Emily Tanner (MID'11)
For some reason, I have always been drawn to Africa; I always felt it was magical. I thought the magic was in steamy jungles, exotic animals, the river in Conrad's Heart of Darkness. So I flew around the world to work at Watoto Wa Baraka Orphanage in Kenya. During my summer (2010), I improved efficiency and effectiveness of programming, I initiated a new partnership with a local NGO, I was exposed to corruption, and I learned the hard way what it means to speak up. And I finally found out what the magic of Africa really means.
I found that children want to be loved no matter what culture, race, or religion; that teenagers will giggle and flirt; that women will always laugh when a baby does something funny. The magic of Africa is this humanity that we all share, deep down. It becomes a string that binds us all together, despite our myriad differences.
My GSPIA coursework prepared me for working in Kenya by giving me a solid understanding of the complex problems faced by NGOs in the developing world, and it enabled me to view a new culture without simply being a "development tourist." Yet as everyone knows, coursework can only take you so far; my internship was invaluable because it allowed me to remove the "us" and "them" labels that we inevitably apply to people, and to really understand what it means to want to help people. My internship helped bridge the gap between classroom and field, so that I am able to apply real people and real stories to the theories and tools that I am learning in my second year at GSPIA. This will enable me to be a more effective development professional, and a better servant for humanity.