ICSC Internships | Laura's storyby Jenny Shippen
Since 2021, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC) has offered internships to Newcastle University students as part of its efforts to bridge the gap between past and present human rights challenges.
The organisation helps to preserve the memories of historic sites and memorials around the world in order to educate future generations on the reality of past atrocities.
We caught up with Combined Honours student Laura to ask what it had been like to complete an internship in Uganda.
How did you apply for the internship?
During my second year at Newcastle University, I had a dilemma: either stay in England, or take a year abroad for my third year. I knew I wanted to have a new experience while earning and exploring a new culture – my three Es for a successful time away. A year abroad seemed like the perfect option as my course, Combined Honours, allowed travel as a part of my degree.
I signed up to the Newcastle University Global Opportunities email chain and received an email which led to my application for the ISCS internships. Uganda was one of the options and as I have travelled far and wide, but not Africa, this caught my attention. I had almost forgotten I applied until a few months later when I received a wonderful email offering an interview.
I attended the Zoom call with Global Opportunities team, then moved on to the external interview with Kigere Rose – the executive director at Women’s Rights Initiative (WORI) based in Jinja, Eastern Uganda.
WORI is a grassroots, women-led organisation dedicated to empowering women and youths through human rights education, advocacy, and skill acquisition to combat violence. They also operate the Nyonga Women's Shelter, the first of its kind and the largest in Uganda, which supports vulnerable women and children who have experienced abandonment and gender-based violence (GBV).
By February, I had a plan to go to Uganda for four weeks on the dates of my choosing. For me this was perfect: I would gain valuable experiences abroad out of my comfort zone, and I would be able to graduate University at the same time as my friends.
How did you settle in?
I flew to Uganda on the 17 July to start work two days later. I departed Heathrow to change in Nairobi and landed in Entebbe, Kampala. Here I was kindly picked up by Miria, one of the staff members at WORI, and their driver. I was given a lovely Ugandan welcome with a traditional meal which had lots of matooke (a banana-like food that is steamed). Mairead from Ireland and Julien from USA were also living here as other interns in Jinja. It was lovely to have other interns to chat to at mealtimes, which could be heavily spoken in Luganda – the mother tongue.
What was daily life like?
Every day we caught a buda buda (motorbike taxi) into the office which was a great way to start the day and clear the head! The office was opened at 9am by one of the permanent staff members. We worked until lunch which was provided, and then continued working until 4:30pm.
While being here, I personally designed a newsletter - which will hopefully be continued monthly - and helped with sewing skills lessons. I gave the manual machines a go to help produce some reusable pads, which took about an hour to get slightly speedy!
I was keen to get involved with the baking sessions on a Thursday. I had been informed that cakes were usually made so I had the idea to introduce banana bread, a staple of mine at University. With the number of banana trees in Uganada, it felt like a waste not to utilise them for natural, healthy flavouring. So, I shared my idea and led a lesson.
We made a copious amount of delicious banana bread, luckily everyone enjoyed it! At first, I was a bit apprehensive to see the results as the flour was very different and the oven was coal-fired, so a few variables, but the product was wonderful!
How did you spend your out-of-working hours?
As work finished at the sociable hour of 4:30pm, me, Mairead and other interns made use of the cafés, swimming pools, and shops in Jinja. We tried many cafes and sampled lots of food, both western and Ugandan. On the weekends, we also squeezed in several activities such as taking an hour-long boat ride to the source of the Nile, going to a pottery class, listening to live jazz music, and relaxing at a pool resort called Kingfisher on the other side of the Nile.
Staying with a host family was a huge part of the experience. Getting to know the culture of a country is difficult if you’re not fully immersed as we were with our family. I am very glad I took the option of staying in a home and not booking my own hotel or hostel. We were very well fed and looked after, which is so important when you’re travelling alone and are finding your feet in a new city.
What were your main takeaways from this internship?
I loved everything about this trip. The work was the primary reason for my time in Uganda and that was inspiring to say the least. The women we worked with were passionate and determined to help other women and girls improve their quality of life.
They were the most resilient people I have ever met, not just because of the hardships they have faced. They have minimal resources and hardly any help, but their friendship and loyalty to each other and the children enables them to be excellent mothers and continue with hardly any complaints.
What is your advice for future interns?
As you can probably tell, I had a great time in Uganda! I would recommend to anyone who wants to try something new, to absolutely go for it!
We hope you found Laura’s blog useful. For more information about our ICSC internships, visit the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience website or browse our 2022/23 ICSC brochure (2023/24 brochure pending). You can also read a selection of testimonials from past ICSC interns.
Published By Jenny Shippen on 01/11/2023 | Last Updated 29/11/2023