PLEASE READ. An email I sent to IPSL when they requested a summary of my experience of the program in Cartagena:
Goal: Create and implement a project focused on women's issues in La Boquilla
Specified goal: help FAMB give classes on sexual health and reproduction to the youth to lower the rates of unwanted pregnancies
• Challenges: A lot of misinformation on the IPSL side and the FAMB side about the effectiveness and capabilities of FAMB.
• Opportunities: There are good team members at FAMB that I see as valuable and capable of getting tasks done
o FAMB- There needs to be more organization in FAMB, and tasks need to be delegated. For example, the vice president should learn to delegate tasks to other members and volunteers. He seems to hold many different jobs outside of FAMB, cannot complete tasks on time, and is unable to give direct orders.
o IPSL- One of my main issues was the excursions. I paid money believing that three excursions were included and mandatory to attend, and although I asked several members from IPSL, it was still difficult to understand how the excursions should have been handled. The excursions were not done until the last minute. I suggest the excursions be spread out throughout the internship so the student/intern can apply what they learned about the culture to the project, instead of excursions at the end of the program, which do not add much value.
• Critiques: Did you get the support that you needed? - I would say in the case of a severe issue, I was attended to, but even then, I do not feel like I had substantial support in La Boquilla. My on-site provider was constantly busy or applied to messages very late, or never responded at all. Even though he suggested to take us around La Boquilla, we never got to know the area. There should be someone if not him to give a proper tour of La Boquilla, explain the ins and outs, etc. There was enough information provided about the possibility of danger, I just feel like there should have been more to know about the area.
• Do you think the project will be sustainable with the community? - I can say that I do not think the project is organized enough to be considered a project at this time. A lot of work needs to be done to accomplish such a project, starting with the foundation's internal organization. They should learn about program development and member roles before taking on any projects in the future.
• What did you learn about working in this environment and/or with this population, and anything else you want to share?
o My on-site provider was not attentive to my needs. He responded late to messages or did not respond at all for days. When I made suggestions about the program, he considered what I said but ultimately made his own decision. When I asked for his assistance with something at the apartment or elsewhere, he may or may not show up. If he shows up, he may show up hours late. But, when he asks that I get ready to go out, not only does he not ask my permission or if I have the time, but he also orders me to hurry up, which continued throughout my time in La Boquilla. He only seemed to want to set up meetings to develop new ideas for the project but did not do any actual work or research outside of the meetings, so each meeting was just a recap of the last meeting and suggested additional ideas with no plausible supporting evidence. This misogynistic behavior significantly interfered with my time in La Boquilla, and although I brought attention to it, nothing was done about it. (Example: my roommate had a faulty electric outlet that started to smoke and burn the rubber insolation due to a makeshift air conditioning placed by the on-site provider). I immediately texted the on-site provider to let him know. Not only did he say he would come over the next morning instead of at that moment, he never showed up the next day and did not ask about the situation until he happened to stop by days later.)
o The coordinator explained to me from the beginning that there would be challenges based on culture and religion, so I was expecting to face some difficulty completing the project. However, I feel as though I was made to believe that the people in La Boquilla were determined individuals who wanted to get things done. Being that the coordinator is Colombian himself, I believe he and IPSL knew the customs and behavior of the people in La Boquilla and somehow tried to convince me otherwise. I think they are good people, but they do not show enough enthusiasm to get things done. The coordinator asked me what he believed the problem was, and I found it difficult to believe that he did not already know the situation since he had been working with this community for some time.
o The coordinator tried to state that I had all the reign in the project and that I did not have to attend excursions if I did not want to. I wanted to be in charge of this project, but I expected more direction and a better knowledge base about program management, a topic I only learned about through my Spanish classes. I also was the one to make initial contact 90% of the time to receive an update or a next step.
• Positives: I can say that my Spanish classes at Nueva Lengua were the best thing about this internship. I learned so much about Spanish and the history of Colombia, and my teacher was intelligent and kind. I had a great time, and I would recommend this Spanish school to others
Overall, I would not recommend or participate in future programs with IPSL. I do not think that this internship was worth my time or money. I believe I was fooled into thinking I would be a great person for this project 1) because I am a veteran like the person who helped onboard me and 2) because the company wanted money. I feel as though I was promised a lot of things that I did not acquire out of this internship. I am not sure if my experience was due to this program being "made for me," but I believe the biggest issue is the lack of coordination and organization from both IPSL and FAMB. There is never any clarification about how the money is being spent and each individual seems to have a different set of ideas about how things are run. I understand this was an internship "experience," and I tried to make the best out of this experience. I learned as much as I could and tried my best to apply my skills to help FAMB develop their women's project and learn new skills along the way.
Thank you for your time and patience. I hope this email answers all your questions, and I hope this information helps improve future programs for IPSL and the future interns who partake in these programs