Like most other interns or development workers about to travel abroad, my head has been full of self-conscious questions, like how will I fit into the office culture? How can I be most effective here in only 6 months? Am I bringing skills that are truly applicable and needed? And how can I be the least burden on an organization that is already very limited in its time and resources?
Over the last ten years I’ve had the opportunity to work or volunteer with several organizations in the NGO/non-profit sector, and be involved in grassroots organizing - both of which usually involve overworked people dealing with limited funding. In some cases I have taken on a leadership role, helping to facilitate and plan if I have the skills and am the best suited for it. At other times I’ve looked at what I can do to support and work in solidarity with the folks taking the lead, maybe by designing promo materials, arranging rides to an event, or updating an email list (I LOVE spreadsheets).
These experiences have made me more keenly aware of how difficult it is to balance day to day administration and programming while also trying to plan sustainably for the future. Both are vitally and equally important, but the latter is usually the first to be put on hold. While some of my work here will involve building capacity through some software training, I am hoping that I will also be able to tackle some extra media work in the background so that my department can focus on new ideas, or get to work on things that have been on the back burner for a while.
The staff in The Gambia are all experts in their field - the NSGA has been running programs and honing their approach for over 30 years. They have dedicated time to the important work of building long-term relationships with communities all over the country, allowing them to develop trust and be nimble enough to quickly respond to changing needs. They know what works here in The Gambia, and I am excited to bear witness and learn from their strong leadership while working alongside them.
Getting back to the questions I had at the beginning - although they will always be there informing my decisions, I think I will gain confidence in my ability to navigate through them and find my niche here. I’ve now been in The Gambia for just over a month, and so far I think I have been keeping on track with what I came here to do. I am now part of a film team and will get to edit some short videos, and soon hope to do some social media work to help spread the word of the NSGA to a wider audience. I have gotten to know many of the staff, shared food, learned some Wolof, and am getting a stronger grasp on how everyone works together. The office is a busy space with lots to be done, but there is also much warmth and time to talk and joke. I’m looking forward to the rest of the internship and what the next 5 months will look like.
Krystal Lewis is working as a Media Intern with Nova Scotia Gambia Association in Gambia.