Monday, September 24, 2007

Implementing the TBCS...the lessons

Over the past three months we're been trying tirelessly to get this project off the ground and its finally taken flight. When I first arrived in freetown back in June I was advised that it would be almost impossible to start my project because of the impending elections. My general response was that elections had nothing to do with me or the Think Build Change Salone Internship Program, it didnt take long before I began to feel the affects of the elections fever.

The first part of the project was fairly easy, making sure that the ads on the radio were still running and waiting for applicants to return their applications. Everyday I went to the office their were tons of students hanging around trying to pick up applications or just hanging around hoping to catch a glimpse of me and plead their case. "No no no, I have to read your application before I can know if you'll be able to meet our criteria"

After several discussions with the office secretary I realised that though many people were coming to pick up applications, they didnt really have an idea of what the program entailed. I was under the impression that our ad on the radio was clear but the biggest problem with it was that the majority of people who came to pick up applications hadn't the slightest idea of what an "internship" meant. Either way 500 or more students had picked up applications. My initial plan was to go to schools to talk to girls about the program so that they'd be encouraged to apply but when i saw that many girls had picked up the application, i thought that i no longer had to go. After we stopped accepting applications and starting sorting through the piles I realised that i should have gone to the schools anyway....because though many girls had picked up applications very very few had actually returned them by the closing deadline. Of a total of 119 returned applications only 14 of them were women.

Reading through the applications one thing was clear....our students have major grammatical & spelling issues....reading through the essays was very very painful and definitely required translation from kringlish to proper english. There were very few applications that were readable and an even smaller percentage that actually had something to interesting to say.
When asked what community service activity they would like to participate in an alarming number responded that they wanted to be involved in "sensitization". It got so bad that during the call back interview process that i had to create a sign informing them that the word "sensitization" should not be used to respond to any question during the interview.

The interns that we ended up selecting are most certainly the best in the lot. They were the most articulate, intelligent, and intriguing. By "we" I mean my mom, Dr. Natasa Hrastnik (a Sierra Visions Volunteer from Slovenia) and myself....we read most of the applications together and Dr. Hrastnik was able to sit in on some of the interviews as well as make it to our first intern meeting. We even had to increase the number of interns to 14 instead of the initial 12. I can say without doubt or hesitation that these 14 young people (some of which are older than me) are the future of Sierra Leone and not be a cliche.

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