• It’s a Wrap!

    Today I am officially wrapping up my work for both YOU and SAUT. I quickly got accustomed to my daily schedules with the different meetings and tasks for both of my community partners, and I will honestly miss the routine. That being said, I am extremely grateful for the past three months and the learning experiences I have had. As I take these next few days to finalize my post-internship materials, I want to use this last post as a final reflection on my WHE experience.

    Despite being only twelve weeks long, this internship was nothing short of a dynamic experience. From the challenges to the successes, there was a lesson to be learned in every situation. Throughout this internship, I have learned the value of practicing self-reflection. Understanding the deeper meanings in situations and knowing the ‘why’ behind a challenge allows you to be proactive and overcome the barriers that arise. There are three Swahili phrases that I will use to reflect on my experiences. The first is:

    Haraka Haraka haina baraka

    “Haste makes waste”

    The meaning behind this Swahili proverb is that working hastily or rushing can be wasteful, and you will be unable yield the best results. Rather, working slowly and being confident in what you are doing can lead to better and stronger results.

    I was able to gain this perspective during my internship when in my first meeting with my community partners, I had a list of plans I wanted to work on with my group at SAUT. However, rather than going directly into these plans, they emphasized the importance of building relationships with our team members first. This is reflective of the Tanzanian lifestyle that involves fostering meaningful connections between people. This is different from the Canadian way of life, where we often measure success through having busy schedules and accomplishing tasks quickly and with efficiency. With this, we sometimes forget that we are humans who thrive off social connections!

    Thus, this internship has helped challenge and helped me unlearn some of my Western beliefs and values to understand that other cultures may attach different meanings to school, work, and the pace of life. The best way to work in an international experience is to gain an understanding of what their needs are. Building a strong foundation for future projects to be sustainable is an example of how you can accomplish more by working for quality, rather than for efficiency. 

    Akili ni mali

    “Knowledge is wealth”

    The meaning behind this Swahili phrase is that knowledge is of incredible value. Regardless of your social status, you should always be looking to gain knowledge not only from school, but also from others and their experiences.

    One of the highlights of this internship for me was the development of the youth presentation I delivered to the youth mentors at the café in June and the meetings I was able to have with my SAUT group. What both have in common is that they were interactions in which I was gaining different perspectives and knowledge from other individuals. An important practice I have learned through this internship is that knowledge should flow both ways, and in both cases, I was the person learning. For instance, I have read about the social benefits of YOU, but hearing the youth mentors’ experiences firsthand during the presentation was what had the greatest impact on me. I was able to use their knowledge to develop the youth handbook later in the internship, which made it genuine and impactful. Additionally, getting feedback and advice from my SAUT team was what made the materials we developed culturally relevant. Ultimately, learning is all about listening, and this phrase exemplifies how knowledge is an invaluable currency.  

    Umoja ni nguvu

    “Unity is a strength

    The meaning behind this Swahili proverb is that when people do things together and share the same goals, they become successful in achieving them. I believe that the WHE program greatly values this idea of unity through the continuous support and resources that are always made available. Even though I was working remotely, I never truly felt alone. I believe that the strong support system that the WHE program offers is what contributed to the success of my projects.

    With this, I want to say asante sana to:

    • My community partners, Professor Kessey and Nick. They both offered their time and expertise to ensure the success of my projects, and they were always available to answer any questions and provide clarification. I greatly appreciate how involved they were throughout the internship. Our meetings with Nick were always met with enthusiasm, and he always created a positive environment where we were comfortable with sharing our ideas and progress. Despite Professor Kessey’s busy schedule, I am grateful for how she always made time for our meetings and offered her kindness and advice. The passion they both demonstrated for their projects has only furthered my passion for being a part of initiatives that promote equity for marginalized communities.
    • Maria, who offered immense support during the entirety of this internship. I am grateful for her dedication to ensuring that all the interns were well-equipped to succeed. The weekly WHE meetings that she facilitated were a great place for all the interns at WHE to share their challenges and their successes. She always offered her positivity and enthusiasm, along with helpful advice for each intern.
    • My promotions and packaging group at SAUT, Cazimiry and Kelvin. Despite being in university and being busy with their studies, I am grateful for the time they took out of their schedules to have meetings with me. Their feedback and advice were critical to the success of the SAUT project.
    • My intern team, Alex and Lisa. I am fortunate to have been placed in a group with them because their consistent communication, ideas, and kindness made this internship such an enjoyable process. I appreciate how they were always open to my ideas, and their efforts and dedication to our work helped us succeed.
    • The WHE program for the opportunity to engage in an international experience and allow me to develop my cross-cultural communication. I hope that my future experiences give me the platform to engage ethically and establish global connections as the WHE program has.

    I conclude my final post with a reminder to always look for opportunities to learn and grow. If you are a prospective or current intern, I hope you will find this internship as fulfilling as I did and that you create a positive difference with whatever projects you choose. I look forward to using the experiences and skills from WHE, SAUT, and YOU and applying them to my future opportunities.



  • Pause. Reflect. Learn.

    It has been quite a busy two weeks as I begin to wrap up all the projects I have been working on!

    Here’s an update on what I’ve been doing:

    • For YOU, I have finished both the information package and the youth handbook. I will be making any edits as necessary throughout next week, but they are otherwise complete!
    • We have also finished the promotional materials for the event happening on August 10th. For some background information, the event is a launch for the new shelter called Joan’s Place. The shelter is designed to support youth, young mothers and expecting mothers. On top of housing, Joan’s Place will also bring together many local organizations, which will provide support such as primary and mental health care for youth, employment, and addiction services. You can learn more about Joan’s place here.
    Also, here’s an image of one of the pages from the handbook to orient the youth with Fiti and the partnership between WHE and YOU.

    I think that the handbook came together well. I enjoyed the process of creating this material, from the research and writing, all the way up to the designing part. The most exciting part about it is knowing that my work goes towards a cause that has an important social impact. I truly hope that current and future youth at the café gain from this handbook!

    • For SAUT, Lisa, Alex, and I are finishing up our SAUT presentation and creating a short-term promotion plan. It will be helpful to have the onboarding materials in both video and written format so that the students at SAUT have access to the written materials after going through the presentation.
    • I also had a meeting with Cazimiry, one of the students at SAUT with whom I am working. We had talked about how having a short presentation to show students may be a great marketing tactic for more students to become aware of Fiti and the kitchen on campus. Although SAUT’s semester just ended, and students are on break until November, I’ve put together a presentation for them to use in the future. He also mentioned that they want to circulate flyers through WhatsApp to promote the yogurt kitchen, so we will create some samples for them!
    • Cazimiry also told me that they will be doing some research about the kiosk shifts that will run in the kitchen, which will be a great way to sell the yogurt. Although I won’t be able to see the kiosk run during my time in this internship, I am hopeful that they will have it operating soon.

    As this internship comes to an end, I want to make sure I am taking the time to also reflect on the many lessons I have learned during the past few months. This internship has been such a unique experience; how many people can say they have worked on international projects from the comfort of their own homes? The flexibility that comes with remote work like this internship offers the opportunity to engage in a lot of critical self-reflection.

    My friends and family often ask me how my internship is going, and my answers are usually related to the projects I am working on. However, behind my list of deliverables and tasks is a significant amount of personal growth and learning that I have made. This internship has been equally as fulfilling for my personal growth as it has been for my professional development. My Western perspective of work and way of life has been challenged, and I have consistently been invited to understand the Tanzanian way of life. Most importantly, I have learned how asymmetrical powers can manifest and how to take responsibility and mitigate them.

    Just by being from the Global North, I am someone who inherently holds privilege and power. Learning this in theory through previous courses and the training modules for WHE, I knew that it was important to be mindful of this. However, it was only once my internship started that I experienced how my privilege and power affect my work in an international experience.

    For instance, as someone from the West, I am fluent in a commonly used language: English. Being able to communicate in English without thinking about switching from another language is a privilege that I have been granted, and it is always important to be mindful of this. Communication is what drives fundamental connections between people, and it is important to understand that someone in a privileged position must be mindful of not imposing a significant communication barrier.

    This is only one of many instances that manifested during my internship where I saw how my privilege and power are so deeply intertwined in my work. This is why I want to highlight the importance of self-reflexivity and being aware of asymmetrical powers.

    Knowledge should flow both ways, and if you are not mindful of your power and privilege, you may also impose a flow of knowledge in only one direction.

    My biggest takeaway is that you are not working for your host organization, you are working with them. The best way to work with someone is to ask them questions and see how you can assist their needs. No one knows what is needed better than your community partners; they are the experts! While you may see something as more important or necessary, someone from another culture may attach different meanings and see the importance in things you wouldn’t have thought of.

    As I begin to wrap up my deliverables and work on my final report and poster, I also want to ensure I am taking the time to reflect on how I can engage ethically to continue improving my self-reflexivity and cross-cultural engagement.

    I may not be in Tanzania (although I wish I could be!), and it may be harder to learn about Tanzanian culture while I sit in front of my laptop screen in Canada. However, I choose not to see this as an excuse, but rather as an opportunity to use my privilege and learn.

    Until next time,


  • Staying Focused: Close to the Finish Line!

    Where has the time gone?! That seems to be the theme of this internship! This morning, I opened my calendar and was shocked to see that August 19th is exactly four weeks away. The experience I have gotten from this internship has been incredibly valuable, and I look forward to finalising all my deliverables for both community partners.

    Here’s a brief overview of what I have been working on these past few weeks:  

    • For YOU, Lisa and I have finished the written part of our handbook for the youth at the café. We will now be formatting and designing the information on Canva to make the handbook more interactive and youth-friendly (sidenote: our supervisor Nick is super kind and gave us access to a Canva Pro account, which provides us with access to more graphics!).
    • I am also working on an information package catered towards organizations, so that when YOU applies to grants, they will have all the information readily available. Finally, we have a deadline for August 5th to design a railcard, poster, stickers, and table toppers, so we are also working on those.  
    • For SAUT, Alex, Lisa, and I have finished the written portion of our onboarding presentation. We have shared it with our supervisor, Delphine, to get her feedback. We also are hoping to have a meeting early next week to see where our next steps are. In the meantime, we will be working on formatting the presentation and preparing to film our video series.

    Overall, everything has been coming together for both organizations, and we have been making great progress. It has been rewarding to see that my efforts have paid off and to see some tangible results.

    That being said, there’s a lot to do in these next few weeks for both SAUT and YOU, and my own personal commitments as I prepare for going back to London for fourth year are also increasing. Between managing work, my other volunteering commitments, my music lessons, and making time to see my grandparents, I am always busy doing something!

    With so many things on my mind, Google calendar has become my best friend. Remembering all my meetings and commitments is much easier when your phone is always there to remind you about it. On top of that, with all the time zone differences, it has been helpful to make sure I am planning things at the right time. Here’s a list of all the time zones I am currently using:

    • Eastern Africa Time (EAT): I have to remember EAT to schedule meetings and communicate with both Delphine and my Promotions and Packaging group at SAUT.
    • Indian Standard Time (IST): My music teacher lives in India, so I have to remember IST for my virtual music classes with her.
    • Central European Time (CET): My best friend is doing a semester abroad in Belgium, and I always have to keep that in mind when I want to call her!

    And most recently, Korean Standard Time (KST):

    • Lisa has just reached Korea! While she is extremely kind and adjusting, that’s a 13- hour difference from Ontario, and having meetings when it’s 3 or 4 in the morning for her isn’t ideal. We’re going to try to find a time that’s not too early or late for Alex and me in Ontario and for Lisa in Korea.

    I think it’s safe to say that I have become significantly better at calculating all the time zone differences in my head! Related to that, learning and adjusting quickly is a huge lesson that I have been able to take away from this internship.

    Although I knew that I would be doing lots of learning, I didn’t realize that in just a short ten weeks, I would experience this much development and growth. This has truly been one of my favourite work experiences, and I can only hope that in future opportunities, I will be able to learn and develop my skills more. I will say that I have become a lot more open to new challenges. Just a few weeks ago, I helped a family friend with their short film and was a Production Assistant (PA) for the day. I have never been on a movie set before then, but I was able to do all the tasks that were given to me and work with other PAs who had way more experience than I did. I definitely have WHE to thank for my willingness to take on new challenges!

    Finally, with these last few weeks becoming more hectic, getting some time to recharge is a great way to boost productivity (here’s a TED talks about the importance of taking breaks!). I was at a cottage this week, and it was nice to disconnect and spend time with my family, especially my uncle from England who I hadn’t seen since 2019 because of COVID restrictions! It was also nice to work from a different location instead of my usual desk at home.

    This mountain was my view every morning. On top of that, I never needed an alarm clock because my little cousins would come and greet me bright and early in the morning. It was the best!

    Overall, I’m looking forward to seeing where these next few weeks takes me!

  • Reset, Adjust, and Adapt

    First and foremost, I cannot believe that we are more than halfway through this internship! The weeks have gone by so fast, and I am beginning to wish I had more time to continue my projects at SAUT and YOU. I have learned so much in just eight weeks, and I am confident I will be able to apply the skills I have gained as a WHE intern to my future endeavours.

    Now that I am past the midpoint of this internship, I wanted to take some time to reflect on my progress with both my projects, as well as how much I have learned thus far.


    We used the feedback from our presentation with the youth at the café to start our brand design (Sidenote: Alex has done an amazing job with the designing process!). We were so happy with the presentation’s success, and it has been a crucial step towards designing other promotional materials that we hope to have by July 28th. I have now started creating an education handbook for the youth mentors at the café. My fellow interns and I worked with Nick, our supervisor at YOU, to develop the topics, and I am now in the process of researching information for the handbook and how to develop youth-friendly education! This is an important part of our deliverables because it will provide youth mentors with access to information about Fiti to teach other youth effectively.


    Alex, Lisa, and I have begun working on an onboarding presentation to familiarize students with the yoghurt kitchen and the program. We have come up with different topics such as the benefits of the program, volunteering responsibilities, and marketing and outreach strategies. Although creating onboarding materials was not a part of our original deliverables, it has now become a priority! The goal of having an onboarding program for SAUT students is to outline clear roles and responsibilities and create sustainable student engagement. This way, we hope that current and future students at SAUT will have direction for increasing sales and production at the kitchen.

    While it seems that my progress has been linear, it was not! This short summary does not reflect the time and effort it took to get to this stage.

    For instance, I came into this internship thinking that I would mainly focus on marketing strategies and spreading health awareness with my group at SAUT. However, an obstacle that manifested early on was the lack of student engagement. Thus, it was difficult to work on strategies for increasing yoghurt production when we needed key information such as bookkeeping sources. After some meetings with Delphine and a meeting with Maria and Bob, we eventually discovered that the best strategy was to step back and work on familiarizing students with a standardized program first. Now, we have ended up with student engagement being our priority deliverable!

    I am sharing my experience in the hopes that any future or prospective interns understand that it may take some time to have a plan, and it will eventually work out! Throughout the internship, your plans or goals may shift. In my case, you may have a reset button put on your internship and have completely new deliverables! Although your deliverables will tell you exactly what your community partners are looking for, they may not portray how obstacles may challenge you from attaining these goals.

    The most important takeaway for me has been learning to be flexible and have constant communication. I have learned to enjoy the dynamic process, be adaptable to new situations, and not fear the uncertainty of the future. Being a WHE intern has been fulfilling for both my professional and personal development, and I am looking forward to what the next weeks of this internship will bring.

    Just to end this post, I recently met someone from Dar es Salaam, a city in Tanzania! I hope to visit someday and enjoy the rich culture that Tanzania has to offer. So, while I am not there to enjoy the beautiful view in Tanzania, here is a picture of Dar es Salaam. How pretty!

    Besides Mwanza (which is where SAUT is located), I would love to visit Dar es Salaam. Not only does it have beautiful beaches, but it is also rich in history and culture!

  • A Day in My Life as a WHE Intern

    Being a remote intern for WHE comes with having a different set of tasks to do every day, with some days being unpredictable. For instance, some days may be filled with meetings, and others may have little to none. Nonetheless, the dynamic schedule that comes with being a WHE intern leaves no room for monotony! Here is an example of one of my days.

    On this day, I woke up to the bright sun shining in my room, and I got out of bed early to get ready for the day. I like to spend my mornings doing some yoga and stretches, so I pulled my yoga mat out and did a 30-minute yoga session. Although it can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise right in the morning, the feeling afterwards is always so rewarding! I then got myself prepared for my first meeting of the day with my supervisor, Delphine Kessy, at SAUT. We had a productive call, and I went over the meeting notes that I and my fellow interns, Alex and Lisa made during the meeting.

    I then made myself a coffee and sat back down to go over the presentation that our YOU group made for a youth education session that was scheduled for the end of the week. I practiced the notes on my slides a few times because I hadn’t done a live presentation since my first year at Western and was slightly nervous!

    After practicing the presentation, I went downstairs to greet my grandparents and mom and helped make lunch for all of us. Afterwards, my mom and I decided to take advantage of the warm summer weather and go for a walk outside.

    This is a picture of the pond near my house. As we were walking through a trail near the pond, we saw a beaver here swimming in it!

    After the walk, I had a meeting scheduled with my YOU group to go over the youth education presentation we made and make some final changes before sharing it for our supervisor’s review. We also had the chance to talk about our plans and tasks for SAUT for the following week.

    After this, I attended our WHE weekly meeting where all the WHE interns share what they have been working on throughout the week and what their future projects are. It’s always interesting and exciting to hear about the different projects that other interns are working on!

    Pictured is one of the slides from the youth education presentation that Alex, Lisa, and I created.

    I then began my evening by watching Netflix (Stranger Things season 4 is so good!) and helping my family prepare for dinner. After dinner, I always end my day off by going for a walk with my mom. Here is the sunset I saw that day!

    While every day looks different as a WHE intern, some days will be busier than others. I have found it helpful to use Google Calendar to ensure I am reminded of any upcoming meetings. I also like to take breaks in between during the day to make sure I am spending time away from technology and recharging.

    So here it is, a typical day in my life as a WHE intern!  

  • Navigating the Challenges of a Remote Internship

    Although the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020 and caused many to switch to working from home, remote jobs and internships have persisted in 2022. While working from home has many benefits (my commute is from my bed to my desk!), remote work has presented some obstacles along the way. Given these challenges that I am sure that current interns (and future interns!) are experiencing, I wanted to use this post to reflect on some of these challenges I have faced, and what I have learned from them.

    1. Time differences: For my internship, my group and community partners at SAUT operate under EAT (East Africa Time), a time zone 7 hours ahead of EDT (Eastern Daylight Time). It is important to work around this time difference to schedule meetings that work for both your community partners and you. I usually schedule meetings between 8 am – 10 am EDT, which is 3 pm – 5 pm EAT. Although I have had the occasional meeting at 7 am or sent some WhatsApp texts at 2 am, this meeting timeframe has worked well. I also find it helpful to send emails to schedule meetings using EAT and convert the difference for myself.
    2. Engagement: Being a remote internship, it is difficult to gain a sense of culture through a few Zoom meetings and messages. At SAUT, it has been somewhat challenging to schedule meetings with all the students in my group and acquire information from them for me to do my work. Thus, it took me some time to learn about how the cultural relevancy of volunteerism differs between Tanzania and the Western world, such that volunteering in the West is of higher importance. While neither cultural relevance is better or more correct, a useful tip that has helped me deal with the cultural difference in volunteer commitment is sending reminder emails or WhatsApp messages.
    3. Balance: I am currently working with both SAUT and YOU, and if you are also working with two organizations, you will understand when I say it can be difficult to always give them both equal attention. Going into this internship, I thought I would be committing the same amount of time to both organizations and they would be progressing at the same rate. However, over the past few weeks, both projects have been moving at different paces, where one is not progressing as fast as the other. Thus, it can feel overwhelming having not made enough progress on both projects. I have overcome this by working with my fellow WHE interns on how we can improve the similar challenges we have faced on our projects. Ultimately, communicating with your groups and finding ways to work around any challenges together can greatly ease these concerns!

    All this is to say that patience and adjustability are two important traits that you will learn along the way on your journey as an intern. From communication challenges to changing deliverables, this internship has been a dynamic process, and I have found it helpful to have a problem-solving mindset and to spend time disconnecting and recharging.

    When I am not working on either project, I like to spend my evenings away from my laptop and go for walks to see the sunset every day! Here is a picture of the sunset I saw this week!

  • Introduction

    Welcome to my blog!

    To start off, I’d like to introduce myself to those following my journey as an intern for Western Heads East (WHE). My name is Gurleen Arora, and I’m going into my fourth year in the Honours Specialization in Health Sciences with Biology program at Western University.

    When I entered University, I was most excited about my courses in biology. However, my program has allowed me to diversify my understanding of health beyond physiology and biology to the social determinants of health (SDOH) and how they play a role in how people experience health. Taking courses related to health promotion, health policy, and the geography of health have all helped me develop an appreciation and passion for global health and equity. On a personal level, I have always been fond of learning about people’s backgrounds and cultures to gain a better understanding of different perspectives on the world.

    My interest in global health was reaffirmed when I participated in the blog competition for the Power & Global Health Day 2021 at Western and also attended some of the events there. Hearing about research and stories presented by some of the panellists made me realise how I could combine my personal interests in culture and health to make a positive impact on people’s lives. Thus, this internship is important to me because it will enable me to apply a cultural lens to health and apply what I have learned throughout my academic career to the real world.

    Moving into internship specifics, this week I have started working remotely as a WHE intern for both Saint Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) and Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU). SAUT is located in Mwanza, Tanzania, and they aim to further grow their Fiti Probiotic Yogurt kitchen while also economically empowering local women and sharing the benefits of probiotic yoghurt with the community. YOU is a non-profit organization based in London, Ontario that aims to empower youth and further develop their yoghurt program at the YOU Made it Café. Both organizations emphasize the importance of providing knowledge and nutrition to improve health outcomes. Being an active part of a process that will increase accessibility to healthy options both in London and in Tanzania is important to me because I have learned how removing structural barriers is extremely important in achieving better health outcomes.  

    With this internship being remote, I am sure that there will be some challenges along the way. For instance, during my first meeting with SAUT this week, we had to switch from using Zoom to WhatsApp because of connection issues! Nonetheless, with the support of my supervisors, interns, and preparation from the internship modules, I am certain that I will be able to use my problem-solving skills to overcome the obstacles that may arise with an internship with virtual communication.

    The opportunity to work with both SAUT and YOU will undoubtedly provide valuable experience and allow me to build on my skillset to prepare for my future in global health and global competency. Overall, I am looking forward to these next few months as an intern and all the learning I will do!