Fall(ing) in love with Fall in Chapagaon

October 12, 2017 | Caroline, POL, Népal - Uniterra - Lalitpur District Milk Producers' Cooperative Union - Intern for communications and documentation

Never have I felt more relaxed and at ease, yet never have I lived in a busier or more confusing place. Paradoxical I’m sure, but that is the best way I can explain life in Chapagaon, Nepal. I’ve been in Nepal now for over a month, where I am working as a Communication and Documentation Intern with the Lalitpur District Milk Producers’ Cooperative Union. Our office is situated in a village called Chapagaon, which is located in the Kathmandu Valley and is about 1-1.5 hours by bus from Kathmandu (depending on the road conditions/traffic/presence of livestock!). In my position with the LDMPCU, I am developing a communications and report-writing strategy, writing engaging stories to improve their social media presence, and training staff members on both internal and external communication.

Since my arrival in Nepal, all the locals have been eager to tell me that I am visiting their country at the ideal time – and sure are they right! Fall is the “festival time,” where the Nepalese celebrate both Dashain and Tihar, two of their most important, auspicious, and anticipated holidays. Fall here is also the time with the nicest weather according to the locals. It was extremely hot when I arrived in September, but in the last week or so the temperature has become beautiful, crisp, and moderate. With the drier and clearer weather, I am increasingly able to get spectacular views of the Himalayan mountain range right from the deck of my apartment. I know I’m bragging now, but the night sky views and sunsets are also pretty spectacular from rooftops here in Chapagaon, where we are farther away from the light pollution and density of Kathmandu.

Any future student who is coming to Chapagaon for the fall semester should count themselves lucky, because I can truly say that spending Dashain here has been such a special experience. Dashain is a 15 day-long festival, which fell this year at the end of the September. It is a holiday that is celebrated in the home, with significant portions of the Kathmandu population returning to be with their families in the villages. My apartment-mate and I decided to spend part of Dashain in Chapagaon, so that we were able to experience the festival with locals here, and this is a decision I certainly don’t regret. Our boss at the LDMPCU invited us over to celebrate with his family – we were invited for “lunch” at 10 A.M. (most Nepalese people eat two bigger meals a day, one in the mid-morning and one in the evening). They served us copious amounts of food, including paneer which is a special treat for vegetarians here. We ended up staying all day at their home until dark, at which point they insisted we stay for dinner as well! My favourite part of the afternoon was when we all sat around together on the floor and played card games – my apartment-mate and I taught them ‘Canadian’ games and they shared ‘Nepalese’ games with us.

As if this weren’t enough, he invited us over a second time during the holidays to put tika, which is a red substance made of rice, yogurt, sugar, and red dye that the eldest of the family puts on the foreheads of others to symbolize blood ties and anticipate good fortunes. We wore Nepali kurtas, tika on our foreheads, and jamara in our hair all day long – a look that garnered many smiles, looks, and comments throughout the day.

Throughout my studies in Political Science, I’ve always been most attracted to qualitative methods of research. I’m interested by the way in which micro-interactions and meaning construction inform broader political processes. Being in a community, talking in casual settings, and participating in festivals has only reinforced the value of small-scale, qualitative based research. Big statistical analysis have merit, but on their own would not tell the complete story of change, development, and tradition here.

I didn’t come into the internship with a slew of expectations, but one month in I can already say that one expectation has been prove wrong – although it’s cheesy to say, never would I have predicted that Chapagaon would come to feel so genuinely like home.

Namaste till next time!

L’environnement comme frein au développement

October 12, 2017 | Charles-Antoine, DVM/DRC, Haïti, Uniterra - Organisation de gestion et de destination Nord - Conseiller en gestion d'un site touristique

Haïti est un si beau pays et ses habitants sont un peuple fier avec raisons. Ses plages sont magnifiques, les montagnes qui recouvrent son territoire sont majestueuses et sa flore est époustouflante. Je suis en Haïti, dans le cadre de ce stage depuis plus d’un mois. Ce n’est pas la première fois que je m’aventure dans cette sublime contrée, mais je suis toujours aussi époustouflé comme si c’était ma première fois.

Je suis tombé en amour avec ce pays, cependant il y a évidemment certains éléments qui me brisent le cœur.

Un des éléments qui me chagrine le plus est la situation environnementale en Haïti. Ce si beau pays a subi de nombreuses catastrophes naturelles comme des tremblements de terre et des ouragans ayant causé de grandes pertes humaines. Aussi, ce pays a subi des catastrophes environnementales n’ayant pas comme cause la nature, mais bien le fait humain. Je parle en autre, de la déforestation.

Les diverses études sur le sujet ne sont pas unanimes sur le pourcentage de la forêt haïtienne qui a été décimée. Certains disent 40 % et d’autre 80 %. La réalité est que le chiffre importe peu, car ce sont les conséquences qui sont critiques. La déforestation a de nombreuses conséquences sur la vie quotidienne des habitants. Par exemple, lorsqu’il pleut les villes, les villages et les routes sont souvent très rapidement inondés. Cela s’explique par le fait que la forêt a comme fonction d’absorber l’eau qui coule en amont d’une montagne pour limiter la quantité qui se rend jusqu’en aval, où se trouvent majoritairement les agglomérations humaines.

Malheureusement, la solution à ce problème n’est pas simple et facile. Il n’est pas possible de faire repousser des arbres en peu de temps. De toute façon, les terres où se trouvaient ses forêts sont maintenant habitées ou utilisées d’une quelconque manière. D’une autre part, le gouvernement haïtien a pris certaines mesures au niveau de son organe législatif pour mettre en œuvre des lois pour restreindre la déforestation et créer des zones protégées. C’est un pas dans la bonne direction, cependant c’est peut-être trop peu, trop tard.

C’est dans des cas comme celui-ci qu’on réalise toute l’importance qu’a l’environnement dans le monde. L’humanité a peut-être pensé être évoluée et développée à un point tel qu’il pensait dominer la nature, mais lorsqu’on porte un regard attentif à la situation, ce n’est pas du tout le cas. L’environnement est devenu une priorité à l’international depuis récemment, mais encore une fois c’est trop peu et trop tard. Des dommages irréparables ont été causés et nous sommes dans une situation de limitation des dégâts. Malgré tout, je reste optimiste sur la capacité d’Haïti de trouver une solution à ce problème. Ce pays est rempli d’une population résiliente et pleine de bonne volonté.

En raison de maladie…

October 11, 2017 | Trevor, ECH, Uniterra Malawi - Uniterra - Communications Officer

Durant les derniers jours, j’ai eu la « chance » de vivre une expérience que plusieurs ne voudront jamais vivre en stage international; être admis à l’hôpital en raison de maladie. Et oui, depuis la dernière semaine, mon corps est en train de combattre une vilaine bactérie qui m’a pris comme victime. Au début je croyais être en mesure de m’en débarrasser tout de seul, question que je me repose, mange et bois de l’eau. Malheureusement, ce ne fut pas le cas. Après quelques jours, passez à la maison et à l’office (et oui, j’allais quand même travailler, contre les conseils de tous mes collègues), j’ai senti mon corps perdre toute son énergie. La combinaison de vomissements, diarrhée, fièvre, etc. (désolée pour les détails), avait complètement épuisé mon système et m’avait donné l’allure d’un mort vivant. La déshydratation qui a suivi m’a obligé de prendre ma situation au sérieux et d’aller faire une visite à la clinique. Heureusement, après ma visite à la clinique, qui fut caractérisée par l’utilisation d’une intraveineuse et d’une prescription assez impressionnante d’antibiotiques, je commençais à prendre du mieux.

Cependant, mon point dans tout ceci n’est pas de raconter ma mésaventure, mais plutôt de démontrer l’inégalité qui est présente dans des situations comme la mienne. Pour ma situation, j’ai vite été soigné et j’ai reçu les médicaments nécessaires pour me rétablir. Tout ce, suivi par une facture équivalente à environ 72$ canadien. L’inégalité présente ici est que la majorité des gens locaux n’ont pas accès aux services de santé privée, comme moi j’ai eu la chance. Les coûts associés ceux-ci s’avère à être trop dispendieux. Ces gens se retrouvent donc à affronter leurs infections, sans aucune aide médicale professionnelle. C’est pour ces raisons que plusieurs d’entre eux n’arrivent pas à surmonter leur infection et s’éteignent par la suite. Certes, il existe quelques hôpitaux gérés par le gouvernement et qui ne coûtent pas autant que les cliniques privées. Cependant, ceux si n’ont pas le matériel et le personnel nécessaire pour être en mesure de répondre aux besoins des citoyens. Donc, la plupart des gens qui vont à ces hôpitaux ne reçoivent pas l’aide médicale dont ils ont besoin. Je suis content d’avoir pris du mieux et de ne plus être dans la condition que j’étais durant ces derniers jours. Mais, je suis aussi triste. Une tristesse qui m’envahit quand je réalise que l’argent ici fait littéralement la différence entre la vie ou la mort. Une inégalité auquel j’étais plus ou moins au courant auparavant, mais n’avez jamais vécu et compris d’une manière personnelle. Une question troublante se pose dans ma tête : pourquoi est-ce que je mérite cette aide médicale et qu’un autre se voit refusé? Ne sommes-nous pas tous des frères et sœurs dans ce monde? Comment la vie d’une personne devient-elle plus importante que celle d’un autre? Des questions qui sont souvent suivies d’une réponse que je déteste au plus profond de moi; l’argent.

My first ever blog !

September 25, 2017 | Trevor, ECH, Uniterra Malawi - Uniterra - Communications Officer

This is my first ever blog, never would I have thought that one day I’d be writing my thoughts and then share it for the world to see. Anyways, here goes nothing!

Malawi, also known as the Warm Heart of Africa, truly stole my heart. Nothing could fully prepare me to what I was about to see and witness here, and I was glad. I kept my Google searches to a minimum, because I didn’t want to spoil the surprise of one of my craziest adventures. Give Malawi a clean slate, without prejudice or any pre-made ideas of the country.

The first thing that hit me once I got off the plane was the heat, obviously. Coming from the land of the cold known as Canada, this type of dry heat is not something we normally see. Nevertheless, I was not one bit disappointed. Bring on the sun and blue sky! This past Canadian summer had been quite the let down. Malawi was giving me a second chance for summer!

The second thing that really struck me was the chaos. But this chaos was different; it was a functional chaos. People, bikes, mini-buses, cars, etc. they were all over the place with no clear methodical system in place to divide and guide them. In other words, it was a « free-for-all ». Strangely, I loved it. Loved everything about this chaos: the merchants yelling on the street, cars honking, music coming from anywhere and everywhere. I felt like I was in my element; being at my calmest in the wildest places. Thus, Lilongwe was slowly becoming my urban jungle.

The third and last thing that stuck with me on arrival was the friendliness of the local people. Although I already knew Malawi was known as the Warm Heart, I didn’t think the stereotype would be this accurate. People here are genuinely happy to see you on the street and they will take to the time to introduce themselves or at least wave hello. This friendliness was no doubt a big help for my integration in the country. They are also more than happy to help you learn their language, Chichewa. That’s probably why I’ve been picking it up rather quickly. Zikomo!

An advice to future volunteers that come to Malawi, learn a bit of Chichewa. It goes along way and helps you to not get the « mzungu » price everywhere you go (you’ll understand this once you are here). Anyways, I can feel like this is the beginning of something amazing and that will leave a lasting impact on my life. Here’s to Malawi and potentially future blogs!

Tionana!

The people of Myanmar

August 4, 2017 | Marc-Antoine, ECH, Myanmar, Forum des fédérations

To begin with, for three months, I have met various groups of people, from the four corners of the Myanmar territory. The work with the Forum of Federations consisted of meeting with different peoples to discuss on federalism, minority rights, natural resources, fiscal federalism and many other important themes.

During those workshop trainings on the topic of federalism, I had to interview distinct constituents that generously offered their time to answer my questions. Most of the participants that accepted to answer the questions were, in significant majority, young and middle-aged women that were interested in federalism and who’s occupations ranged from Members of Parliament to CSOs and interested citizens. Even after the election of Lady Aung San Suu Kyi, most of the peoples I met and interviewed asserted that women were equal in Myanmar, but solely by law as they are still facing challenges in society; therefore, I decided to direct most of my work towards women.

Of course, the participants of the workshops had distinct interests regarding the essence of what is federalism in Myanmar, but also had different, perspectives, opinions and interpretations of what the concept is and what a democracy should look like.

That is, in most cases, the peoples of Myanmar thought it was crucial to emphasize that Myanmar must, even if it becomes a federal democracy, maintain its cultural heritage while allowing investors to come in the country.

Within this scope, the theory of dependency has shaped the discourses of the end of the 20th century and decolonizing the minds is a process that all colonized countries must go through in order to form their own imagined nation. And, my observations demonstrate that those communities, particularly the young people of the communities, overcame this issue.

In sum, the peoples that attended the workshops seemed to be hopeful for a peaceful, prosper and federal Myanmar.

In conclusion, for someone that is passionate, spirited and enthusiastic to work in the field of conflict resolution, this internship in the right one for you. As a young adult of 22 years old, I come back in Canada more driven and more comprehensive of what is the work of people in the field of conflict resolution. I discovered a beautiful country and I made friends that will last for a life time. This internship is not only a valuable work experience but also a life experience as, during those three months, I grew in personality and character while increasingly developing my individuality.

Yangon, Myanmar

August 4, 2017 | Marc-Antoine, ECH, Myanmar, Forum des fédérations

In the past few months, as a Canadian expatriate and the new intern for the Forum of Federations, I had the opportunity to meet various peoples, from diverse members of Civil Society Organizations to Members of Parliament and Shareholders of political parties. The Forum of Federations (FOF) is an International Organization that brings together 20 federal democratic countries around the world. As the new Intern, I was living in the economic capital of Yangon, but I had the chance to travel around the country in the scope of my work with the FOF.

Beforehand, Myanmar is a developing country that opened its doors to the world only in 2012, the country has a rich cultural heritage, history and civilization, however ethnic and religious conflicts have slowed down its development and the country remains one the poorest in the region. Although it is true, the country’s new democratically elected leader, Lady Aung San Suu Kyi has been struggling to maintain peace in Myanmar as the military junta and a rebel group are still fighting in the North. The international community has given enormous attention to human rights issues in the Eastern part of Myanmar where, the Rohingyas, a Muslim minority, are being cleansed. This short blog post will illustrate my three months internship in the beautiful country of Myanmar by discussing on the country and the peoples in the scope of my experiences.

To begin with, while landing in Yangon International Airport, the first noticeable characteristic of the country is the lack of economic development, the pollution and the unclean streets. However, once your feet have landed on the ground and you are slowly discovering the country, you immediately understand what makes Myanmar so fascinating. The people are sociable, welcoming and you can feel the warmth, munificence and hospitality only after a few seconds of interaction with the Burmese people.

While enjoying your first taxi ride at a singularly cheap price, you can observe the unique character and architecture of the economic capital. Although it’s true, the economic life is a stagnant and motionless watercourse. By looking at the microeconomics of the country, you can observe that many citizens are unemployed, do not have decent wages and suffer from poverty. Furthermore, there are many market places around the city where you can buy cheap goods and services, however since there is almost no economic life during the week-ends, those shops are most likely to be closed. In other words, Yangon is dormant during the weekends.

While wandering around the city, expatriates will notice the rich cultural heritage of the old Myanmar civilization before the English colonization. Of course, ‘‘Westerners’’, as the Burmese people like to call them, are viewed as despicable by some traditional Burmese citizens. But, without exaggeration, tourists, expatriates and Canadians are generally well treated by the majority.

In every radius of around 10 km you can find a beautiful Buddhist temple decorated with gold and jewels where Buddhists and Monks go to meditate. This high number of Pagodas illustrate the importance of Buddhism in Myanmar’s society. In Myanmar, Buddhism is the official religion, nevertheless Buddhists share their religious authority with the high percentage of Muslims.

Consequently, in 2017, there are still disputes and tensions between the Muslim minority and the Buddhist majority. Historically, the demography of the country does not only consist of Burmese peoples, but also Chinese and Indian immigrants that have settled in Burma in the mid-20th century. In Yangon, a large number of banks, industries and small businesses are owned by Chinese and Indian immigrants which also created tensions. Subsequently, in the mid-20th century, there was a rise in the educational level of the Burmese-middle class and many Burmese students decided to study in Western countries and bring back the acquired knowledge in the country, resulting in the rise of an elite Burmese middle-class. In other words, this elite group of students are the ones that initially brought the idea of democracy in the political dialogue in Myanmar.

Besides, I have had the curiosity to visit the University of Yangon, which is situated at the heart of the economic capital. Indeed, the maxim of the school is to provide a competitive education in order to survive the post-information age. Henceforth, I observed that the University had been modernized with computers and large classrooms. Although it’s true, when visiting the library, one can observe the few quantity of books, the very old traditional library system and the old web based library system.

In sum, the situation in the economic capital is relatively peaceful and Yangon will soon become an important economic capital in Asia if democracy is implemented successfully while development and peace is sustained.

The value of international internships

August 3, 2017 | Nevena, ECI, Ghana, Unitera, RAINS, Communication Officer

As a student in international development, I was looking forward to fitting an internship into my program of studies from the day I applied for my undergraduate degree. Now, two semesters prior to graduating, I was finally able to participate in one. My geographical interest in development has always been Sub-Saharan Africa - I have always been fascinated with the intricacies shaping the paths to development (or sometimes unfortunately underdevelopment) of the various countries in this region. After participating in a field research course via FSS International in Nairobi, Kenya in May 2016, I decided that I wanted to try get a better understanding of West Africa during this internship. I selected an internship in Tamale, Ghana where I worked as a Communications Officer with a local NGO entitled RAINS. Their work focuses on helping the marginalized in Ghana’s northern region to help themselves. Tamale, where I was placed, is not a large city. Unlike my previous experience in Nairobi, there were no large supermarkets, little western food products, or coffee shops. However, there was a lively market, filled with friendly faces and all the products you could ever need. Living in this environment, where everything I needed was available in town within a 5 minute walking radius, taught me more about development than being in a classroom ever could have.

Everyday I came face to face with major development issues such as food insecurity, climate change, poverty, and gender inequalities. Through my interactions with locals I was able to pick out and better understand these issues and how they directly impact these people, giving the issues a human face. For example, a delayed rainy season due to climate change meant that certain crops were delayed in coming to the market, while others were running out, causing their price to increase since they had to be brought in from far away districts to meet the local demand.

Working with a local NGO allowed me to learn the intricacies of implementing development work. I now better understand what constrains an organization from being as beneficial in their community as they would like. A lack of sustainable funding, local capacity, and logistical problems can delay projects. But I also learned how dedicated people are to their work and how much they truly care about the beneficiaries they are collaborating with. The connections that Ghanaians have with their coworkers is also incredible - I honestly felt as if I was among family at work. There is so much that we can each learn from each other in these placements, which goes beyond the capacity building and skill transferring. I am so grateful for the knowledge that was passed on to me by my coworkers not only about development but also about social practices and values which I hope to at least somewhat bring back to Canada with me.

My highlight of this placement was having the ability to go to the field. I went to assist the project officers with the auditing of women’s microfinance programs all over the northern region. There is no feeling that compares to being in the field - it is exhilarating and eye-opening and for me, confirms that this is the field of study that I love. Development work is not easy, we hear this time and time again. There are challenges faced everyday with regards to the work and simply living as a foreigner in a country so different and far from home however, this is also what draws me into it.

I would recommend an international internship to anyone completing their degree. It is such an incredible way to better understand and explore what you have spent countless hours studying and reading about. It challenges you emotionally in ways you’d never imagine but in the end teaches you important life skills such as adaptability and patience. Many people go into these hoping to grow professionally, but I can guarantee that you will grow immensely personally as well.

Deux mois plus tard…

July 31, 2017 | Toufic, DVM, Uniterra, Vietnam - DTU, Communications and Public Relations Officer

Cela fait maintenant deux mois que je suis arrivé au Vietnam. Lorsque nous imaginons le pays, nous pensons directement à Hanoï et Ho Chi Minh Ville, connues pour leurs embouteillages monstres et leur fort achalandage. À Da Nang, dans cette petite ville du centre du pays, la vie est différente.

Il y a environ 20 ans, cette ville était séparée par une rivière sans aucun accès entre les deux côtés. C’est en 1998 que le premier pont (Song Han) est construit afin de relier les deux territoires et à partir de ce moment, Da Nang a commencé à connaître un boom économique, d’autres ponts ont été construits, le populaire d’entre eux étant le Pont du Dragon (Cầu Rồng), symbole de l’ouverture sur le monde de la ville de Da Nang.

Depuis quelques années, cette ville est en développement exponentiel et le secteur touristique bat son plein et rentre dans le cadre la stratégie de son développement. La ville est parsemée d’hôtels en tout genre et de restaurants aux spécialités du monde entier. Les projets de construction sont par centaines et provoquent ce contraste propre aux pays en développement. Aujourd’hui, nous retrouvons une ville qui est devenue un hub économique où l’on voit émerger plusieurs start-ups ainsi que d’autres projets et qui accueille des touristes venant des quatre coins du monde.

Fraichement arrivé du Canada, avec une longue escale à Hong Kong durant laquelle nous en avons profité pour visiter la plus grande statue de Bouddha, j’ai tout de suite eu cette fameuse « première impression ». Non pas quelque chose de nouveau, mais comme un semblant de déjà-vu, ce que j’appelle le « Joyeux Bordel » des pays en développement. En effet, ce mélange d’odeurs de poisson, de nourriture sur le feu et de pollution renforcées par la chaleur accablante et l’humidité fait partie du quotidien des citadins.

En journée, le soleil est si fort que les rues sont pratiquement vides et se remplissent momentanément le matin et à midi. Ce n’est qu’au coucher du soleil que les rues se bondent et que Da Nang prend vie. Les hommes et les femmes se retrouvent en terrasse à siroter leur succulent café vietnamien, au restaurant à partager un large plat de fruit de mer et poissons ainsi qu’au bord de la plage afin de profiter des bains nocturnes. La population locale rentre chez elle assez tôt. Autour de 20 heures, les familles se retrouvent ensemble au-devant de leur domicile à discuter et voir leurs enfants s’amuser. Quant aux expatriés, c’est à ce moment qu’ils décident de sortir et profiter de la vie nocturne. Les endroits fréquentés sont souvent les mêmes et deviennent donc des points stratégiques de rassemblement avant de décider de l’activité de la soirée. En semaine, c’est plutôt classique : Bar au bord de la plage, billard et bières. Le week-end est une tout autre histoire, les bars se remplissent et la débauche règne, autant pour les jeunes étrangers que vietnamiens. L’alcool coule à flots et la musique se fait entendre à des centaines de mètres. Les rues du centre-ville se bondent et les vendeurs ambulants sont fortement sollicités. Ce n’est qu’aux petites heures du matin que la soirée se termine et que les rues Da Nang retrouvent leur calme habituel.

En parlant de rues, avez-vous déjà joué à GTA? Si oui, figurez-vous que vos heures passées à conduire en faisant ce que bon vous semble et en entravant le code de la route vous servira ici. Il n’y a pratiquement aucune règle, peu de feux de circulation et le scooter est le moyen de transport le plus utilisé, car le moins cher. Le klaxon, si mal perçu dans nos villes, est le principal moyen de communication sur la route. Ce dernier, qui, durant les premiers jours, vous cassera les oreilles, deviendra peu à peu une douce mélodie qui vous réveillera lorsque votre alarme n’y parviendra pas. Ici, le mot d’ordre est « désordre » ! Tentez de vous frayer un chemin et surtout, ne soyez pas hésitants. Les camions et voitures avanceront sans pitié tandis que vous serez en train de zigzaguer entre les autres véhicules. Il faut donc garder son calme et ne pas céder à la panique, c’est le meilleur moyen d’éviter un accident.

L’un des avantages d’habiter au Vietnam en tant qu’étranger est le faible coût de la vie. En effet, en connaissant les places locales où manger et en sachant négocier le prix de vos articles au marché, vous pouvez vous en tirer pour moins de 5 $ par jour. Que dire de la nourriture si ce n’est qu’elle est succulente. Plusieurs restaurants locaux n’offrent pas de menus mais un plat diffère chaque jour et ce pour environ 1 $. Certes, l’hygiène peut laisser à désirer mais votre estomac n’en souffrira pas pour autant. Durant mes premiers jours, je mangeais exclusivement dans des restaurants offrant des menus afin d’être sur du prix et d’une meilleure salubrité des aliments. Cependant, en prenant mon courage à deux mains, j’ai décidé de goûter aux vendeurs de rues, aux spécialités locales et depuis, c’est chez eux que je trouve mon bonheur culinaire. Même si les commerçants ne parlent pas forcément l’anglais, l’argent est roi au Vietnam. Le prix est toujours sujet à négociation lorsqu’il n’est pas affiché. Le meilleur conseil est de partir une première fois avec une personne locale, et connaître le prix. Dès lors, vous pourrez revenir et payer le même prix et même tenter, dans la mesure du possible, de converser avec les personnes qui vous servent. Utilisez votre téléphone pour traduire et le tour est joué !

Concernant mon expérience professionnelle, je pense que, avec les ressources disponibles, j’ai tout de même pu délivrer des résultats positifs. Je m’explique, mon partenaire local m’a accueillie comme étant le premier stagiaire international. N’ayant aucune expérience dans ce genre de processus, il était de mon devoir de les éclairer quant à mon rôle au sein de leur faculté. En effet, j’ai dû discuter longuement avec le doyen de la faculté afin d’arriver à un accord quant aux tâches à faire. Lorsque lui voyait en moi un expert en communication qui allait faire tout le travail, je me devais de lui expliquer qu’au sein de l’ONG, notre rôle est le renforcement de capacités. Cela passe par de la collaboration et des séminaires en communication. De plus, étant donnée la période estivale, le personnel était très occupé par les examens de fin d’année puis les vacances d’été. J’ai eu la chance de travailler avec le personnel que très rarement en raison de cela. J’ai tout de même pu organiser deux séminaires en communication et j’ai aussi émis des recommandations quant à la stratégie de communication de la faculté. En bref, cette expérience m’a montré, une fois de plus, que la pratique est très différente de la théorie. Rien n’est acquis, tout est sujet au changement, et la flexibilité est une qualité essentielle à avoir.

En bref, au-delà de mon expérience professionnelle, je pense sincèrement que ce stage était une expérience personnelle très positive. La vie loin de sa zone de confort peut s’avérer rude au départ. Cependant, après quelques temps et avec un peu d’ouverture d’esprit, cette zone de confort se transforme peu à peu pour devenir une deuxième maison et le retour au pays devient très dur à accepter.

AYITI CHERIE

July 27, 2017 | Maxine, DVM + mineure en ADM, Haïti, Uniterra, CCI d'Haïti, Conseillère en gestion des déchêts

J’ai passé un merveilleux 3 mois en Haïti. Ce stage a été ma première expérience de travail sur le terrain me permettant de découvrir les réalités du milieu professionnel dans un pays en développement.
Ce que j’ai trouvé de plus valorisant est que mon temps ici m’a permis de concilier quelques notions que j’ai appris dans mon programme de développement international avec des expériences pratiques.

Tout d’abord, je n’avais que quelques idées générales de la culture Haïtienne, surtout basé sur les informations télévisées et les images diffusées sur Internet ne représentant pas de manière complète l’image d’un pays. Ainsi, un stage à l’international est une très bonne opportunité pour en apprendre davantage sur un pays, briser les stéréotypes perçus de l’extérieur et connaitre les différents points de vue des populations locales tout en acquérant une formation professionnelle essentielle pour le monde du travail. En effet, il devient difficile pour les jeunes de trouver de l’emploi car les entreprises demandent de plus en plus que les étudiants aient eu des expériences de travail au préalable. Si vous avez la chance de faire ce genre de stage, je le recommande fortement puisqu’à mon avis il représente un atout important à présenter aux futurs employeurs.

En ce qui a trait au monde professionnel, j’ai gagné des compétences fondamentales dans le domaine du partenariat, entre autre. J’ai aiguisé mes compétences en réseautage, appris à créer des liens avec des professionnels et rédiger des demandes officielles de partenariats entre organisations. J’ai aussi approfondies mes connaissances en recherche-terrain, que je n’avais que parcourus en survol dans certains cours de développement international à l’université. C’était donc très valorisant de mettre ce que j’ai appris en pratique.

Ce stage m’a aussi permis de grandir sur le plan personnel, me permettant de mettre en œuvre mes capacités de débrouillardise et d’autonomie ainsi que de gérer mes réactions faces aux situations imprévues et les quelques difficultés dont j’ai d û faire face. Ceci étant dit, j’ai eu le soutien nécessaire de la part de mes collègues qui m’ont encadré tout au long de mon mandat. De plus, j’ai eu la chance d’agrandir mon réseau social, de rencontrer des personnes extraordinaires qui m’ont accueilli très chaleureusement et ont rendu ces 3 mois encore plus agréable. Qui aurait cru que des amitiés si proches pouvaient être crées en si peu de temps ?
Hélas, c’est avec tristesse que je quitte Haïti mais je ramène avec moi de multiples histoires que j’ai hâte de raconter à mes amis, ainsi qu’avec de futurs étudiants qui envisagent de faire un stage international. Je suis contente d’avoir pu en connaitre plus sur le domaine du développement et d’avoir eu l’opportunité de voir comment fonctionne les dynamiques de travail dans une organisation canadienne de coopération internationale, qui m’aidera à orienter ma carrière future.

The Value of “Pole Pole”

July 27, 2017 | April, ECH, Uniterra, Tanzania - MVIWATA, Advocacy and Learning Officer

As my 12-week internship is quickly coming to a close, I will be leaving Tanzania with a mix of excitement, disappointment, gratefulness, and accomplishment. My experience thus far has been one of personal growth and practical skill development. Returning with me to Canada, I will not only bring souvenirs, but the memories I’ve made, the friendships I’ve forged, and the numerous life lessons I’ve learned. Perhaps the most important of these lesson is the value of taking things slow.

Upon arriving in Tanzania, the volunteers had a three-day orientation at the Uniterra office. The biggest impression I was left with based on stories from the local and foreign staff was that Tanzanian work culture was going to be difficult to adjust to coming from a fast-paced country like Canada. Not to encourage generalizations, but we were told that the pace of Tanzania was “pole pole,” meaning slowly slowly. As volunteers from Canada, we were raised in a society that pressures us to be time efficient, to get the most done in the 24 hours we are given. As new interns, we were especially eager to start our mandates and get our feet wet in a new country. We were advised that we would have to adjust to this new pace, something previous volunteers had found difficult to do at times. I did not realize the accuracy of their words until the other volunteers and myself experienced this first hand. What I also failed to understand at the time was the depth and significance of this lifestyle.

Canada in the 21st century. A time when technology is heavily influenced by supporting innovations that promote time-efficiency and productivity. As George Ritzer calls it, it is the McDonaldization of the world. Technologies are created with the intent of making our lives easier, to save us time, and to get more done. After living here for 3 months, I have come to realize that this mindset of productivity and control comes with consequences. Self check-outs, ATM’s, and drive-thru’s all save time by cutting out the aspect of human interaction. The “pole pole” lifestyle of Tanzania holds onto the importance of human contact. Above all else, it puts human relationships at the forefront of daily life. It values people by exerting effort and time into learning about another human being, to take it slow, and as they say, “go with the flow.”

Coming from a society that fights against this culture, at first it was difficult, and at times frustrating, to adapt in the workplace. Especially in the beginning, finding the balance between taking the initiative to ask for work while not infringing, and being sensitive to cultural differences in the Tanzanian work place context were important. The difference is not that the organization is not busy, or that there is a smaller workload. In fact, the last three weeks of my internship were full of overnight trips in the field, workshops, proposal writing, and training up until the last day. The difference lies in the choices people make.The pole pole lifestyle chooses to put relationships first, while our fast-paced lifestyle back home further separates us from our human nature. We replace people with objects, relationships with technology, and meaning with convenience, and in doing so, deprive ourselves of that which gives our lives value.

I came to realize that the reason behind appointments being pushed back and late meetings was not due to tardiness, but because they choose to put people first, to accommodate to humans instead of a schedule. A story which was brought up during our Uniterra training in Ottawa is a perfect example of this. In the story, an older gentleman took twice as long to patrol the same neighbourhood as the other employees. The other men had difficulty understanding why. Was it because he was older, or did the job slowly? Instead, they discovered that this man was going into the neighborhood and speaking with the locals, getting to know the residents, sitting down for tea and learning about their families. This proved to be useful later on, as an incident in the town caused the locals to only trust him to get the job done. I have come to realize that building relationships is sustainable. Learning more through the experiences of others, forging bonds through taking the time to talk to others can serve a great purpose in the long run.

We work towards possessing objects which don’t contribute to our happiness and only fuels the need to possess more in an effort to achieve said happiness. In replacing conversations and interactions with screens and automated messages, we become overworked and unhappy. We are working towards the wrong things, and in doing so, we have lost sight of what truly matters. Being busy is hard-wired into our DNA from a young age, so much so that when we do have free time, we are anxious to do something productive with it.

Even locals have taken notice of this. During our three-day orientation in Arusha, we stayed at a guesthouse called Adia’s Place. Adia, the owner, would make us breakfast each morning as we waited to be picked up by a Uniterra staff member and brought to the office. One morning, we had woken up later than usual. As such, when the Uniterra staff member arrived we were all still eating. As an instant reaction, we rushed to get up and go, taking our last sips of coffee and leaving with toast in our mouths. Adia interceded and told us to take our time, not to rush, to take it easy. She proceeded to tell us how she had a pervious volunteer from Canada and noted that because of the obsession with time “you guys are always stressed out,” and we were. From work to class, class to work, from the grocery store to the gym. In an effort to squeeze the most into one day, to get the most out of 24 hours, our lives are passing us by without holding onto what is important.

Developing countries are referred to by some scholars as “backwards societies.” However, I beg to differ. Instead, I would suggest to critically analyse this statement. We are the ones replacing relationships with machines, and people with objects. Yet, as opposed to this technology contributing to a stress-free, time-efficient lifestyle, recent studies have proven that more and more people are unhappy and plagued with anxiety. In a commercialized world, we consume more, buy more, are engulfed in debt and yet are still unhappy and stressed. Apps which are meant to globalize and connect us with people all over the world such as Instagram, are instead negatively impacting our mental health. During my internship, I learned skills and techniques in lobbying and advocacy. I have learned how to ask the right questions, how to hold effective workshops, how to write proposals, and even public speaking. However, despite all this, I would say the most important skill I have developed is how to value human beings more. As such, I would like to thank Uniterra, MVIWATA, and the University of Ottawa for providing me with this opportunity. I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to the locals of Tanzania, who made this experience meaningful by being hospitable and helpful everywhere I went.