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Internship spotlight: Tamara Yang

My name is Tamara Yang, and I’m entering my third year of my joint honours program - double majoring in political science and international development studies.

What was your summer internship?

I was a social work/international development intern at the Children of Bududa program, which is under the Bududa Learning Center (BLC) in eastern Uganda.

What are Children of Bududa and Bududa Learning Center’s overall mandates?

Children of Bududa is an orphan support program that works with children living in the Bududa area. Every child in the program is sponsored by people largely living in the US and Canada, but also a few in Asia and Europe. Sponsoring at the most ‘minimum’ level is paying for a child’s school fees, but can also be extended to hospital/health care, boarding school instead of day school, and buying farm animals such as goats or cows for the child and their family.

Bududa Learning Center was founded by a former McGill student in 2002, and has three programs that each seeks to improve the lives of the Bududa community in their own way. The Bududa Vocational Academy teaches “skills for jobs” to young adults, and offers accreditations in skills such as concrete practice and bricklaying, carpentry, hairdressing, and tailoring. The Women’s Microfinance Initiative is under the Bududa Women Development group, and offers loans to women for maintaining their own businesses. Children of Bududa is the third program under BLC.

What motivated you to apply for this internship?

I have worked with children since my first years in high school, leading day camps in Vancouver and then working for the University of British Columbia summer English academy for international students. Last summer, I was able to work with a group called Impact Ministries in Tactic, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. In Tactic, I worked with children at a day camp and performed hospital visitations in the pediatric ward of a public hospital.

My extended family on both my father and mother’s side are educators – all four of my grandparents were university professors, as well as several of my uncles and aunts. I am lucky to have grown up in Canada, where my public education was able to prepare me for McGill. The rest of my family grew up in China, where public education is rigid and performance in even primary school dictate university chances. I saw parallels between Chinese and Ugandan education systems, and wanted to intern at an organization that sought to give children a helping hand in their schooling.

The intersection between my experience working with children and an interest in policy-making for education systems eventually led to my internship at the Children of Bududa program.

What were your duties during your internship?

I worked largely under the senior social worker of the Children of Bududa program. Our responsibilities included performing home visitations for the children of the program, ensuring they have met basic requirements such as a mosquito net, mattress, and blankets. We would then write reports on the children for their sponsors, our records, and carry out the recommendations for action made in the field. Other basic duties included helping our supervisor with drafting grant proposals or letters to sponsors and Canadian management. Additionally, every Saturday was the Children of Bududa program, where the children in the program who did not attend boarding school would come to the Center for a skills program, food, and sometimes healthcare. We (the interns) did a variety of things on these Saturdays, such as teach a story-telling and journalism class, or help children hand write letters to their sponsors.

The interns were recommended to use their own skills in a way they felt would benefit the organization. I chose to create a photo book, as I love photography and graphic design, for fundraising purposes. I created a coffee table-style book that includes pictures, information on the organization, and interview questions for members of the BLC community. Letters from Bududa will be printed and ready for distribution in late August.

But the highlight of my internship was the hands-on counselling and relationship-building with the children in the program. Once, we visited a boarding school in a village three hours away, where two of our participants were starting off secondary school. They were not yet used to the rigid structure of Ugandan boarding schools, having just transitioned from a village primary school. I got to join my supervisor and we had an informal meeting with these two boys on the grass, where she gently but firmly explained to them that their chances of succeeding are much higher at a boarding school than in a village day school. This was towards the end of my internship, when I felt more comfortable with the environment and gained more knowledge about the Ugandan education system. My supervisor asked me to give the boys some encouragement, which at this point I felt comfortable doing. Had it been the beginning of my internship, I would have had nothing to say. But talking freely with the two students made me realize I really did learn a lot from my time with the Bududa Learning Center.

What did you get out of the experience?

It is difficult to put into words the experience I had in Bududa. I gained practical experience working with a non-governmental organization, living in a rural area, and added a layer of understanding to the country of Uganda, which I studied in many classes at McGill – but obviously had not visited prior to.

The Children of Bududa internship requires one to fully immerse themselves in a rural Ugandan village. This was the most fulfilling part of my internship – where I was able to form true and lasting relationships with people both at work at BLC, and in my daily life. My luggage is now filled with goodbye letters and gifts from my Bududa family.

This internship experience would not have been possible without the generous funding from Mr. Garvin Brown, and the Susan Casey Brown Fund for McGill Internship Award. Additionally, I would like to thank the Arts Internship Office for their assistance, guidance, and constant communication while I was in the field.