Ever ridden a rollercoaster that was two weeks long?

Phew, what a rollercoaster the last couple weeks have been! With challenges, accomplishments and constant changes, the past two weeks have been full of activity. Here’s a general timeline:

Early August: gained access to the passwords of MikonoYetu’s old website, as discussed in my last blog post. My team immediately got to working on a mockup with details we planned to change on the old WordPress platform.

August 25th: We lost access to the WordPress due to some technical difficulties… then gained it back again later that day! Unfortunately still had trouble accessing the cpanel version of the website.

September 3rd: The team met with Maimuna and her tech advisor Paul. I wasn’t able to join, but they informed me after that it was quite a long meeting and there were some tech difficulties with Maimuna joining. However, Paul was very vocal about some of the things they wanted changed. He also advised us to go about making wireframes and a mockup version of the site using AdobeXD until the cpanel is figured out.

September 9th: Maimuna messages us that due to challenges with accessing the current website, she has asked Paul to start from scratch with a new domain.

Soooooo as you can tell, there’s been quite a few changes during this time! It has been difficult for my team to get started on a task in what seems like the right direction, only for things to be changed or altered rendering our progress not as significant as intended. However, despite these challenges, we remain determined and vigilant to aid MikonoYetu in creating the best site possible in the time we have, and we are looking forward to getting work done regardless of the way they choose to go about it. As long as we are in constant communication, I am sure we can create something beyond worthwhile.

Some great news, and yes, even in the midst of a pandemic!

I start this blog post with some great news to share: Maimuna was able to recover the passwords of the previous site for MikonoYetu!!! Since this recovery, my team has made some significant progress on beginning our work for the new site. Some of this progress has involved reviewing the old WordPress site and creating a mockup with specific recommendations and corrections on the details we intend to change to improve user experience and overall reflection of the MikonoYetu organization.

Listening to the unique needs and concerns of Maimuna and her team in regard to their expectations for the new site will undoubtedly hold priority moving forward. Maimuna previously told my team that the old site did not live up to their organization’s expectations, as there were many issues with it. Upon receiving the passwords for the old site, I requested a list of features that Maimuna and her team found problematic about the old site. She replied,

“What was not done well:

1. The website was constructed on top of another French web.

2. It was not our sample.

3. Grammar mistakes.”

Reflecting on her list and seeing these mistakes firsthand on the old site saddens me that an organization which accomplishes such important work for their communities has not had a website that they have felt genuinely represents their work. The fact that the website was constructed on a French site and the multiple grammar mistakes implies a lack of time and effort put into the previous site, which acts as an added stress for an organization that already has enough on their plate. As a result of hearing these concerns, my team and I are motivated to do everything in our power to ensure that these issues are not replicated for the new site, and that Maimuna can be comfortable knowing there is a platform for her organization that truly reflects their hard work.

As we move forward, I am continually making note of all the lessons I am learning throughout this experience. The unprecedented elements of the internship (e.g. we’re in a pandemic, the internship is remote) have allowed me to truly experience something new, and it is frequently refreshing to be able to apply my knowledge as a student to a real-life working situation. It’s so cool to know that the work my team is doing in North America can benefit an organization all the way in Tanzania… sure, technology can sometimes be scary. But it can sometimes be really amazing in how it allows us to connect with others around the world as well! While this pandemic has definitely proven itself challenging, it has granted me such great insight and time to reflect on things I’ve never previously engaged with.

A Lack of Progress Doesn’t Necessarily Mean a Lack of Opportunity

To be honest, not much has changed in the last two weeks, since the last time I wrote on here.

Since my last post in which I mentioned that my team and I were having difficulties accessing the previous domain for Mikono Yetu, we’ve kind of given up on the idea that we’ll gain access, and we have an eagerness to move forward. As a result, we’re continuing to maintain communication with Maimuna in regards to her expectations for the new site, and are in the process of researching different domains along with their features and prices to present as potential options to her and her team. While I’m familiar with WordPress, the other platforms my team has been researching (i.e. Squarespace, Shopify, etc.) are new to me. Though looking through all that they have to offer may be overwhelming, the research has also been exciting because it means that my team is well on our way to beginning to work on the new site.

So far throughout this experience, I’ve had time to reflect on my notions of progress. Some questions I’ve been asking myself include: What does progress look like to me? What makes me feel like I’m not doing enough? Why am I so anxious that we’re not going to finish?

I think this experience is really showing me that my previous concepts of progress and accomplishment are mostly focused on the finish, or an end, and this has clouded my ability to appreciate the process. I am beginning to learn that a lack of progress doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of opportunity. Instead of viewing slow/gradual progress as something to be stressed or disappointed over, this pace of progress has allowed me to be more thorough with my research and decision-making.

In addition, the slower progress for the Mikono Yetu site has provided my team with the opportunity to begin working on the Western Heads East website. We’re currently in the process of creating a mock-up document with edits for the site, and it has been motivating to do so.

Here’s to hoping that in the next couple weeks we’ll be able to do more… but also that we’ll be able to continue to appreciate the process along the way.

On My First Month as a Remote Intern

Here we are. July 2020. It’s the end of the first month of my first remote internship experience, and this past month has been a new experience to say the least.

Something interesting about this specific internship that has been directly impacted by the pandemic is that I had previously seen a posting for the WHE internship back at the beginning of the Winter semester. I was super interested in the possibility of being able to travel to an East African country, as well as participating in work regarding the empowerment of women in developing nations. Unfortunately, I had seen the posting too late and was unable to apply. So when I was later made aware of another opportunity with WHE at the end of June, I thought it would be the perfect chance to fulfill 0.5 of my EL credit. However, there was one primary difference from this position to the one previously offered: the internship was now remote.

Despite this large difference, I was still extremely interested in the internship opportunity solely due to the fact that it would still allow me to work with an international partner, which I knew would be an extremely valuable experience foreign to any academic endeavour I had previously encountered. As a result, I applied and accepted the offer once it was given, and found out that my team and I would be responsible for constructing a new website for our partner, Mikono Yetu.

Understandably, remote internships have been on the up-and-coming for the last few years with our rapid developments in technology and move towards mobile work. I’ve watched my mum work from home approximately 2-3 days out of the week since I was in high school. I’ve taken online classes throughout my university experience. I know what it’s like to participate in video call meetings with a work-casual blouse on top and my favourite pair of pajama pants on the bottom. While I definitely learn better in a hands-on environment within a classroom, transitioning to online learning isn’t something that’s new to me by any means.

That being said, it would also be remiss of me to say that this has not been a huge change, and that new changes will continue to happen as I move into my fourth year at Western. Reliable Wi-Fi access, a working laptop camera and non-staticky audio has never been so important. Working with others in different timezones and being able to coordinate has never been so difficult.

In terms of the actual concrete progress my group and I have been making, it has been quite slow so far. One reason as to why is that the previous site for Mikono Yetu is currently inaccessible, which is a shame since it would have been a helpful example for my team. Despite this issue with access, my groups and I are in hopeful spirits, and the gift of a clean slate allows us to proceed with our projects with open minds. In addition, an open mind has allowed me to try my best to view any challenges as opportunities. This includes opportunities for constant learning when it comes to challenging my preconceived notions and familiar strategies as a student in Canada.

One example of an insightful interaction from this past month occurred on my team’s first meeting with the executive director of Mikono Yetu, Maimuna, in which my team and I wanted to gain a sense of what was desired from the new website we were intending to build. Since the bulk of the information I knew about our partner was their production and distribution of Fiti yogurt, I asked her about her primary audience for the website. Did she want to appeal to a North American demographic? Or did she intend to utilize the website to appeal to the East African communities that Mikono Yetu is directly impacting? Her reply surprised me — neither, but also both. Maimuna explained that she wanted the website to appeal to anyone that would potentially be interested in the work Mikono Yetu has been and is currently doing. Additionally, instead of focusing entirely on Fiti yogurt, she wanted to ensure that the site would also shed light on and promote the many other programs that their organization had to offer.

This interaction was so enlightening because it showcased that due to living in Canada, I am a proponent of an US vs. THEM mentality. In other words, I am familiar with acting on the basis that North America is the centre of the world and that other nations, along with their interests and concerns, are entirely separate from ours. I think it’s about time to reinforce the idea that we’re so much more connected than we, living in North America, are conditioned to think, and that engaging with organizations doing such amazing work for human rights, such as Mikono Yetu, are the bridge to making us aware of these connections. Going forward with this internship, I’m beyond excited to continue learning and to experience the many valuable insights I will encounter along the way.