Name: Tara Finglas.
Country of Assignment: Malawi.
Area of work: Communication for Development (C4D) UNICEF.
Where in the world have you travelled?
England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Spain, Luxemburg, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Romania, Belarus, Serbia, Czech Republic, Greece, Corfu, Cyprus, Turkey, United States, Canada, South Africa, Madagascar, Namibia, Malawi, Kenya, Zambia, Egypt, Morocco and Cape Verde.
Where did you grow up?
What did you study in university?
BSc Communications: Journalism, M Phil International Peace Studies, Diploma Digital Marketing and Advertising with Public Relations and E Commerce.
What are the best and worst jobs you have had?
The worst job I have ever had was as a Sales Administrator with Eircom. My job was to process applications for telephone lines and broadband. The work was very boring.
The best job I have had was working with Irish Aid in the Volunteering Unit. I learnt a lot about working with NGOs and working within a government department. My favourite part of the job was giving people advice on where to volunteer and how to use their skills to make a difference. I like to help people and if possible point people in the right direction.
Why did you apply for the UNV programme?
I spent last year working in the Volunteering Unit of Irish Aid. I was working in an environment that actively promoted volunteerism and showcased the people who gave what ever time they had to spare for a cause. My background is media focused but I made the decision two years ago to follow my passion into the world of development and volunteerism. I wanted to use my skills for a good cause, to make a difference in people’s lives who are affected by poverty and bad circumstance.
I thought that the UNV programme would be the best fit for me because it would allow me to work in the area of communications in an overseas development setting. I don’t believe that I have all of the answers; I would like to share other people’s stories with people around the world and to advocate for people without a voice.
Describe a day in your life as a UNV.
I wake up at 6am, slowly get out of bed and head to the shower. I dress and make breakfast and turn on CNN to catch up on today’s news roundup. I finish my breakfast and get my work files together and throw my lunch in my bag. At 7.10am the UNICEF staff run arrives at my house to bring me to work. In the car I chat with the national staff, and find out what is going on for them work wise and in their lives.
At 7.30am I arrive at my office, I immediately check my email. An hour later a car comes and takes me and my colleagues to head office for our monthly staff meeting. The OVC Unit gives a presentation on Early Child Development community based centres. UNICEF needs to create awareness about this issue but at the same time cannot create a high demand as the services are not in place to cater for more children. The meeting continues with an update on events and notable visits in the next month; the National Committee from the UK and Canada will visit some of the UNICEF projects.
When I arrive back at my office, I call the Ministry of Information and Civic Education to re-confirm our meeting this afternoon. The meeting is re-confirmed and I re-read the presentations I drafted last week print them out and get all of the materials ready for the meeting. Lunch time comes and goes; I eat my sandwich at my desk and check the Irish news back home. Wow election fever has gripped the country for the local and EU parliamentary elections, sadly I can’t vote as I am not in the country. My first time ever.
At 2pm the ministry representatives arrive and we discuss the presentations and logistics for the next working session of the Network of District Communicators on Cholera and Influenza A H1N1 (Swine Flu). This is an important four day event to update journalists and representatives from the ministry on the latest situation, the communications strategy and how to report on the illnesses without causing undue panic.
I make changes to documents and start printing and collating all of the materials for the participant’s packs for the working session. Two boxes later I am done. I wait at my desk for the UNICEF car to come to bring me home. It has been a long day.
At home, I start dinner and chat to my house mate as we watch MasterChief. I eat dinner and we settle in to watch our favourite television programme Greys Anatomy.
What is the best part of your UNV assignment?
The best part of being a UNV Volunteer is getting to experience a new and different culture totally different from Ireland. I am getting to use the skills and techniques that I learnt in university. I am also learning a lot about nutrition and maternal health issues, and my perspective is widening to include a different way of thinking, giving my time and energy to my colleagues and to local Malawians to create behaviour change.
What is the least favourite part of your UNV assignment?
It does get frustrating from time to time. It is easy for me to suggest different ways of changing and improving things here in Malawi but seriously how can I think no one else has ever thought about these things before. The problems and issues in Malawi are systematic and are based at the infrastructure level; a lot of other factors need to be realized before anything on a large scheme will be achieved. However, every bit helps in the long run.
Has your UNV assignment reached/not reached your expectations?
Yes, despite frustrations at the start of my assignment, I am enjoying my work in Communication for Development (C4D) Unit.
Would you recommend the UNV programme to other people and why?
Yes, I strongly believe in volunteerism as a way for people to ‘give something back.’ I think everyone can make a difference in some sort of way, however, small. I think for people who would like work in overseas development, the UNV programme is a fantastic opportunity to use your skills, learn new techniques and get to see some results before your time is over. I believe in the principles of the UN but I think with all of the doom and gloom on the news; the positive things that people are doing are sometimes overlooked. Working within the monster of bureaucracy of the UN can be frustrating but I believe that change can be best made from within.