Since 2010, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) office in Ghana has welcomed students for an eight (8) week summer practicum, bridging the gap between the academic and professional divide. Forged as part of a partnership with Syracuse University, located in upstate New York, USA, this study abroad programme allows the next generation of aid workers to take classroom principles and apply them in a field setting, with guidance from seasoned IOM staff members.
The 2013 group of students was comprised of three undergraduate students and one graduate student, eager to learn about IOM programmes and adapt their experience to match their unique area of study (photojournalism, social work, public health, and international relations). The Syracuse students were in a way a cross-section of a typical non-profit aid organization. A team of individuals working to implement projects in their specialised area at the request of and for the benefit of their assigned community, and taken as a whole contributed more than just a development project or proposal, but also a knowledge bank and a contagious enthusiasm for making a difference in the lives of others.
The internship started off with a one-week orientation to IOM programmes and Ghanaian language and culture. This was followed by a six week internship assignment at a community that has been affected by child trafficking and completion of a community development project for those in the field. Finally, the programme concluded with a one-week proposal writing and debriefing seminar in Accra.
This year the summer interns focused their community development projects on: interviews with reintegrated trafficked boys; improved hygiene through the installation of hand washing stations at the local schools; waste disposal; and work on the child protection toolkit ‘Free to Be Me’. In just a short time the students were able to become part of the community and leave a lasting impact. Hear from the students:
“One of the biggest problem parents face when deciding to sell their child, is not being educated on the conditions the child will face. Listening to the stories the boys shared, you feel an urge to put a stop to this horrible issue.” – Lauren
“The students and teachers were very receptive and I am convinced that they will utilize the hand-washing stations effectively. I am hopeful that they will translate this practice to their homes. This could ultimately reduce illness and disease in the community.” – Alexa
Of course as anyone who has worked abroad can attest to it is the final days of your stay in a new place when you realize you have learned a great deal more, even in a short period of time, than the impact you have undoubtedly left behind. So too was it difficult for our students to say goodbye, far too soon. Although, we know they are betterprepared for their future careers and will always receive a warm welcome in Ghana.
On behalf of USAIM and IOM Ghana we would like to thank you for your continued support and encourage you to tell others about our work! Please take part in the September fundraising initiative, where you can have a direct impact on our work through your own fundraising initiatives. See below (more details are available through Global Giving).
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