A few words that sum up my first two weeks in the MEDA Ethiopia office are "challenging, timely, and demanding!" I arrived last week at an extremely busy time for the E-FACE (Ethiopians Fighting Against Child Exploitation) team. It's reporting season, so the entire team has been consumed with working on various reports for our donor, the government, MEDA HQ and so on. I've seen a glimpse of how MEDA, as a non-governmental organization, operates with a corporate mindset. Details matter, activities and results matter, and there is definitely no room for slacking! I see this internship as a great opportunity to learn from experts in the field of international and business development, move away from the theory-side of things (of course theory is still important), and witness how practical training and business skills building can dramatically change people's lives.
While reading through various client success stories, I noticed there was a general theme of the long-term benefits clients received through good financial habits such as saving, or joining a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA). The idea of a VSLA is to reach the very poor (typically in remote areas) who are unable to or unwilling to receive loans from formal financial institutions such as microfinance Institutions (MFIs). Thus, VSLAs operate as community-based saving and credit groups, composed of about 10-20 members. Each member makes a contribution to a loan fund, helping the fund to grow by borrowing from it and paying back the loans with a service charge. Based on the E-FACE success stories collected so far, it helped me realize these kinds of financial decisions can open doors for clients that prior to being part of a VSLA were unimaginable. These 'open doors' can range from opening up a shop to sell various goods and products, to buy a goat or chicken, or to see an increase in income so that children can go to school.
Although I haven't been out to the field yet, I'm thankful to have these first few weeks in the office. It was a bit overwhelming at first, because everyone was so busy. But it also gave me assurance that there may very few dull moments throughout my internship, because there's always something to do, something to read, or something to help out with. I've also realized it's really important to remember why I'm here and seek out opportunities to grow professionally and personally in-and-outside of the office. Whether it's trying something new or taking initiative to work on a specific skill, my work is definitely cut out for me over the next few months. I'm hoping that this current outlook and perspective will set the tone for this internship. Again, I'm very excited to be here and extremely grateful for the opportunity.