For the amount of money I paid for an FSD internship in Uganda I was sure I would be plugged into a network of resources and professionals that would be working their absolute hardest to facilitate the work I was doing and to be sure my time in country was productive. While the staff certainly was incredibly pleasant, I felt as if I was repeatedly just placed in difficult situations and given no guidance as to what I was supposed to be doing. None of the resources I expected all that money would buy materialized. It seems my program fees went to pay for FSD's overhead, and very little of it ended up with my host organization, my host family, or towards resources that actually furthered FSD's work in the field. The orientation is a joke and whenever I would ask questions I almost never received a useful answer (usually it was something along the lines of "well, yes, that is a challenge.") Furthermore, there is a ridiculous amount of paperwork that must be completed in precisely the right way, otherwise it needs to be done. Also, FSD says it has a longstanding relationship with its partner organizations, but that relationship seems to exist in anything but a productive context. They don't give interns any substantial, useful background information that would allow interns to help local partners address their own internal, systemic issues that present the greatest obstacle to those organizations fulfilling their mission. I designed a project that I thought would really help my organization, only to find out 75% of the way through my internship that the organization had huge systemic issues that would prevent my project from continuing after I went back home. The systemic issues would have been relatively easy to address had I had the entirety of my internship to work on them, but as I found out so late I couldn't do anything. When I told the FSD staff about what I had observed, they told me that they already knew of those issues and that they were a huge obstacle to previous interns' projects. Had they given me any type of real orientation/introduction to my organization and mentioned a few over-arching issues previous interns had struggled with, my mind would have been in the right place to identify these issues right away and design a project that - even if it wouldn't address the issues directly - would be able to be sustained within the context of an organization suffering from those problems. FSD seems content with interns building gardens and piggeries even when the organizations given control of those resources lack the ability to utilize them properly after we leave.
The host families are wonderful, and the staff at the local organizations are fantastic, but the FSD bureaucracy really got in the way. FSD is great at allowing you the freedom to do whatever you want (even if you spend your entire internship drunk or travelling outside of your assigned area), but I question how much is actually accomplished by their work. FSD certainly talks the talk of a sustainable organization doing good in the developing world, but in reality, they have a lot of organizational issues to address before these internships are worth the money. There were other foreigners in my town, working for the same amount of time, doing similar work, who paid literally a fifth of the FSD program fee. And they got more useful support than we did.