Summer in Abuja: An Interview with Anne Sprinkel

Anne Sprinkel in Abuja

Anne Sprinkel, in Abuja. Behind her, you can see the new, large,  houses being built everyday.

1. Tell OID about yourself: where are you from, what made you passionate about development, what is your area of concentration?
I’m from Richmond, Virginia, but I was beyond lucky to be able to travel both during and after college, and I’ve spent a good amount of time in Latin America. Travel has undoubtedly been one of the foundations of my interest in the field of development. I was a Sociology major in college, so my natural inclination was toward this kind of study. I knew I wanted to be in development by the time I started my Peace Corps service in Guatemala, but my work in rural preventive health, HIV/AIDS, and community development really cemented my passion for this line of work.

ngafricaMy concentration is Humanitarian Assistance, which is a bit of a departure from my background. I found myself drawn to the pace, the intensity, the unique nature of the problems that arise, and the challenges that relief work faces in its relationship with long-term, strategic development.

2. Where are you this summer and what are you doing?
I am currently in Abuja, Nigeria, as Mercy Corps’ Peacebuilding Program Support and Development Intern. As such, my deliverables are centered around supporting the implementation of programs (everything from counting baseline surveys to attending partners’ meetings) and program development (concept notes, research, country strategy, etc). In addition, I’m getting to take advantage of this being a new office for Mercy Corps. Administrative tasks, like checking the major hospitals in the capitol to have Standard Operating Procedures if a staff member comes down with cerebral malaria, are things that I can support.

3. How did you get your internship?
While talking with a fellow intern at my previous position, she offered to pass me the name and contact information for the Mercy Corps Intern Coordinator in Portland. I jumped at the chance, and after applying for a few positions which the Coordinator presented to me, Nigeria’s Country Representative made an offer first.

I will say that NGOs seem to be a bit behind the curve on finding summer interns for positions abroad. I knew I wanted to be back in the field for the summer, but I had a hard time finding positions that closely related to my concentration in time to apply for funding. That being said, it’s understandable – fewer NGOs, donors, or UN agencies are willing to send interns to high security, unstable, and/or the risk prone countries where I was interested in applying.

Currently each 500 Naira bill is worth a little more than 3 USD

Currently each 500 Naira bill is worth a little more than 3 USD

4. What are your initial impressions of Nigeria?
Nigeria is amazing. But I must preface my comments: I am currently living and working in the capitol, Abuja, which is VERY different than Lagos, and very different from rural areas. Furthermore, I’ve heard Nigeria is something else all together when talking about Africa itself.
Abuja is pretty clean, friendly, very green, and shows all the signs of immense wealth that hasn’t been shared with the vast majority of the population. Security is high here, for reasons related to the insurgency in the North and the general trend of kidnappings, robberies, and other crime. I’ve never lived in a country with a large Muslim population, so it’s been nice to learn a bit about the religion, its’ form in Nigeria, and its’ relation to Mercy Corps’ interfaith mediation for conflict mitigation and peace building projects.

5. Are you happy you decided to spend your summer outside of DC and what do you think will be the best part about this experience?
I am SO happy I had the opportunity to spend some time out of DC this summer. Like I said, I started planning to be abroad this summer even before I started the IDS program, and I’m glad I was able to make good on that promise to myself.

In the near future, I should get some field time doing conflict mapping, working with implementing partners, and meeting with local authorities in our project areas. That will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of my summer, but I also value my time here in the office. Working through the daily realities of a country office, seeing what program development means with an NGO, and having a chance to see HQ from the field’s perspective are among the things I’ll carry with me into my 2nd year of study. Apart from this, talking to aid workers from different organizations/donors/agencies that have been in the field for anywhere from 2 to 10 years has been great (well, maybe not great for any idealism that’s left in me, but always good for some perspective and a good laugh).