As I landed in rural Bududa last May, I had the expectation that I would only be a Microfinance intern for the Women’s Microfinance Bududa (WMB) Program under the non-profit organization Bududa Learning Centre (BLC) in Uganda.
I was wrong.
I was much more than that. I was a first-aid assistant to the nurses in the organization, an administrative assistant to the accounting work for the Microfinance team, and a student learning my way through the Bantu-language, Lugisu. My internship, sponsored by the Human Rights Center for Leadership, opened my eyes to the realities of development in a developing country where I learned to examine my role beyond a Microfinance intern and delve into becoming a listener to my loan-borrowers’ needs and be a critical thinker to propose solutions for unexpected business situation in the organization. I communicated designs of sustainable start-ups with local women to match accessible BLC funds and capital. In addition, I organized loan-borrowers’ team meetings for management process of loans with interests and repayment of loans. Most importantly, I acted as resource for WMB loan program administrators, interfaced with bank contacts and other NGOs, provided business plan training for July loan groups, and developed a webpage for WMB and enhanced its media platform by creating interactive videos and interviews of 25+ loan-borrowers with their profiles.
My experience was much more than an internship. It was a cultural exchange of ideas, support, languages and food. It taught to face corruption in the eye, to express my voice, to stand up for others, and to remember my passion for helping others access financial services and health care amidst physical and emotional challenges. Working for the small microfinance program pushed me to innovate new ideas to enhance the new program, yet balance such enthusiasm with the everyday needs of the locals. A two-month internship felt as if I was there for two years. The people in Bududa accepted me as their own, because our desire to learn from each other and to support each other intellectually, spiritually and emotionally surpassed the differences in our ethnicities, languages and skin color.
To view pictures and my writings about my Ugandan experience, click this link.
–Elham Yusuf-Ali, ’15