Who? Ati van der Honing, Master’s student of Nutrition & Health and Development & Rural Innovation
What? Six-month internship and thesis research with the World Food Program (WFP)
Where? Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
‘It was very tough to begin with. The World Food Program had sent me a number of research options by email, but when I arrived there it turned out none of those options were really feasible. And my official registration as an intern hadn’t been arranged yet, which meant I couldn’t travel and could only sit in the office.
Ethiopians were friendly and helpful, but I found them quite introvert. That made it quite difficult to make contact. I was given a desk in a corner and everyone got on with their work. They didn’t really help me, so I had to learn to take initiative and be assertive.
After two months of literature study, helping to write a flyer and writing financial reports, I was able to get started on my internship research. I conducted a capacity assessment for the School Feeding Program at regional and school level. I visited several schools to see what the situation was and what could be improved. At present the whole program is still run by the WFP but the idea is that the Ethiopians can take it over later.
It was really great to go into the field. Once when I arrived at a school all the children happened to be outside. It was a major event and they all surrounded me, shouting, “You, you! Give me money!" Quite strange when everyone finds you such an extraordinary sight.
To reach one of the schools to have a discussion there it was one and a half hour’s drive through a sandy landscape. That region was hard hit by the drought. A hard sight to see: the people don’t have much to start with and then their livestock die too and their harvests fail. I could leave after my discussion but they are stuck there.
For my thesis I had to figure things out for myself for the most part. The WFP didn’t agree with my proposal but they offered very little input about how it should be done and contact with my supervisor in the Netherlands wasn’t easy. Luckily, once I got back to the Netherlands it became much clearer to me, with his guidance, how I should go about writing my thesis.
Although the first few months were difficult, I developed a lot personally and after a tough start it was great.’