Probiotic Pros?: A Progress Report

Muraho!

I noticed that I’ve focused a lot of my blog posts on explaining the remote nature of the internship and giving a general overview of the project, however, I haven’t really given much insight into what specific tasks we have had. I also noticed that it has been a while since I have posted an update here.

So I thought this would be a good time to share what we’ve been up to


Our first major task was to complete a detailed business plan and timeline which would outline what the first year or ‘start-up phase’ of the yogurt kitchen would entail. After completing this, it was time to move on to our second major task: Training Sessions. This is what I’ve been spending the past couple of weeks focused on.

I was most excited for this phase of the internship as business plans and budgets aren’t exactly my specialty.

Preparation:

Our first step was to ensure that we knew about probiotics and their health benefits – as we are doing this remotely, I had to rely on theoretical knowledge from past intern reports and resources provided by WHE.

Our supervisors, Bob and Stephanie, thought it would be easier to teach others about the yogurt production process if we had had the experience of making it ourselves. Unfortunately, my packet of the probiotic sachets, which are needed to make the yogurt, never made it all the way to Trinidad 😦 – Luckily Katie was able to get hers and update us on how that went!

We then began adapting materials and making our presentations and then it was time for the big day!

We worked with Bonheur, a University of Rwanda student, who was super helpful both in preparation and during the sessions themselves. It was also just really nice to work with someone our age who is also a student!

The sessions:

We separated the training into two sessions- one which was focused on the health benefits of probiotics and the other on the yogurt production process. We were happy to get a lot of participation from the volunteers that attended both sessions. It definitely lived up to my expectations!

Since the completion of the training, the volunteers at the NGOs have been practicing making yogurt more regularly to get consistent high quality results.

It was exciting to get some progress pictures and videos last week!


Believe it or not we are now entering our last week of the internship!! So we’ll be spending lots of our time finishing up everything so we can leave the project off in a good place.

I’ll hopefully update you soon on how this goes!

Talk soon,

Eva

So, How does this remote internship thing work?: A Typical Day in my Remote Internship

When the idea of doing a remote internship was first introduced, my first thought was ‘how?’

How do you work on a community-based project – without even being in the community itself? How do you collaborate with partners?

You may have also been wondering this, and I thought a good way of explaining it would be to describe ‘A typical day during my remote internship’.

So, how does it all work?

…………….

A Typical day in my Remote Internship:

Before getting into my internship tasks of the day, I usually start my day with a zoom exercise session with two of my housemates in Canada. I’ve found this to be a nice way to keep healthy while allowing us to stay in touch despite being apart since I returned home in mid-March (something for my physical health, something for my mental health!).

Daily exercise zoom session with my roommates Zoe and Katie (as you can see, much of my life is being lived through my laptop at the moment)

Although this is supposed to describe ‘a typical day’ for me, the truth this there isn’t really a ‘typical’. No day is really the same when there is no strict work hours/ work schedule. It all depends on the tasks/priorities for that day.

Sometimes this means a zoom meeting- and sometimes lots and lots of Zoom meetings. (Especially Tuesdays where we have our weekly intern meetings where we get to catch up with the entire team)

Sometimes it means lots of reading, sometimes writing. And often, it involves some combination of all of these.

Some days are more packed than others. On days that are not as busy, (whether because we are waiting to hear back from contacts before working more or just as a result of how meetings ended up being scheduled) I can spend time working on my Blog or catching up on reading up on resources from past interns.


As you can imagine, a lot of my days involve working with Robert and Katie- whether we are having lengthy zoom meetings where we collaborate on a task, or simply messaging on Whatsapp to keep each other up to date and coordinate our tasks.

My days have been filled with many Zoom calls and conversations with these two. ( Katie and Robert). [Picture of Rwanda interns zoom call with our locations labelled]

As mentioned in a previous blog post, the three of us are in three different countries right now (while our partners are in a fourth!). There is a 12 hr time difference from my timezone’s to Roberts (and 6 hr difference for Rwanda), which I think has added to the variation in what a day can look like – due to accommodating all the time zones (although Robert has been the real MVP with being flexible when it comes to time differences).

Although there are some difficulties, one benefit of the remote internship is that we’ve been able to pull in several ‘helping hands’ for advice/assistance which we probably would not have thought was possible if the internship were in person.

It has also been nice that we are able to keep up to date with what all the other interns and work-study students have been up to via our weekly intern meeting.

Some furry company while at ‘the office’ (or at least the office setting that day)

Another thing that sometimes changes day to day is my work setting. (which has been as variable as it can be when you’re not leaving your house!) From in my room for Zoom meetings: quiet and free from distraction- to on my porch with my dogs: when I’m feeling for a more laid back work environment. ( I know, this goes against the advice of every working from home article- ‘keep a dedicated office space’- oops..)


That pretty much sums up how my days have been going so far.

Thanks for reading:)

Talk soon,

Eva

More about our Partners

Muraho! ( I know it’s been a while since my last post but I’m back:) And will be posting more frequently from now on!!)

I wanted to share a little more about the partners that I am working with in Rwanda in this post.

Our Community Partners

For our internship, we are partnering with two local NGOs in Rwanda, Living with Happiness- Icyemezo (LWHI) and Rwandan Mothers Team (RMT), with the aim of implementing a FITI probiotic kitchen in the community (in Kigali, Rwanda). LWHI focuses on community mental health, anti-gender based violence work and supports for youth. RMT aims to work toward women empowerment, child protection and family harmony.

The NGOs’ volunteers and beneficiaries will be working together on this community kitchen initiative with the hope of achieving a self-sustaining social enterprise owned by these women.

Meeting Aimee

My internship supervisor, on the Rwandan end, is Aimee UTUZA– A PhD Candidate at Western University who is from Rwanda. Aimee is also a co-founder of the two NGOs. I first met Aimee during a Western’s International Week event – Africa-Western Collaborators Day. After learning that the Rwandan Team would involve working with her NGOs, Katie and I introduced ourselves to her and told her of our interest in applying to the program.

We later met with her where she told us more about herself, her NGOs and her inspiration for starting them. Although we were not certain that we’d be taking part in the internship- or even applying- at this point, Aimee was so open and warm with us.

We were initially not going to be working directly with Aimee but rather with members of her NGOs as she would be in Canada while we were in Rwanda. I remember thinking ‘I wish you were coming with us!’ So, when we made the switch to remote working, I was excited that this would mean working more closely with Aimee.

We met her sister, Clarise, co-founder of the NGOs, during our team orientation meeting within the first week of our internship. We discussed the goals of the project and familiarized ourselves with everything.

. . . . .

Since starting the internship, we have continued to build a great relationship between us interns and Aimee. Our conversations have not been limited to details of our yogurt project, but have included discussions on health and our own personal goals.

Rob, Katie and I are all studying Health Sciences while Aimee has worked in various health roles across the health sector and is currently pursuing her PhD in Health Promotion. – It has been really exciting for me working on a team with people just as interested in health as I am. Those of you who know me well know that I am always asking people about their jobs in health, so I find it very fun working under someone who’s had experience across the health field.

The Partners ‘On the Ground’

Within the first few weeks of our internship, we had a meeting with many of the NGOs’ volunteers, who are currently in Rwanda, where we introduced ourselves briefly to one another. We were able to learn what educational and work backgrounds everyone has and share about our own.

With varying levels of English proficiency (and our very minimal knowledge of Kinyarwanda), we were able to participate in a successful meeting, despite the language barrier, with Aimee’s facilitation. She did this by conducting the meeting in both English and Kinyarwanda so that we were all on the same page.

I look forward to meeting more with them and building further relationships as we have with Aimee.

Our Partnership with University of Rwanda

Past Interns that worked in Rwanda projects have focussed on the campus yogurt kitchen at University of Rwanda(UR) and WHE’s relationship with UR. This year, this hasn’t been our primary focus as interns, but we continue to work with UR in some capacity. I will update you more on how this relationship develops.

More details to come on this partnership…

.

.

.

Thank you for reading:)

Talk soon,

Eva

Thousands of Miles from the Land of a Thousand Hills (& yet not too far) // Introductory Thoughts on my Remote Internship

As my internship begins, I’ve been thinking a lot about how, in a COVID-19-free version of this world, I’d be physically making my way to Rwanda. I would have gone on connecting flight to connecting flight until eventually arriving in the Land of a Thousand Hills, Rwanda. Right about now, I’d be just starting to deal with the jet lag while beginning to get settled into my internship role and my new home for the next 3 months.


About a year ago this time, I was experiencing just this. I was now settling in in Rwanda for what would be a great 5 weeks. This was a part of Prof. Henri Boyi’s Community Engaged Learning/Service Learning course (French 3140B Rwanda: Culture, Society and Reconstruction – for anyone wondering) which I took in second semester of my 2nd year of university. The course involved learning about the history, culture and people of Rwanda and was followed by a 5 week component in Kigali, Rwanda. I spent the 5 weeks at a volunteer placement at Aspire Rwanda, an NGO focused on women empowerment in Rwanda.

Teachers, Virginia and Josiane, at Aspire Rwanda Pre-School waving goodbye 🙂


It was this experience that inspired me to apply for Western Heads East. After the 5 weeks, I went home with a new and deeper appreciation of community and its importance. I remember coming home and wondering how I can get involved in my community in Trinidad. I found myself contemplating my future career path often. I’ve never been 100% sure of where in the health care field I wanted to work- but I returned home more confused than I left.

I’m not sure what it was, but the experience left me craving more. I remember filling out application after application and sending out email after email trying to find a way to be involved in the London community when I returned for school. Eventually, as the months passed, the feeling/craving faded a bit until I heard about WHE- and I felt like I needed to do it.

Here’s reflection note I wrote to myself a few months ago. When writing this post, I noticed that I wrote this about a week before going to Africa-Western Collaborators Day – where I first learned about WHE! (a program centered around improving community health!)

Needless to say, this is not what I expected my internship to look like when I first heard about it- But none of us expected life to look like this.
I know that everything happens a reason – And I am SO excited to make my return to Rwanda virtually 🙂
Instead, I am settling into my role in a different way, figuring out how to use zoom, dealing with time zone differences and getting used to working from home.
[Pro-tip: Always double check time zones!- learned this the hard way this week when I missed a cool presentation because I mixed up the time zones (I’m learning already! Haha).]

Although we have only briefly been in contact with our partners on the ground in Rwanda, I was able to get a glimpse into what this might be like. Before the start of the internship, I was able to participate in a Canada-Rwanda Health Students Exchange with professors and students from Canada and Rwanda. Although being in different countries, they did not feel so far. I left feeling excited and inspired, ready to see how my internship will go.
Each of the three interns working on the WHE Rwanda team (Katie Butler, Rob Guo and myself), is also located in a different country (Canada, Singapore and Trinidad and Tobago respectively.)
– So the world is feeling pretty small right now!
(Thank God for Zoom!- And all my supervisors for facilitating the switch to a remote internship!!)
Something that excites me about doing a remote internship is that we are able to all be scattered around the world and yet still come together and collaborate.

Excited to see how it goes and will update you along the way.

-Eva

P.S. Read Katie’s post if you’re interested in reading more about our shared learning about WHE 🙂

The Journey Begins

Muraho!

Welcome to my Western Heads East Blog! And thank you for joining me.

When you think of a journey you tend to imagine physically moving from one place to another. But this will not be your typical journey- but rather one that I will embark on without ever needing to leave my house. (with the help of some remote technology 🙂 )

And I’m so excited to share this with you.

– Eva

muraho- hello (in kinyarwanda) ]

* To learn more about my internship or myself, see the ‘about my internship’ page.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

 

Sunset taken on a drive through Rwanda, May/June 2019