By Ibarieze Abani
Having recently graduated with a Masters degree in Serious Games and Virtual Reality, I found myself still unsure of what career path I would like to take. After some discussions with my father, I was able to narrow-down the possibilities, and found that I was most interested in companies and NGOs using technology as their main method of carrying out development work, specifically in the field of climate justice. From this, we were able to find organisations doing such work, and I was given the opportunity to intern at CODE and Follow The Money for two weeks whilst visiting my dad in Nigeria. As I come from a scientific background, with an undergraduate degree in Theoretical Physics, I had no idea what to expect in terms of working at an NGO, which made me slightly nervous. In preparation for the experience, I spent some time going through the Organisation’s websites and impact reports to get an idea of what it has accomplished and what it hoped to achieve this new year.
When I arrived in Nigeria to start the internship, some members of the team, including the CEO, were abroad working on various projects and campaigns. As a result of this, for the majority of this first week I spent every day shadowing a different department, ranging from social media to community engagement, in order to get a feel for the work done at CODE and with Follow The Money. Whilst shadowing different departments, I was given smaller tasks to carry out, such as the editing of the website content or a report, further allowing me to get to grips with the organization’s work flow and settle into the groove of things. During the first week of the internship, I also had the opportunity to attend the opening of a community centre in Gwagwalada, in which members of the UN were present. It was very interesting to see the kind of projects CODE has been involved with, especially in person. To see all the volunteers that worked hard on getting the Sustainable Development Goals community centre up and running, and to see how excited they were to have a space where the community, especially those passionate about the SDGs, could come together was very inspiring.
With the return of the CEO and the majority of the team in the second week, I found myself thrown into the deep end. The first day of this week, I had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting discussing a possible future campaign at the UN. It was very inspiring to see the team in their element, discussing project ideas and aspirations, as I got insights into the kinds of conversations taking place in development circles.
I was also given the opportunity to speak on the radio with a member of staff and a board member on behalf of Follow The Money. Whilst an amazing opportunity, having my opinions broadcasted to such a large volume of people was something I had never experienced before, and as such was extremely nerve racking. Despite my worries, the CEO, Hamzy, and the rest of the team gave me the push and confidence boost I needed, and it turned out to be an extremely enjoyable experience. Being able to communicate with the general public on the Radio show was thought-provoking; seeing the team respond eloquently to all the questions thrown at them was inspiring and has since motivated me to strengthen my spoken communication skills.
Additionally, as I came to the internship with an interest in climate change discussions, throughout the second week I was responsible for digitally following the proceedings and events of COP25, which was on-going at the time, and producing a daily brief. From these daily briefs, I wrote an article indicating CODE’s stance post-COP25. Again, my voice being exposed to people beyond my immediate circle of friends was something I had not experienced before and as such gave me the opportunity to develop and strengthen my communication skills.
Overall, this internship was a very challenging, but exciting and eye opening experience, allowing me to see the inner workings of an NGO and determine whether it is something I would be interested in pursuing in the future. Engaging with such a hard-working, encouraging and passionate team who ensured I was comfortable but also challenged, stirred feelings of admiration within me. Moreover, the short two weeks provided me with opportunities I otherwise would not have been able to have, and allowed me to grow not only professionally, but personally as well. It challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone in ways I would not have imagined, and for that I am truly grateful for the experience. I’m looking forward to seeing all the amazing things CODE and Follow The Money accomplish this year and beyond, and hope that I can contribute once again to the incredible work being done here.