First: who am I?
Hi! I’m Marit Frost and I have spent the last three months interning with the Fontes Foundation in Kampala, splitting my time between the Bugolobi main office and at the Youth Center in Bunga. I was born and raised in California, USA, and now study International Development and Geography at UCLA in Los Angeles. If you are curious how a California girl came to be living in (and loving) Kampala, well this is where my elevator pitch starts. I came here through a program, Insight Global Education, which pairs students from North America with internships in Kampala and enrols them in two classes at Makerere University: Africa in International Relations, and Peace, Conflict, and post-conflict resolution. Beyond that, what we make of our experience is up to us. While in East Africa I have driven across the border to Rwanda to visit the memorial in Kigali commemorating the terrible losses of the genocide, spent a day and a night in awe at Lake Bunyoni, boated across Lake Victoria, abseiled down a waterfall at Sipi Falls, rafted down the whitewater rapids of the Jinja Nile, and spent a week exploring the history and beauty of Zanzibar, Tanzania. Each of those trips was a small vacation I was extraordinarily lucky to have — an opportunity to explore a new piece of a world I had never experienced before — but none even remotely compared to just living and working in Kampala.
My time with Fontes.
While at Fontes I have come to feel like my little table — pushed up against the 5 others that make up the Fontes corner of the office — is really mine. My desk is right next to the foosball table (that I am still a little nervous to try out, people really take their foosball tournaments seriously!) where daily post-lunch games feature loud laughter, fierce competition, and genuine friendliness. I sit near the little kitchen where our Office Manager Irene has coffee, tea, and delicious Ugandan snacks prepared everyday. Just five meters away, is where each of many birthday cakes were placed as the whole office erupted into song and anticipatory cake-excitement (Surea always got the most excited over the chocolate ones). And just upstairs is the lunch buffet featuring local foods, where I had countless conversations about everything and anything, with everyone and anyone who happened to get hungry at the same time as I did. Don’t get me wrong, working at Fontes has definitely been challenging at times. But isn’t that exactly what an internship should be? Plus, I had a partner in crime! Melvin Sedeora: fellow intern, friend, and housemate; student of Simon Fraser University (in Canada); truly kind and very intelligent.
Melvin and I had the job of substitute facilitators during much of our time at Fontes; we were able to meet the incredible students of Fontes Youth Center who are actively taking their lives — and education — into their own hands, and to help them on their way toward successful careers by teaching the business skills that are most useful — and most lacking — in the young labour pool today. While at the office in Bugolobi, Melvin and I primarily focused on instituting strategic procedures for organizational Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). We performed data collection from within our preexisting programs to develop a framework for evaluating their success, and explored options for broadening the reach of those programs while maintaining their viability. The mission of Fontes is not a static one; the organization is constantly re-evaluating its preceding work so our goals are as achievable as possible, and changing those goals in relation to new understandings of the circumstances and capabilities of each program. These are values I will take with me when I fly home in a week. I have learned to never be content with the work I have done, but to strive to evaluate and change it when it inevitably isn’t perfect.
What I am taking with me when I leave.
My memories from working here are filled with nerves, cake, laughter, stress, coffee, kindness, doubt, matooke, and pride. I will never forget my colleagues, my students, or that foosball table that I will use sometime in the next 5 days. I will never forget the daily standups — where we all learned about each project that was being worked on and put a colorful sticky-note on the board to represent the task — the monday morning check-ins, the chocolate Julianne brought back from Norway, or the sense of community that exists here but is so rare in most workplaces. Truly, I will never forget my time with Fontes.
Lots of love for my students, colleagues, and this incredible city,