My Summer Internship With Self-Help International

Madison with the Teen Girls Club

Madison Lapke spent last summer as a Self-Help International intern in Ghana.  She offered to write about her internship experience so we could share what an in-country internship is like with Self-Help International!


Hello! My name is Madison Lapke, and I am currently a senior at Iowa State University studying Global Resource Systems and Agriculture & Society. I spent the summer of 2018 as a nutrition education intern with Self-Help International in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.


I was lucky to spend my time in Ghana, which expanded my opportunities to learn about and experience international development work. The majority of my time with Self-Help International’s programs was spent working toward their mission of sustainable rural development. Self-Help in Ghana has three main program areas: fighting malnutrition through school feeding and maternal-child health programs, improving agriculture through extension-style outreach and the Young Agriculture Entrepreneurship Program, empowering women and girls through the Teen Girls Club and women’s micro-credit program. Each of these programs are connected to one another, yet all have different focuses.


While in the office, I spent my time helping develop and document the year-long curriculums for both Teen Girls Club and the Growing Healthy Food, Growing Healthy Children (aka maternal-child health) programs. Three days a week, we were in the villages leading programs and bettering the communities. For a portion of my internship, I was also able to spend time at a local and very prestigious elementary and junior high school, D&D Academy. While I was there, the headmistress, Mrs. Ado, invited me into their school where I assisted however I could. My help included in-classroom and general housekeeping assistance as well as bonding with the children by spending time with them. From my time at the academy, I gained great friends and the ability to compare the public and rural Ghanaian education system with the privatized and wealthy Ghanaian academy.


Each day I spent working in Ghana, I gained knowledge and found something new to be grateful for. During one of the most memorable days of the trip, we travelled the usual 3 hours to one of the rural villages, Beposo, to offer training for the Teen Girls Club and the maternal-child health program. After teaching 50 girls about self-esteem and being respectful and active citizens in their own communities, we walked to the other end of the village to take

Madison with the twins

height and weight measurements of mothers and their babies to track growth and development. One of the mothers was bedridden, so we made the trek to her home in order to get the information. The mother had just given birth to twin girls, and her older daughter was sick with malaria. Not only is it rare to have twins in that area, but for them both to be alive and healthy was even more extraordinary. She welcomed us into her 10 square foot home and let me hold her newborns. Culturally, women rarely allow people outside of the immediate family to meet infants before they are six weeks old. The encounter made me feel empowered, and I can’t help but think back to that day with gratitude.


We all want to believe we have made an impact on the places we visit. The Ghanaian people gave me so much more than I could have ever given them.  Not only did I gain practical knowledge in the areas of nutrition, education, and agriculture across the globe, but I felt an impact on my personal life as well. I am more comfortable and confident about myself and the way I interact with those around me than I was before. I have also gained a deeper appreciation for the value of hospitality and feeling welcomed and comfortable in a new space.  I have carried that lesson with me after returning to Iowa, and now take the time to reach out and welcome newcomers to the place I live as well.


There is not a doubt in my mind that the couple of months I spent in Ghana will remain some of the most impactful months of my college career. I now have family on the other side of the globe after living all summer with my host family, and have a better sense of the direction I am taking in my professional life. I am incredibly grateful for the knowledge I gained, relationships I made, and the abundant amount of memories I now hold.


Would you like to spend a summer as an intern with Self-Help? Click here to learn more.  Apply by January 10, 2019, for priority consideration.