Interning at Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in Cape Coast, Ghana was an excellent experience – not only was it an invaluable opportunity to learn more about the focus and mandates of human rights organisations across West African countries, but the programme itself also provided an immense amount of scope for individual research and evaluation. The programme gave me the necessary flexibility to thoroughly enjoy life in Ghana, encouraging backpacking outings to the Eastern and Northern regions of the country with friends from the ACIPP house.
This summer was definitely one of – if not the – best summer of my life, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to further their field of interest in a social context completely different to their own.
In May 2012, I was given the opportunity to work under the African Community Internship Placement Programme with Health Protection and Environmental Sanitation, an organization that works in health outreach targeting communities in the Cape Coast area.
Perhaps the most exciting part of my internship was working directly with the HEPENS team, with whom I formed great relationships. I was able to conduct research and design curriculum’s for health talks and programmes, as well as work with diverse populations and age groups to educate them on significant health issues. As a result, my internship with HEPENS allowed me to see much more of Cape Coast and its outlying areas. I was able to interact on a regular basis with the women’s group in the Kwamoano community, which was the most enriching experience of my entire internship. Indeed, I had to adjust to the flexibility of Ghanaian life, but that only made my internship more exciting with its unexpected twists and turns. This internship also allowed me to finalize my decisions regarding my education and graduate school. Through my ACIPP internship, I was not only able to use my skills to help HEPENS and the communities in which I worked, but I was also able to learn from my host organization as well as gain direction for my future.
One of my favourite things about working with ACIPP is the freedom the organization gives you to explore beyond your internship. Compared to other organizations, there was little “hand-holding,” which I appreciated, as it allowed me to explore beyond what I had originally planned to do, enriching my experience in Ghana. Additionally, ACIPP and its interns became like family to me, going beyond the typical patriarchal relationship that people see in internship placement organizations. All in all, my internship and my time in Ghana facilitated by ACIPP was indeed the best experience of my life so far. I have formed a family in Ghana and surely will return.
In those three months, I experienced various areas of expertise that CHRAJ possesses.
I went to some of the surrounding villages in the Cape Coast area to interview community members, which was needed for the annual monitoring review that CHRAJ performs, and it gave me a good idea about how these questionnaires were executed. Although the interviews were held in native languages, mainly in Fante, it was still worth going and seeing how the communities in the villages live.
I was very fortunate to be able to sit in at mediation sessions, in which the majority of cases concerned parental support or sexual abuse. The Cape Coast office of CHRAJ is located next to the Circuit Court, which meant that I was able to also hear some of the cases brought before it. Not only does this give good insight of the legal system, there were interesting cases to be heard.
ACIPP made me feel welcome from the start and I thoroughly enjoyed living in the volunteer house. Because the volunteer house is set in one of the villages at the University campus, it means that you really live among the local people but still have all the benefits that a university town brings. As it was after the summer season, there were only a few of us, but in the first weekend we had the festival of chiefs, and we were able to fully enjoy our leisure time, as the dry season in Ghana meant resorts!