This is the first part of Siena's story. Our Netherland intern for our Con Paz Aprendemos Más program in Putumayo.
"Ever wondering how the life of a 23 year old woman interning with Mercy Corps in the southern jungle of Colombia looks like... then do not stop reading.
Well first of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Siena Uiterwijk Winkel, I am from the Netherlands but doing a master in Peace and Conflict studies at Uppsala University in Sweden. Yes you read it right, a master in peace and conflict in one of the most peaceful countries in the world. This is exactly the reason why I decided to do an internship in a country which just ended a conflict of 50 years, Colombia. Even better was that the organization which I was following for years, Mercy Corps, was active for more than a decade in this country. And as if it could not get any better, they even have a project with education and war-affected children... It did sound like a dream to work with them and to be honest, I am living the dream.
But enough about me, let me tell you something about the project I am interning with. “With Peace We Learn More” (Con Paz Aprendemos Más) is a project funded by the Government of Canada and based in Putumayo and Chocó, Colombia. The aim of the project is to improve the life of 48.000 vulnerable and war-affected children through education and protection. We do this directly through activities with the children, but also indirectly through the educational community, parents and or caregivers, (boarding) schools and public institutions. First, our direct impact on children is through extracurricular activities on a daily base focusing on education and protection. Second, we aim to strengthen teachers in their planning and organization. Third, we provide parental activities whereby we try to include them in the school as well as in the development of their child. Fourth, we provide a protected area for children who are living in boarding schools. Fifth, we built relationship with public institutions in education and protection on municipal, departmental and national level.
As you can imagine it is big project with a lot of work to do. However, I have to say that Mercy Corps together with War Child and in corporation with Corporación Opción Legal (COL) and Corporación Infancia y Dessarollo (CID) is doing a great job! Surrounded by all these motivated and hard-working colleagues pushes you as an intern in the same direction! This means that I have but least 4 projects running at the same time. One of the main projects is the evaluation of the children´s progress during their first and second semester, which is done via interviews and focus groups. Moreover, I am looking into gender issues in our project and into the creation of a strategy to reduce conflict in the classroom. Challenging? Definitely! But very educational and exactly what makes this internship so great.
Of course it is impossible to tell you about all the great things I have been doing for the past 8 weeks. But for that reason I want take you by the hand for the next couple of weeks so that you can experience the amazing life I am living here in beautiful Colombia. If you are interested in reading about my experiences, about the projects I am doing, the program in general, or concepts which are important for us? Keep an eye on the website because I will post blogs on a regular base.