My internship this summer is in Kigali, Rwanda with the local NGO Gardens for Health International (GHI). The organization is known throughout the region for its work in health centers, teaching families about nutrition, sanitation, and best agricultural practices. I have been eagerly waiting to start this internship since I received the job offer in March.
The mission of the organization is to eliminate chronic malnutrition in Rwanda. Even though more than 80 percent of Rwandans are involved in subsistence agriculture, 38 percent are chronically malnourished. This speaks to the lack of education in rural communities surrounding balanced meals, untreated water, and exclusive breastfeeding. Gardens for Health International has multiple programs to aid in this fight against chronic malnutrition. Their health center program is in 19 different districts throughout Rwanda and centers around teaching families what a nutritious meal is and how to grow it at home. At the end of the program, each family that graduates is given a kitchen garden kit that includes seeds, livestock, and a variety of other tools to get them started. Additionally, GHI runs an Antenatal Care Program (ANC) in which they teach pregnant women in their first and second trimester about what to eat and how to care for a child in their first two years of life.
During my time here, I will be assisting in a number of projects. As a part of the monitoring and evaluations team, I will be gathering health statistics from past GHI surveys and compiling them into a data repository. Additionally, I have multiple projects with the communications team including weekly digest emails, case study interviews with families, and a presentation on how to increase social media traction. Lastly, I will be doing graphic design for a variety of projects and documents. By aiding in the creation of a data repository, I am helping GHI move towards their goal of having a data dashboard in which all their most important information can be accessed with ease. Through my work with communications, I am helping GHI remain active with their supporters and donors–a very important task for any NGO.
My hope for this summer is to gain valuable field experience in both public health and in what it is like to work in an office space with a variety of cultural barriers. GHI’s staff is 90 percent Rwandan, which bodes well for them as a localized and trustworthy NGO. However, it makes it hard for me to talk to a lot of the people I am interacting with on a daily basis as my Kinyarwanda is…minimal. I find that most of my interactions happen during our farm lunches, as the organization provides an hour each day to enjoy a delicious home-cooked lunch made by the “kitchen mamas.” I am also able to bond with other staff during the 45-minute drive to the office from Kigali in the back of a pickup truck.
Ultimately, the experience of being in Rwanda itself has been incredible so far and I can’t wait for the rest of my time here to be just as exciting and transformative.
– Eli Wasserman ’20