The SHE-CAN staff chatted with Scholar Peninah Ingabire, rising junior at Muhlenberg College, about her summer internship with the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) in Kigali. This was her first time interning with the RBC and although it has multiple divisions she worked within the maternal, child and community health division. Peninah’s internship was full-time, and she generally worked 5 days a week, 9 hours a day. Originally, she had applied to work for two months (June-July). However, she ended up working through August because she wanted to be involved in a couple more programs and really liked the Center.
Peninah: I researched through multiple health organizations in Rwanda to find which one was the best fit for me. After going through many options, I realized Rwanda Biomedical Center had the perfect division for my career goals and worked to improve children’s health in Rwanda which was exactly what I wanted. I was able to get different contacts through online research and networking and sent in my application and resume last spring while on campus. I got my acceptance letter in late May. I was so happy and excited and shared the news with my mentors. It was so exciting to know that I was going to spend the entire summer doing something I love back home!
SHE-CAN: What attracted you to interning at the Rwanda Biomedical Center?
Peninah: As a Public Health major, I wanted to intern this summer within the Rwandan health sector and learn more about it. RBC was a great fit because I had seen their work back home. RBC works with the community mostly through field work and this was so important to me because I wanted to be able to meet the people I was working with and not just complete office work. Lastly, in the future, I want to work with children. Since one of the RBC’s main priorities is children’s health, they were my first choice in where I wanted to intern.
SHE-CAN: As an intern what were your responsibilities? Can you describe a typical day?
Peninah: The work at RBC is divided between office work and field work. The biggest part is field work. My work revolved around the vaccination unit, community health unit and health facilities unit. As an intern, in my first days I had to quickly learn about the organizations through a lot of reading. Later, I was assigned field work which varied from monitoring and evaluating different health centers in different districts, following up on the cold chain supply within vaccination centers and other vaccination storages, following up on the nationwide hepatitis vaccination campaign and trainings of community health workers around the country. Additionally, I also had the opportunity to attend different trainings and meetings on health campaigns and projects through partners such as WHO, UNICEF and Jhpiego.
SHE-CAN: What was your favorite part about your internship?
Peninah: I really did love working with community health workers. In most districts I visited, it was a group of volunteer women who closely worked with their communities to address health issues. It was so empowering to see women working every day to help improve living and health standards in their communities. It was the greatest experience because I was able to personally work with the community and visit health centers around the country which was so helpful as a learning opportunity!
SHE-CAN: What has your internship taught you?
Peninah: I’ve learned so much both academically and professionally. RBC has greatly helped me understand the way Rwandan health care works. I was amazed by the tremendous work being done within all divisions. This internship was a bridge that connected what I learn in my classes to the actual work out in the field. It has also taught me perseverance and flexibility because I’ve realized every community and every situation is unique. As one of my supervisor’s told me, it’s important to listen to the community because you can achieve more things with their support. Furthermore, my internship has taught me about work ethic and job duties such as writing reports, project presentations and networking amongst others which will be great assets for me in the future!
SHE-CAN: What are your future goals after graduating from college, and how does interning at the Rwanda Biomedical Center help you achieve those goals?
Peninah: When I graduate, I want to work within the Rwandan health care system to improve health education and health care access to children especially vulnerable children. This internship was a great opportunity for me to get a glimpse of what my future career will look like. After graduation, it would be amazing to come back and possibly become an employee at the Rwanda Biomedical Center because it’d be a perfect fit for me to use my knowledge while also giving back to my country!