This article was written by Julian E. Sabiiti – CEED Concordia Events & Communication Co-ordinator, Gulu Uganda
See, I joined the CEED team during a period when the internship was on halt (due to the pandemic). I, therefore, looked forward to the 2023 summer internship with bated breath. I’d heard such tales, read such blogs, and seen so many pictures! I might have applied for the internship myself if I hadn’t been a couple of years late to the party. I’d just taken on the role of Events and Communications Coordinator with the office in Gulu, and thus my involvement in the process kicked off way before the internship began officially. Preparing for the internship was an adventure in itself, with lots to cover for these still-unknown people who would soon depend on us for direction, guidance, and well, food.
When we put out a call for applicants, the response was amazing and I remember thinking, “well this is a great start”! From that day, up until the day of the interviews, I at times felt that I was running very fast through a path I was using for the first time, and finding it exhilarating AND humbling.
Second phase was the interviews throughout which I was filled with admiration and thoughts of “you go girl, you go!” Speaking to so many applicants and listening to their view of the world and their opinions on how to make things better was an eye-opening experience. Here we were, with so many people in their (really) the early twenties, all of them speaking up so confidently, sharing at the end of great interviews that this had in fact been their first interview and they had been very nervous, anxious even. Have you ever seen someone’s heartbeat at the base of their throat? Well…
The meeting in which we concluded the final cohort was a dreary one, and at the end of that day, we were all very eager to be exiting the office. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, they say.
After so many emails, phone calls, sharing of bios and photos, and most of the interviews, the first time I set eyes on the team, I could actually tell who was who without introduction! It felt more like a reunion than an introductory meeting!
One week of orientation we started to learn more about individuals and team dynamics within the four project teams, and it was the start of feeling like a parent with lots and lots of kids!
For three months, the internship experience was what I’d imagined, for sure, but a lot more than that too. It was feeling proud of the interns when they pulled off a feat, individually or as a project team, it was seeing an intern realize they’d become better at something, it was discussing the small and big disagreements within the interns during staff meetings and seeing everyone’s determination to make sure the interns were comfortable, and learning, and growing, and being confident. It was getting frustrated that something that had been said over and over again had been forgotten, and then seeing one intern being so meticulous and smiling at them. It was learning about their personal take on things during one-on-one meetings and seeing how close they grew to each other over time. It was sitting in a car with them as they went into the community and noticing how familiar their jokes were to each other, and how they knew what to expect of each team member, professionally or in their personal lives. It was seeing them develop everything from the start, budgets, work plans, brochures, posters, branded t-shirts and certificates for their participants, interviews, video documentaries, photo stories and magazines, curriculums for primary school students for technology education, and for nursery school kids for tree planting and training schedules for young entrepreneurs. It was finding them enjoying a bit of Gulu (so to speak) outside of the compound, and seeing the ease with which they spent time together.
It was seeing a staff member seated with one project team or the other, going through budget edits. It was seeing the rush when one intern wasn’t feeling okay, to make sure they had what they needed, and the follow-ups. It was planning “surprise” birthday acknowledgments, and admonishing interns in private when something wasn’t right. It was seeing understanding between a staff member and an intern, a shared joke, an agreement that didn’t use a lot of words, a frown that communicated.
It was loads and loads of pictures capturing happy moments that we shall all look back at for years, I’m certain, and think “That wasn’t half bad!”
I feel a sense of appreciation, I feel honored to have had this experience, to have been touched by these kids, excuse my language, and by fellow staff members. I’m humbled by the lessons learned and the changes made to my mindset. I’m grateful for the bonds created, for book clubs (successful or not!), and for fun lunches and great evenings after such long days at the office. For visits to scenic places around Gulu city, and for a support system that never wavered!