Fellows FlyerNotes from Our Fellows in the Field
We are thrilled to announce that 47 new Princeton in Africa Fellows have been selected for our 2012-2013 fellowship year. They will work with 27 different organizations in 19 countries.
We have compiled a talented and impressive group from 28 different colleges and universities. Bios of our new Fellows are now up on our website and photos will be added soon. Take a look and learn more about them!
This year’s Fellows are incredibly impressive and inspiring to us and we greatly enjoyed getting to know them all better at our two orientations. The first session was held on Princeton’s campus on May 19th and 20th for 32 Fellows and the second was held June 8 for the 14 Fellows who couldn’t make it to campus in May (the 47th Fellow came to meet us in the office last week after finishing her graduate coursework in London). Our new class of Fellows is bright, energetic and ready to head to Africa and start working! We are thrilled to share in their upcoming journey.
For photos of our May/June orientations, see our Facebook album.
Please click below to check out pictures of our Fellows, Alums and other members of the PiAf family meeting up at home and around Africa.
Notes from the Field
By Mark Adams 2011-2012 Fellow with Kucetekela Foundation in Zambia
My Recipe for a Successful Princeton in Africa Fellowship
- Start with 1 graduate, leave out at room temperature until flexible and easy to work with.
- Add 1 former PiAf fellow as a starter to activate reactions in graduate and kick start the rising process.
- In a large bowl, stir in 39 incredible students who will contribute perseverance, determination and love to the mixture.
- Fold in 4 colleagues who will inspire the mixture by going far above and beyond the requirements of their jobs. Their commitment and compassion will help the mixture to develop later.
- Place dough in Lusaka, Zambia; this warm and homey city will allow it to expand and take on a new form.
Put newly risen dough into well-seasoned 4×4. As 4×4 breaks down it will knead the dough, teaching it patience and resourcefulness. If break-downs persist and the dough becomes too sticky to handle, remove and place in a more reliable minivan.
- Roll out dough flat and thin using responsibilities and challenges. Fill any breaks that appear until it is smooth and whole. Then, lift dough into bread pan and allow it to form to shape.
- Cook at high temperature for a month or two at a time, but continually remove from heat and allow it to rest in places like Livingstone, Malawi, Kenya and Namibia. It will incorporate aspects of each place, adding to its flavor and character.
- It can be helpful to freeze the dough in Boston about halfway through cooking. This will give it a chance to regroup and solidify. You will find it will bake more evenly once returned to the oven.
- Once the loaf is golden brown remove from oven and allow to cool, then cut into pieces and share with others.
- Make sure you save a piece of the dough to use as a starter for your next batch!
While this recipe certainly results in a changed and improved graduate, it can’t convey just how incredible this whole process is. Through Princeton in Africa, we are given a truly unique opportunity to commit ourselves to incredible work while learning from rare experiences and people along the way. My particular placement at Kucetekela Foundation in Lusaka, Zambia has afforded me the chance to discover how much I’m capable of and what I can contribute to the impressive work being done at this scholarship foundation. My time here has bolstered my understanding of the importance of social and personal empowerment, be it through education, entrepreneurship or other means, and reaffirmed my desire to helping others achieve it. The colleagues and students I’ve worked with have permanently altered my understanding of commitment and motivated all the work I’ve done. I have and will continue to recommend this experience to all recent graduates; the recipe may not always be exactly the same, but the results will be no less incredible.
Notes from the Field
By Desiree Bailey, 2011-2012 Fellow with Equal Education in South Africa
My fellowship year in Cape Town, South Africa has been filled with activism, education and poetry. I am at Equal Education, an NGO that combats the inequality in South Africa’s education system, the stubborn residue of apartheid. To put it simply, many white schools are equipped with necessities that many black and Coloured (meaning mixed-race) schools do not have. The differences are stark, causing blacks and Coloureds to remain severely disadvantaged. EE challenges this by conducting research, engaging with the media, pressuring the government and through community organizing.
I started off working on EE’s magazine (The Equalizer) and developing a radio programme for high school students. After about eight months, I also began to work with the Community Leadership Programme, which prepares recent high school graduates for a rewrite of their matriculant exams. We call the students Community Leaders (CLs). The goal is to improve their scores so that they can enter a tertiary program or another post-school position. They also lead youth groups in schools in the area.
I teach a poetry class to 12 of the CLs. Because Xhosa is the first language for the CLs, poetry in English can be difficult. I tell them to interrogate the poem, attack it. And they do. At times, they are hesitant, even resistant to the poems, which are chosen from the Grade 12 curriculum. However, they are gradually gaining confidence in this area. I am always proud to watch them debate each other over lines and metaphors, providing original analyses to the poets’ words.
My work with the CLs fits well into how I spend my time outside of EE. I host an open mic at a jazz bar called Tagore’s. I book features for each session and encourage participants to express themselves, typically around a weekly theme. A regular, who is Coloured, told me that he used to sneak into the bar when it was still a “whites only” space. In that moment, I was overwhelmed by the bar’s secrets, the truths of a country in transformation.
I have also been exposed to complex histories while performing my own poetry around Cape Town. Sharing my work about my homeland of Trinidad or the trials of women, reminds me of the bitter commonalities among previously colonized, enslaved or otherwise oppressed peoples around the world. Sharing and listening has allowed me to connect with South Africans and Africans from other countries in profound ways.
With two months to the end of my fellowship, I can say that South Africa has given me many gifts. I have recordings and videos of my work on the websites of local poetry organizations. I have challenged my introversion in order to host open mics, and even an event that took place at City Hall. I am learning the responsibility that comes with being an educator and the care that one must take with young minds. I am learning the necessity of being an activist, and that art and politics are closely intertwined. Leaving Cape Town will be extremely difficult, but I know that I always have a home here, between the mountains, the sea, the mangled identities and the love.
Notes from the Field
By Cydnee DeToy, 2011-2012 Fellow with mothers2mothers in South Africa
The past 10 months have felt like a lifetime, yet they have also passed in the blink of an eye. I applied to Princeton in Africa with the desire to move back to Africa and the vague goal of”learning how an NGO works from the inside.” Working as a Business Development Fellow at mothers2mothers (m2m), I have accomplished that goal and more.
Looking back, I had general assumptions about international development and the world of NGOs but little practical understanding or knowledge. I was not familiar with many leading development practitioners nor was I an avid reader of their blogs. “Dead Aid” had been sitting on my bookshelf unopened for the past two years and I had not even heard of the term “social enterprise.”
My experience as a Princeton in Africa Fellow has more than made up for my naivety. Working with the Business Development department has placed me at the nexus of m2m, enabling me to gain a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s inner-workings. On any given day, I interact with members of the finance, human resources, and programs departments. I have helped construct a program logframe, written briefs on our impact measurements, and talking points on non-profit operations. I have also completed probably the most quintessential development experience – hand delivering an application to USAID.
My journey outside of the office has mirrored my professional evolution. I have made new, wonderful friends from all parts of the United States and the world. We have had lively debates, challenging each others’ perceived notions, and have supported each other through the ups and downs (including the occasional bouts of homesickness). I have also had the opportunity to travel to other parts of South Africa and to visit my cousin who is a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Senegal. There is nothing like a couple of four hour taxi rides over almost paved roads to give you time to reflect and take in the scenery.
All of these experiences – professional, personal, and the day-to-day – have challenged me to become a true citizen of the world. I am confident that my year as a Princeton in Africa Fellow will be one of the most formative of my life, and I’m looking forward to having another few months to explore and enjoy.
Notes from the Field
By Grace Hoerner, 2011-2012 Fellow with African Cashew Alliance in Ghana
One year ago, cashew was just another nut for me, barely worth a second thought. To be completely honest (this is my big dark secret), I didn’t even particularly like them. But suddenly, there I was at Princeton in Africa orientation, known as “the cashew girl,” about to embark on a PiAf fellowship with the African Cashew Alliance.
Founded by the USAID West Africa Trade Hub in 2005, ACA is a business association of over 135 member companies, all with a shared vision: a globally competitive African cashew industry that benefits the value chain, from farmer to consumer. Like many of you, I was a bit skeptical when I first considered the potential development impact of what is a relatively minor product in international agriculture. But 10 months later, I’ve completely drunk the cashew kool-aid.
More than 10 million farmers in Africa grow about half of the world’s cashew. However, right now, 95% of this cashew is sent to Asia for labor-intensive processing which converts the raw nut into the tasty kernels sold in stores. If even 25% were processed in Africa instead, hundreds of thousands of jobs would be created in rural areas, enabling Africans to provide their children with nutritious meals and proper health care in a sustainable fashion with no dependency on outside assistance. And that doesn’t even consider the environmental benefits and improvement in efficiency that comes from eliminating the need to transport cashews from Africa to Asia before their final destination.
My work with ACA focuses primarily on developing and implementing its communication office, through which I have observed firsthand the veracity of the old cliché “knowledge is power.” Due to the collection and dissemination of crucial market and crop information, farmers know what is a fair price to demand for their crop. Local processors can make more informed business decisions about the best time to procure their raw nut supply. Valuable opportunities are highlighted to international traders and buyers, increasing kernel exports. And a regular and reliable information source encourages investors often extremely wary of Africa, a land they see as full of unknowns. It is truly amazing to see the impact that can be had simply by spreading knowledge – a resource that is essentially free.
ACA has also exposed me to the huge potential of an emerging model of development, one that harnesses and engages the resources of the international private sector. ACA’s work is heavily funded by major multinational cashew industry players. Although they are motivated solely by their own interests in seeing cashew processing increase in Africa, this intersects beautifully with major development implications.
Through my work with ACA, I truly have become “the cashew girl.” I have visited the largest cashew factory in Africa, drank scotch with the king of Indian cashew processing, discussed cashew with a delegation of 7 US Senators, and helped to organize the biggest international cashew industry event ever held in The Gambia of all places.
Due to this experience, cashew will never again be “just another nut” for me. And just as cashew has been permanently altered due to this experience, so too, have I.
Notes from the Field
By Emma Impink, 2011-2012 Fellow with The BOMA Project in Kenya
I was dreading the arrival of my replacement. In my mind, it meant that all I had been working for with The BOMA Project and my incredible access to northern Kenya was coming to an end. While not without its struggles, my time as a Fellow has been transformative. With The BOMA Project, a small NGO that provides business skills training and seed capital grants to individuals in northern Kenya to start small, locally rooted enterprises, I grew enormously. My experiences, from learning demographic assessment techniques to digging out Land Cruisers from flooded riverbanks have made me a more thoughtful and capable individual. My ability to jump completely into these unfamiliar situations allowed me to engage with them fully, making the most out of my fellowship. As I thought back on the breadth and width of my year, I started to get excited for another person to have similar opportunities. I wanted someone else to see Lake Turkana for the first time, to eat freshly roasted goat with their hands, to stand in the middle of a circle of proud women and listen as they sang and danced their appreciation. Sharing a meaningful experience is one of the most powerful things we can do as humans. Rather than take away from your own memory, sharing amplifies it and makes it bloom. I also wanted to share the very newness of BOMA, the promise inherent in a completely foreign experience.
There is such staggering potential in being a beginner, in making the shift from comfort and certainty to the unfamiliar and unknown. It is when amazing things happen. It is when you learn the most about yourself. By letting go of knowing and opening yourself to experiencing, so much can be gained.
It is time for someone else to try this whole thing out.
“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
Notes from the Field
By Kim Ostrum, 2011-2012 Fellow with International Rescue Committee in Liberia
A few months ago, I wrote to a friend of mine who is currently in medical school: “I feel that by the time I’m done here in Liberia, I could be a doctor.” Of course, this was a bit of an exaggeration, but still partially true. Even though most of my time is spent in the IRC’s grants office behind a computer screen, I’ve been fortunate enough to make frequent field visits. During the past year, I have helped to collect data from rural clinics in Lofa County, learning how to treat malaria along the way, and I have assisted in releasing previously malnourished children from a hospital’s therapeutic feeding center. Outside of the health sector, I have spoken to parents and children about the importance of girls’ education during a school enrollment campaign, and I marched in a parade to promote women’s rights and an end to gender-based violence.
Each of these experiences has proved invaluable in building my perceptions about both Liberia’s past, present, and future. I must admit, when I first arrived in Liberia, I only had a passing interest in the IRC’s health, child protection and education, and women’s empowerment sectors. As one schooled in politics and conflict resolution, I was much more interested in observing Liberia’s political scene and understanding what was being done at a national level to promote reconciliation.
Yet, through my experiences both on and off the job, I have come to understand something crucial that I did not understand a year ago: peace is not only about politics; it is also largely impacted by the ordinary people and the systems which serve them. Until I had visited Liberia’s clinics and hospitals myself, I could never fully comprehend how badly Liberia’s healthcare system was devastated by the war and how this lack of access to basic health opportunities has impacted people’s general outlook on life. I never understood how crucial a role giving youth access to education or employment opportunities played in quelling social discontent until I had personally witnessed the unrest, coming mostly from youth, in the run-up to the 2011 presidential elections.
Liberia still has a long way to go before it fully secures its peace. However, ordinary Liberians are making every effort to rebuild and renew. It’s evident in the leaps and bounds the clinics in Lofa County have made within the past three years with the implementation of a basic package of health services. It’s evident in the way the Loma and Mandingo parents in one community I visited came together, despite their previous differences, to improve maintenance in the building where their children went to school. And more than anything, it is evident whenever I watch my Liberian colleagues in action, so full of passion and drive for the people they serve. I aspire to be more like them, and it is because of them that I have hope for Liberia’s future. If Liberia’s peace is to come from anywhere, it will be from the ground up.
Notes from the Field
By Michael Traynor, 2011-2012 Fellow with Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initative in Lesotho
The slogans of health crises are often martial – there is a fight to be won, weapons to wield, casualties to count, and the lost to mourn. Such language both frames and obscures how we view problems. When I left the United States eleven months ago to work at Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation, I joined the “fight against HIV and AIDS.” Or so I thought. Globally, an estimated forty million people have an HIV infection, and in Lesotho, the HIV epidemic is both urgent and systemic. One in every four adults in Lesotho lives with HIV. But that is just it, these people are living. For many patients, there is not a fight to stay alive – proper adherence to antiretroviral therapy allows one to live a longer and more fulfilled life.
In order to familiarize myself with HIV in Lesotho, I attended a series of lectures by the clinic staff during my first fellowship days. One striking presentation was from one of our disclosure counselors. She explained that she had come to terms with her own status and the status of her young child, and in this process, left her husband who refused testing. She explained,
I had to save the life of my child—I had to save my own life.
Her husband fell ill and passed away some time after she and her child began antiretroviral therapy. They are both healthy and happy, she reports. But this outcome came through a great deal of grief and counseling. She represents the new challenges of Lesotho’s HIV epidemic, namely the need for ongoing medical and psychosocial support for positive patients. Much of my work and reflection has focused on questions related to these needs, which are not unique – all people require medical and psychological support – but the stigma of HIV and trials of poverty intensify such hardships.
To be sure, prevention of HIV infections is still and ought to be a health priority. But the epidemic, like its patients, is growing up. The operations of our clinic and my duties as a fellow have reflected this reality. I have assisted in HIV education, designed and implemented public health projects, assisted with psychosocial support programs, and shadowed in clinics and hospitals. This fellowship has given me important insights regarding healthcare, health policy, and international aid. In the aid community, people often look to indicators of inequality to measure or estimate well being, but illness, like poverty, is so much deeper and more complex than these numbers. The approach needs to be multipronged and, at times, framed in new language.
Outside of work, I have a pleasant life in Maseru, Lesotho’s sleepy capital. In fact, I am a star–well, at least I think so. I was recently on a National Stage as the Plant in Maseru Players Company’s Little Shop of Horrors. The company’s mission is “to bring together Maseru’s amateur talent and give them something to do.” On weekends that I am not onstage, I climb mountains, practice my limited Sesotho, or find “something to do.”
Notes from the Field
By Christine Bohne, 2011-2012 Fellow with Lutheran World Federation in Burundi
“Haguruka! Haguruka!” All of the youth gathered in the open-air community hall were shouting the words, the feeling of purpose palpable. Their words meant literally, “stand up, rise!”, and evoked the idea of taking control of one’s destiny, of transitioning from a passive existence to an active life.
Haguruka is a program for young repatriated refugees designed to enable them to understand and claim their rights, enhance their practice of sustainable agriculture, and diversify their opportunities. This past year I helped launch the Haguruka project in Burundi.
A few days after arriving in Cankuzo, the poorest and most remote province in the country, nearly twelve months ago, I found myself sitting in the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) field office with my Burundian colleagues underneath fire finches and red-cheeked cordonbleus fluttering in through the window. I was leading discussions on how to carry out a comprehensive baseline survey on the lives of the 5,000 youth living in our project area. I immediately realized that I would be handed a tremendous amount of responsibility over the next year.
I have had the opportunity to be involved in every aspect of developing and implementing a project that has the potential to change the lives of thousands of youth. My work, including producing baseline and follow-up surveys, project proposals, logical frameworks, monitoring reports, and newsletters, has familiarized me with most formal NGO processes and provided me with a strong foundation for pursuing an array of jobs in the humanitarian field. I’ve gained experience working in the capital’s headquarters, the field office, and the collines (villages), where I regularly interview project participants and observe our work in action.
During my free time, I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and an active volcano in the D.R Congo, indulged in the spices of Zanzibar, went bird watching in Uganda, swam in Lake Kivu in Rwanda, kissed a giraffe in Kenya, and, my favorite evening pastime of all, watched hippos in Lake Tanganyika right outside of the LWF office in Burundi.
Of course living and working in Burundi, a country many people have never even heard of, does not come without its fair share of personal challenges. From gender discrimination, witchcraft, rebels, and monkey bites, I’ve been exposed to some of the more extreme experiences that working with NGOs can entail. And yet, as I prepare to leave my position here in July, I have never felt more prepared for and certain about the path I want to take in my life – improving the wellbeing of refugees worldwide.