Tips on Having a Thrilling Internship Experience at WACSI

Tips on Having a Thrilling Internship Experience at WACSI

“For every new challenge, I deliberately choose to turn it to my favour and rather use it as a tool for improvement,” Mabel Lum Shu, Programme Assistant, Next Generation Internship Programme (January – June 2021), WACSI.

Imagine waking up one morning to an invitation which requires that you spend six months away from home, in a country you have never been to and where you know no one. What is the first thing that comes to your mind?

You may develop feelings of excitement, anxiety and confusion all trickling in at the same time. I call it ‘conexiety’. This is what I felt when I was chosen to take part in the Next Generation Internship Programme, organised by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) in Ghana.

December 2020 remains that memorable month for me. One I’ll describe as having a lifechanging encounter after receiving the acceptance email from the human resource lead of WACSI on 16 December 2020. It was the first of such mails I ever received. You now understand why it is the most remarkable for me. Don’t you?

I travelled to Ghana in January 2021. The ambiance of the high-class Kotoka International Airport wowed me. The welcoming immigration staff at the airport helped me immediately fall in love with what would become my new home for the next six months. Most importantly, the loving staff of WACSI who received me at the airport made me know I was at the right place.

However, being in a new environment can sometimes be extremely challenging especially when it is your first time, and you are all alone. The interesting thing is that with every new challenge comes a new coping mechanism. This was my guiding principle throughout the internship period, from January to June 2021.

For every new challenge, I deliberately choose to turn it to my favour and rather use it as a tool for improvement.

Just like any new experience, first days are sometimes a little uncomfortable. Coming from a purely science background with little or no knowledge about the civil society sector already felt like a ‘chick with just one leg.’ The idea of being handicapped toyed around with my psychology, pushing me to believe that I would not make it.

I therefore needed to fasten my seat belt and if possible, put on a helmet if I was going to succeed. I can literally say that I created an atmosphere of fear for myself and felt defeated before the battle even began.

Choosing to be honest and admitting that this was a new domain for me worked like magic. There is no shame in admitting that you have no knowledge about a particular subject and discipline. It is easier acknowledging that you do not know and are willing to learn than to pretend you know and end up learning nothing.

With the covid 19 pandemic forcing organisations to go virtual, online learning is now at the top of the learning charts. This however comes with its numerous advantages on the one hand and setbacks on the other.

Distractions seem to be at their peak during online sessions. It seems like during an online session, that is when all WhatsApp messages start popping in, suddenly you remember that there was a report you needed to complete or a mail you had to send and then BOOM! The switch! You are virtually present but physically replying to a text message or chatting with someone in the room. Suddenly you are called to answer a question and you start babbling because you were not following up. Next thing we hear is “I’m sorry, I was talking to myself. My mic was muted.” That is not true. You barely heard the question. Some of you can relate to this. Can’t you?

In my case, the ability to make a conscious decision to follow up during online sessions and the strong desire to want to know more is what enabled me to focus. Taking down notes helped to increase my level of concentration as well. Whenever I saw a presentation/slide that struck me, I took a screen shot and referred to it later. Other times, while working on a report or some work that was time consuming, I will do a re-play of the recorded session to enable me get a better grasp of the subject and those points which I missed out on.

As I attended the over ten training sessions earmarked to groom newly recruited interns to be fully equipped to do their job well, I realised that my level of articulation was relatively low. This was going to be a challenge if I had to get involved in hosting meetings. The civil society diction was more advanced and interestingly very pleasant to my ears. I admired the eloquence and level of subject mastery of some staff at WACSI and whenever they had training sessions not related to my unit’s, I would ensure I participated as this enabled me to learn a thing or two from them.

I know this might sound crazy, but I participated in the sessions on Organisational Governance and Communicating Impact close to five times and every time I did, I learnt something new. It was either a new word, or a new way to handle online sessions or a new way to get participants fully engaged. WACSI has amazing facilitators. You should participate in their next online or face-to-face training sessions, and you won’t regret it.

Sometimes as interns, you are given a million things to do at once and expected to deliver within a very short period. Most at times we see this as people dumping their responsibilities on us. NO! This should rather be seen as an opportunity to take advantage of and consider it as an opening for you to develop your ability to multitask and work under pressure. To respond to such indispensable pressure, I listed all my tasks and planned my day accordingly. Guess what! It worked like magic. I was able to complete most if not all my tasks in record time and most importantly, I delivered quality outputs.

Another very important aspect is to avoid thinking that because you are with a particular unit, you must focus only on activities directly related to that unit. If you are opportune to be selected for WACSI’s prestigious internship programme and go this route, you would miss out on a lot of learning opportunities. Spread your tentacles, play around with the other units, and see where that leads you. I decided to get involved in activities of other units and behold, that turned my story around.

My last piece of advice to future interns is to consider the programme to be a pre-requisite for improvement. Tell yourself you are on a journey, and you have to make the best of it. Make use of all the resources around you, do not be afraid to make mistakes, be curious, identify those who are directly linked to your focal point, area of interest and get close to them.

The WACSI team is always ready to serve. Above all, always take out time to rest. It is very necessary. There is a saying in pidgin English from my sweet motherland, Cameroon that goes thus, “Body no be firewood.” [the human body is not a log of wood].

The paramount mantra every intern should uphold is that “aptitude without attitude has no magnitude.”

If you are thinking of participating in WACSI’s Next Generation Internship Programme that runs from January to June and July to December yearly, and you need someone to guide you through the process, reach out to me on LinkedIn via Mabel Shu, and I will be more than happy to share more with you.

 

 

About the author

Mabel is a bilingual Cameroonian and holder of a bachelor's degree in Chemistry from the University of Buea. She is currently awaiting defense for her master's degree in Quality Control and Management. She has gained experience over the years as a volunteer and has worked in some local Non-Governmental Organisations in the domain of community development. She is passionate about empowering young girls.

At WACSI, she works with the Capacity Development unit as the Programme Assistant where she provides support in the facilitation of training sessions.

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Shu Mabel Lum

Mabel is a bilingual Cameroonian and holder of a bachelor's degree in Chemistry from the University of Buea. She is currently awaiting defense for her master's degree in Quality Control and Management. She has gained experience over the years as a volunteer and has worked in some local Non-Governmental Organisations in the domain of community development. She is passionate about empowering young girls. At WACSI, she works with the Capacity Development unit as the Programme Assistant where she provides support in the facilitation of training sessions.

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FIIFI BOATENG

Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.

NANCY KANKAM KUSI

Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.

AGNES ADWOA ANIMA

Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.

DORIS ODEI

Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.

PRINCE AKOWUAH

Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

MAXWELL APENTENG

Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.

GEORGE ADU-MINTAH

George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.

IBRAHIM KWAKU GBADAGO

Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.

RUTH YAKANA

Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

BETHEL KWAME BOATENG

Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.

WHITNAY SEGNONNA

Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.

STELLA YAWA WOWOUI

Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.

KWAME ASANTE

Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.

GRACE AKPENE ZIGGAH

Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.

LILLIAN DAFEAMEKPOR

Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

JOHN P. FRINJUAH

John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.

GERVIN CHANASE

Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.

LEANDRE BANON

Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.

SAMUEL APPIAH

Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.

JIMM CHICK FOMUNJONG

Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.

FRANCK A. SOMBO

Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.

OMOLARA T. BALOGUN

Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 10 years progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa. She joined WACSI in November 2009 as an Advocacy Consultant. And later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer in 2010 and Head of Policy Influencing and Advocacy unit in 2015. As head, she offers strategic direction to the institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organized and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality.


Previously, Omolara served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria. She also served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa where she teamed up to design and implement two programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

KWABENA KRODUAH

Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.

CHARLES KOJO VANDYCK

Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.

NANA ASANTEWA AFADZINU

Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.