Reflections on my internship with MoA (Sept 2018- April 2019)

Exactly a year ago, I submitted a letter of engagement for a parcours civique project—a new 2-year long civic engagement programme as part of my university, Sciences Po’s curriculum.

From the outset, I asked myself what it means to be a global citizen in a globalised world and how can I fight injustices beyond my state boundaries in the domain of education.

Over the summer, I spent a month in a rural village in northern Shan state, Myanmar, where I taught students from primary 2 to secondary 2 English in a village school. Situated in the Golden Triangle, it was evident that structural problems inherently limited the opportunities of obtaining a proper education, often disrupting the progression from a level to the next and delaying going to school— the primary 2 class for instance comprised students from the age of 8 to 13, while the secondary 2 class from 14 to 20. Deeply touched by this experience, I constantly asked myself how should we best act to ameliorate these inequalities when we are not based in these countries?

With this question in mind, I hoped to work with an organisation throughout this academic year that could help me in my search for the answer to this question. As it turns out, a simple sharing by Janice and Vicky from Mothers of Africa at an association’s fair at Sciences Po in August convinced me that MoA was the organisation I had to work with this year. Their sharing about their project, Shiyala school (and the upcoming Evergreen school) in Zambia and on the other hand fundraising events in Monaco revealed how both sides work in tandem. The level of organisation and coordination proved even more impressive when I was told that MoA consists of a small team of less than 10 people, who are committed to the charity on top of their existing work! This made me realised how much agency we as individuals have in bringing about positive change. I was incredibly excited to know that I had the opportunity to be part of this amazing organisation.

Over time, as I learnt more about the situation in Zambia from the MoA team, I realised that while Myanmar and Zambia are located in two very different continents and socio-cultural contexts, children in both places faced very similar challenges. For example, the priority placed on chores or farming by families, the societal roles ascribed to girls and women, the lack of strong transport infrastructure served as impediments to obtaining education. These similarities allowed for reflection on the possibility of referring to experiences and solutions across space to better address challenges collectively, reminding me of the advantages and perhaps obligations of global citizenry.

One of the largest benefits of interning with MoA stemmed from the fact that it was small—I was included and engaged in all meetings, brainstorming and execution of events. From promoting MoA’s cause at the Hip Bazaar in the Fairmont hotel, where a part of the sales would proceed to MoA if customers quoted Mothers of Africa, to interacting with representatives from other charities during the journée internationale des droits de l'enfant, I was exposed to diverse individuals who may or may not have been receptive or interested in charity work. Working alongside Janice, who served as a strong inspiration throughout the internship, I learnt how to better react to varied responses and to allow these experiences to strengthen my passion in furthering the cause of educating disadvantaged women and children. Being part of a variety of fundraising events such as the No Finish Line, the Christmas market and an essential oils workshop not only reveals how creative the team was but also how no idea is too small to be transformed into an event.

As a student in Sciences Po, I had the pleasure of linking MoA up with several campus associations to provide MoA with a new platform and audience to share their cause. For example, in conjunction with the Feminist Union and Association Sciences Po pour l’Afrique (ASPA), Janice and Susanne came to our campus to give a presentation on the charity followed by a Q&A and discussion, where many interesting points were raised. As part of an associations’ fair during the first day of Mediterranean Model United Nations (MEDMUN), which hosted over 300 students from across the world, Susanne, Vicky and Noeline ran a stand raising awareness of MoA and sold African-made products. The positive response and enthusiasm in the charity was undoubtedly encouraging and inspiring for both MoA and myself.

As the semester draws to an end, and as I will be leaving France in a few weeks’ time, I am reluctant to finish my internship with MoA but at the same time thankful that I have been part of an incredibly passionate team. MoA is definitely one of the most organised, interesting and dynamic organisations, and I believe that the series of events they have already planned for this coming season will continue to raise awareness of their cause of educating women and children and touch many more lives!

MoA (Sept 2018- April 2019)

Sara Loo

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