Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Zambia interns step into the unknown with Global Leadership Program

Off to Zambia: from left: Mia Rushton, Iloradanon Efimoff, Jessie Visser, Amy Bunnage, Sarah Khan, Ann Wilson, Bruce Biro, Ferron Shea, Rachel Halldorson, Katherine Yu. 

By Eliot Dix James

Ilorandanon Efimoff has wanted to “go somewhere and build a school” for a long time. Now, the ESL tutor, who studies Psychology and Gender Relations, will teach at a community school in Zambia.

She is one of 10 students participating in Douglife’s Global Leadership Program. The students headed to Africa last week after finishing their pre-departure training.

They were primed with cultural information and coping skills. And yet they didn’t know exactly what they would be doing, or how they would do it, until after they got there.

“If I was tutoring someone in Canada, I’d feel prepared, but it’s going to be a completely different cultural experience,” said Ilorandanon before the trip. “You need to listen to the students and understand where they’re coming from before you can go in and teach.”

Stepping into the unknown is part of what makes the program so powerful for students.

“The goal is that the students get immersed in a very different world that challenges their values and beliefs,” says Scott Fraser-Dauphinee, Campus Life Coordinator. “It’s not meant to be easy. We throw them into these internships where it’s not all clear.”

The interns have to navigate a whole new set of cultural values in order to get things done, says Fraser-Dauphinee.

Bruce Biro also felt like he was jumping in at the deep end. He just graduated from the Sport Science program and is interning with the Ministry of Youth and Sport Development in Zambia. He’s working with kids and coaches, which he’s used to. But he’s also taking an administrative role — which is way out of his comfort zone.

“I want to be challenged and I want to be given responsibility,” Bruce said. “I feel by doing this I might gain some perspective on what I want to do and who I am on a very personal level.”

The students, who are placed with local organizations according to their skills and interests, have support. Upon arriving, they have an orientation, and then work with supervisors and the program coordinators during their internships. They also have in-service training after one month.

The students contribute to grassroots organizations with few resources. Their goal is to develop something — for example, a tutoring program — that will have a lasting impact after they leave.

Bruce, who plans on becoming a phys ed teacher, says he thinks his internship will open up career opportunities in program development. Ilorandanon hopes to decide if she will pursue gender issues on an international level.

Students who take the program sometimes come away with a completely new idea about what they want to do with their lives, Fraser-Dauphinee says. But he feels the most significant changes happen on a personal level.

“When they come back they’ve experienced the world in another person’s shoes,” says Fraser-Dauphinee. “Inevitably that causes a lot of changes in how these people see the world — in the development of patience, tolerance and empathy.”

Follow the students as they blog about their experiences in Zambia.