By Stephanie Schmitt, intern at Lifeline Energy.
My background is in journalism, mainly old-fashioned print and magazines, and for the last two years I’ve been working online. In my journalism course we discussed journalism of attachment and compassion fatigue, all having read reports of journalists getting too involved, saving orphans in the midst of war and later being criticised for lacking professionalism crossing the line of the observer. So, why should we bother writing?
I’ve been an intern with Lifeline Energy – which works widely across sub-Saharan Africa – for two months now. When I started I had a vague idea of what NGOs and development work looked like. Once I dug deeper below the surface it was obvious I had no clue at all. In July Somalia was hit again by a devastating drought and famine forcing mainly women and children to cross the border into Kenya and join the Dadaab refugee camps. At first I thought that all refugees require is food, water, medicine and shelter, however, what happens next? Many Somali women and children have been born and brought up in the secluded shelter of the camps since the early 1990s. Once their most basic survival needs are fulfilled, women in refugee camps want to be informed about issues that are pertinent to their lives. It is not enough to spoon-feed a person in need; one needs to assist them in becoming economically independent. For women and children who have little or no voice in their society the access to trusted information is essential.
Through Lifeline Energy’s radios, groups of women and girls are able to listen to programmes on sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence, women’s and children’s rights, agriculture, peace and reconciliation as well as news and current events on the Somali language station. The reports, statements of women and children from listening groups and primary schools showcase the reality of how a solar-powered and wind-up radio can change their future. Before this internship I was a newbie ambitious that my writing could at best inform and ideally enlighten the reader to change a current issue. I want to use my skills, old and new, to change the lives of people so they can embrace a better future for themselves.
Interning at Lifeline Energy, I have rediscovered my passion for work, with a hands-on approach that I lost since I graduated. I would like to thank the Lifeline Energy team for welcoming me into their world. Individually they shared their unique experiences in the field, working knowledge of fundraising, report writing, project management and the wide possibilities social media tools provide to development work.