Friday, November 23, 2007

Signs, Signs, Everywhere...Offices Closed

One of the biggest challenges I knew I would face with the internship program was the placement of interns with local organizations. Inexperienced students are primarily seen as a liability in any professional work environment but I also knew that offering to pay the student’s stipend would remove some of the anti-intern feeling. I also found that many of the NGOs were accustomed to having interns from different departments at the university. I drafted a general letter in which I stated the general idea of the internship, a description of sierra visions and the citizen media portion of the Rising Voices Grant. Based on intern interests as indicated in their essays, I began searching for organizations that had ongoing projects on which I could place the interns. I made an appointment with the Commissioner of the National Commission for Social Action (NACSA) so that I could get a list of possible NGOs to place interns with.

The Commissioner directed me to the Peace & Development Corps (PADCO), a national volunteering program placing recent college graduates to work with local district councils all over the country. I met with them several times with the goal of them providing me with a list of NGOs that I could send interns to. I never did get the list I wanted so I had to return to the internet in search of local NGOs. I also began to pay close attention to signs on the streets indicating offices….what I learnt was that there are many no longer existing NGOs with signs all Freetown pointing to non existing offices. I made visits to several offices that had been closed for over two or three years and no one had bothered to put down the sign.

I sent letters to several organizations including Handicap International’s National Rehabilitation Center (where they make prosthetic limbs for victims of the war), the Center for Victim’s of Torture, the Cotton Tree Foundation, the National AIDS Secretariat, the Campaign for Good Governance, NACSA, Finance Salone, AccessPoint Africa (an IT company), the Talking Drum Studio, and the Mano River Women’s Peace Network (MARWOPNET). At most of these organizations except for Finance Salone, I was able to speak to someone who assured me that they would get back to me on the issue. I never heard back from Handicap International, or the Campaign for Good Governance despite attempts to follow up. Finance Salone refused to accept an intern and said they’d have opportunities for an intern in January.

Abdul Konomanyi was placed with AccessPointAfrica. Sahr Joseph was placed with NACSA’s Peace and Development Corps. Moses Brima and Alpha Bangura were placed with the Cotton Tree Foundation…Moses was placed in Lunsar on an agricultural program on the cultivation of ginger by local farmers while Alpha was placed in Freetown on an Education Program. Edward Chaka our premed student was placed with the National AID Secretariat at Caunnaught Hospital, Kadie Kandeh was placed with MARWOPNET, Didan Sankoh was placed with the Talking Drum Studio but has subsequently dropped out of the program due to personal reasons. Noah Suluku and Daniella Wilson were placed on independent projects to highlight the lives of street children in different areas of the city, Noah Dauda and Alhassan Conteh paired up to research the implementation of micro finance in Freetown, and finally Sumaila and Abdul Jamal paired up to tackle with the environment. Of the fourteen students chosen for the program one of them could not be placed.

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