Meaningful Connections

February 27, 2020 | Geneviève, Maîtrise en service social, WUSC, Malawi, Student Refugee Program, SRP Intern

Before arriving in Malawi six weeks ago, I knew I was going on the trip of a lifetime. Having prepared myself internally to enter a new culture, new environment and new me, I thought I was prepared for the experience that was too come. Truth be told, I was never prepared for this. This experience has been life changing for me in so many more ways than one. All of which, has absolutely been for the better.
Upon my arrival in Malawi, I was shocked by the accuracy behind Malawi’s title as “the warm heart of Africa”. Although many people here do not speak English (or French), they never fail to try and be helpful, to say hello, and to be welcoming. That being said, I found out quickly that this level of welcoming energy was also going to be extended to me by those who are not Malawian.

My responsibilities in Malawi include working in Dzaleka Refugee Camp, as a Student Refugee Program (SRP) intern. There, I teach the Canadian life course to refugee students who have been accepted into the program. The refugee camp is where I spend most of my time, and despite it having its hardships (such as a 4 hour daily commute), I would never trade this experience for the world.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been able to get to know my students, as well as many others within the camp, and listen to stories of happiness, resilience, excitement and hardships. I’ve gotten to learn that about their beliefs, and share laughs between us. Furthermore, I’ve gotten to know my supervisor who has been an undying force of support, introspection and kindness.

I have managed to travel around Malawi, to see safaris and beaches, and taste new food. I’ve made new friends throughout the city, as they show me their life, and ask me about mine. I got to taste nsima for the first time (the Malawian national dish), and get dresses made out of chitenge. Yes, all of these experiences has been truly wonderful, and eye opening at times. But my time at Dzaleka, that is the place where my true growth lies.

As I hope I am preparing my students for their new life in Canada, I don’t think they know that they are preparing me for MY new life in Canada. Being as Master’s student in Social Work, I learn about taking on new perspectives and active listening. Although my position includes teaching, I have found that creating meaningful connections with my students has allowed me to truly get to know about their excitement and their fears about moving to Canada, and has allowed me to put my knowledge from school into practice. Malawi…I came to you thinking I was prepared. I fear I may not be able to leave as I will never be the same again.

Movement in making present what is absent

February 26, 2020 | Laurine, Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in Anthropology, Mines Action Canada, Vietnam, Association for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities

I have only been in Vietnam for five and a half weeks. But in this “petit bout d’un monde”, all moments were absolute. The funny thing is that I made the decision to apply for this internship three hours prior to the deadline and had to rush like a crazy maniac the application procedure. I am glad that I was the first yes to the leading epic moving experiences I am having here in Vietnam. Isn’t it crazy though? How that one yes was the trigger point of my story in this “petit bout d’un monde”.

It takes encountering distances and differences to know yourself, or at least have an idea of your position and your place in this fabric of life. And I really like the fact that I, as an intern, have to do this blog post. It is the exercise of forcing to register sensations and impressions, and in a lot ways transform and expand said sensations. Because sensations, yes I had them.

It’s kinda like when I visited a swimming cave in a city nearby Dong Hoi. Halfway through the swim, the guide made us turn off our lamps. And I thought to myself: “Huh! Ok. This is to scare us. Fair enough”. And I realised that that is the point. It is to scare you. Without light, it was just darkness. Pitch black darkness. And you think you are alone but you’re not. Never. Because that’s not all there was. In that darkness, there was also movement! So many sensations and impressions going on all at once. The icy cold water moving you. Me trying so hard to catch up to the rest of the group because of my leg cramp. The many spiders and bats flying over our heads. The clear remnants of what time can do to a space with the height of the rock formations creating amazing echoes etc.

In that moment I had to ask myself what catches the eye in such a huge and coded space of signs and symbols. If I concentrate only on my hearing in the city of Dong Hoi, I have to do a huge job of deciphering what is camouflaged. I have to pay attention to what is coded in this saturation of meaning. If I were to draw or describe Dong Hoi, it would be by noise. Encountering sound in the absence of sight.

In that cave, it took subtraction of light, just for a moment, to be able to make more present those hidden perceptions and sensations. Touch, sound and smell. Even when you think nothing is happening, that there’s only darkness and that nothing seems familiar, that’s not true because something and everything is always happening. Continuing and expanding. Everything all at once. You take away your main point of contact (your compass) to make out the world and all of a sudden, the other senses seem to peek through. And those senses and perceptions were always there. The potential was always there. It is only a matter of how to get access to them.

The absence of sight (my compass) transformed not things, because they were already there, but my perception and my sensitivity to and of these things. I had to be open to what that absence of something familiar would bring me. Just like I had to be open to the disorientation that came with the absence of my familiar and accustomed scripted settings (school, work and family) back in Ottawa.

Swimming in an icy cold water and pitch black cave in Vietnam was for me a moment of bliss. And that’s when it hit me. I felt the same way when I got the acceptance email to go to Vietnam, or everytime I told friends and family I was coming here and their faces lit up with joy and excitement for me, or when I attended a staff lunch party on my first day working for AEPD (Association for Empowerment for People with Disability) and how everyone was so welcoming, or when the locals and expats invite Zoe (the other intern that came here with me and that’s from UOttawa as well) and I to eat out with them or to their homes.

You know, it’s like when something surprises you, it never really is a surprise because it seems so familiar and it resonates so well. You’re being reminded of something that was already there, that you already knew. I chose to talk about this short moment of bliss I had so far away in a cave somewhere deep in a jungle in Vietnam because there is simply too much to talk about. So much has happened in such a short amount of time and space that I decided to grasp this captured moment in this “petit bout d’un et de monde” and see how it relates to the grand scheme of things.

Life in the Carnival Kingdom

February 25, 2020 | Max, Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in International Development and Globalization, Mines Action Canada, Trinidad & Tobago, Women's Institute for Alternative Development, Disarmament Program Support Office

When most Canadians think of the Caribbean, they might picture the white sandy beaches home to all-inclusive resorts that are flooded by cruise ship-loads of tourists. Trinidad is admittedly not this. On the surface, Trinidad is heavily industrial, and at times might feel overwhelming from the staggering tropical heat, the incessant traffic and seemingly non-stop noise. Only a few weeks into my stay however, I began to get an immense appreciation for the passion and pride of the people, the natural beauty, and the fascinating cultural landscape of this twin island republic.

I chose Trinidad and Tobago, because of how little most people (including myself) know/knew about it. Many would be surprised to find out about the significant cultural and ethnic diversity here as a direct result of the country’s complicated colonial past. Trinidad and Tobago was colonized at one point by nearly every major colonial power. As a result, a wide array of different religions, ethnicities, and cultural traditions are represented here. Trinidad and Tobago’s carnival, one of the island’s most acclaimed celebrations, is a perfect example of this blend of cultures and traditions.

When I first got here, people were very eager to tell me how visibly other cultures are represented here, and how commonplace it is for people to celebrate each other’s religious holidays/traditions, and even pray at each other’s places of worship; something which I found very interesting given how little some people interact with people of different cultures back in Canada.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival is easily one of the island’s biggest events of the whole year. When I first arrived, everyone told me that I picked the best time of year to visit. Carnival season starts right after Christmas, and it’s said that during the year, you’re either celebrating it, or reminiscing about how good the previous year’s festivities were. I recently participated in J’ouvert, Carnival’s opening celebrations that begin around 4AM, which involves parading through the streets covering yourself in mud and paint until the sun comes up. This was truly an experience I will never forget, and it was incredible to witness the energy and excitement as the streets come alive during this time.

Trinidad and Tobago is seen both as developed and developing at the same time. The country has the third highest GDP per capita in North America, thanks to a well developed oil and natural gas industry. However, in recent years due to the decline in oil prices, and a host of other factors, the economy has seen relatively little growth. As with many countries, this inequality of income can be drastic and very visible. There are many neighbourhoods here that host large mansions and driveways full of Porsches, BMWs and Mercedes, while only a few blocks over, there are single-room wooden shacks with tin roofs.

This duality of development can lead to logistical challenges as well. I recently had a meeting with the High Commission of Canada where they told me that due to T&T not being on the list of ODA countries, they are unable to provide funding directly for local initiatives, even in areas that may not be getting adequate funding from the local government. This is especially challenging in parts of the country that are more susceptible to natural disasters and severe flooding.

I am here as an intern with the Women’s Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD), working as a Disarmament Program Support Officer. Although WINAD is a relatively small NGO, their impact is comparatively large. When I am out in public with my supervisor, I am always surprised with how many people recognize her and commend her for the work that she is doing.

Already at the halfway point, I am excited to continue seeing different parts of the island, and learn more about the unique cultural experiences Trinidad and Tobago has to offer. When I first arrived, it felt like I was taking a big step into the unknown. It’s true that there are always challenges when you enter a new environment; however, I am grateful to have been welcomed graciously into Trini life by a caring and thoughtful group of people.

I love living here !

February 25, 2020 | Lusa, Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in International Development and Globalizationand Minor in Women's Studies, Uniterra, Vietnam, The Saigon Tourist Hospitality College (STHC), Communications and Marketing Officer

I know many students write this, but it really is difficult to put into words how amazing my experience here has been. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is like nowhere I’ve ever been in my life, there are many differences from Ottawa and I can confidently say that I haven’t found one that I dislike. Coming to a new place, especially one on the other side of the world with a completely different way of life, culture, and language can be overwhelming at times. But I’ve found this place to be incredible. The people are some of the most welcoming I’ve ever met and there’s always something to do. The city is incredibly lively, with 9 million people, there’s always someone new to meet or talk to.

As someone who loves cities, I love living here. It’s a concrete jungle with various parks which have trees easily as tall as skyscrapers. Whenever I feel tired of being surrounded by buildings, I take a trip, 7 minutes on the back of a motorbike, to any of these parks and instantly feel at peace. When I wanted more of a break, I took a bus 5 hours to Mũi Né a beautiful town on the beach with sand dunes that I would definitely recommend to anyone coming to Vietnam!

I’ve made many friends whom I spend time with and feel very close to, they really helped me to settle in and learn how this culture and city works. They’ve also helped me to really immerse myself in the way of life here, so while culture shock is definitely a real thing, I’ve been able to quickly adjust within my first few weeks and feel very settled.

I arrived close to the beginning of Tết or Vietnamese Lunar New Year, which gave me the opportunity to experience the biggest holiday in Vietnam. Characterized by gift giving, wishes of happiness, beautiful decorations, and lots of delicious food. I feel so grateful to have been given the chance to celebrate with the people here as it was an amazing experience. Visiting the huge and beautiful Tết flower gardens with Zoe and Laurine who are also completing their international internships in Vietnam, was easily one of my favourite adventures. As well, as being invited to dinner with my boss’s family.

Working with Uniterra and the Saigon Tourist Hospitality College as a communications officer makes this experience even more engaging and eye opening. I chose to apply for this position because I really wanted to practice and grow my professional communication skills in an international environment where I would be challenged. And, it definitely has been a challenge, working in a cross-cultural environment where the majority of my colleagues speak a different language can be daunting at times. But I came with determination to push the boundaries of my comfort zone and I’m so glad I did. Everyday I’m learning, growing, and truly becoming a stronger person, both physically from carrying 12 litres at a time of water from the store to my apartment and emotionally.

The skills I’ve learned here and the growth I’ve had will stay with me forever and I can’t wait to return to Ho Chi Minh City as soon as I can.

A Life Changing Experience in Malawi

February 25, 2020 | Taylor, Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in International Development and Globalization, Uniterra Malawi, program officer

Malawi has been nothing short of amazing over these past 6 weeks, living and working in Lilongwe. I have wanted to complete an internship abroad for a very long time, and when the opportunity arose for this 3 month internship I had no clue how life changing the experience would be.

The WUSC Malawi country team has been so welcoming of me in the office, my position as Communications Officer is one that I was unfamiliar with before arriving in Lilongwe, but I have learned so much about public outreach and networking for NGOs. Not to mention, colleagues have shared new perspectives about International Development that have helped me compare and contrast what I am taught in school and how it is applied in the field

Deciding to experience living away from home for the first time in a developing country has had its challenges, but by working through those challenges I am left with a feeling of the highest autonomy I have ever felt in my life. I have responsibilities like doing my own groceries, except with the added hurdle of food I have never cooked with before, and doing my laundry, except in the rainy season when I have to hang my clothes on the line outside to dry, and using public transportation around a city I have never seen before. Just these small minuscule hurdles have helped me learn that I do have the power within me to embrace new challenges and adapt to a new way of living. Living independently has also given me the opportunity to feel like I can sustain myself in my future and upon my return to Canada.

Malawi has made this new found autonomy a smooth transition with first and foremost the friendliness of their culture! Everyone in Malawi is always wanting to stop and have a conversation, and the community is so tight knit that you may be surprised at how much you are still welcomed into it, it truly is the “warm heart of Africa”. I have taken advantage of all that the Malawian culture and day to day living has to offer including: learning to speak Chichewa (their national language), frequenting the local vegetable market for my fresh produce, eating popular Malawian food such as nsima, and riding the mini-bus to work every day.

Malawi also has many traveling destinations that have brightened my stay here! I have gone on a true African safari in Liwonde National Park where I saw so much of Malawi’s beautiful wildlife, and I swam in lake Malawi while enjoying my time at the beach! Overall, this experience thus far has reassured my plan for a career in International Development in my future!

I will be back

February 19, 2020 | Danielle, Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in Criminology, AFS Interculture, Ghana, Human Righst Advocacy Centre

Since my very first week in Ghana, people have been asking me if I will be coming back after my three months. After only a few days I could confidently say that yes, I will be back. Although it is unfortunate that I won’t have the chance to visit the surrounding countries like Togo, Côte d’Ivoire or Burkina Faso, Ghana has more than plenty to discover. Driving an hour outside of Accra, you can already see a very different culture or even on my daily drives to work I am always seeing new things.

As Canadians, people always refer to us as nice but compared to Ghanaians, we don’t stand a chance. From the moment I arrived, I have been greeted with open arms by some of the kindest people I have met. My host family has a major role in my life here and I am so incredibly thankful for embracing me as part of their family, so much so that we are already planning their visit to Canada. With the help of my host family and colleagues, I have been able to learn and immerse myself in the Ghanaian culture which has included many new experiences and new foods.

I chose this specific internship because of the NGO: The Human Rights Advocacy Centre, and I was right to do so. Through the Centre, I have been able to discover the roles and functions of true grassroot activism. HRAC has had a positive impact in ensuring the rights of all Ghanaian citizens through mechanisms of legal aid, awareness, empowerment, advocacy and research. Whilst overcoming the challenges of being a non-profit organization, HRAC continues to fight for equality and protection of the vulnerable and marginalized.

These past six weeks have definitely brought a whole set of challenges like adjusting to a new culture, building a network and finding my purpose but overcoming these one by one has helped me on my journey to personal growth. I now have a routine and feel more comfortable getting around and doing things by myself. Some days have gone by much faster than others but looking back on these past six weeks; they flew by. Having just returned from a weekend trip to the beach, I am rejuvenated and ready to tackle these next six weeks that will be filled with more learning, exploring and making the absolute most of my time here.

Chaos of Adapting Forces

February 14, 2020 | Zoe, Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in Conflict Studies and Human Rights, Mines Action Canada, Vietnam, Vietnam, Association for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilitie, support officer

As most other students have said on the blog posts, there’s no way to accurately put this amazing experience into words. Arriving to a whole new country without being familiar with any traditions, culture, or even language can be such an overwhelming experience. Fortunately, Vietnamese people are the warmest, nicest, most welcoming and just overall kind people I have ever met in my life. The way they genuinely care about the well-being of anyone, even strangers, is something I was not at all expecting when I arrived here. Almost everyone is ready to help us if we have any questions or if we need any help. In terms of culture shock, my coworkers are more than willing to explain certain traditions in order to understand the culture and the history of Vietnam.

I have had the honour of being here during the Vietnamese New Year (Tết) and I have experienced the opening ceremony, the closing ceremony, and extensive celebrations between those two. We were even invited to our supervisor’s house to make traditional Vietnamese cakes they make for the New Year with her father. These experiences are ones that I will forever treasure.

What I did not expect from the experience is to what point the chaos of adapting forces you to learn so much about yourself and what you’re capable of. I found out I am a much stronger person that I could have ever imagined. Being in a foreign country shows you exactly how resourceful and quick-thinking you can be. Not only will I come back with amazing memories, but also a sense of wisdom a normal semester at university does not give you.

Time is slipping by and I feel as if I’m just finally getting settled. Every day I observe something new, or I learn something else about this country. What’s for certain is that I won’t forget the extensive amount of plants and trees that decorate the little streets of the city and almost make it look like a little jungle. I won’t forget the tenderness I see in the grandfathers and fathers taking care of the kids as they run around the streets or attempt to learn how to ride a bike. I won’t forget how the owner and the employees of the bubble tea place close to my work always come outside to wave hello every time I pass by. I won’t forget the table full of elderly men who seem to be always playing card games (whether it be day or night) on the walk back to my place. I won’t forget the little city bustling with kindness, colour and life I have the honour to spend three months in. I won’t ever, ever forget Dong Hoi.

Working at the Forum of Federations

February 14, 2020 | Maha, Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in International Development and Globalization, Forum of Federations, Ethiopia

My name is Maha, I am a fourth Student at the University of Ottawa, studying in the International Development and Globalization program. I am also, a 21year old Sudanese- Canadian immigrant currently interning at the Forum of Federations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I chose Ethiopia and the Forum of Federations for many reasons, one of them being that I felt that as a Sudanese person, Ethiopia would be a relatable option for me, I also plan on working in Africa after graduation so it made sense. I wasn’t wrong about this, I look like most people here, and as I’ve previously lived in Sudan, I am able to cope with many of the lifestyle changes which I’ve experienced here. I chose to intern at the Forum of Federations, because they’re an organization working to encourage better governance, federalism and gender equality, all subjects which are of interest to me.

I cannot honestly say that my experience here has been completely without fault, because I did struggle for the first week or so and I continue to face small hindrances, but I’ve learned to cope with them. This is my first time being on my own, and to have it be half way across the world from my family was hard. Ethiopian people make this a lot easier, I have never lived among a group of people who are this kind, giving or willing to help. They have taught me how to get by here, what to do, where to go, what modes of transportation to take and even what to wear. I decided to make myself a blank slate, ready to learn, to cope and to thrive while I’m here. I haven’t regretted this decision thus far.

I’ve just ended my fifth week here in Ethiopia, and I have to say that I am beyond happy with my placement. I applied to this position on a whim, and honestly it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my adult life. I feel myself growing more and more everyday, not only am I developing better social skills, and cultivating my independence, but I am also networking and learning from an extremely knowledgeable and large network of people. Everyday here feels like a new learning opportunity, and although my role in the organization is not by any means large, they have made me feel as if I am an integral part of their team, I’ve learned to work so harmoniously with a group of people I met a mere month ago.

This experience is also an extremely significant part of my learning experience due to the fact that I, one day, hope to work in Africa. I have a strong connection with the continent, due it being my first home, and a place which I think is overflowing with potential. Being privileged enough to have spent most of my life, living and learning in Canada has only strengthened my love for my country (Sudan) and Africa in general.

All that I have learned in school and continue to learn have also influenced this idea as well. This isn’t a continent that needs my saving, or my knowledge, but I feel that I owe it to my country and my continent Africa to not contribute to the brain drain. This experience has only solidified my opinions about this choice. I want to learn as much as I can and come home and put it to good use. I believe that our lives belong to us, but that our choices and the outcomes they produce belong to the larger majority, I don’t have a saviour complex, I feel that I have a duty complex. To be able to live the life that I do, to have all of the resources that I have, and the support that I have and just squander them seems like the most selfish decision I could ever make. I am beyond thankful for the life I lead, the experiences I’ve had and the ambition I have towards improving the quality of life for even just one person. Nothing makes me more motivated.

Working at the Forum of Federations, seeing how an NGO in one of Africa’s largest NGO home bases works, is a golden opportunity. I know this experience will teach me, and help me to become a better, more focused development student.

Greetings from Ghana!

February 11, 2020 | Dana-Kaye, Joint Honours in Public Administration and in Political Scienc, AFS Interculture Canada, Ghana, Human Rights Advocacy Center

The beginning of my 5th week here in this beautiful country is upon me and it’s time to reflect on this whirlwind journey these last few weeks have been. Though it was gratifying to leave the blizzards of Ottawa behind for the warmth and sunlight of Ghana, this country has more than beautiful weather. (Though I’m not complaining about having a beach 4 minutes away from my workplace!)

Ghana is full of noise and chaos, beautiful plants, hearty foods and welcoming people. At this point, I’m comfortable with the jerkiness of my daily TroTro (a form of public transport) ride and know the hand signals that represent key destinations for me around Accra. I’m typically able to walk through the streets unnoticed, which allows me to feel like I’m truly part of the Ghanaian society that is hustling and bustling past me: yelling in Twi, carrying their wares on their head or dressed in suits on their way to the office.

I’ve enjoyed experiencing the different beauties this city has to offer immensely. From beaches to restaurants to cultural sites, I love trying them all. One of my favourites was certainly the Nkrumah Memorial and Mausoleum where I learned more about Ghana’s first Prime Minister and President and this country’s journey to becoming the first free state in Sub-Saharan Africa! Standing on top of the Independence star, looking out at this beautiful country and understanding what Ghana’s independence symbolized to the rest of Africa and its diaspora was a singular experience that I’ll always cherish.

While here in Ghana, I’m staying with my host family in a neighbourhood in Accra. Though I’ve lived away from home for the last 3 years, the familiar chaos a large family brings has always been a safe space for me. My host family has provided that in spades. With 4 children, parents, a grandmother, and uncles and aunts galore, the house is never quiet. I find that I spend a lot of my evenings letting my 2-year-old host brother play seesaw on my legs, gossiping with my teenage host sisters or being breathlessly explained the plot of Ben 10 by my 6-year-old host brother. They all keep me very busy. But I don’t mind at all. I also share a room with my German host sister who has been great about showing me around and introducing me to her friends, Ghanaian and otherwise, that she’s met during her year-long stay in the country.

Now, onto Ghanaian food. I won’t lie, my native Jamaican food will always be my favourite and I miss sushi, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the food selection in Ghana. Very rich in potato, fish, cassava and chicken, the cuisine is ultimately comforting and uncomplicated. My favourite dish is certainly Redred which contains one of my favourite foods no matter where I am in the world – plantain. Here in Ghana, people generally eat food with their hands, the right hand to be specific. I think I’m going to miss being able to forgo utensils in a socially acceptable manner when I get back to Canada, it’s an efficient way to eat. And kinda fun.

Now onto the main reason for my foray into Ghana, the internship. Work has been pretty interesting! the Human Rights Advocacy Centre does a lot of interesting work for their community. I’ve gone to conferences, attended meetings with other NGOs and foreign dignitaries and prepared several research reports. I’m currently designing and planning our event for International Women’s Day with a team. I really can’t wait to interact with the students and talk about gender inequality in the classroom and Ghanaian society at large, hopefully engaging the students in these issues in a meaningful way.

I look forward to the next few weeks of my stay which includes trips outside of Accra to some of the surrounding regions. I’m excited to see what else I’ll discover about this beautiful country. My first time in Ghana, and Africa in general, has been a success so far! Though I miss my family and friends, I’ve really been enjoying my time here and am in no hurry to come back to Canada!

Un coucher de soleil, une fin de journée, au revoir chère Thaïlande

January 7, 2020 | Fanta, Maîtrise ès arts Affaires publiques et internationale, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Transnational Organised Crime and Illicit Trafficking - Intern

Mon stage arrive à sa fin et je sens que la Thaïlande va beaucoup me manquer. Au début de mon stage, j’essayais de définir ma position au sein de mon organisation d’accueil, mais à partir de maintenant, je pense pouvoir dire que définir ma place est certes importante, mais faire preuve d’ouverture d’esprit et de flexibilité encore plus. Tandis que je voulais donner clairement un titre à ma position, je ne me rendais pas compte de la chance que j’avais de toucher à tous les programmes. Ainsi, lorsqu’on me demandait mon programme d’appartenance, je répondais que je touchais à tout. De plus, du fait que mon superviseur soit le Chef de la division régionale, lorsque certaines équipes avaient besoin de mon aide, je pouvais leur apporter mon soutien.

Le stage avec UNODC m’a permis de mieux comprendre la dynamique au sein d’une organisation internationale et aussi, les défis et les efforts que doivent gérer les employés dans leurs multiples activités. Si au départ j’avais certains doutes sur ce que j’aurais pu vraiment apporter, je me rends compte que ce sont souvent les petits détails que je minimisais tant qui en réalité participent énormément à l’atteinte des objectifs de tous les jours. En tant que Junior Consultant, mon rôle était d’apporter mes compétences intellectuelles et techniques à la réalisation des objectifs de mon organisation tout en ayant un esprit critique et d’ouverture ; ce que j’ai mis en œuvre.

À l’ONU travailler avec multiples partenaires fait partir de la routine et constitue une part importante de la mission de toutes les organisations de l’ONU. L’exemple idéal que j’ai vécu est ma participation à la facilitation d’un séminaire de trois jours organisés par ONUDC à Bangkok où des experts et acteurs de la société civile venus des pays voisins de la Thaïlande se sont réunis pour discuter des enjeux auxquels font face les consommateurs de drogues face à leur vulnérabilité à contracter le VIH/Sida. Durant ce séminaire, j’ai eu l’opportunité de pouvoir écouter directement les personnes concernées par ces enjeux et les experts et étudiants partageant des études et données efficaces contribuant à minimiser les risques pour ces personnes vulnérables, car souvent marginalisées et victimes d’abus, même de la part des autorités publiques de leurs pays.

Par ailleurs, ces quelques mois passés à Bangkok m’ont aussi permis de voyager un peu et de découvrir une partie du Cambodge et ses villages et une partie du Nord de la Thaïlande, qui est assez froide comparée à Bangkok, mais aussi très magnifique et encore à l’abris de toute destruction massive humaine. Je parlais à la gestionnaire de l’hôtel ou j’étais restée puis elle me disait qu’une des montagnes auparavant prisées pour les randonneurs est à présent fermée car les feux de montagnes devenaient très courants durant certaines saisons et souvent les villageois étaient responsables à travers leur culture du champignon. Ce qui a mené à une préservation de deux ans depuis cette année de la montagne. J’ai aussi eu la chance de visiter deux petites iles et de comprendre en quoi le tourisme est une activité ambivalente en termes de développement. En outre, on observe le tourisme responsable ou écolo. On pouvait souvent lire sur des affiches de Party : Plastic free, eco-friendly party, etc.

Par ailleurs, le nombre de services touristiques partout où j’allais montre à quel point le tourisme occupe une place importante dans la vie économique des locaux. Ainsi, les gens essayent de marier le tourisme et la responsabilité environnementale. Avec le concept de « volontourisme », il est très important que nous prenions nos responsabilités partout on nous nous rendons et surtout ne pas avoir une lentille d « ’eux » et « nous » car cela place déjà l’autre dans une position de bénéficiaire satisfait et chanceux. Par exemple, dire que nous sommes chanceux d’avoir de l’eau ou un petit déjeuner avant l’école et les autres sont justes des malheureux du destin limite notre analyse et compréhension des inégalités sociales.

Comprendre le vécu des « autres » permet de mieux saisir les enjeux auxquels ils/elles font face dans leur quotidien et nous pousse à une réflexion plus poussée sur nos propres conceptions et jugements. Ceci ne peut être parfaitement accompli en quelques mois, mais les expériences à l’étranger contribuent à nous ouvrir l’esprit.

À la Thaïlande, ce pays où j’ai eu la chance de découvrir et me de découvrir, nous nous reverrons sans doute.