One Unique Gap Year Changed This West African Alum

I grew up in a small town in Lagos, Nigeria, where almost everyone was either an entrepreneur or someone related to a business owner. This exposure introduced me to the world of entrepreneurship at an early age and helped fuel my passion for problem-solving. One of the pressing issues I identified as a young child was the poor access to healthcare and lack of adequate medical facilities in my community and country as a whole. On multiple occasions, patients in my locality had to transfer to health clinics in other regions to get treatment as clinics, hospitals, and health centers lacked facilities and resources to attend to their medical needs. Some were even required to travel out of the country. Patients who were unable to afford the expenses for the health services ended up not getting any assistance. Learning about this unfair reality sparked my interest in health. I became curious to understand the issues around health care in my community and determined to help provide solutions to them.

In 2020, I graduated from the African Leadership Academy (ALA), after which I decided to take a gap year before attending college due to some challenges caused by the pandemic. As an alumnus of ALA, I am opportune to be a member of the Africa Career Network (ACN). Through ACN, I learned about Village Health Works (VHW) – a transformational organization located in Burundi, focused on providing quality health care for Burundians. VHW further utilizes its nonpareil community engagement to implement educational programs, sustainable agriculture practices, and economic development projects in the catchment area. Fascinated by the good works being done and interested in being a part of the team creating positive impacts, I applied for a remote development and communication internship role at VHW.

I work with other interns and staff members in the development team to communicate information and the impacts made by the organization to the public. We also work to build relationships with existing funders by keeping them updated on organizational activities while helping to attract new funders to help achieve our transformational goals. Despite working from home, I do feel like I am part of the VHW family on the ground in Burundi. My favorite role in the internship program so far is working on the annual report – a project that merges passion and creativity. This internship is highly valuable to me, and the experience will be super helpful in my future professional endeavors. I continually practice and develop my communication skills through interactions with diverse staff members across different departments in the organization, as we strive to accomplish the mission which we all embody.

By working with colleagues in different time zones, I have improved my adaptability and time management skills and further heightened my network-building abilities, to mention a few. The lessons I have learned and the skills I have developed in this internship program are definitely transferable. I look forward to implementing them as I march onwards to college and continue my problem-solving journey. I am truly grateful for this opportunity and excited for what lies ahead

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