Highlights, challenges, and takeaways; what to expect from a nonprofit internship in Livingstone
As part of the co-op program at Northeastern University, Katie Oliver recently joined us in Livingstone, Zambia for a social impact internship. Katie ventured to Livingstone, a town on the banks of the Zambezi River, and became part of the small but dedicated team behind Baobuyu Learning Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing quality education and skill development programs in a rural community. Shortly after wrapping up her internship, Katie shared insights into her experience; the challenges, the cultural immersion, the learning outcomes – and the many highlights.
Taking the plunge; signing up for an internship in Zambia
Edged on a hill just outside of Livingstone, with a view of the curtain of spray that’s created by the Victoria Falls, is the village of Mwandi. Its somewhat rural location compounds socio-economic challenges this community faces, as there is limited access to quality education and job opportunities. To address this, and to create a stimulating knowledge-sharing space for community members, Baobuyu established a center that functions as a primary school in the mornings, and an active community center in the afternoons. It’s a lively hub of creativity that’s become the beating heart of Mwandi.
With the hope of gaining a varied work experience, Katie signed up for a sustainable development internship with Baobuyu, and arrived in Zambia in September of last year. “ Going into this internship I had no idea what to expect and what the outcome might be. I hoped it would help me find and solidify what I want to do as a career, expose me to many different opportunities, and open new doors for exploring the world. Interning at Baobuyu did it all and more!”
Katie’s role during her social impact internship in Zambia
If you join a small organization as an intern, you’re likely to end up having a varied role – especially in the context of a field-based program. “I was able to work in collaboration with other interns and our supervisor on daily tasks and activities with our community programs,” explains Katie. “I facilitated workshops for teachers and women empowerment groups, initiated and oversaw the weekly after school kids club, drafted correspondence with supporters and donors. I also researched, recommended, initiated, and followed up on funding opportunities.”
“Excitingly, I was given tremendous support to start my own initiatives and projects. I am most proud of creating several books and resources. Together with two other interns, I wrote, designed, and fundraised for a book on puberty, which will be used in Baobuyu’s ‘Girl Power’ group aimed at empowering girls. The second is our ‘Be the Change’ book; a collection of biographies and stories from women around the world who have made an impact in their communities, including Greta Thunberg, Rosa Parks, Oprah Winfrey, and Michelle Obama. My goal for this book is for girls and boys to read this and see that it’s possible to achieve your goals, no matter where you live and what your circumstances are.
Cultural adaptation and living in Livingstone
Doing an internship in Zambia – or anywhere else in Africa – involves a certain amount of cultural adaptation. “I was surprised at how challenging the cultural shift and being so far away from home was the first two weeks of my arrival,” says Katie. “I felt out of place trying to navigate my way through school and find where I could be most helpful. I thought that uncomfortable feeling in the first two weeks would last forever, but I began to learn and make meaningful differences, and I started to settle in. I felt more confident and comfortable with my surroundings. I ended up very quickly making a home for myself, and by the end, I did not want to leave.”
“There is something so special about the people in Livingstone, who are the most welcoming, curious, and energetic bunch. In addition to the continuously fun, inspiring, and impactful work we accomplished in such a short time, the weekends and evenings made it all the better. White water rafting, swimming on top of some of the world’s largest waterfalls, going on four safaris, and making all these incredible memories with such kind and welcoming people made every experience better than I ever could imagine.”
Reflecting on the internship experience
“Now that I am reflecting on my time with Baobuyu I am cherishing everything we were able to accomplish, create, learn, and grow together during this time. Don’t get me wrong, we had long and hard days working, but the short taxi ride home and getting to look out the window at Livingstone and Zambia always made the hard work so much more bearable. Knowing that the work we do can make even the smallest impact on someone, and that impact can help change their life in a positive way then I know at the end of the day everything was worth it.”
“I know I will take everything I have learned into the future with me as I move forward and will always remember how I was able to find my passion and a new home across the world. I am forever grateful.”
Framing an internship in Zambia within career goals
“My career goals have been solidified after my time in Zambia. I am in my fourth year of studying Anthropology, and one of my favorite things about becoming an anthropologist is interacting with different communities around the globe. I have a passion for bringing my anthropological perspective to the field of education in particular. Working in Zambia helped me further my career as an anthropologist through experiential learning and granted me new opportunities to continue my passion for teaching. Education is a pathway to a better, more sustainable future for communities within Livingstone and like Baobuyu Learning Center.”
FLASH FORWARD: Since this blog was written, Katie has found herself back in Zambia! In August 2023, Katie officially joined Baobuyu for a full year working as a Development and Operations Coordinator. She was motivated by her passion for working with different communities around the world and learning about Zambian culture and history. Katie’s main responsibilities are project coordinating, fundraising, and overseeing the development of the school and women empowerment projects. If you have any questions about interning in Livingstone or working with Baobuyu, she’s the perfect person to get an insight from and we’re happy to connect you with her!
Who should consider doing a social impact internship in Zambia?
If you’re wondering if this type of experience is for you, here’s what Katie suggests; “Anyone who is considering doing an internship with Baobuyu needs to be passionate, dedicated, and energetic. This internship requires a great deal of patience to learn the ropes and feel comfortable with the foreign environment. You must be ready to jump at any opportunity and switch from working at a computer on your own project to suddenly shifting gears and leading a kids club with over 60 participants. You will always be moving around and there is never a dull moment at Baobuyu. This internship takes a lot of dedication and energy, but it is spent so well and worth every second.”
“I cannot speak highly enough about Tammy and everyone at Baobuyu that just makes it so extraordinary. I am forever grateful to be a part of their team and to experience the happiness, energy, and perseverance that everyone brings to making a lasting difference at Baobuyu. Everything I do now is a continuation, an extension of all that I have just gained.”
Our internship opportunities with Baobuyu Learning Center in Livingstone
You can apply for the following internship positions with Baobuyu in Zambia;
- Marketing & Fundraising Internship
- Female Empowerment & Education Internship
- Writing & Communications Internship
- Sustainable Development Internship
Interested? Here’s what to do next.
So you’re interested in joining us for a social impact internship in Zambia? (Or somewhere else in the world – or even remotely?)
- Choose the internship opportunity (or opportunities) you’re most interested in. If you’re not sure where to start, and you’d like some advise, just give us a shout!
- Fill out the application form and send your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org
- We’ll get back to you to set up an online chat – and we’ll proceed from there!