I am Beating the Odds!!! – Two Months Internship Experience in Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa

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My African Gang, a.k.a Buddy.

Today, we remember Kartini, an Indonesia’s woman activist who advocated for women’s rights. This author of the famous “From Darkness to Light” has taught us the importance of perseverance and struggle despite any odds. Today, as we commemorate Kartini’s birthday, our contributor, Wine, has shared her experience in pursuing one of her dreams of stepping foot in the Africa continent, to experience the unimaginable. Let us read her story. 

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It’s time for Africa!!!

Every now and then, Africa is always on my top wish-list continent, not only to visit but also to experience the unimaginable things with a load of surprises. Three years ago, I went to Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa, for about two months. I worked as a Social Business Development intern at a local NGO there. I had encountered hardships when I was there. I was forced to put behind my comfort zone. Even though the journey was not easy, but nothing worth comes easy, right? With all obstacles and disheartening moments that occurred at that time, this experience has always been a treasure for me.

Back in 2017, I applied for Program Pemuda Magang Luar Negeri (PPMLN) which focused on developing youth potential. It was a fully-funded program initiated by Indonesia Ministry of Youth and Sport, a partnership with AIESEC Indonesia. This program facilitated Indonesian youth for internships abroad. First of all, AIESEC Indonesia conducted a series of national selection for the applicants who were interested in this program. Each applicant was required to submit a written application and attend an interview. Next, the applicant had to apply to the institution where they wanted to do the internship. PPMLN had plenty of exciting countries to choose from around the world including countries in Africa. Since a fully-funded program to Africa is very rare, without a second thought, I finally landed on my decision at Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa as my choice. After two weeks, I got an acceptance email by an NGO named PANCMI (Pentecost Aid Mission) located in Abidjan, the capital city of Cote d’Ivoire as a Social Business Development Analyst.

In order to get to Cote d’Ivoire, I had to transit in Malaysia and Turkey for about 12 hours and it took me 24 hours to finally reach there. To enter the country, I need to prepare important credentials such as passport, visa, and vaccine certificates. Luckily, this program was fully-funded, I did not have to think about financial matters because this was a paid internship. I even got pocket money for my first month there. When I was there, I stayed with PANMCI founder, Dr. Messi King, and his family. They gave me a private bedroom and treated me like their own family.

Beyond this breadth of benefits, one thing I will never forget is how compassionate the people of Abidjan are. I worked for the NGO, PANMCI, a Christian organization that collects funds through music and evangelism, founded in 2005. They aimed to support the poor and needy in society. They are not only providing free health facilities but also trainings like baking, farming and school driving.  I met so many patients with severe illnesses. Mostly were patients with tumors, cataracts, appendix and malnutrition. This saddened condition that happened in the community has encouraged me to work harder to help others to improve their wellness.

Wine with Dr. Messi King.
Wine with Dr. Messi King.

My supervisor is a doctor also the founder of PANMCI, named Dr. Messi King from Ghana. Dr. King used to work for United Nations assigned in Mali. He collaborated with other doctors to provide a free healthcare facility to the community who cannot afford the expense of medical bills. One of the free facilities they provided is surgeries or surgical procedures which is extremely expensive for most of the people in the community. Up until now, his team already managed to build two free service hospitals. Dr. King is a man with great honor and dignity. Since he has years of experiences in social service field, he taught me how to run an NGO, build and maintain networking with stakeholders. But most importantly, he inspired me about “why” all of this humanitarian mission is essential.

Wine is holding the insurance card, made by her team.
Wine is holding the insurance card, made by her team.

My role as Social Business Development Analyst was very challenging. Two months were just too short to create a significant result. I tried to map all possible revenue streams. After all debates, exhausting trial and endless meetings, I finally reached the edge. My team and I managed to create an insurance card system collaborating with plenty of churches there. This card has to be refilled every month as a health deposit budget. We also applied cross-subsidies method, so the rich can help the poor by using this card. So whoever got sick, this card will ease their treatment.

As what I wished in the very beginning, I got a load of “unimaginable surprises” during my stay in Abidjan. One day, I was granted access from the doctors to directly experiencing how they performed the appendix surgery. I had no idea if this act is forbidden or not, but yes, they let me in. I saw how they cut patient’s flesh and how they managed to get rid of the appendix from the intestine. I tried not to scream as hard as I can when seeing lots of blood because I was afraid my screaming would break their concentration.

Outside my internship responsibility, I got to mingle with my local friends. We usually met up at the weekend. We went to the beaches, Yamoussoukro, and to the cinema together. They also became my personal helper because they helped me a lot to communicate with others since people of Cote d’Ivoire speak French, which I am not capable of. Before I went back to Indonesia, my friends and I visited an orphanage and decided to introduce a bit of Indonesian culture there and end up celebrating my birthday with them all.

Wine’s personal time with local friends.
Wine’s personal time with local friends.

Apart from those amazing perks, challenges were always there. But here I am, stand strong beating the odds. Started from a very long selection process, dealing with the rumors about security and health issue in Cote d’Ivoire before entering the country, an endless flight from Indonesia to Cote d’Ivoire, and lastly a sorrow of experiencing and seeing people suffering from severe diseases cannot afford the medical assistance they needed.

I am still wondering, is it the place or its people who successfully strengthened me. Because I don’t think I will have the same level of compassion like I have now without my Africa story. Their helping hands cured the wounds. Their genuine sincerity defeated diseases. They counterbalanced fear and restored a soothing sense. Last word, Merci..

All photos are provided by the author.