NWU Student Has Life-Changing Experience With African Internship
It takes a village to raise a child.
This African proverb is a favorite of Nebraska Wesleyan University senior Collin Shepherd, who credits his parents for raising him with the notion that child upbringing is a communal effort.
This summer Shepherd saw firsthand the meaning of that infamous proverb.
Shepherd spent six weeks in Tanzania as the first international intern for the National 4-H Council. He was tasked with visiting 4-H clubs in Africa to learn how they operate and help them become more productive and efficient.
“I always wanted to go to Africa,” said Shepherd. “So I started looking for ways to get there.”
Shepherd researched the culture to better prepare himself for the primitive conditions he was about to live and work in.
“I slept in a mosquito net, the showers were cold, there were daily power outages, and the toilets were literally a hole in the ground,” Shepherd recalled. “I am so grateful for what I have. Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful for all I have.”
The primitive conditions didn’t get in they way of a rich experience.
In addition to visiting 4-H clubs, Shepherd collected nearly 30 success stories from 4-H members. Those stories were shared with other developing 4-H clubs.
“Members shared how 4-H made them more confident and independent,” he said. “Which is important because it allows children to become self-reliant and able to sustain themselves.”
African youth involved in 4-H often participate in projects that help make a profit, which helps them afford education.
Shepherd was also responsible for writing a new grant proposal aimed at helping at-risk female entrepreneurs. Grant money would provide vocational training and help purchase equipment the women need to sew clothes and grow crops. The women would pay back the loan and that money would then be used to benefit other female entrepreneurs.
While his internship concluded after six weeks in Tanzania, his adventure continued. Shepherd spent two weeks backpacking in east Africa. He traveled to Kenya for a three-day safari, which included a leopard sighting (the rarest animal to be seen in the wild), the “great migration” where millions of zebras and wildebeests migrate from the Serengeti to the Mara, and an close-up look at a herd of elephants — Shepherds favorite animal.
“It was just like you see on the Discovery Channel,” Shepherd said. “I was smiling from ear to ear. The zoo will never be the same to me again.”
His travels also included whitewater rafting on the Nile in Uganda, a visit to the wealthy glowing streets of Dubai, and a heartbreaking stop in Ethiopia.
“It was probably the one place where I didn’t feel comfortable on my own,” he said of Ethiopia. “Every which way I looked I saw rundown shacks and people sleeping on streets. People were begging for money on every corner.”
Shepherd’s experience in Africa reaffirmed his passion for international travel. That passion started with a study abroad experience in Estonia last year.
“These experiences have helped me learn to rely on myself, have encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone, and have developed me into an independent person,” he said.
Shepherd will graduate in May with a degree in communication. He plans to attend law school, study international law and continue his travels abroad.
“I will never forget the faces of the children that I had the privilege of working with,” Shepherd said of his internship. “The look in their eyes and their beaming smiles are memories that I will always carry with me.
“While I hope the little time I had to spend with them will have a positive impact in their lives,” he continued. “I know that I am the lucky one who had the chance to learn from them.”