Jump in !

November 12, 2018 | Charie,International Development and Globalization and Additional Minor - Management, Uniterra, Nepal, Centre for Micofinance, Communication and Documentation Officer

Now that I’m back in Canada, I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on the three months I spent as an intern in Kathmandu, Nepal and what I took away from the experience. I think it’s not so obvious when you’re in the middle of it what you’re learning and how it will change you, even in some small way. It wasn’t until I arrived home that I noticed my perspective was different from when I left, and my time in Nepal will always be a reference point as I continue my studies, learning about economic development and policy aimed at the poor. It has fundamentally changed the way I think about these issues and I think it’s a valuable perspective to have for any student pursuing work related to development.

For instance, I learned that what works in one country may not work in another because of differences in culture, history, institutional structure, and even geography. Its easy to forget to take these factors into consideration when you’re talking broadly about policy and theory at the macro level. ‘Development’ is not just about increasing wealth but increasing quality of life, and that means something different for different communities. Economic development and poverty reduction should not be a one-size-fits-all approach and it is important to keep in mind the realities at the local level.

Another thing that I learned is that when you’re working in a non-profit or local NGO, lack of resources is going to be a constant obstacle to anything you want to accomplish. To make even a small impact takes a lot of work, perseverance and creativity with limited resources. It was interesting to observe how funding streams dictated the work an NGO pursues. I noticed that there were projects the local NGO would prefer to prioritize, but the projects supported by foreign aid were the ones they focused on. There are good reasons why this is the case, but I also have a greater appreciation for the need to consult local NGOs on what their priorities are, as they have a lot more knowledge of what is needed on ground.

And lastly, I learned that I really do like working in the field. The reason I chose to participate in an international internship was to find out if living and working abroad in a developing country is something I would actually enjoy and feel comfortable doing. It’s a different experience than traveling as a tourist because of the linkages you make with the community and the necessity to integrate. I’ll now be able to apply for other opportunities in the future with the confidence of knowing I’ll adapt to a new place and learn along the way. For anyone else interested in interning abroad, I think you should jump in and try it out and you will learn a lot about yourself in the process.

Hello from Myanmar !

November 8, 2018 | Lydia, Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in Public Administration (Co-op) (French Immersion), Myanmar, Forum of Federations, Intern

I arrive in Yangon at night on September 4 and watch the city lights come into view, as I am driven to my hotel room for the night, stomach anticipating an exciting experience interning at the Forum of Federation’s Myanmar office. I am well aware of Myanmar’s reputation in Canada—the Rakhine State crisis, human rights violations, ethno-religious violence, freedom of media are issues well-covered by the Western media. But as with any country, the problems profiled in the media are only one side of the country’s good, bad and ugly. I’m looking forward to exploring as much as I can in the short three months I’ll have and getting some understanding of the way forward being taken in Myanmar.

The Forum was founded in Ottawa in the late 90s and is funded by Canada and a number of partner countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Switzerland). Rather than advocate federalism as a solution, it aims to provide expertise and education on multi-level/devolved governance. It provides development assistance by convening experts and forums as part of its programs in the MENA, and South and Southeast Asia regions. The Myanmar country office has been running since 2012 and has been successful in implementing a number of training programs, working with local actors and partners from across sectors. The current program aims to enhance federal democracy, stability, and inclusiveness in Myanmar by enabling political stakeholders in the country to make informed decisions about Myanmar’s future state structure, by informing them about federal options, and by increasing engagement of citizens and civil society, including ethnic minority and women’s groups.

When the British retreated out of Burma during World War II, they adopted a scorched earth policy, which still has wide-ranging political and economic effects. The country gained independence in 1948 but has been trying to deal with wide-ranging interests and perspectives since. The first elections were held in 2010, but, constitutionally, 25% of seats are reserved for the military. The various Ethnic Armed Organizations which have been fighting the central military for decades having only signed a landmark Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in 2015. Myanmar is still at the beginning of the peace and democratization process.

As a public administration major, it’s been really interesting to see how federalism topics are taught and applied in a country where the state institutions are in the process of being built. It’s easy to take conventions and institutions of a democracy for granted, growing up in Canada, where most situations and decisions have some political precedent at this point. Our Canadian institutions, though still young, have been evolving and building since before Confederation over 150 years ago, and have been largely untouched by war or significant civil unrest.

There are many ways in which Canada and Myanmar are similar. Both countries have an abundance of natural resources, both are bordered by larger often dominating countries, both are home to many diverse peoples. In Myanmar, there are over 100 ethnic races that speak over 100 languages and dialects. Although Buddhism is the majority religion, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and other religions are also alive here. In the mountainous regions, a village at the top may speak a different language than a village at the bottom of a hill. It’s no wonder that participants at workshops are always very interested in the Quebec experience when Canada is spoken about, as an example of unity and diversity. Canada’s ongoing history with indigenous people, however, may serve as a different type of example.

But what I am learning as I meet with and speak to more people here, is that people are trying. Different individuals, organizations, groups, institutions are all working towards a prosperous and peaceful nation in the future. My hope is that this future becomes one where the diversity and beauty of Myanmar’s peoples can be represented.

It’s only been five weeks…

November 7, 2018 | Charie,International Development and Globalization and Additional Minor - Management, Uniterra, Nepal, Centre for Micofinance, Communication and Documentation Officer

It’s only been five weeks of living in Kathmandu, Nepal and I feel like I’ve gotten so much from the experience already. I’m interning at the Center for Microfinance, a local non-profit that works to improve the microfinance sector in Nepal through workshops and trainings, networking, and research. I studied microfinance as a development tool through my undergraduate coursework before applying for this position, so I was thrilled when I saw the opportunity available and even more so when I was accepted. This position has given me my first real-world application of what I’ve been learning, for a purpose I find meaningful and worthwhile.

For those in the bottom quartile of incomes in Nepal, credit and financial services like savings or insurance are inaccessible through formal channels. They do not qualify for loans at a traditional bank given that the poorest don’t have collateral or a credit history. So credit is obtained through informal markets, such as ‘loan sharks’ or community pooling, when possible. But still, many are left even more vulnerable to economic shocks without access to funds in case of emergency. They also lose out on the small investments they could be making into their work. It’s been really nice hearing the success stories and the impact they’ve had on the most marginalized in Nepali society—particularly women. Some of my favorite times here so far have been the discussions with my colleagues, who have many years’ experience in not just microfinance but development generally. They have great stories to tell and first-hand information to share, and it inspires me to pursue development work myself.

To my surprise, I haven’t found it particularly difficult to integrate and adapt to my new environment, and I owe much of this to the kindness and support shown to me by the staff at CMF and CECI. There is a great program in place that covers all the bases for a new intern, and I can’t think of anything else I could have needed that they didn’t already make available to me. I’ve settled into a familiar 9-to-5 daily routine of going to work, commuting home and eating dinner, and then I’m left with evenings and weekends free for exploring the city or planning short trips outside of Kathmandu. I’ve been able to spend a weekend in Pokhara so far—which I highly recommend to any future interns going to Nepal—and the Chandragiri hills, which when it’s clear has a view of the Himalayan ranges from Annapurna to Everest. I have a list of other places to see that have been recommended to me by colleagues and locals that I’d like to check off. There are so many, though, I hope I can see them all in the next 6 weeks!

Dakar Dem Dikk

November 5, 2018 | Sophia, Specialization - International Development and Globalization, Uniterra, Sénégal, Conseil national de concertation et de coopération des ruraux (CNCR), Conseillère en égalité entre les hommes et les femmes

“Dakar Dem Dikk” is the Dakar equivalent to OC Transpo in Ottawa. “Dem Dikk” means “go and come back” and I think that that sums up how I’m feeling with a month to go in my internship - like I just left and its already time to come back. This has been the fastest two months of my life! Every day has brought a new experience both positive and negative, but an experience I cherish nonetheless. Getting the opportunity to actually live in a foreign country as opposed to simply visiting has given me a completely different understanding of life here. I feel very lucky to have gotten this opportunity. Getting accustomed to a culture and a different way of life took me a little while but once it happened, my experience here got so much better.

While in Dakar, I have visited many beautiful place in and around the city including the Pink Lake, l’Île de Gorée, l’Île de Madeleine and I even got the chance to go scuba diving. Dakar has some stunning places to visit with views and scenery almost breathtaking enough to distract you from the Senegalese heat. I have made friends through contacts and at work who have contributed to making my visits to these beautiful landmarks even more memorable. These are relationships I will never forget.

However, as much as I appreciate the beauty of the places I’ve visited, some of my favourite moments have consisted of just simple day to day activities. For instance, I got the chance to play in a soccer game with my colleagues. The office got together to play and it was an experience I am so glad to have gotten. I am passionate about sport and once again, this game showed me how sport can bring people together regardless of language barriers and cultural differences. Another special moment for me was when my co-worker, Mariem, who I usually share a taxi with on the way home, brought me with her to see an apartment she was thinking of renting. This excursion gave me the opportunity to see a part of Dakar I would never have seen otherwise. It let me experience life in Dakar differently than I could have on my own. I walked around dirt roads and through hidden neighbourhoods that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It sounds like an insignificant moment but it left me feeling lucky. The chance to live in Dakar has let me experience what day to day life is like and its quite an amazing contrast to normal tourism. It is funny how sometimes it is the littlest things that have the biggest impacts.

As with all places in the world, there is kindness and there is animosity here. However, the animosity I have experienced has been heavily outweighed by the kindness. There is a welcoming aspect to Senegalese culture that cannot be ignored. A common response to thank you in Senegal is ‘On est ensemble’ meaning ‘we are together’ and it really feels like among the Senegalese population, this is the reality. There is a feeling of comradery and community that I have not experienced or witnessed in Canada. For instance, there was a celebration/fund raising activity for a religious celebration called Magal de Touba and the gathering for this happened right outside my house. There were hundreds of people gathered for the whole day. They ate together, prayed together and just spent time together. At the end of the night there was knock on my door and someone had brought a big plate of food for me and my housemates to eat with them. The invitation to come eat with people has been very common during the past two month. It is this kind of hospitality and generosity that I will remember and that will stick with me for life. It is a different mentality than at home and one that I hope I am able to bring with me upon my return.

I have more to say but this blog post is getting pretty long! This has been a fantastic 8 weeks and I’m looking forward to what the next 4 have to offer as well!

5 weeks left

October 23, 2018 | Alexia, Honours in International Development and Globalization, Uniterra, Tanzanie, Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA), Youth Entrepreneurship Officer

I have been in Tanzania for 7 weeks now and let me tell you this, it is incredible. The country is such a big contrast compared to the Canadian lifestyle, however, you get used to it really quickly. The first week the Uniterra Tanzania staff take you under their wing showing you where to go grocery shopping, how to travel in the city, and how life in general in Tanzania works. The team was so considerate I did not feel overwhelmed at all! They are truly good in helping you integrate into society.

Arusha, the city I am placed in, is very lively. During the day there are the merchants bustling about and at night all the restaurants our open for your leisure. There is even quite a bit of night life if that is a thing that interests you. Also, during the weekends there are a lot of one-day excursions you can do for relatively cheap! Nature in Tanzania is very vibrant. It goes from desert plains, to huge mountains, to forests that could be compared to the rain forest. Furthermore, there is a considerable number of hiking groups here in Arusha that allows you to see things you otherwise would not. One weekend we were hiking and we could see Kilimanjaro appear over the desert, it was amazing!

Now that I have provided you with a tiny glimpse of what Tanzania is like outside of the workplace let me share how it is inside. My mandate is taking place at the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture (TCCIA). This organization is like any other chamber of commerce you might encounter in Canada. However, it is responsible for all sectors of business and not just one, as we are normally used to seeing. For my mandate I have been entrusted in categorizing all the services that TCCIA Arusha offers. Now that I am starting my 7th week everything is coming together, which is a very satisfying feeling. Furthermore, TCCIA Arusha has brought me along while they were doing field work in the different districts of Arusha. These excursions allowed me to discover one of the main industries here in Tanzania, which is agriculture. During these work trips we get to go meet the farmers and talk about the challenges they are facing, but you also get to see how the farming is done. Machines are barely used here so mostly everything is done by hand, which is quite exceptional to witness. Having always wanted to help people in life, knowing that my role in TCCIA could make their jobs a little bit easier thrills me.

Having the capability of seeing what we speak about in class is eye opening. All the theories you learn in class could be applied here depending on the circumstances. Of course you cannot change the country while you here, neither do you have the authority to walk up to someone and tell them what they are doing is wrong. There is quite the contrast when comparing the supposedly right method of doing things like we learn about in school and then what they are doing here. You see the power dynamics between the classes and the genders and you can do your part by supporting the women or the lower class while you are buying your groceries, but it is hard to do more. However, it is interesting to have internal conversations with yourself or with your fellow volunteers about what you have seen and how you would change things if you had the capacity of doing so. Being out in the field is really great experience and I would definitely recommend doing at least one placement while in school. It gives you a different perspective then just the theoretical one.

Now that I have 5 weeks left, hopefully they go by slowly because I am not ready to leave just yet. Tanzania is really a remarkable country filled with exceptional people. I want to be able to absorb as much as I can because who knows if I will ever have the opportunity to come back, I sure wish I will.

Un bagage d’expériences enrichissantes

October 22, 2018 | Florence, Joint Honours in Communication and in Political Science, Forum des fédérations Tunisie, Région MENA, Intern

Dès mon arrivée à l’aéroport Tunis-Carthage, j’ai été prise par un environnement chaotique et désorganisée, ce qui peut être accablant après 12 heures de voyage et peu d’heures de sommeil. Simplement pour rejoindre la voiture de la personne qui me raccompagnerait chez moi, nous devions passer à travers un embouteillage entremêlé de klaxons bruyants et d’échanges agressifs, dans une langue qui m’est toujours inconnue, sans oublier le poids lourd de la chaleur d’été ressenti sur mes épaules. Ce fut sans aucun doute une arrivée plutôt abracadabrante ! Il est donc fort possible d’imaginer la nervosité que j’avais de commencer mon stage le lendemain matin…

Tout d’abord, mon stage en Tunisie est dans le bureau d’une organisation non gouvernementale canadienne qui se nomme le Forum des Fédérations. Cette organisation a mise en place un projet d’une durée d’environ 6 ans qui couvre trois pays de la région MENA (Middle Eastern and North African region) : Tunisie, Maroc et Jordanie. Ce projet consiste sur l’autonomisation des femmes pour des rôles de leadership. C’est un projet qui mise sur l’égalité entre les hommes et les femmes, la gouvernance inclusive ainsi que sur le leadership féminin.

Plus précisément, mon stage consiste à organiser ou bien prendre part à des activités de formation, des conférences, des journées de sensibilisation et autres, en but d’outiller les femmes leaders actuellement en postes à rendre l’accessibilité de ceux-ci à plus de femmes ainsi qu’à assurer la présence du concept d’égalité de genre. Ce projet a aussi pour but d’outiller la future génération de leaders (étudiants universitaires, femmes dans les partis politiques, etc.) à faire de même tout au long de leur carrière et emplois futurs. Mis à part les activités, mon stage consiste à de la rédaction de rapports narratifs et informels récapitulant les objectifs du projet, les indicateurs de sa réussite, mais plus spécifiquement ses avancements et impacts sur les publics cibles.

Par la suite, lorsque je repense à ma première impression de Tunis, je suis maintenant capable de dire que la société est un peu chaotique par moment par sa grande désorganisation, mais que c’est ce qui fait aussi son charme. L’ambiance des rues n’est jamais ennuyante, il y a toujours du mouvement et du bruit. Aussi, ses petites rues de labyrinthe permettent de faire des découvertes inattendues et très divertissantes.

De peur de ma première impression générale, j’étais assez nerveuse de commencer mon stage. À présent, contrairement à l’image extérieure d’une ville désorganisée et d’un pays ayant d’énormes enjeux sociaux, j’ai été surprise de l’organisation, de l’investissement, de la vivacité, de la persévérance et de l‘assiduité de mes deux collègues en ce qui concerne le projet. Elles veulent que les mentalités changent et veulent faire partie de ce changement.

Bref, jusqu’à ce jour, je ne cesse d’apprendre de ce mandat, tant du côté professionnel que personnel. C’est un bagage d’expériences enrichissantes qui me suivra dans tout ce que j’entreprendrai dans l’avenir.

The Time is Now!

October 22, 2018 | Maegen, Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in International Development and Globalization and Minor in Management, Uniterra Vietnam, Saigon Tourism Hospitality College, Events Planning and Communication Intern

I’m in Vietnam now and it’s everything I ever dreamed it would be – what’s even better is I’m here doing what I love. This experience has taught me a lot about myself, shifting perspectives you realize that there is a joy too.

Life is changing and becoming new everyday. I am so much more aware of the simple pleasures that life brings. I’m soaking in everything I can about what connects me here: the people, understanding the type of love that requires nothing not even words. Sharing a meal, a warm smile from my neighbours. Making time to really listen and not just waiting to speak. I feel so humbled and grateful for the small lessons I will take back to Canada with me. Nothing is ever how you expect it to be it somehow manages to be better; because you get to live it. Better because you are here.

Of course it all hasn’t been a dream, it has had its ups and down however, I must thank the challenges I have gone through. Through these challenges, I have grown gaining confidence and independence within myself. There were times were I felt lonely coming home to a dark room is as isolating as it would be anywhere. Especially in a place where the cultural norms and language is so different. Missing out on social cues and punchlines, having to ask a million questions only to have a million more; however, these moments were only. Opportunity to learn, gain a deeper understand of the culture as well, a different perspective on life.

This experience challenges me in many ways. Being able to put my knowledge learned in lectures into practical experience, learning new skills I never thought I would. The practical skills I learned cannot compare to the lesson I learned on this internship about myself. I have been pushed out of my comfort zone, opened my mind to new perspectives, ways of do things and, gaining independence through my journey.

I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and would recommend for other students to go on an internship abroad.

Il ne reste que 6 semaines!!!

October 22, 2018 | Émilie, Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in Conflict Studies and Human Rights, AFS Ghana, HRAC, Advocacy/Research Assistant

Cela fait 6 semaines que je suis à Accra, au Ghana et je m’y plais énormément. Le plus dur était au début, car je me sentais très différente et un peu perdue dans ce nouveau pays. L’arrivée est le moment où il faut apprendre beaucoup de choses en même temps de devoir s’intégrer. Par exemple, il faut apprendre comment interagir socialement, comment se déplacer dans la ville, quelles sont les règles de politesse, etc. Jusqu’à présent, la première semaine d’arrivée est le moment de mon expérience qui était le plus gros défi.

Maintenant que je suis à Accra depuis 1 mois et demi je me sens bien adaptée et je réalise qu’il est temps pour moi de sortir un peu plus de la ville et de faire des excursions de fin de semaine. J’ai fait des journées d’excursion, mais je veux maintenant partir pour des voyages de fin de semaine, afin de sortir encore de ma zone de confort. Même si au début du voyage j’étai un peu déstabilisé, je réalise que j’ai aimé cela et je veux donc retourner à ce sentiment, en explorant plus le pays. Je dirais que c’est ce que j’apprécie le plus de mon expérience jusqu’à présent : le fait de changer d’environnement et de toujours devoir apprendre de nouveau. En seulement 6 semaines, je considère cette expérience extrêmement enrichissante.

De plus, j’ai tissé des liens avec des Ghanéens vraiment extraordinaire qui me font visiter et découvrir la culture plus en profondeur. Pour moi, cela est vraiment ce qui rend mon séjour ici incroyable. Je pense qu’il est important de nouer des relations avec des gens du pays d’accueil afin d’avoir une plus grande immersion dans le pays. Accra est une ville à découvrir. Il y a beaucoup d’activités à faire et d’endroits à aller. Cependant, si je ne m’étais pas fait des amis ghanéens, je n’aurais jamais été mise au courant de ces coins agréables. Certains endroits que j’ai visités n’ont pas de site internet. Aussi, la ville est située sur le bord de la mer ce qui est vraiment agréable. Le climat est chaud, mais il y a toujours un vent qui rafraichit légèrement. La mer est accessible et gratuite pour tous, sauf qu’elle est polluée. Pour aller se baigner à une plage qui est propre, il faut soit sortir d’Accra ou bien payer pour accéder à une plage nettoyée. Cela reste qu’il est agréable de se promener au bord de la plage et de s’installer dans un des petits restaurants, les pieds dans le sable.

La culture ghanéenne est très forte et, en général, les Ghanéens s’attendent à ce que les gens de l’extérieur soient ouverts d’esprit et essayent les plats traditionnels (comme le fufu – en préparation sur la photo). Ils apprécient énormément quand les gens s’intéressent à leur culture et apprennent quelques mots des langues locales, comme le Twi ou le Gan.

Il ne me reste que 6 semaines ici et j’ai l’impression que je vais manquer de temps pour faire tout ce que je désire. Je réalise que c’est une expérience précieuse, qu’il faut en profiter au maximum et simplement apprécier chaque moment. Bref, je crois que le plus important est vraiment de ne pas hésiter à essayer des nouvelles choses, aller à la rencontre des gens et à sortir de sa zone de confort pour vivre une expérience complète et enrichissante.

…more than just passing through

September 18, 2018 | Sophia, Specialization - International Development and Globalization, Uniterra, Sénégal, Conseil national de concertation et de coopération des ruraux (CNCR), Conseillère en égalité entre les hommes et les femmes

To start this post I would like to give a little bit of information about my internship. I am in Dakar, Senegal. I was sent with Uniterra and my host organization here is CECI. My partner organization is called the CNCR and I am working in EFH (Égalité femmes-hommes) or gender equality. Before leaving for this internship I had very little information. I was very stressed because I didn’t know what was going to happen once I arrived in Senegal. I didn’t know what my living arrangement was going to be, I didn’t know what I was going to eat in the first days here, I didn’t know where I’d be sleeping, etc.

If you’re having any of the same worries, let me help. When I arrived in Senegal I was greeted by a man from my host organization CECI. He had a sign and was easy to find. He brought me to his car where he had an information booklet for me and an itinerary for the next few days. He brought me a water bottle and a box of juice. He asked if I was hungry, I was not but if I had been, I’m sure he would have found me something to eat that night before going to sleep. From the airport he brought me to what I now call home. The volunteer house in Dakar has security outside 24/7 and a woman who is there during the day who cleans and fixes up the house. She will change your sheets once a week, she will help you get a taxi for a local price and she will greet you with a friendly smile every day. The house has a nice living room with a small TV and a couch. A dining room with a large table and chairs. There is a computer and internet. There is a big kitchen that is quite well stocked with cooking materials, although you will have to buy your own groceries. Luckily, there is a grocery store very close by. There are 4 bedrooms with air conditioning. One bedroom has a bathroom in it but otherwise, the other bathroom is just down the hall.

The next day, I was picked up by CECI again and brought to the CECI office. At the office I was introduced to the people who work there and who I had been put in contact with a few weeks prior. You will be able to put faces to the names in your email inbox. This day I brought in my contract and boarding passes. We went to get something to eat and then I was dropped off at home to rest until the next day. The CECI office is full of great resources and people who are very willing to help you.

The next day I got a tour of the city. I was driven around and shown the city quickly by car. The CECI staff helped me get a SIM card for my phone and they took me grocery shopping for the first time. You are able to find almost everything food wise in Dakar, except for potatoes and pork. They also showed me where the bank was so that I would be able to withdraw some money.

All of the questions and stress I had about life in Senegal subsided when I got there because CECI provides you with excellent, supportive and thoughtful contacts. It was hard for me and will probably be hard for you, but you need to learn to be okay with the unknown while doing this internship. There is very little set in stone and very little that won’t change at least once.

I am now going into my third week here in Dakar although it feels like I’ve been here much longer. Every day is filled with new experiences and things that I have to try to understand. Social interactions, language, dress code, religion, culture, the list could go on. There is so much more to think about in my day to day life than I’ve ever had to consider before. I have become much more aware of all of my actions and reactions. I had done a lot of travelling before but living in a foreign country is very different. You need to learn about the culture much more profoundly than if you were just passing through. This is an experience that will change me and from which I will undoubtedly grow so much. Just being here day to day teaches me so much. I can already tell that I am going to come home a much more independent and matured daughter, sister, student and friend.

Retour sur une expérience inoubliable

September 11, 2018 | Raphaëlle, Maîtrise ès arts en mondialisation et développement international, Uniterra, Haïti, Organisation de gestion de la destination du nord d'Haïti, Conseillère en collecte d'information et en sondage

Mon arrivée en Haïti n’a pas été de tout repos. J’ai passé les premiers jours de mon mandat à Port-au-Prince, une ville qui peut sembler à première vue chaotique et un peu dangereuse. Les médias n’ont pas aidé à ma préparation avant le départ, car Haïti n’a pas une très bonne réputation à l’international. Étant moi-même intéressée par les enjeux de justice et de sécurité en Haïti dans le cadre de mes études, je suis partie avec un bagage d’idées que j’ai dû prendre quelques semaines à déconstruire. Eh oui, malgré toute ma préparation, mes lectures, mes discussions, et mon travail sur moi-même afin de partir avec le moins d’attentes possibles, je me suis installée dans mon siège d’avion, le 8 mai, avec un noeud dans l’estomac… pas super pour commencer un voyage de trois mois!

Au retour, j’adopte une toute nouvelle perspective sur le pays en général. C’est particulièrement grâce à mon mandat que j’ai pu découvrir un pays riche et vibrant. Au bureau régional du CECI, j’ai pu travailler pendant trois mois dans le secteur touristique. Le Nord d’Haïti possède une richesse et un potentiel touristique impressionnants. Chaque été au Cap-Haïtien, la deuxième ville en importance du pays qui est située dans le département du Nord accueille un nombre important de touristes nationaux et internationaux. Ceux-ci visitent tous les jours les sites historiques qui y sont situés. J’ai pu contribuer à ma manière, tout en m’immersant dans un secteur économique que je connaissais peu. Mon mandat m’a permis de sortir de ma coquille et a exigé que je fasse preuve d’entregent et d’initiative. J’ai su démontrer ces qualités tout au long de l’été, dans un environnement rempli de défis culturels, logistiques, économiques et de nombreux imprévus.

Mon mandat m’a aussi permis de découvrir à la fois les différents monuments, les plages et les sites de production traditionnelle, mais aussi de discuter avec la diaspora et les touristes nationaux afin de comprendre quelle était leur expérience touristique en Haïti. Moi-même visiteuse dans ce pays, j’ai pu en apprendre beaucoup sur la région du Nord et sur les réalités du tourisme en Haïti. Certes, c’est un pays parfois instable, mais la générosité des gens et l’accueil réservé aux touristes, l’expérience authentique et quelques fois un peu chaotique rend Haïti une destination particulièrement intéressante pour tout voyageur débrouillard.

Malgré des heures de préparation et de recherches, rien n’a été aussi formateur que de “sauter à l’eau” et d’apprendre à connaître un peuple et une culture en vivant l’immersion du terrain - une expérience inoubliable que je recommencerai à la première occasion.