I got invited to my first meeting today! I know most people hate meetings, but I honestly see it as a compliment to get invited. At BYU, I always had a lot of meetings for various research projects and I honestly miss that. Phanuel invited me to the department meeting and then invited me to another meeting, if I had time (yeah, my boss actually asked me if I had time) he had to go over IMCI & ICATT – integrated medical management programs to deal specifically with children under 5 in order to reduce mortality. It was fascinating! Plus the coolest thing happened. I was #11 out of 17 items, so I gave an update on the projects I’ve been assigned and he thanked me in front of the group for my excellent work and assistance since they are often stretched so thin and I am helping them out a lot supposedly. It got better. Then, when they were discussing their vacations (WHO gives 2 weeks off during May-Aug), they asked if I would be taking time off. Uh… I’m an intern. I have a choice?! I told them no, but could if they wanted since I want to make it to Pointe Noire while I was here. They said to do that on a weekend since they had a proposition for me. How would I feel about spending some time in a country office? Just so I can see what another level of WHO is like.
Let me explain. WHO has headquarters in Geneva, then regional offices (I think there are 5 in the world), including the one I work for in Brazzaville, which is over 46 countries in Africa. Since regions can be so large (especially Africa), they break it up again into smaller, more manageable portions, these are called sub-regional offices. There are 3 of these in Africa – Burkina Faso, Gabon, and Zimbabwe. Then there are country offices. Even Republic of Congo has a country office, just located in another part of Brazzaville, so I assumed that’s what he was talking about. Instead, he said he’d like me to attend an adolescent health conference in Lesotho! What?! Again, I’m an intern. I’m supposed to get grunt labor (you know, filing paperwork), a horrible office, and no benefits or privileges. Here I’m getting a huge amount of responsibility with this project since it’s never been done before, a great office, and they want to pay all my expenses to go on “vacation” for a week to another country for a conference just so I can see another branch of WHO. I said yes! Sign me up! He said there might be some other opportunities too, but that Lesotho is looking the most promising as far as getting their conference going and hosting it while I’m still here. Plus, he’ll only send me to countries I’m allowed to go to since he wants me to be safe. I cannot even imagine how incredible this opportunity is – another country, as a representative of the WHO regional office, as a white female intern, and they’re not only going to arrange everything to the last detail, but they’re paying for it too. It’s amazing!!!!!
Lastly, I just have to mention Mama Valerie. She manages to make the bed a different way each time she’s here. It’s amazing! She’ll rearrange pillows differently, do the sheets differently, do the blankets differently, etc. She even changes the way that she ties up your mosquito net over the bed. I am so impressed! She really mothers us and is so good at it.