Experience to Share

EUROPEAID (European Commission) is looking for  testimonies (interviews) from UN Interns/Volunteers preferably under 25 years old. These short interviews will be used in a campaign about the fight against poverty. If you are interested to share your story or you would like to get to know more please contact Scott McQuade on email Scott.McQuade@unvolunteers.org or Estelle Jacques on email Estelle.Jacques@tipik.eu.

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Living the UNFPA experience – Kosovo

By Sarah Davoren

UNV Volunteer in Kosovo

Having worked with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for almost a year in Kosovo, I would like to share some of my experiences with the readers of the UNV blog.

Upon arrival in UNFPA I was immediately impressed by the enthusiasm and direction evident in Kosovo, where the UN agencies are working in a diplomatic quagmire to move forward and improve vital statistics in development.

As Kosovo approaches its two year anniversary of the self-declaration of independence; the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is being scaled down and handed over to the EU; the work of the UN agencies continues to be vital to support the most vulnerable people of the region.

The UNFPA office in Pristina carries out impressive work and together with the government and local partners is tackling the grave problems of access to and standards of Sexual and Reproductive Health care; Gender Based Violence and a lack of Census or other statistics to form the basis for population planning and policy.

Kosovo is a small country with an estimated population of 2 million; it also has the youngest population in Europe; over 50% of Kosovars are under 25 years and 21% is between 15 and 25 years. The male/female ratio is almost 50:50. Indeed, a young country, a young population. However what struck me most about these statistics is that when I read them next to the UNFPA research on Gender Based Violence in Kosovo it was clear to me that the young women and girls of this young and enthusiastic post-conflict generation are actually living in oppression and are denied their rights on a daily basis.

Recent research funded by UNFPA and carried out by the Kosova Women’s Network revealed that most women know about contraception, but few living in violent home situations can use it. Half of the women interviewed were “often” pressured to have sex without contraception. Nearly 40 % had at least one abortion, and nine underwent two or more abortions. Half had been prevented regularly by their partner or family members from visiting doctors or gynecologists.

Equally shocking is the fact that of 47 pregnant women experiencing violence, 87 % suffered violence during pregnancy. One third were prevented from visiting the doctor during pregnancy. Eight had two or more miscarriages. 73 % of professionals had encountered pregnant women experiencing violence. Violence resulted in injuries to the foetus, miscarriages, low infant birth-weight, infant mortality, and maternal mortality.

But there is a growing awareness of these problems thanks to the efforts of UNFPA; a dynamic and motivated Kosovar theatre group – ‘Artpolis’ have developed a theatre performance to highlight the  issues of domestic and Gender Based Violence. With the involvement of young women and girls the performance is set in ‘the kitchen’ where women tell their stories of abuse and drawing attention using these stories to the different methods of empowerment.

Such an innovative method of marking International Women’s Day is to be commended. I believe that the work of the UNFPA Kosovo team will be effective and that the lives of women and girls in Kosovo will improve; moreover, I hope that when the much delayed census does eventually take place that we will see less startling statistics when it comes to Gender Based Violence.

Life through a lens: Thailand

By Linda Germanis

UNV Volunteer in Thailand

While working at UNESCO, I’m also developing a UNV project titled At first sight in cooperation with UNESCO Bangkok, the International Movement ATD Fourth World, the Friends of ATD Foundation and Thai Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.

The project is a Community Photography initiative which aims to undertake informal education in a poor Bangkok community through ICTs. At first sight is promoting volunteerism cooperation between different actors already active and committed with the development of the Bangkok’s society. Furthermore through thematic photography sessions the volunteers have the opportunity to raise awareness by the community members about development issues as environmental protection, health education, etc.

A booklet containing pictures and commentaries taken by the young residents of Saphan Phut is soon to be released and, thanks to a prize won in a United Nations Volunteer (UNV) competition, 2500 USD will be dedicated to develop environmental protection activities in the Saphan Phut community, partner of the project.

To read the latest article about the work of UNV Volunteer Linda Germanis and the At First Sight project go to http://www.unescobkk.org/information/news-display/article/pictures-tell-a-thousand-words-photography-project-highlights-hardships-of-neglected-community/

Timor Leste and Climate Change

By Claire Martin

UNV Volunteer in Timor Leste

Working as a UNV on environmental matters in Timor-Leste can be both challenging and rewarding. Timor-Leste is a relatively new country, colonized first by Portugal and shortly after its withdrawal it was invaded and occupied by Indonesia. This history combined with the destruction and devastation that followed the Indonesian withdrawal in 1999 has left the country literally starting from scratch as far as environmental conservation is concerned.

Arriving in the country at the beginning of my assignment in February 2009 in the middle of the rainy season, the first thing that struck me as I stepped out of the airplane was the smell of rain – just like the country I had left behind 24 hours earlier. I could not help but be reminded of my home country Ireland that I had just left. The hills surrounding the city were green and lush as were the routes east and west of the city as I soon discovered.

While nine months later and waiting for the next rainy season to start, the hills are brown as far as the eye can see, the mikrolet fare collectors cover their faces with handkerchiefs to keep out the dust. Just outside of the city farmers shake their heads in dismay and you can almost feel the whole country holding their combined breaths waiting for the rains to arrive. One month later and the residents of Caicoli in the country’s capital Dili are wading through knee-deep water after an udan boot the night before.

Together with its fellow island nation neighbours in the Pacific, Timor-Leste is feeling the impact of Climate Change and is trying its best to grapple with them. As Government Representatives prepare to return from Copenhagen with news of the accord, the farmers of Timor-Leste are thinking about how they will survive when they no longer can predict the end of the dry season nor the intensity of the wet season…what do I plant? when should I plant it? when should I harvest it? what are these new diseases I am seeing? will I be able to produce enough food to get my family through to the next dry season. These are just a few of the questions farmers are asking themselves in Timor-Leste.

As part of my role as a UNV Volunteer placed with UNDP, these are also the issues that run through my thoughts every day. In order to best support those most exposed to the negative impacts of Climate Change, we are working together with a dedicated community encompassing government counterparts, local communities, NGOs, CBOs etc.

In this way we hope to help identify underlying vulnerabilities in order to strengthen the population’s resilience in the face of the negative impacts of climate change and their capacity to take advantage of opportunities to improve the environment and crop yields. With progress on mitigation remaining slow, assisting the people of Timor-Leste to adapt according to their own particular circumstances will be critical. Whilst the worlds’ leaders agree to haggle another day, in Timor-Leste the work continues to try to make sure the real victims of climate change are not left waiting.

Climate change: a challenge for humanity?

by Manuela Bucciarelli

UNV Volunteer in Cambodia

The increase in global temperature over the last 200 years is an abnormal and alarming phenomenon, which has been very likely caused by human activities, our habits and the organisation of our societies. The increase of global temperatures should not exceed +2ºC compared to the levels registered before the industrial revolution: if this does not happen, the consequences will most likely be irreversible: extreme climate events such as droughts, heat waves, hurricanes, rise of sea levels, acidification of oceans and the extinction of numerous animal and vegetal species.

The Earth’s climate is quickly changing, causing great concern, political interest and many actions on a global scale. Of all the ongoing changes the most startling is the increase in global temperature. The 10 warmest years since 1880 have been after 1995. However, the variation of the Earth’s temperatures can be caused by human activities. In particular, industrial activities change the composition of the gases in the atmosphere that are enhancing the greenhouse effect.

The Sun provides energy to the Earth through its rays and determines its climate. About 30% of these rays are radiated back into space by clouds and particles in the atmosphere (aerosol). And also by reflective surfaces, such as large deserts and ice sheets. The rest of the radiation gets to the Earth and the oceans, releasing heat. The Earth’s heat is partly trapped by “greenhouse gases”, such as water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). This is the called natural greenhouse effect, without which the temperature on the Earth would be below zero.

To foster industrial development man has cut down forests and burnt fossil fuels (carbon, oil etc) to get energy. This has increased CO2 and methan concentrations in the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to rise. Looking at the last 10,000 years we can see that a sharp increase in CO2 in the atmosphere has occured in the last 200 years, since the 19th Century when the industrial revolution began.

A team of scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a committee composed of more than 2,500 scientists from all over the world, using over 50 climate models based only on natural factors could not replicate the global average temperature trend that is currently being realised. Despite the need to act time is being consumed by debates of how much the temperature will actually be; 1.2 to 6.4 °C over this century, depending on our efforts to stop this process.

Since 1950 the number of heat waves has increased. The number of days with high precipitation  has increased, but not everywhere: the duration and severity of hurricanes and tropical storms have also increased since 1970. In 2003 the heat wave that hit Europe broke every record: over 52,000 victims in nine countries. 18,000 people died in Italy, 14,800 in France. Not only have these events increased in frequency, but also in severity.

The Alps glaciers have shrunk by more than  50% since 1850 and by the end of the century they might almost disappear! According to the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), 80% of South America glaciers will disappear in the next 15 years.

In addition to the damages to the environment and the humans, it will involve high economic costs. According to the famous Stern Review – directed by the World Bank’s former head economist – long-term costs of climate change could exceed by 20% the world gross domestic product (GDP). On the contrary, middle-term costs to reduce greenhouse gases emissions are, in Stern’s opinion, equal to 1% of the world GDP.

Although these estimates are contentious, the point is always the same. The cost of “doing nothing” is far higher than that of “doing something” to turn about.

The first global operating agreement to fight climate change was the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol (1997) was an agreement among the governments of 150 countries, including European states, which was not ratified by the USA. It aimed at a global reduction of CO2 emissions by  5.2% by 2012 compared to 1990 levels.

Copenaghen 2009 is the 15th International Conference on Climate Change which will be held on 7-18 December 2009. It is considered a crucial engagment because far-reaching agreements must be taken and shared by all countries. Different from the Kyoto Protocols, the most polluting countries (USA, Europe and China) play a key role.

It is now clear that drastic cuts in emissions will not be enough to avoid – at least partially – some of the consequences of climate change, such as drought, heat waves, sea level rise and extreme weather events. We have to be ready to change. A key point of the negotiations will be the financing, by “rich” countries (those emitting more CO2), of projects to help the least developed countries to adapt to the change.

The negotiations aim fundamentally at  turning off “the tap” at the source, that is at mitigating the cause of global warming, by cutting CO2 emissions. A serious decision is necessary to save us from climatic catastrophe, and, following IPCC recommendations, this means that we must commit to cut emissions by 80% by 2050.

This article was part of a recent Climate Change presentation that Manuela and her friends compiled  in Cambodia for International Volunteer Day. To view the original presentation please check: http://www.quattrogatti.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=98&Itemid=80

For more information about the 15th Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen please check: http://en.cop15.dk/

Winners of the UNV Blog Photo Competition…

The UNV Blog launched a second Photgraphy Competition to celebrate World AIDS Day, International Human Rights Day and International Volunteer Day. UNV Volunteers from all over the world submitted photos from Nepal to India to Thailand to Mozambique.

Winner of the Human Rights category:

Filip Rames, UNV Volunteer with UNHCR in Yemen.

“Many Somalis end up in a refugee camp, known as Kharaz camp, a former military base. About 12,000 refugees live there waiting for the situation in Somalia to improve so they can return home. Kharaz is an open camp, which allows people to move in and out freely. Schools, health centres, vocational training opportunities, community centres and more are available here and everybody is allowed to approach these facilities without discrimination.”

Winner of the Volunteering category:

Filip Rames, UNV Volunteer with UNHCR in Yemen.

“It’s impossible to avoid smugglers entering the camp and carrying on their business. Human traffickers are interested in making money by smuggling women and children to neighbouring countries. Many of them want to go to Saudi Arabia, where they hope to get a job and support their families at home. Women and children are particularly at risk of exploitation in sexual services and household work.”

 Winner of the HIV and AIDS category:

Guilio Coppi, UNV Volunteer with OHCHR in Kyrgyzstan.

“I captured Federica Dispenza, UNV Intern – Specialist in the Resident Coordinator Office, delivering a lecture on HIV-AIDS to students enrolled in first year at International University in Bishkek. Their plain ignorance on the basics of the issue is reflected in the strong opposition between light and shadow, between dark and colour.”

Incredible India

By Saoirse De Bont

UNV Volunteer in India

The caption in tourism advertising for India reads ‘Incredible India’, and incredible it is! There is an intensity of experience, in both a positive and negative sense, which characterizes life in this country of contrast and diversity. With one sixth of the world’s population, India is the second most populous country in the world. It contains more than 2,000 ethnic groups, 22 official languages (in addition to English), and every major religion is represented.

India is a land of varied landscapes, startling wealth and poverty, and comprises a people who are colourful and welcoming. Simultaneously, it is a country that faces significant development challenges, just three of which are discussed below.

The deserts in India, as the camel safari trade in Jaisalmer certifies, are one of the most popular tourist attractions of the country. However, lack of water and subsequent desertification is one of the most significant challenges facing India today. Inadequate rainfall during monsoons especially in 2009 has had a devastating impact on agricultural productivity, leading to the threat of famine in many areas. India has 16% of the world’s population, yet only 2.4% of its total land area and 4% of its fresh water sources.

Gender inequality remains a serious issue in India. The sex ratio in the last census (2001), which was 933 females for every 1000 males, reveals a preference for male children leading to female infanticide, sex selective abortions and girl child neglect. The adult literacy rate varies between 76% for males and 53% for females. According to the 2005-6 National Family Health Survey, nearly 45% of girls aged 20-24 were married by age 18.

This statistic relates to HIV (my field of work) in that girls who are married at a young age tend to have less knowledge about how to protect themselves from HIV and are less likely to have the ability to negotiate condom use. Moreover, young girls who are not physically mature are biologically more susceptible to the virus if they engage in unprotected sex with an infected partner. A range of socio-economic factors influence child marriage practices in India; poverty and gender norms are two crucial factors.

In 2006, there were more than 7 million children of primary school age not going to school. Children do not attend school because of poverty, gender norms, and lack of access to quality, child-friendly schooling. Improvements have been made in recent years regarding gender parity in education with 47% of those enrolled in primary education being female. However, more remains to be done, particularly in ensuring access to education for marginalised populations.

No piece on India is complete without at least a mention of its food and art forms, both of which are world-renowned. Indian cuisine is characterized by the sophisticated and subtle use of spices, herbs and vegetables using a wide variety of cooking techniques. Each state has traditional foods, with the result that travelling around India is an interesting culinary experience. Similarly, different regions of the country have vastly different dance forms, and the steady stream of festivals and events mean that these are on ready display.

I first visited India in 2005, and I left with the belief that it was one of the most amazing countries I had ever been to. Four years on I have come to understand some of the problems this country faces. Nonetheless, ‘Incredible India’ it remains.

From crocodiles to cyclones: Disaster Risk in Mozambique

Library - 3454

by Mairead Heffron

UNV Volunteer in Mozambique

“We have a problem,” I am informed, “there is no bus leaving Mopeia today”.

It is 5am, Sunday 18th October, and we are standing on the deserted main street of the dusty district town of Mopeia, Zambezia. At some point between Saturday evening and now, the chapa (minibus) owner decided it was time to service the vehicle, and so, for a moment, it looks like there is a disruption to the schedule of my fellow travellers: graduates from the University of Eduardo Mondlane (UEM), in Maputo, who are in Zambezia to collect information on disaster related losses, as part of a UNDP sponsored project, and who will travel onwards, to many more districts before their work is completed.

The project is the GRIP – Global Risk Identification Project, a programme supported by UNDP/BCPR which provides a framework to systemically organise and record data relating to disaster losses and disaster risk, with the aim of using the resulting data and analyses to inform strategies and design of disaster risk management programmes and activities in high-risk countries.

For Mozambique, this means, among other activities, the establishment of a national data loss observatory for compilation and analysis of disaster losses. All of these activities are being co-ordinated through the National Disaster Management institute (INGC), with the support of the university.

It is this GRIP project which brings me to Zambezia, to view the historical data collection field work being conducted by three teams of university graduates, and technicians from INGC who have been assigned to work directly with the teams as they travel throughout the country on this mission. By the end of December, each district in the country will have received a visit from one of these groups, and numerous institutions will have opened the doors to their archives to allow the teams to sift through reams of material, and to record losses (both human and economic) from cyclones, floods and drought to elephants, crocodiles and locusts.

Travel conditions in Mozambique do not make this an easy task logistically: transport in some districts is unreliable and uncomfortable; in other areas, it is non-existent. The groups have various experiences to recount: They have taken boats across crocodile infested rivers and have discovered that in certain parts of Mozambique, the most direct route between districts occasionally takes the traveller through neighbouring Malawi and back again!

Aside from the question of these ‘challenging’ logistics, gathering the information itself is also not always a straightforward task. The archives themselves are often in disarray, but even where they are not, there is frequently a scarcity of information going back more than 10 years, record keeping is not systematic, and reports produced on disaster losses often lack numerical data.

Despite these constraints, much valuable information has thus far been gathered, and the team members confirm that it has been a worthwhile challenge, and an experience which has allowed them to know their own country better, to view first-hand and to understand more clearly the problems faced by people living in the most rural areas.

The work does not end with Zambezia though, and so I return to Maputo, where other GRIP activities are ongoing, including an assessment of disaster risk related studies already available, and a seismic risk assessment for Maputo city. I leave the groups to continue their work, hoping that the only crocodiles they encounter for the remainder of the project will be in the archives, and that the only floods they are exposed to will be a flood of information.

Sustainable Land Management: West African Civil Society Commits Itself

Without rapid action this beautiful landscape in Burkino Faso will soon be a distant memory.

The effects of desertification are already being felt in Burkino Faso, causing land fertility to decrease and flooding to become more common.

By Roberta Persia

UNV Volunteer in Burkino Faso

At the 9th meeting of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), burkinabé civil society organisations reiterated its commitment to shape an internationally-agreed strategy for sustainable land management. With other NGO Networks from France (centre of actions and international achievements), Mali (IRIMS YEELEN) and Niger (CNODD) SPONG established the Réseau Sahel Désertification (Sahel Desertification Network, RESEAD) a synergistic framework for pooling of positive experiences and leading a more visible advocacy.

Desertification still is a major challenge, which has enormous implications on socio-economic issues. African civil society strives to form solutions and processes of implementation to combat desertification. Solutions, which are necessary and urgent. The Director of the UN Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (based in Ghana), M. Harmsen, said that if soil conditions continue to decline in Africa, nearly 75% of the continent could come to rely on food aid by 2025 in order to combat widespread food shortages. To avoid such a scenario, it is necessary to tackle drought with water management and hydraulic technology projects at the community level. This needs to be paired with an overarching public awareness and information campaign among farmers.

Stopping the advancing desert rests with NGOs who are poised with the community based contacts and know how for community mobilisation. In the context of REPAOC (Réseau de Plateformes d’ONG de l’Afrique de l’Ouest), SPONG provides the NGO platforms in West Africa with a shared understanding of the practical measures necessary to fight against land degradation. This advocacy document created the definition of a consensual plan promoting sustainable land management (SLM), a combination of technologies, policies and activities that integrated environmental concerns into the efforts to increase production, aiming at reducing the production risk, protecting natural resources and preserving soil and water.

In October 2005, the 7th Contracting Parties to the UNCCD was launched in Nairobi called TerrAfrica, a partnership between government, civil society, private sector and donors. This partnership strives to create a conducive environment for financing appropriate resource management strategies at a national level, in order to maximize the economic and social benefits of land while strengthening the ecological support. As one of 4 pilot countries part of TerrAfrica, Burkina Faso was the first Francophone country of West Africa to experience multilateral cooperation for the establishment of a Strategic Framework for Investment in SLM. It will now participate in the implementation of a consistent information system of knowledge management; leveraging ICT and learning networks, aimed at improving the decision making through comparable statistics.

Burkinabé NGOs are already addressing such a challenge. One successful project run by Sahel Solidarité in the Bokin area (about 65 km north of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso), renewed the communication technology used in water, sanitation and hygiene campaigns by introducing digital photography and video projections. Another groundbreaking project is the recently inaugurated first community radio station of the Province of Boulgou in the region of Central East, settled in Zabré by the Association PagLaYiri together with the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD).

The role of NGOs in this process will be to contribute to all sessions of the upcoming Global Forum on Sustainable Development, which was held in Ouagadougou from October 9 to 11. This will be central in analyzing opportunities and environmental constraints at the social and economic levels arising from climate change. It will also be an opportunity to draft local, national and regional strategies that attempt to preserve natural resources through sustainable means.

Q&A Get to Know the 2009 UNV Volunteers

Name: Tara Finglas.

Nationality: Irish.

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?

Ireland.

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.