In the summer of 2012, Project Wezesha had the great opportunity to work with an intern who was committed to exploring international development, community engagement and the power of education. You can read more about how Katy Lindquist became part of our program in our last blog entry. In this blog, enjoy the experience through Katy’s words as she recounts her summer internship experience. Thanks again, Katy!
This past summer, I spent two and a half months in Western Tanzania working as an intern for Project Wezesha. It was among the most transformative, insightful, and beautiful experiences of my life. I lived in the village of Mgaraganza in the Kigoma Region. I stayed in the home of Jane and Ashahadu, who have been friends of Rai for a long time. They have two kids, Mickey (5 years) and Sifa (1.5 years), who are absolutely joys. They gave me my own room in the house with a nice big bed. I immediately felt at home with Jane and Ashahadu. I was welcomed in the village by a group of Jane’s women friends who I came to be very close friends with and an army of children who I grew to love dearly. I spent the first few days getting acquainted with my new home. Lucas showed me around the village and introduced me to all of the village leaders. And after a few days, I began to become adjusted to village life.
When I was searching for internships this summer, I was looking for an organization that was small and run largely on the ground by a local supervisor. Project Wezesha fit that bill exactly. I spent most of my days working hand in hand with Lucas on different projects. I spent the first few weeks of my time in Tanzania traveling to the far away villages of Kigalye, Kagongo, Mtanga, and Bubango to speak with the village leaders about the new application program for Project Wezesha Secondary School Scholarships. The executive chief of the five villages, Patrick Maganga escorted Lucas on I on the long hikes with “gentle slopes.” Patrick was a soft-spoken man, but he was completely committed to improving the livelihood of the people in his five villages. We were often stopped on our long walks while he talked to various citizens about their problems and what he could do to help. Making the long walks from village to village showed me just how far many of the students have to walk to get to school. Making these walks is no easy task and I can’t imagine doing it everyday on an empty stomach, which is often the case for many of these students.
I spent many days teaching English in Mgaraganza Primary School. I have never been taught how to teach English but by the end of my time in the village I felt comfortable leading a classroom. Working with the students was a joy. They are so thirsty for knowledge and could not be more excited to be learning English from a native American speaker. I also got to know the teachers of the school very well over chai breaks and various visits to their homes. They became my good friends.
I also worked with Lucas on overseeing the construction of Amahoro Secondary School. This is a more complicated task than it sounds. The construction of the school involves not only the hired builders but also the support and labor of the villagers. Lucas and I had endless talks with the chair of the village and other village leaders to make sure that the village contribution was fulfilled. As Rai highlighted in one of her previous blogs, we also had to meet with various government officials in Kigoma in order to ensure that the village leaders of Mgaraganza were going to continue to show support for the project.
I spent many afternoons hanging out at the school site with the builders and the neighbor kids. I bought the children who live near the school a new soccer ball and volleyball and we spent many afternoons teaching each other new games. No one in the village quite knew how to pronounce my name, so most people called me “Candy” instead of Katy. Whenever I walked up to the secondary school I was greeted by laughs and loud exclamations of “Candy, Candy!”
During my last weeks in the village, I helped develop a pilot microfinance program with a few women that were selected by the executive officer of the village. Lucas and I worked with them on writing proposals and talked them through what a small business could and should look like. During my last weeks I also worked with five of Project Wezesha’s brightest scholarship students on developing a mentor program. Lucas, the executive chief, and I led a workshop on leadership and community service. All of the students are very excited to start working on their respective mentoring projects.
During my time in Mgaraganza, I also did a significant amount of research that I will develop into an independent study with a professor at my college. I led interviews, with the translation assistance of Lucas, with many village leaders, women, students, and teachers. I wrote observations everyday and collected quite a bit of data. I am an Anthropology major at school and this internship presented itself as a perfect opportunity to do real ethnographic research on issues of development, education, and local sustainability in Tanzania.
In addition to the more “official” parts of my internship with Project Wezesha, I also got the opportunity to learn what it means to be a “local” in Mgaraganza. I lived, ate, slept, and walked like the villagers. Living in the village is more difficult than I thought it would be. There is no electricity, running water, real toilets, transportation, or sugar. The poverty of the village is startling at first and it did take a toll on me mentally and physically. But one of my goals going into this summer was to show that I was in solidarity with the people that Project Wezesha was working with. I wanted them to view me as their equal so I attempted to eliminate as many barriers between them and me as possible. I carried water on my head with Jane, washed my clothes by hand, helped cook, played with the children, did the dishes, and spent many long nights getting to know the people of the village.
It is a truly remarkable thing when two people who come from completely different worlds without a common language and culture are able to become real friends. The friends I made in the village will stay in my heart forever. I will miss hanging out with Agnes, Ellista, and Zainabu, Jane’s best women friends. I will miss my evening chats with Pascal, a local farmer/tailor/pastoralist who spoke excellent English. I will miss the long walks and talks with Lucas, who’s smile and sense of humor is untouched. I will miss dinners with Jane and Ashahadu and the many times that they “joked” me for my fear of spiders. I will miss hanging out and working on English with our scholarship students like Jumbe and Khadija. And of course I will miss playing with all of the beautiful children. I now have a second home in Tanzania that I never expected I would find.
Working with Project Wezesha this summer was one of the best decisions I have ever made. If you are looking for a real “on the ground” internship with an organization that works to expand access to education and build community development, consider interning for Project Wezesha. You will not only learn about how an NGO in Africa works on the ground, you will also learn about Tanzanian culture, environment, tradition, and people. And you will make unlikely friendships that will stay with you for a lifetime.
by Katy Lindquist, Colby College, Class of 2014