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Nicaragua

I decided to apply for CIDA's internship program as I was looking to start a career in international development. The program seemed like a great opportunity to gain field experience and contacts which could help me launch my career. MEDA specifically appealed to me as I loved the organization's business approach which I believe is a very sustainable and practical approach to development. I also wanted to gain more experience in microfinance which was the area of focus for my internship with MEDA.

I had worked abroad prior to my internship with MEDA but this experience really offered me the opportunity to gain a ton of professional experience and skills. I learned so much from my fellow MEDA staff and partner organization staff in Nicaragua which really complemented my academic knowledge of development issues.

I think my post-grad in International Development and Project Management was extremely helpful in preparing me for this position. This degree in particular gave me a lot of background in areas such as monitoring and evaluation and donor reporting which I used in my position.

I was recently hired at MEDA as a Project Coordinator. I believe that my internship experience and the skills I developed in project management, communications, M&E and other areas will help me to succeed in this position.

I think the highlight of my internship experience really was the people I met and worked with. I built close relationships with a number of MEDA and local staff members and learned so much from them. I also had the opportunity to take the lead in a number of projects and am extremely proud of the work I did. I would highly recommend the program to anyone looking to pursue a career in development.

 

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In my fourth and last year as a Political Science student specializing in International Relations, I was beginning to worry what the next steps in my life would be. I was applying to a variety of internships and job applications when I came across MEDA. To be honest, I was drawn to MEDA because I was able to not only improve my professional skills, but also to travel abroad. I had no idea that MEDA would become my backbone in strong morals and the ideal view of a non-governmental organization.

In arriving to Nicaragua, I was completely lost, to say the least. I had volunteered continuously throughout my high school and university career and had already lived abroad, but MEDA provided a unique opportunity in becoming comfortable within a career setting. MEDA sparked my individual strengths and gave me a strong voice within a well known international organization where I was able to view my point and use creativity in projects.

I'm asked if working in the realm of international development is what I expected..I was surprised at every turn of the internship because this was completely new to me. If you become an intern with MEDA you will learn very quickly that MEDA employees are passionate about what they do and want to share that passion with you. I gained a wide breadth of knowledge that would not have been possible without the generous time that Waterloo and Washington staff took the time to give me. I was fortunate and greatly blessed to work with a local, Roger Larios. Roger was beyond a mentor to me, he is a friend and he calls me his daughter now. He taught me how to have interviews with clients when I was travelling throughout Nicaragua; I knew nothing about agriculture before I left Canada, and he patiently described new technologies and the companies that MEDA worked with; alongside everything, he was an amazing Spanish tutor. There is no way in words to describe my gratitude to everyone at MEDA.

Looking back, the most rewarding experience was having interviews with local farmers that were apart of the Techno-Links Project. Each interview per client was about 1 hour and the questions regarded income, level of education, impact on the climate, and other positive outcomes they have experienced or not experienced. Overall, each interview shocked me in the difference the was made over the projects three year time span. Non-governmental organizations are not about giving pity money to individuals, they need to be based on providing knowledge, and the right to the individual to lead their own life. MEDA shocked me in doing this and taught me this value. One interviewee was in his 40's and had never had a stable job. When the Techno-Links Project began he was asked to join and now he has an income, he is able to help his daughter in school, and his wife has returned to school. Alongside my pride in working with MEDA, I am astounded by the breadth of knowledge I was able to acquire in 7 months. For example, I can have a full conversation in Spanish now about irrigation systems and biolabs working on embryos to improve crop yields.

Not only did this internship offer me with exceptional experience, but it has made me a driven individual that has become passionate about sustainable development. At times, yes, it was hard and I have to admit there were times when I wanted to go home, but I have never learned more in 7 months then I did with this internship. The best advice to give anyone, I believe in national or international work, is to be prepared to expect the unexpected, and be OPEN to it. My experience was unique, in that my studies were not related to the internship, being agriculture. I am now passionately driven to do a Master's in sustainable development the following year. I am currently not working in the field, but I have amazing news that's working towards helping others.

 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Discussing-different-ideas-as-a-group.gifThe Techno-Links Project has manifested a connection between private businesses and small rural farmers within a time span of three years to provide sustainable development. I previously met the private businesses and farmers when I conducted interviews with them on behalf of MEDA. However, the dynamics of the Techno-Links Project meeting on March 13th and March 14th of 2014 was astounding, with all ten Nicaraguan private companies coming together for the first time to share their ideas.

The goal of the two-day meeting was to express the positive affects and outcomes and improvements of the project. A large brown sheet of paper was taped to the front wall with different headings written on it: Design, Efficiency, Effectiveness, Impact, Sustainability and Crosscutting with subtitles of Successes, Potential, Setbacks, and Barriers. Companies were divided into groups to work together and each group wrote down their ideas, concerns, or likes of the project and then put the idea on the board under each subtitle. Each idea was expressed as a group and each was described in detail with a conversation to follow.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Activity-of-finding-the-impacts-of-the-Techno-Links-Project.gifBefore this activity, I presented my findings on a Case Study I had conducted in November on one of the partners, The International School of Agriculture and Livestock, as well as discuss impacts/outcomes of farmers from the agricultural business partners. This helped set the stage to illustrate what should be improved and what is strong with the business plans and project for the companies to include in the activity.

It was a special meeting for me, as it was my last day after a seven-month internship with MEDA as the impact assessment intern. Before the meeting had begun, everyone had come to say hello to me and I realized all the extraordinary connections I made in my time spent in Nicaragua. It was a nice last day, but it was also hard with everyone talking energetically about new ideas and future goals.

I came home on March 14th, and I am eager for my next adventure in international relations. The internship has given me a new perspective on, not only international development, but also local development. My perspective has greatly changed within international relations and sustainable development and I look forward to further develop my knowledge and experience b2ap3_thumbnail_Seeing-Nicaragua-from-above-such-a-beautiful-sight.gifthrough a long-term career.

The MEDA internship provided me with the knowledge of creating webinars, professional presentations in front of partners, interview skills, making case studies, translating documents and being a translator, and above all, the ability to communicate with a group of dynamic people from business corporations, rural farmers, and Skype meetings with people from all over the world from Africa, Peru, Canada, and the United States. I am grateful for this experience and for the people within MEDA and outside of MEDA that supported me in professional and personal growth.
Thank you MEDA for the support and all the substantial work you do that I saw first hand.


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b2ap3_thumbnail_Reusable-plane-tickets.gifb2ap3_thumbnail_Panga-is-the-boat-to-get-over-to-Little-Corn-Island.gifI had a wonderful chance to go to Little Corn Island, which is located on the Caribbean side of Nicaragua, and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to get away from the cold weather!

There are two islands, Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island. The islands add an interesting aspect to Nicaragua. It is most well known for being occupied by pirates in the 1800’s. The islands were under British rule and served as a refuge for the pirates. The population of Little Corn Island today is 1,200 with a large mestizo population, people of mixed European and Indian ancestry), and direct descendants of pirates. There are also Garifuna people, the descendants of Carib, Arawak and West African people, and indigenous Miskito people from Caribbean Mosquito coast. 



b2ap3_thumbnail_The-local-dish-Run-Down---yum.gifb2ap3_thumbnail_Scuba-Diving-Instructor-and-I.gifThe islanders speak an English-speaking Creole that originated from a mixed black heritage of English settlers and slaves brought over from Africa. English is the official language on the Corn Islands, followed by Miskito and Spanish. The locals make their living from harvesting lobster and fishing. Life moves at slow pace and reggae is the music of the islands. There is a famous local dish called Run Down. It is a stew in coconut milk with fish and lobster tail with a variety of root vegetables.

The Caribbean side offers a wide variety of activities including scuba diving. I had the chance to get my open water diving certification. I saw stingrays, nurse sharks, and sea turtles. I also did a night dive, which I was completely scared of, but was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had.

Aside from the culture and beautiful landscape, Little Corn Island seems to be a destination for Canadians. Throughout my internship I have not met many Canadians until the island. The majority of tourists were from Canada and a few were from the United States and Europe. On returning from my trip, I had met an American couple that works for the Mennonite Central Committee Canada. They were very excited to hear that I have been doing an internship with MEDA and told me they continuously follow MEDA. This is one example of the many people I met that were interested in hearing more about MEDA and the work that is being done in Nicaragua and around the world.
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The joys I get from meeting people when I travel never cease to amaze me. I hear amazing stories that I learn from and am usually shocked, in a good way; to hear of the profound different lifestyles people lead. From working and travelling in Nicaragua I have met these incredible people and I would like to share some of their stories.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Here-is-an-example-of-how-big-papaya-is-in-Nicaragua.gifb2ap3_thumbnail__Domingo-and-his-son-with-some-caimito.gifThis first person I had previously met during my Case Study with the International School of Agriculture and Livestock (EIAG) in Rivas. Domingo Tuerno grows plantains with EIAG and he continues to welcome me to his field while he works rigorously. He grows plantains with Techno-Links technology and aside from this crop he also grows papaya and coco beans. On top of all of this, he is a promoter of EIAG and the Techno-Links program, where he goes around his community discussing the benefits of plantain in-vitro plants. I found it astounding that he had any time to do an hour interview with me and then provide me with some extra timbit information.

After sitting in Domingo’s field for an hour doing an interview, Domingo introduced my co-worker and myself to his son Alejandro, who was using a stick to try to get something out of a tree. I was a little confused. After a few minutes, he handed me a green fruit, which turned out to be called caimito, which is green on the outside and white and mushy on the inside. You cannot get caimito in Canada, but it grows in South Asia and in Central America. After I told them it was delicious, Alejandro hit off a few more caimito for me and then walked over with a large papaya to give me!

b2ap3_thumbnail_Chepe-is-showing-me-a-bee-hive-column-he-uses.gifb2ap3_thumbnail_Domingo-showing-me-what-chocolate-looks-like-before-its-made.gifDomingo then wanted to show off his other products to me. We walked a few hectares over to where another field was. Here he showed me another large green fruit. He told me it was cocoa. He wanted to show me the inside of the cocoa, but it wasn’t ripe for harvest. I will have to visit Domingo another time.

I interviewed Joseph Barnett who works with Dulce Miel and Techno-Links. The name Joseph has an English ring to it, usually Nicaraguans use common English names to give their children, but Joseph, also known as Chepe, is originally from the United States. He has now lived and worked in Nicaragua for over 30 years. He not only works with Dulce Miel in producing honey and is a technician for helping fellow farmers, but is also a founder of Dulce Miel. As well, he is apart of a monk community in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. During an interview with Chepe he showed us his spare hobbies, which include creating crème out of honey and selling separate bottles of honey. We can see that Chepe is extremely busy, but he continues to use any spare time doing volunteer work with other non-governmental organizations.

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