This position entailed researching topics related to social-emotional learning for the two programs, writing scripts that would turn into content watched by 6.4 million households weekly across East Africa, coauthor grants to ensure production could continue, and even voice my favorite character Bush Baby for a few episodes! The 10 weeks I spent in Dar taught me what it means to be a member of a team so focused on their craft and dedicated to producing unparalleled content. When I would brainstorm with my coworkers Annette and Esteria on ideas for an episode, I felt what it meant to take an ugly, half-formed new idea, put it out there, and transform it into a well-rounded end product. I changed from shyly offering my thoughts to actively taking a role in operating meetings throughout the course of my internship.
Writing grants with Shehz taught me an immense amount about the interworkings of Ubongo from viewership to impact studies and how to best leverage the show’s proven effectiveness to potential donors. Investigating the ways in which funders sought out the enterprises which they awarded grants to turned into an invigorating puzzle of reviewing past recipients and discovering how their pitch lined up with the vision of the funding organization. This philosophy turned out to be pretty effective as I recently learned that we were selected for the Templeton World Charity Foundation grant I co-authored worth about $250,000 USD.
Perhaps the most personally enjoyable aspect of the internship for me was working directly with the production of the show through directing the child voice actors and trying my hand at voicing myself. I had learned enough Swahili during my time in Tanzania to be able to guide a group of local students through voicing the script for a segment on the phoneme D I had written, instructing them “semeni ‘-oll’ kama ‘wote’ kwa kiingereza” or “say ‘-oll’ like ‘all’ in English” when the children had difficulties pronouncing the -oll in “doll.” For my own voice, I recreated muffled recordings from the actor who usually voiced Bush Baby and gave the rambunctious character a crisp sound. Every day at the office was something new, and there was never a time which I felt as though I was not using my full creative and analytic capacities.
This unbelievable opportunity has made me reconsider what I want to do with my education and where the trajectory of my life is heading. Because of how much I loved Tanzania and learning Swahili, I am currently applying for the Critical Language Scholarship to return to the country this summer and formally study the language. My writing abilities improved astronomically through collaborating with such talented individuals, and I now am certain that I need to have that sort of interactivity and exchange in whichever field I end up pursuing. I am forever grateful to Ubongo and IPD for providing me with this life-altering experience, and I am more than happy to discuss the program with any prospective applicants. My one piece of advice for it? Tumia Ubongo!