There comes a time in everyone’s life where you take a deep breath and pause to think. You’re stuck – and I mean STUCK with seemingly no option out – with the unnerving question of whether the path you have chosen for yourself has been an entirely wrong one; even worse, you get that horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach that you should have listened to your parents and stayed at home. During the lull in our Masters course timetable following the Christmas period (the so-called “January hangover”), I felt the same way.
The NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) placement module in the second semester of our Masters course turned that feeling completely on its head.
As a reference point, let me introduce you to the Masters in Development Practice (locally referred to as the MDP), offered jointly by Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin – taking the ‘practitioner’ on a roller-coaster of a course-ride that explores a variety of development issues such as climate change, sustainable development and gender, through the holistic lenses of economic policy, academic and empirical research and social justice. The course runs over two years and there are three periods built into the schedule where internships are facilitated with NGOs, INGOs (International Non-Governmental Organisations) and other aid/donor organisations. The placement opportunity with development organisations is in fact what attracts a lot of us to this unique Masters programme.
Our first placement saw 21 students being assigned to several organisations based in and around Dublin. I had the privilege of working with Oxfam Ireland along with seven others from my class. Having worked extensively with several NGOs in India (where I come from), this experience was still rather extraordinary.
After the usual initial hiccups in terms of fixing meeting times, my colleague Kerry and I found our way to Oxfam Ireland, which occupies a spacious, open-plan office space, tucked away in a neat corner by Ringsend. Overlooking the River Liffey, and within view of the Dublin Docklands, the offices themselves are light and cheerful. The staff were charming, friendly and striking, all at once. Our supervisor, Dr Enida Friel, took the better part of an hour to walk us carefully through the research we were to undertake in the following six weeks. Kerry and I were eager, excited and anxious to start our research, investigating HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) interventions and programmes that have taken place in Sub-Saharan Africa, which have included (or been specifically tailored to) people living with disabilities (PWD).
I can say with great confidence that the research itself was not only meaningful but also inspiring; though we found glaring gaps in the HIV/AIDS response with respect to PWD, there were also small case studies and community-based learning examples where a lot has been achieved with very limited resources. Not wholly surprising were some of our concluding remarks: that there is yet a lot of work required, and that the Oxfam confederation can be an holistic participant in the inclusion of ‘disability’ in the development discourse. However, what was surprising was the amount of interest, confidence and support we received from the Oxfam team through the course of our brief internship.
It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to work in an office with such a global outreach and we are certainly looking forward to our next placement in the summer of 2014!
Ruchika Mather is in her first year of the Masters in Development Practice (TCD/UCD).