Name: Saoirse de Bont
Country of Assignment: India Area of work: HIV/AIDS education.
Where in the world have you travelled?
Europe – UK, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Belarus, Russia.
Africa – Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tunisia, Egypt Asia – India, Thailand South America – Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil
Caribbean – Dominican Republic, Cuba
Middle East – Israel
Where did you grow up?
Netherlands, Egypt, Ireland.
What did you study in university?
BA in Psychology (minor Sociology), MPhil in Development Studies.
What are the best and worst jobs you have had?
Best job – working as a human rights researcher for the Immigration Advisory Service in London. I was combining the two topics that are of most interest to me, human rights and forced migration. Working in a Bed & Breakfast when I was 16 years old. Cleaning rooms after stag parties was not fun!!
Why did you apply for the UNV programme?
The UNV programme offered me an opportunity to gain insights into the UN system while also gaining valuable overseas experience. It was also a chance for me to challenge myself by going to settle in a new country for a year.
Describe a day in your life as a UNV Volunteer.
I get up about 7.30 am and after a shower I read the newspaper with my flatmates over breakfast. About 8.58am I leave the house and walk for about 90 seconds to reach my office. I haven’t quite worked out what my typical day is yet. Some days I work with NGOs, visiting their projects, assisting with monitoring and programme development, and participating in their workshops. In addition, I spend a lot of time meeting with NGOs and other UN agencies that we partner with, to discuss initiatives and developments. Other days I attend conferences and workshops. While in the office I do research, assist in the design of programmes and draft documents, presentations and reports. Twice a week I take Hindi lessons.
In the evenings I often meet with friends for dinner or drinks, or attend the wide variety of events that Delhi has to offer. If I’m at home I watch Hindi movies (for language learning purposes of course!), talk to family and friends back in Ireland or just relax with my flatmates.
What is the best part of your UNV assignment?
Getting to meet so many people working in various organisations that passionately care about the work that they do. In relation to this, seeing the different programmes and projects that are implemented has been a great learning experience. Also, the experience of living in India for a year has been brilliant.
What is the least favourite part of your UNV assignment?
At times, the work can be frustrating as it’s not always possible to see its immediate effect or impact. Also language barriers can often be a hindrance! Has your UNV assignment reached/not reached your expectations? Come back to me in 10 months!
Would you recommend the UNV programme to other people and why?
Yes. This being said, what you gain from the UNV programme depends on what you make of it yourself. However, the programme offers each UNV volunteer a wonderful opportunity to spend a year within the UN system in a foreign country. After that it’s up to the volunteer how much he/she will learn and benefit from the experience.