With one official week of work under my belt, I thought it was high time to answer everyone’s favorite question recently: “So, what exactly do you do at IJM Uganda?” Granted, it has only been a week, so if you are interested in hearing my first impressions that may not be entirely accurate, read on!
Officially, I am an administrative intern who serves as the Executive Assistant to the Field Office Director. I schedule meetings for him, do the organizational/technical stuff that he doesn’t have time to do, compile information on various case and write client briefings. Every morning we have a meeting to go over his agenda and my to-do list for the day. My tasks can be as diverse as entering business card information onto the computer, to calling the guard security company to tell them to come pick up their payment for the month.
Unofficially, I am the go-to girl for what seems to be everything under the sun — ordering and picking up cakes for office parties, being the first point-of-contact for guests who walk in the door, figuring out all the logistics of important visits from IJM headquarters staff, etc. And I can’t forget my most favorite job duty… filling out endless payment request forms and other such types of financial protocol.
Last week was an especially hectic week; not only was I going through tons of training, but our monthly field office report was due, which meant I had to fact-check a lot of information regarding open, closed, and declined cases that IJM Uganda deals with. Well, needless to say, it was quite a learning curve to figure out the intricacies of these cases. There are many steps necessary to achieve victim relief for a widow and her family. Depending on the type of property seizure and the effectiveness of the local council and courts, a case can take anywhere from a few months to multiple years. I’m slowly becoming conversant in the lingo of IJM casework here in Uganda: perpetrators, victim relief, land titles, district surveyor, casetracking chart, Lands Registry office, mutation forms, transfer forms, mediation meetings, legal education clinics, etc etc etc. I still have a ways to go before I understand all the ins and outs of IJM casework, but it’s been encouraging to see how far I’ve come in during the last week!
Of course, the job continues to challenge me daily. As it is in many developing countries, things don’t operate as smoothly here as they do in the States. A lot of simple tasks can take longer and often you end up getting different results than you had hoped. Even the seemingly easy task of ordering the party cake from the supermarket gets complicated when it involves a harrowing ride on a bodaboda (motorcycle taxi) and talking with the bakery staff, who don’t quite seem to understand that you really need the cake by a certain date:
“Hello, I need to order a cake to pick up on Thursday at 11 am.”
“Please, madam, I think Monday the cake will be ready.”
“Well, I actually need it on Thursday.”
“Yes yes, it will be good on Monday.”
All that to say, I still think it will take me a while before I really know how to do my job well. I continue to mess up, quite frequently. But I do love it. Serving as the Executive Assistant is giving me a comprehensive understanding of how IJM operates, at both a 10-yr visionary level and a daily nitty-gritty level. I’ve loved being able to work closely with all the departments at the IJM office here – Interventions, Aftercare, Communications, Investigations, and Church/Community Relations. My co-workers have been complete gems, being so patient with me as I ask them the same questions over…. and over… and over again. I know it’s only been a week… but I think I’m gonna like it here. 🙂