Kristen Hochreiter (University of Pittsburgh) studied on SIT’s Uganda: Post-Conflict Transformation program in spring 2013. Below, she writes about the internship she did while on the program and what she has been doing since.
By Kristen Hochreiter
I chose the SIT Uganda Post-Conflict Transformation program because it gave me the option of conducting a combined practicum (internship) and research assignment rather than a pure research project. The organization that I worked with is called Gulu Women’s Economic Development and Globalization (GWED-G), and during my time interning with GWED-G I worked on two of the organization’s youth programs that were focused on helping war-affected youth become self-empowered and financially sustainable.
For my research I wanted to look at the effectiveness and sustainability of NGO development work with conflict-affected youth by looking at my interning organization as a case study. GWED-G turned out to be the perfect organization for me to work with because they truly understood the objectives of my research.
The staff attached to the two youth projects that I was working on were also extremely helpful in guiding me through my research and also made sure to allow me to take an active role in the projects alongside them. I was “a part of the team” and had duties that included presentation of concepts and objectives during field visit meetings; report writing that summarized proceedings during field visits; collection of recommendations from youth groups; taking pictures for the organization for accountability purposes; and the writing of a story of change to show the progress that was being made due to the program’s involvement in the community.
This practical work experience was of great value to me not only because it allowed me to understand what it is truly like to work for an international human rights organization, but also because it helped me to further my research by understanding the projects that I was assessing on a more personal level.
By the end of my four-week ISP period I had made a real connection with GWED-G and the staff there and I considered them my family. I spent my last two weeks living with the founder of GWED-G as one of her host students, and she has become my second mother — and the other people who I worked with have become my aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters. On the final day that I worked for GWED-G, one of my fellow SIT students and I threw a party for the staff (which included homemade guacamole — our contribution of “American food”) to try to repay them for everything they had taught the both of us.
But my SIT experience did not end once I got on the plane to come back to the US. Currently, I am working on raising 7,000 USD to fund the youth groups in one of the projects to help them to become financially sustainable. I worked with GWED-G staff to help come up with a fundraising plan of action, and I am still in close contact with them, especially now that I am spearheading a project of my own. Before this program I had never conducted research or even knew the basics of fundraising, and now after my time working with GWED-G I feel far more confident in both of these areas and will continue to use the tools I learned through the SIT Uganda: Post-Conflict Transformation program to further my educational experience here at home.