Carrying It Forward, Uganda to Canada

Written By: Vinu 
Vinue final reflection pic

One week into my internship with FullSoul back in January, I quickly made the realization that Uganda would be my teacher over the next eight months. Thinking back to that time now that it is August and I’ve only one week remaining in the country, I could not have been more correct. Reflecting on the lessons learned during my time here, I don’t even know where to begin. How exactly does one go about recapping eight months worth of professional and personal accomplishments and growth? And let us not forget about the challenges and barriers that were overcome as well. Summarizing my eight months interning for FullSoul in Uganda is no easy feat. 

At the most basic level, my role with FullSoul has been co-managing our Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) Portfolio with Crystal, FullSoul’s Director of M&E. Together, we’ve made strides in preparing for a strong, high-quality evaluation of FullSoul’s project activities. In the past months, we’ve come to understand the context of working with our partner healthcare facilities, identified the main evaluation priorities of our partners to help focus our areas of assessment, as well as listened to how we can make the evaluation as meaningful and useful for our partners as possible. Engaging with our partner healthcare facilities as we prepare and plan for the evaluation has allowed us to be responsive to the needs of our stakeholders and the MMK program context.

Being that this internship has been my first real-life exposure to M&E outside of school, I feel as though I have grown considerably as an evaluator. Without debate, I’ve learned that one of the best skills you can have is reflexive practice, meaning that you are able to constantly reflect on both your internal and external experiences in a manner that fosters learning and development. Even eight months down the road, I’m always experiencing novel circumstances, environments, social interactions, emotions, opinions, and thoughts. Only through reflecting on all of those experiences and how they relate to one another have I learned how to thrive in my role. For example, it’s through reflexive practice that I’ve become accustomed to the social dynamics and important cross-cultural communication skills here. Being reflective has also supported me in identifying challenges experienced by our partnering facilities, including both those that are outwardly expressed by staff as well as the more subtle challenges that can be observed.

The learning didn’t stop with my work responsibilities either. Moving to Uganda required immersing myself in my new context and becoming comfortable with my new living circumstances and surroundings. Having to complete shift my life for eight months taught me many things, but most importantly it taught me the importance of community. I cannot deny that sometimes it can be difficult to be halfway across the world, feeling distanced from your family, friends, and regular routines. Yet, remembering the new relationships and routines I’ve developed in Uganda is what has helped me overcome those challenging times and feel grounded in my surroundings.

The lessons, perspective, and knowledge I have gained these past months are immeasurable and I know for a fact that I will be carrying these lessons forward even as I return to Canada. Through this internship and working with our partners, I’ve experienced collective leadership firsthand, evident in the gathering of like-minded, passionate individuals from both Canada and Uganda, joining hands to protect maternal health in this country. Although the time has come for me to return to Canada, I look forward to seeing what the future will hold and following along with FullSoul’s journey in the push for a better tomorrow.