Featured Organization: African Community Internship Placement Programme

gyg-logo-teal-transparent1This week’s feature was written by Kristine Sloan, who currently serves as the Director of Operations for ACIPP West Africa.

The World is like a Mask dancing. If you want to see it well, you do not stand in one place.

–Chinua Achebe, Arrow of God

I’d say I first got involved with ACIPP four years ago, when I traveled to Ghana on a study abroad. I met our founder, Simon Eyram Tsike-Sossah then. What struck me then, and continues to strike me now, is Simon’s simultaneous optimistic energy and hardened realism about volunteering and interning abroad. I was forced to question my motives for studying abroad in Sub-Saharan Africa. Was I really giving through my volunteerism, or was I merely receiving: wisdom, experience, and a paradigm shift.

West Africa wielded its way into my heart, and though I travelled and worked on three other continents and regions throughout the world in the next four years, I knew I wanted to go back. Ghana, the land of tro-tros, mangos, and red soil had spoken to me in a way that other places simply did not.

Interns at HEPENS

So, in the summer of 2011 I emailed Simon (well, I think I Facebook messaged him—we love social media). There was an internship opportunity available to lead a Farm project in Ghana, and I wanted in. I’m currently working on my Masters degree, and the Farm offered me an avenue for practical experience as well as a chance to complete research with a local community nearby. The emails back and forth kept at a steady stream, and it seemed my philosophy on interning and volunteerism had more closely aligned with Simon’s. We shared a common goal: engaging interns and volunteers in a way that provides lasting impact to organizations on the ground, rather than simply an “experience” for the intern.

Thus, after about 11 months of working on various projects, I was offered the Director of Operations position with ACIPP. My plans for the summer had changed, and now I was off to both the farm in Ghana and to Freetown, Sierra Leone, where we also offer internship opportunities with 5 different incredible and engaging organizations.

Freetown is madness: 1.5 million people in one city, most who fled there for refuge and never left. The streets are congested, people living in the valleys, neighbors everywhere. Freetown is also beautiful: mountains behind you falling into the sea, colors and energy and a resilient vibrancy that WILL bring growth and vitality to this post-conflict country. During my time there I met with heads of organizations, felt their commitment and drive to their mission and values, and wanted to sign up to intern with each of them myself!  At night, looking out over a city of darkness knowing that our house, with our generator, may be the only of a handful in a city of over 1 million that has electricity, and yet listening to the neighborhood soccer game, the conversations in the street below, and the endless chatter of chickens and dogs; I knew our interns would do well here.

One of the monthly intern BBQs at the Abusua House!

The rest of my summer passed in Ghana, where I was welcomed with the warmest hospitality by our house manager, Ms. Mavis Aseidu, and where we had 16 interns living in our house in Kwaprow village. It was madness, but it was wonderful. Importantly, we saw the expectations of our interns and the struggle for them to conceptualize and internalize their experiences, which were far out of their ordinary. We also saw the impact on placement organizations, where our interns published news articles, edited media content, led community health talks and importantly, left behind their curriculum for future use. We created partnerships between organizations and new communities; we fostered capacity, at the heart of ACIPP’s mission.

I think the most important thing for people to consider when they think about interning abroad is what set of skills/knowledge they can share, and what set of skills/knowledge they hope to receive. Does impact last? Are we creating situations where we, as interns and as staff, are at the periphery (not the center) of community engagement? Are we building local leaders, or are we simply leading? These things are crucial, because in a way, they multiply time if achieved. Effort catalyzes action, rather than simply acting itself. That’s what makes ACIPP so unique I think. We believe in the agency of the places that we work to solve, to create, and to be receptive.

West Africa is an incredible place to work and to live. I’m so proud of ACIPP West Africa, both of our dedicated staff and all of our interns (over 27 just this year). Everyone works hard. They make friends; they create relationships. Just as importantly, they go out to a bar in a gas station (yeah, you’ll have to come visit us) and drink cheap beer, dance all night, and have a great time.

I hope to see all of you there.



To check out our various internship opportunities and learn more about us please visit our website: www.acippwestafrica.org

Like us on Facebook “Acipp West Africa”

and feel free to email me with comments, questions or inquires at Kristine.sloan@acippwestafrica.org.



Gapper Video Profile: Steffen K., Friendship Village

Check out our full feature on the Friendship village here!

Full Interview Transcript

GYG: So first, can you introduce yourself for us?
SK: My name is Steffen K. I am 26 years old, I am from Germany, and I am a volunteer here at the Friendship Village.

GYG: What do you do here at the Friendship Village?
SK: In my project here I have two activities: working with disabled children and teaching them Photoshop. So one side is teaching them numbers (1,2,3) and writing, and the other side is teaching them Photoshop. It depends on their disabilities.

GYG: And what are some of the other things volunteers can do here?
SK: They can work in the garden or the hospital. In the hospital they can work with Physical Therapy, and the in garden, well they work in the garden.

GYG: Why did you come here to volunteer?
SK: Actually, I decided to do something else in making the perfect line of working in Germany, so I decided to leave Germany for one year. There’s a special project to help volunteers without money. I decided to come to Vietnam because I like the history and the mentality of the people. I came here because my organization said it would be the best place for me, and actually, I’d have to say that it is.

GYG: What’s your favorite part of volunteering here?
SK: My favorite thing about volunteering here is seeing the children smile. Because it’s the best thing you can have. They smile, you smile a lot; you’re very happy.

GYG: Why should other people volunteer here?
SK: If you want to volunteer, it’s your decision. I cannot tell why they are doing that. Everybody has his own reason for doing that. But volunteering here is a really good place, because you have a lot of things you can do. You are really free – you can decide what you want to do. So you don’t have to stay to class 3 or 2 or 1 all the time. If you want to go to the garden, you can go to the garden; you just have to tell the gardener. Everyone here is very friendly. The teachers really like the volunteers and they also are able to speak a little bit of English, so communication is possible. And the children are lovely and very nice. This is the main reason to come here- to see the children and play with them.

GYG: Do you like Hanoi?
SK: No. I actually do not like Hanoi. Hanoi is crowded- a lot of people. It’s very good for making party. I have to say, very good for making party. But for living, it’s not the best place. My living place is around 2 km away from here and it’s next to a main street. You have a lot of trucks passing by. You have a lot of dust- it’s very dirty. But actually I have to say, it’s something you have to cope with if you go to Vietnam. Because Vietnam somehow never sleeps.

GYG: Do you like living in Vietnam?
SK: Yes. I like it very much. Because I’m volunteering for one year, I decided to buy a motorbike and to drive around and visit and explore all the places. This is really nice. Vietnam is very very nice country- we have really lovely places.

GYG: What does the Friendship Village do?
SK: It’s a really big place for a lot of disabled children. I’d say about 80 children and 40 veterans. It’s a place where the children can learn for the future. They get teached things like embroidery and tailoring. After Friendship Village they have education to do something in their life. I have to say it’s a very good place.


Megan Leatherman, Kayan-Feminist Organization

gyg-logo-teal-transparent1Name: Megan Leatherman
School: University of Oregon
Type of Work: Community Development, Human Rights
Region: Middle East
Length of stay: 6 months – 1 year

Megan and a friend on a trip to Nablus, Palestine

Tell us about the organization you work for and what you do for them.
I work for Kayan-Feminist Organization, which is a non-profit, politically unaffiliated Arab women’s organization in Israel. I volunteered with Kayan in 2009, and worked primarily on public relations and outreach. After I began working on my Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution, I teamed up with Kayan again to work on developing a program that empowers women to do peacebuilding work within Arab communities in Israel. In addition to helping to develop this program, I work on fundraising and development. An average day is usually spent at the office editing grant proposals and reports, or meeting with colleagues to talk about the upcoming Conflict Transformation training that we are planning.

Share a favorite memory.
One thing that has stuck out to me in my second time with Kayan was when I went to a meeting of the Forum of Arab Women Leaders, which is a network of community organizers that Kayan supports and facilitates. This was my first time out “in the field” since I’d come back, and it was really touching to see familiar faces, some of whom even remembered me. It was as if I was being transported back two years, except that the Forum has grown and is becoming increasingly sophisticated in its research and interventions.

What have you learned from your experience? How has it affected your long-term goals?
Well, obviously I’ve learned more than I’d ever imagined about issues of women and conflict transformation, fundraising, and development. More generally, however, I’ve learned that it takes a very long time as a volunteer to actually contribute in a meaningful way – unless you are with an organization for a significant amount of time, the gift is primarily theirs to give, not yours. This idea that Americans can descend upon international organizations and improve them is largely unfounded, and I think it’s important to remain humble in the work that we do. As far as my long-term goals, they have totally shifted since I came back to Kayan this summer. When I arrived, I wanted to work for international women’s organizations in conflict zones. After getting more involved in the community-level work that Kayan does, I realized that I actually want to give back in that way to my own community in the Pacific Northwest. The grassroots work that this staff does is immensely powerful, and I feel convicted to work to improve the quality of life for disadvantaged members of my community in America.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job has been keeping up with all the various aspects that go into program planning: donors, grant proposals, logical frameworks, activity planning, target group, etc. Having never done this before, I have had to learn quickly what it takes to orchestrate programming in an organization like Kayan.

Do you have any advice for prospective gappers?
I would suggest that gappers learn as much as they can about the context they will be working in, remain humble and openminded, and connect as much as they can with the people that they are working with.

Tegan Phillips, Volunteer Maldives

With students.

gyg-logo-teal-transparent1Name: Tegan Phillips
School: Rhodes University, South Africa
Type of Work: Education
Region: Asia
Length of stay: 6 months – 1 year

Tell us about the organization you work for and what you do for them.
Contrary to the popular belief, the group of small, spectacular tropical islands that is the Maldives is comprised not entirely of expensive holiday resorts but also of many poorer local islands, which are in desperate need of native English speaking teachers. I volunteered there with an organization called Volunteer Maldives as a primary school English teacher for six wonderful months. My timetable and responsibilities varied from week to week, but usually I’d spend the days preparing and teaching three to five lessons as well as doing private tutoring and planning extracurricular environmental activities for the kids. The schools and island officials were very flexible with the other volunteers and myself about how much and what type of work we wanted to do, and on such small islands it’s hard not to get involved in every aspect of the community despite specialties and preferences, including Girl Guides and soccer tournaments and even government work. The organization and the local friends I made also ensured together that during school holidays and on weekends I got to travel around the country by boat and experience every part of it’s unique culture.

Share a favorite memory.
I will never forget the way my grade two and three students would rush through their worksheets and various other exercise as quickly and diligently as possible just for a chance to play Simon Says at the end of the lesson for a few minutes, and also the way they were so affectionate and appreciative of all the volunteers. Also we had so much fun cleaning up the beaches, it was amazing being able to watch the children play games for the first time on litter-free sand; they were so happy when they could see the results of their hard work and realized what they’d achieved.

Making posters to put around the island.

What have you learned from your experience? How has it affected your long-term goals?
I’ve learned about living in a culture entirely different to my own (the Maldives is a strictly Islamic country and everything is different, from appropriate dress to regular diet – and school is from Sunday to Thursday!) and embracing every part of that. Traveling and staying alone after coming straight out of school taught me so much about the significance of being independent, and definitely enlightened me to the vastness and diversity of our world. Of course, by far the most important thing was learning how to help others in a way that they want to be helped, and how important and effective this kind of service is in a global context. After my six months I came to the decision that I never want to stop teaching, even if only part time, and have now applied at my university to join a program teaching English to children in a nearby Xhosa community.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
There were many challenging aspects, particularly as a young Western female alone in a typically male-dominated country. I often had to be fully covered in unimaginable heat, at certain times of day I had to deal with swarms of mosquitoes (some with diseases) and sometimes there was conflict within the school or island due to miscommunication and such, and dealing with the results of the conflict could mean anything from moving house to moving island. But there wouldn’t really be opportunity for growth if everything was easy!

Do you have any advice for prospective gappers?
Consider every unplanned event to be an exciting turn in your adventure. Treat the beliefs, values and ideas of others with interest and respect, no matter how much they differ from your own. Don’t complain about basic living standards; if the majority of the world can do it, so can you. Actively learn as much as you can about the culture by which you’re surrounded; the traditions and festivals and the languages – it’s a good way to grow close to the community and enrich your experience. Don’t stress, don’t have too many expectations of anything and don’t be to hard on yourself, just enjoy it.

Fun in the classroom.

Kerry Fugett, Andean Bear Foundation

Name, Age: Kerry Fugett, 24
University, Major: UC San Diego, Physiology and Neuroscience
Region: South America
Length of stay: 6 months – 1 year
Type of Work: Environment/Conservation

Tell us about the nonprofit/social business you work for:
I worked with the Andean Bear Foundation in rural Ecuador. Most of my time was on-site at our research house in Pucara, in the northwestern area of the country. For more information, check out AndeanBear.org

How did you find your position?
StopDodo.com, an awesome website for finding gigs like this!

What’s your typical day like?
I was the Volunteer Coordinator for the program. We had 4 to 6 volunteers who stayed up to a month. As the coordinator, I was responsible for planning and guiding the treks to do radio telemetry looking for Andean Bears in the mountains. I also had to write the menu and do all the grocery shopping (a task requiring about 5 hours of bus round trip!). A typical day meant up at 6am, we all ate breakfast together, then head out on a hike by 7 or 7:30 to “listen” for one of our 6 radio collared bears. We’d usually be back around 3 to avoid the afternoon rain, take turns in the lukewarm shower, then dinner and hammock or game time.

What kind of people do you work with?
All nationalities with the average age from mid 20s to mid 30s. It was not a program for people going abroad for the first time ever, so most people had finished college and had probably studied abroad. We had a lot of biologists looking for field work training, but really anyone with a passion and who worked hard was accepted.

What are your living accommodations?
The bear house has closed down since I left, but the project is hoping to begin construction on the first ever Andean Bear Sanctuary in Ecuador soon and will be looking for volunteers for that. That will be in a new location near Baeza on the way out to the Orient.

What do you do in your free time?
Hammock, climb trees or work in the organic garden we had going. One volunteer made a swing and a tree house, that was great!

Share a favorite memory or story from your experience!
My first Andean Bear sighting in the wild…up in a tree, the expanse of the Andes Mountains behind, just stunning. We were lucky enough to get to watch it for an hour before it came down and walked away. It never even knew we were there!

What inspired you to do this kind of work? If you are taking a gap year, what motivated you to do that?
Career development and travel bug. That bug bites hard, watch out!

How are you financing your time?
I was given free room and board once I was there, my free time spending money was from personal savings.

What kind of special skills do you need to do your job?
Language, photography, leadership experience.

Do you feel like you are making a positive, critical impact on the global community?
Yes. It is a very small organization and I had a huge part in every aspect of helping run it, from finances to website assistance and social media. It was started and is primarily run by an Ecuadorian Biologist, and I really valued working for someone from the country I was living in. It made it very challenging at times, but I learned how to best make a difference “Ecuadorian style”, which I think will ultimately be the longest lasting.

What have you learned about the nonprofit and social business world in your experience?
It is hard. No doubts about that. But you take the small successes and just keep pushing.

Do you think you make a unique contribution to your organization as a young person? Is your perspective or approach different from others?
Possibly. It was good and bad being the same age or younger than a lot of our volunteers. I had to make sure to gain respect right away and that meant being “on” 24-7. But it also allowed me to relate to a lot of volunteers which I think helped a lot.

How do you see this experience fitting into your long-term goals?
I really liked the leadership aspect of it. It made a positive impact on me for sure, but what I want to do next is still hard to sort out. Very amazing experience though that I am extremely glad I did. Though you always think you’ll have it figured out after just one more experience or trip, but it just made me more confused!

Do you have any advice for prospective gap-givers?
Do it!

Are you blogging about your work or travel? How can we stay in touch?
Tried to blog, but only got about 5 posts in almost 10 months….opps. Feel free to email me though if you want to get in contact!

Would you be willing to take questions from potential Gappers?


Joeva Rock, Abusua Foundation

Name, Age: Joeva Rock, 23
University, Major: UCSD– International Studies
Region: Africa
Length of stay: 6 months – 1 year
Type of Work: Community Development, Human Rights, Youth capacity and capability building

Tell us about the nonprofit/social business you work for:
I spent the last year working for Abusua Foundation (AF) in Cape Coast, Ghana. Abusua was started ten years ago by a then University of Cape Coast student, and works on youth capacity and capability building and community development. AF has been engaged in a variety of projects including HIV/AIDS outreach, debate in the schools and an online youth magazine.

How did you find your position?

What’s your typical day like?
While with Abusua I was the Volunteer Coordinator and oversaw an international volunteer program. I placed skilled interns at different sites in the community including a local TV station, hospitals and a human-rights commission. The funds generated by the volunteer program go directly into supporting the projects and staff that Abusua oversees.

What kind of people do you work with?
Staff at Abusua were all Ghanaian, in their 20s and 30s. Interns were from the US, UK and Australia and were usually in their early 20s. Almost everyone I worked with had a college or professional degree.

What are your living accommodations?
I lived in our volunteer house that was located in a village on the University of Cape Coast campus. We had regular electricity, but no running water. Chickens, goats and the local mosque and church were my alarm clocks.

What do you do in your free time? 
Went to the beach, read books, traveled, went dancing, shopped at local markets.

Share a favorite memory or story from your experience! 
Monthly BBQ and dance parties with all the interns and our neighbors!

What inspired you to do this kind of work? If you are taking a gap year, what motivated you to do that? 
I had studied abroad in Ghana and knew I wanted to go back, so after I graduated from UCSD and couldn’t find a job in the US I knew I had to look to work overseas and get first-hand experience in the development field.

How are you financing your time?
I was paid.

What kind of special skills do you need to do your job?
Writing, Social media

Do you feel like you are making a positive, critical impact on the global community? 
Yes, meeting and engaging with people different than you is always positive :)

What have you learned about the nonprofit and social business world in your experience?
Running a successful nonprofit is hard! It’s non-stop work: meetings, travel, grant writing, etc., but the outcomes are super rewarding.

Do you think you make a unique contribution to your organization as a young person? Is your perspective or approach different from others?
The whole organization was young people working together, which creates a culture of high energy and innovation that’s hard to find other places.

How do you see this experience fitting into your long-term goals?
Working locally on the ground allowed me to discover what I want to study in grad school and the type of work I want to do professionally ie working with youth.

What’s next?
Grad school (cross your fingers)!

Do you have any advice for prospective gap-givers?
Research your program and other options in the area just in case you need a backup. Be open-minded and talk to as many people as you can!

Are you blogging about your work or travel? How can we stay in touch?

Would you be willing to take questions from potential Gappers?


Madison McLaughlin: International Rescue Committee Volunteer

Name, Age:  Madison McLaughlin, 20
University, Major:
Point Loma Nazarene University, Human Environmental Science, Business
Region: North America
Length of stay: 6 months
Type of Work: Academic Internship, Environment, Conservation

We’re especially grateful to Madison because she was our *very first* interview for GiveYourGap. Madison – thanks for your help, and for the great story your share below:



Meet Madison

How Madison Found Her Internship

What does Madison do?

Who does Madison work with?

What kind of skills did you need for this position? -You mentioned you were taking a gap year. Has work at the IRC influenced that decision? How has it affected your long term goals?

How has working with IRC impacted Madison?

What’s your favorite part about working for the IRC? 

Any advice for anyone interested in volunteering for the IRC? 


Lara Hamburger: Americorps VISTA, International Rescue Committee

Lara Hamburger

Name Lara Hamburger, Americorps VISTA
University, Major: Indiana University, Geography
Region: North America
Length of stay: 1 year
Type of Work: Capacity Building, Environment/Conservation, Agriculture

We first met Lara at the IRC City Heights Farmers Market. We lucked out catching her on her way out. Lara is an Americorps VISTA with amazing insights on nonprofit organizations, structural problems and making a daily impact on the lives of refugees.



Meet Lara

How did Lara come to the IRC?

How is Lara financing her time?

What has Lara learned about the non-profit world through working at the IRC?

What’s next for Lara? Will she stay on at IRC?

What advice does Lara have for potential volunteers who are worrying about financing their service?