Staff Spotlight: Christine Malarkey

International Program Coordinator


Christine is the International Program Coordinator at FSD Jinja-Uganda. An alumna of the program herself, she fell in love with FSD’s work and now gets continue the dream by working at FSD. Along with the Local Program Coordinator, she is part of the on-the-ground site team facilitating between our community partners and participants and often helps with cultural integration.

What is your favorite travel memory?

One of my favorite travel memories was in Amboseli National Park in Kenya. My best friend and I were on a safari and we were approaching the last day of our trip. Our guide suggested that we have “lunch with the elephants”. We were slightly confused but agreed to the idea. He pulled up to an empty spot and on the far horizon, we could see a line of elephants walking very slowly.

Over the course of the next hour, we sat in the van and watched the elephants walk until they got so close to us that they crossed the path right in front of our car! They are incredible creatures, such massive mammals yet they passed us so quietly you could barely tell they were there. We sat there just eating our sandwiches in awe.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Working for FSD Jinja-Uganda has taught me the importance of working with passion and for something you believe in.

Every day, working at FSD feels like an exciting new adventure, especially with the amount of time we spend out in the field with our partners and getting to see the impact that our participants generate.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

One of the most emotional times is the final presentation and exit interviews. It’s one of the most pivotal moments to see how much of an impact the projects have done.

The presentations are a time when a student presents the culmination of everyone’s work to the host organization, the local community, and the FSD Jinja-Uganda staff. Additionally, host families and friends come to see what their host children have been working on during their stay.

For the participants, it's amazing to see how much confidence they’ve grown since orientation -- navigating the town, meeting so many different people, and developing their skills in sustainable development. And to see how the community has benefited from the student’s work. One time a group of jajas (grandmas) even got up and started dancing and singing!

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I was fortunate enough to begin as an individual intern with FSD Jinja-Uganda, so I have been through the program myself.

What I like about the individual internship is that your experience is laid out for you: you are guided through an orientation in community-based development, you take Luganda classes, and you are provided with everything you need to succeed. And then you have the freedom and flexibility to work as you would like.

FSD's internship really helped me grow as an individual and in my career. It has also helped me in my current role because I can relate to many of the experiences our students go through.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I think what makes FSD Jinja-Uganda unique is that it feels like a family.

Ugandans are incredibly friendly and social people, so often people will ask me how this student is doing or if I have heard from that community group. Many people want to follow up and see the progress of their projects or research. We have such a wide variety of areas we work in (education, health, environment, gender equity), so FSD's network and impact are crosscutting.

I love the feeling that FSD Jinja-Uganda creates a life long bond between participants, community partners, host families, and staff. The program is more than just interning -- its a life-changing experience for everyone involved.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I think the biggest factor in being successful is fostering a program that has mutual benefits to both participants and the communities we work with. To do so, it is important to prioritize the students learning and experience to make them feel at home in Uganda, while also ensuring that the local communities' needs are being met too.

The best example I can think of is our host homes.

Our participants are really incorporated into a family so that the students can learn what daily Ugandan life is like. And our host families always enjoy hosting students because they get to learn about a new culture as well and make friends for life.