KLI Sponsored Summers: Part 2
By Bridget Moran ’16
This is the second installment in our series highlighting KLI and Kravis Prize sponsored intern’s summer experiences. Part 2 is by CMC student and KLI Student Coordinator Bridget Moran ‘16, who spent her summer interning with Right To Play (2013 Kravis Prize Recipient) in the West African country of Benin.
This past summer, I embarked on a journey to Francophone Africa where I interned in Cotonou, Benin with Right To Play. Founded in 2000, Right To Play is an international organization that strives to impact the lives of children across the globe through the use of sport and play. Working in nineteen different countries, Right To Play operates programs that utilize sport and play to educate children and combat problems surrounding health, poverty, and conflict.
To begin my internship, I spent two weeks at Right To Play International headquarters in Toronto, Canada. While I went in with a vague idea that I would be doing research on gender-based issues in Benin, I eventually decided to focus on child protection. Among the many issues that Right To Play works on, child protection is a key element in all communities where they work. Right To Play’s approach to child protection is multi-faceted and varies depending on the needs and characteristics of each country and community. In Benin, Right To Play supports several community-based initiatives that work to ensure the protection of children. Of these initiatives, I decided to do a case study of local child protection committees. As a part of the case study, I would interview members of the committees, local partner NGOs, and governmental Social Promotion Centers.
As my flight to Benin approached, I was unsure of what to expect. While I studied abroad the fall of my junior year in Marseille, France, I knew this would be a completely different experience. Upon my arrival, I quickly realized that there is a lot more to adjusting than just “knowing French.” Initially, I struggled to grasp the accent that was so different than the one I grew accustomed to in France. Likewise, many of my colleagues had to adjust to my American accent. Outside of the language transition, I found myself living in a situation vastly different from any other I had experienced. All of a sudden, I had to make sense of a new environment without friends, family, or other American students. The term “self-reliance” took on a whole new meaning, as I had to learn about everything from where to buy food to how to hail a motorbike taxi. I also had to embrace a newfound disregard for the unknown and put myself out there in order to get to know people and ask important questions.
With time, I began to get into a routine with my work and make connections with colleagues and locals. After some self-reflection and adjustments, I was able to turnaround a difficult beginning and have an unforgettable experience. Outside of my work interviewing committees and local partners, I was able to truly explore the culture. I learned about traditional voodoo beliefs (Benin is the birthplace of voodoo) by visiting a Python Temple and a voodoo market. In addition, I attended a wedding and a traditional proposal ceremony called “la dote.” I was also pleasantly surprised to find a pool nearby where I lived. As a longtime swimmer and member of the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Swim Team, it was inspiring to meet a local coach singlehandedly running a swim team in less than ideal conditions.
Reflecting on my experience in Benin, I realize just how important it is to put yourself out there and go for the unknown. It all started with my decision to go live and intern in a tiny country in West Africa with little knowledge of the region. Each one of these decisions built on each other and led me to have experiences I could have never imagined. Whether it was interviewing community leaders in local villages, or going up to strangers and asking if I could watch their ceremony, I now cannot imagine it any other way.