In the morning of Monday, June 3, with summer vacation barely 72 hours begun and YAN graduation just 48 hours into the past, we welcomed 7 of our students into our house at Pala Pala field. These students, among the strongest in all of our YAN classes, hailed from each of the three schools that we teach at. We had selected them based upon the strength of an application and their work in YAN classes to participate in the first ever YAN internship, whereby students were paired with organizations in the Buea area to serve as interns for the month of June. Emmanuel joined us from Lycee Molyko, Nelson came from G.H.S. Limbe, and Eyole, Lucia, Josiane, Tetsop, and Ruth arrived from G.H.S. Buea Town, just down the street.

After these seven students introduced themselves to each other, we proceeded up to Pala Pala field for a game that Clara frequently plays with student groups in Costa Rica—and which I once had to play as a part of a job interview. The game, called “Eyes, ears, mouth, and hand” requires students in groups of three to each take on one role to retrieve an object (in this case, a water bottle) hidden in an open field. One student, who is blindfolded, has the task of trying to find the object. Another student in the group has the job of directing them verbally, but must face away from the field (and thus, their partner), and cannot see what they are doing. The final student stands facing the other two, and can see the entire scene but cannot speak; this person must use visual cues to indicate to the talker what he or she should tell the blindfolded individual to do in order to find the hidden object. It was great watching our students struggle with this game together, and then debrief it with us. What, we asked, was hard about the game? What was easy? What worked and what didn’t? What does this game have to do with collaborating with others in an NGO office setting? Our students (at this point, no longer our students but our nascent interns) got the idea right away.

After discussing the purpose of the internship, we arranged some logistical matters including finances (our interns are supported by individual donations to Youth Advocacy Network; if you’re interesting in supporting an intern for their month-long work, check out our website!). We then took our students around to their organizations and introduced them to their supervisors for the month. Emmanuel and Ruth went to the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF), an NGO that works with local communities on agroforestry projects and on protecting wild primate species; Eyole, Tetsop, and Nelson went to the International Centre for Environmental Education and Community Development (ICENECDEV), an NGO that runs educational programs in a local prison and at local schools, and houses an environmental education lending library; and Lucia and Josiane went to ProClimate International, an NGO that sells—and educates the public about—environmentally-friendly wood stoves. We introduced students to their supervisors, made sure that everyone felt comfortable with each other, and then—like anxious parents dropping their kids off on the first day of school—we left our students to begin their work.

In the days that followed, as we visited internship sites and checked in with our interns, we have been beyond impressed by the work that they have already undertaken. Our ERuDeF interns, on just the second day of work, participated in activities for the International Day for the Environment, and documented the experience for inclusion in a forthcoming newsletter. Our ICENECDEV interns have created an amazing newsletter about ICENECDEV’s work, complete with dozens of color photographs, and will begin making a blog about it this coming week. And our ProClimate interns have already journeyed to the neighboring town of Kumba to help sell stoves in the local market, and see how ProClimate goes about its work. With our interns so busy and yet so independent at work, we have been gratified to find that we are scarcely needed at all, apart from a quick drop-in every few days to see how everyone is doing. We are so proud of our interns for their hard work, and so grateful to our partner organizations for giving these students the chance to learn from their organizations and contribute to their organizations’ work in the Buea community.

One final update about the internship: today (Monday), we again hosted our interns at our house, as we will do every Monday morning, just for a quick check-in about their progress. It was great to see new friendships already being formed between YAN interns from different schools who otherwise would have never had the chance to meet. Our theme for the day was “thinking outside the box,” and so we presented our students with a stations activity featuring several puzzles that they needed to solve by “thinking outside the box.” The puzzles, of course, were just a means to push students to access new parts of their brains, and to think about how they could think outside the box in their internship work (a concept that our students grasped perfectly during our debrief); but I thought it would be fun to copy some of the puzzles below, just to see how you, our readers, fared. Thanks to our old Belgian roommate Tijs for providing these two! Answers are forthcoming next week. Good luck!

Puzzle 1: You have exactly 6 toothpicks. Use them to make exactly 4 equilateral triangles of the same dimensions. No toothpick may cross another toothpick.

Puzzle 2: Your boss asks you to bring her precisely 4 liters of water. You don’t have a 4-liter bucket; all you have is an unlimited supply of water and 2 irregularly shaped buckets. You know that one bucket holds 3 liters and one holds 5, but because of their shape, you cannot easily demarcate when either bucket is ½ or ¼ full. How do you collect exactly 4 liters for your boss?