By Aminata Benk-Sankoh
After taking my second-year final exams at the university and tired of being left at home to take care of my younger brother and his friend who are on holidays, I got accepted as an intern at Campaign for Good Governance (CGG), a non-governmental organization that promotes transparency, accountability, and good governance. Founded in 1996, after Sierra Leone’s first multi-party democratic elections, CGG continues to play a significant role in advocating for political and social reforms. And when the opportunity came to intern with them, I grabbed it with both hands.
I quickly googled the institution and realized that quite a number of prominent figures had darkened the doors of CGG, including one of its founders, Madam Zainab Hawa Bangura, who currently serves as Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON) at the level of an Under-Secretary-General.
Our country’s Vice President, Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, also worked with CGG, and so were one-time Anti-Corruption Commission Commissioner, Mr Abdul Tejan Cole, Madam Olayinka Creighton-Randall, a public sector professional with over twenty years of project, program, human resource and administrative management experience and Madam Valnora Edwin, Director/Chairperson of the African Women Leaders Network-Sierra Leone Chapter.
Embarking on my first week as an intern was like stepping into a new universe. The excitement, nervousness, and eagerness to learn created a roller-coaster of emotions that defined those initial days.
On my first day of work, I wore a white shirt, long navy blue trousers, glasses and black heels. I felt so established. At around 8:19 a.m., I left to meet my dad, who was giving me a ride to the office when my new boss, Mr. Sahr Kendema e- mailed me my first task. Excitedly, I rushed to share the news with my dad, not reading the invitation properly. My dad dropped me off at the office located at 16 Clark Street Tengbeh Town, Freetown, at 8:45 am.
The building is at the apex of a narrow hill, and getting to our destination was a struggle because the road was small and damaged cars parked on both sides of the road.
On my arrival, still, without reading the invitation properly, I immediately told my mum I would attend that meeting the next day. I was excited to attend my first UN meeting, an organization I had always dreamt of working with. She then called my attention to the date, and all the excitement I felt faded.
The meeting was due that same day at 9:00 a.m. and had already passed 9:00 a.m. Doubts crept in, but I reminded myself that challenges were opportunities in disguise. I arrived at the venue a bit nervous because it was already 9:34 a.m., and I thought the meeting had commenced. It had not, and I felt a bit at ease.
I sat at a round table with a bunch of beautiful and hardworking women, and at that point, I felt very proud to be in that room. The meeting started at 9:55 a.m. We discussed coordination in the area of Women’s Political Participation (WPP) and other related topics. At the end, lunch was served. I took mine back to the office because I was eager to write a report for my boss afterwards. He found it impressive.
My second day, however, was quite different. It wasn’t as chaotic as my first. I arrived very early that Wednesday morning and was given an entire office, which I liked because it had a fascinating collection of books, was cold, and I got to be there all by myself. I didn’t have much to do. So, I set up my desk and checked out the books.
Eat breakfast before Leaving your house guys! After all that packing, I became hungry. I tried calling some restaurants to order breakfast, but to no avail. I almost cried, but I took solace in reading the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act to quench my hunger and as instructed by my mum, a Gender focal point in one of the offices at Tower Hill.
Finally, it was lunchtime. I quickly rushed to Chicken Town for lunch, which I also took to the office because I wanted to eat in peace without strangers moving all about. After lunch, I continued reading, and, at that moment, I reflected on my reasons for seeking the job in the first place and gave myself a pep talk to lighten up my mood and free my mind from all the anxiety I was feeling.
My day ended perfectly at 5:15 p.m. My dad picked me up. We had dinner together at the beach- a grilled fish served with crunchy french fries, some veggies and fried rice on the side prepared by a lady called Mariama. Daddy says she is the best at grilling fish, and I should not only take his words for it but ask Uncle Bunting, Unce Alpha Sesay, Uncle Samoura or Uncle Mahmoud. We discussed over drinks until it was time for us to return home.
On the third day, Mr. Kendema called to check on me. We chatted a bit. He gave me a brief history of the organization and explained its mission and values, which I already knew, but I appreciated that he took time out of his busy schedule to talk to me. After this discussion, he assigned me to attend two more meetings. This time, I read the invitations carefully.
After the meetings, I left for lunch at Chicken Town because I was also to meet up with some friends. Afterwards, I returned to the office and wrote a piece for my boss on “What I would like to learn during my internship at CGG.” I did so in less than an hour before my day ended.
I left the office and headed straight to church- A MUST on Wednesday! And mummy doesn’t joke about it. Her dad, my grandpa, was a Reverend of the United Methodist Church (UMC), and it seems my mum must have had a calling to take over from her departed dad. I was tired but stayed throughout the sermon, which ended at 7:30 p.m., and we headed home.
As the days progressed, I realized that adaptability was key. New people- new environment. It was all very new to me. The initial unease was replaced with a sense of purpose and belonging, and I was open to accepting it.
As I look back to that week, I’ve realized that the internship was not just about my contribution to the organization but also the organization’s contribution to my personal and professional growth. I found myself looking ahead with a mix of enthusiasm and anticipation. The projects I had just scratched the surface of avenues for skill enhancement and personal growth. The journey had just begun, and I was eager to see where the subsequent weeks would take me.
The coming weeks held the promise of refining my technical abilities, enhancing my problem-solving skills, and gaining insights into the intricacies of the industry.
Beyond these tangible gains, I looked forward to nurturing relationships with my colleagues, learning from their experiences, and contributing meaningfully to the organization’s goals.