
Michael Tesfay: “My most significant realization has been rooted in understanding that there is nothing more important to me than working to uplift humanity. The feeling that I get when working to develop the Fiti social enterprise, volunteering at EDD, and working with Days for Girls to bring menstrual equipment across Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, is unparalleled to any feeling I have had doing any other type of work.”
Host Organizations: Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology & Aga Khan University Hospital
Interns: Emily Sandelli, Wenna Deng & Trevor Wright
"In Kenya, Emily and Wenna set out to review with Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) leaders, the successes and challenges of the campus Fiti Probiotic Yogurt Program. The campus Fiti kitchen had stopped production with the focus on the Fermented Foods for Life (FFFL) grant to expand beyond the campus. They contributed to the development of a proposal to administration to broaden the campus kitchen to a Fiti Production and Research Centre. Wenna and Emily worked with intern Trevor at Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) to establish a partnership with AKUH to provide Fiti probiotic yogurt to patients in the maternal and pediatric wards. Additionally, Trevor worked at AKUH to improve information systems and standard processes in the operating theatre to increase capacity and efficiency."
Emily Sandelli: “My greatest learning about myself in this experience has been my ability to adapt to new situations and challenges that I’ve faced while in Kenya. Between the change in culture and being in a new country, I was forced out of my comfort zone and had to adjust how I adapt to new surroundings.”
Wenna Deng: “My greatest learning about myself in this experience has been my willingness to take initiative in circumstances outside my comfort zone. The internship has been largely self-guided, so I realized early on that it was imperative that I take initiative to reach out to organizations and individuals to establish partnerships, for example with the Aga Khan University Hospital.”
Trevor Wright: “My greatest learning about myself in this experience has been that my beliefs and normal practices have been unconsciously reinforcing to global inequality my whole life.”
Host Organizations: St. Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT), Mikono Yetu Centre for Creativity and Innovation & Education for Better Living Organization (EBLI)
Interns: Diane Lee, Kajannan Srikumar, Anisah Hooda, Megha Shetty, Kathy Yu, Liana Langley & Nokuzola Ncube
"In Tanzania seven students worked with three different host organizations. At SAUT, Diane and Kajannan worked with students, staff and faculty to increase awareness of the Fiti probiotic yogurt kitchen on campus. With SAUT students, they presented on the health benefits in lectures, organized weekly movie nights at the kitchen, and helped to streamline branding strategies across Mwanza. At Mikono Yetu, Anisah, Megha & Kathy introduced new Fiti probiotic products like juice and uji, and provided training on the probiotic juice and uji to select Fiti entrepreneurs. They also visited many of the 50 operations across Mwanza, collecting data and speaking with the Mamas about their business and plans for growth, while working towards consistent branding and messaging. At EBLI, one of the biggest projects for Nokuzola and Liana was to write a funding proposal and budget with EBLI staff to introduce biochar system technology in rural Mwanza as a social enterprise."
Diane Lee: “My greatest learning about myself in this experience has been that in the past, I was unnecessarily afraid of trying new things. Opening myself up to new people and experiences pushed me to pursue interests that I was afraid to explore previously. The people we worked with during this experience were incredibly appreciative of our work but also had high expectations of us, which simultaneously encouraged us to take initiative and work diligently. For the first time in my life, I truly realized that it’s never too late to learn something new: We just need to approach each task with patience and an open mind. Every new experience comes with a learning curve, but enduring the frustrating process will bring forth the best results.”
Anisah Hooda: “My greatest learning about myself in this experience has been that I can do a lot more than I give myself credit for. I have always been the type of person to play it safe and avoid taking big risks, but taking a leap of faith on this internship experience has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and push the limits of my capabilities. I have been able to gain a better understanding of what I am passionate about and how I can make a lasting global impact. I have found that I am no longer afraid to approach new challenges and have learned to embrace each and every experience.”
Megha Shetty: “My greatest learning about myself has been an understanding of my own resilience - I overcame many adversities during my internship and I have grown tremendously as a person.”
Nokuzola Ncube: "My greatest learning about myself in this experience has been that I genuinely love and enjoy team work!"