Marcia Tiro, Development Intern in Cote d’Ivoire
Marcia , 20, joined AIESEC at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, where she majored in Natural Sciences. As an active member at the local and regional level, she took on many roles before becoming a participant to the Exchange Program and leaving for Cote d’Ivoire for a development based internship in the domain of HIV/AIDS.
Marcia shares her experience as an AIESEC Intern here.
As I contemplate on the first month of my internship in West Africa I have realized that in developing countries such as Cote d’Ivoire the key to helping prevent the expansion of viruses and diseases (from a sustainable point of view) such as HIV/AIDS is education, especially education of the younger population. That is why the ASK (Answers, Solutions, Keys) program is so effective and is needed in HIV/AIDS infected areas (such as Cote d’Ivoire). The purpose of the program (when well organized) is to educate high school and university students on topics not only surrounding HIV/AIDS, but sexual education, self-esteem and self-growth (topics that shape your personal actions and thoughts). This causes a domino effect, as when one individual is educated they will spread the word to 5 of their friends, etc. Being a part of the ASK program in Abidjan and seeing the keen faces of the students at the sessions (who I must add are not there out of force but out of personal choice) melts my heart. Education really can be applied around the world, it may not have such a huge impact as it does on developing countries but it does work.
However in cases where you are educating larger “communities” and villages, you need a different approach than to come in with your ideologies of development and education of “this is HIV/AIDS and this is what you need to do to stop the epidemic”. Fortunately during my internship, I have also been given the opportunity to work in a non for profit NGO based in Abidjan called Le Soutien (www.lesoutien.org) and it is through this organization that I have learned that the most effective way to spread education and help in the domain of HIV/AIDS is to go straight to the source (the children and especially the orphans affected and infected by HIV/AIDS, and also women empowerment). The non-for-profit focuses on providing resources for orphans and vulnerable children affected and infected by HIV/AIDS (OVC) .
Once a week, the children come to the office for a day of activities (eating, learning, counseling) and are able to receive medicines (if needed). The focus is on family and community and providing a support network for the children to develop in a positive environment without discrimination. Home visits to the homes of the OVCs are also done. Another project they are working on is called Project NUNSSEU (The child is the future) this is a project based in Danane (Village in the North of Cote D’Ivoire) for a period of 3 years (10 villages each year). The counselors in the Le Soutien office in Danane travel to each village and help to mobilize the village. Since women are the heart of the household (with out women you cannot have children), Le Soutien focuses on women empowerment and provides womens groups with land so that they can make money and feed their children. Since the village sees this positive impact that the organization does then they can trust the organization and are able to be mobilized on topics such as HIV/AIDS.
Through this whole experience, I have found that short-term development internships really are about learning and experiencing, a lot of self-growth. And the only way that we can really “make a difference” and create a “sustainable environment” is to bring back what we have learned to the same domain back home. We need to share our stories with others and exchange our new networks with each other to create a large global circle.