Brianna Clarke '11
Employer: Lakeside Baptist Health Clinic and Dr. Williams Primary School, Rusinga Island, Kenya
Internship: I did research on HIV/AIDs and wrote grant proposals for an HIV/AIDs clinic and I created and then taught a sex-ed program at the local primary school.
Describe your duties:
While living with a family in a village on Rusinga Island, Kenya on Lake Victoria, I not only learned some farming with the family, but also did research on the local HIV/AIDs epidemic. I travelled around the island and collected data and then put it together in a grant proposal for a new HIV/AIDs clinic for the island. I also created a curriculum for a sex-education program for the local primary and secondary school and got to spend a few weeks teaching it. I also taught Sunday school at the Baptist Church that had started both the clinic and school that I worked for. Along with all this, I, along with my fellow volunteer, were the only "muzungus," or white people, on the island and so we were constantly invited to people's houses where we got to know the people of our area. We also learned to cook using local foods and techniques as well as use a grain mill.
What did you enjoy most about your internship?
After learning that, although the island has one of the highest HIV/AIDs rates in Kenya, there is no sex-education program for the local school children, I created a curriculum and got to teach it to the students. We spent three weeks talking with each age group about sex, HIV, relationships, and puberty and had incredible conversations with them. They had never had the opportunity to talk about these topics before and they were incredibly open and honest with us. They had lots of questions, were attentive, and very fun. We had a great time connecting with the students, especially the older students who were truly eager to learn.
What was the most difficult aspect of the internship?
Being the only foreigners in an incredibly remote, rural location in Kenya could be incredibly taxing at times. We were constantly ill and the local remedies were usually not things we were comfortable participating in. There was very little contact with the outside world so I could only contact home every few weeks. If I had been alone, I am not sure I would have even survived the summer because it could be very lonely at times, although the people we lived with were the most incredible people I have ever met. We had to constantly learn new customs and the people spoke in three languages so it was very hard to communicate at times. Being white in a rural Kenyan village also had its hardships. We were always conspicuous and could never escape being looked at and, in the case of the local children, touched and followed.
How did your experience at Bucknell prepare you for your internship?
Not much about Bucknell really prepared me for my experience in Kenya. Life there is completely different from our lives here and no amount of talking about it in an Anthropology course can really prepare you for what you are going to see. Adjusting was definitely the hardest part, but it was absolutely worth it.
How did your internship prepare you for a career?
I have gained a new perspective on just about everything as a result of my time there and my goals for my career have shifted. I plan to go abroad again once I graduate and not only has this experience prepared me for it, but it has caused me to be more focused and driven. I don't think anyone could have left Rusinga Island without wanting to go on to change the world for the better. The people were so amazing and their lives had so many challenges, that I knew I had to be a part of fixing some of the problems they face.
What recommendations do you have for other students considering doing an internship?
Doing something like what I did in Kenya is an incredibly unique and exciting opportunity. My entire worldview changed as a result and coming back to the Bucknell bubble was definitely a challenge but it was worth it. I know more about what I want to do with my life and I have become a much more patient and open minded individual as a result. It can be hard to experience poverty and disease the way I did while working there, but I have grown so much as a result and I know it changed my life for the better.