Nutrition Internship in Swaziland
Kaya Responsible Travel participant with the locals Kaya Responsible Travel participant with the locals

Nutrition Internship in Swaziland

Overall Rating

10/ 10

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Nutrition intern in Swaziland

Signing up to volunteer with Kaya was very easy. The agents are always willing to help. I even talked to an agent over the phone to ensure that the volunteering project was indeed ethical and what I wanted.

I chose the nutrition internship because it fit into my college coursework. The course was counted as a study abroad course at my university. Because I am studying public health, the nutrition internship in the Kingdom of Eswatini was a perfect fit.

We were accommodated at Lidwala lodge. The lodge was safe, fun, beautiful, and clean. I made a lot of friends from all over the world at the lodge. It was also on the same premise as the volunteering office, which was very convenient.

At the project, I conducted research as a part of an ongoing assessment examining the health and nutrition of children at various Neighborhood Care Points (NCPs). Specifically, I took anthropometric assessments of the children (height, weight, and MUAC measurements), plotted and analyzed the data, and studied common foods and cooking methods at the NCPs.

Before I began my travels, I was nervous because I had never traveled alone before. I thought I could get lonely, given that I was gone for over 5 weeks. The opposite was actually true. Navigating airports was easy, and there were always people willing to help me find where I was supposed to go. In addition, I made incredible friends at my project and at the lodge. I never felt alone.

I was surprised by many things throughout my time abroad. I didn’t expect to make so many meaningful friendships during my travel. I got to know other volunteers and locals very well. I learned so much just by conversing with such diverse people. Also, the avocados grew to be larger than mangos!

Many aspects of the Swazi culture also surprised and intrigued me. I loved how polite everyone was to each other. It is custom to say “Hello. How are you?” in Siswati to everyone you walk by. Also, music and dance are woven into the culture so deeply that even the three-year-olds at the NCP’s knew how to bust-a-move. Much of the education at the NCP’s was taught through song, and the children loved to sing and dance along. This was one of my favorite aspects of Swazi culture.

Overall, my research as an intern was the highlight of my experience. I got to know many children, teachers, and cooks at the NCPs. The teachers and cooks volunteer their time to run the NCP’s for the local children. I had so many valuable conversations with them about their passion for their community. I met some of the most powerful, strong, passionate and authentic women of my life at the NCPs.

Traveling as a volunteer allowed me to experience a new culture for a much longer time period than a tourist might stay. Because I was in Swaziland for over 5 weeks, I got to know some of the local language, meet local friends, navigate the transportation system, and experience local customs. Additionally, by working at the NCPs, I got to experience many values, lessons, and customs that the local teachers taught the children. Talking to the NCP teachers gave me the most insight about what Swaziland truly is. A tourist would find it more difficult to get this thorough understanding of a culture. Even as a volunteer, I realize that there is so much more I could learn.

I gained a lot of self-confidence through this experience. Not only was I able to travel to the other side of the world completely alone, but I was able to conduct an entire research project with minimal direction. I designed the study, conducted the field research, analyzed the data, wrote a research paper, and gave a formal research presentation within a 5 week time frame. Throughout the experience, I also strengthened my cultural competence and enhanced my global awareness. This experience has made me a more responsible global citizen.

I encourage everyone to volunteer, but do your research first. Ensure your project is ethical and sustainable. You will not save the world by volunteering overseas, and you shouldn’t think that you can. However, volunteering at the right place can enhance your understanding about the world, which will benefit everyone. If you volunteer abroad, fully commit to the experience. Have conversations with local people, try using the local language, and take every opportunity you can to authentically understand the people you are working with. If you think of your time as a vacation and focus simply on doing the tourist activities, you are destined to be disappointed.