2018 PFIG Recipient Hannah Litkowski
Journal Entry #1
Hello from Amman! I'm in the second week of my internship here with UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, and have already learned so much. Amman hosts headquarters for most major organizations working in the MENA region because of its central location and relative stability. UNICEF has two offices here, one for the region broadly and one for Jordan specifically. I work in the Middle East and North Africa Regional Office, where I support the No Lost Generation team in working on advocating for refugee children's rights, as well as filling in any other staffing gaps around the office. Last week, I also got to help the Yemen desk and the office of the regional director on various projects! The MENARO office covers issues like education and child protection on a regional level, meaning there's a lot of collaboration both with UNICEF offices in other countries as well as with NGOs, IOs, and other UN agencies. Many offices, mine included, also do a lot of work with donors. These include governments, like the US or the UK, as well as other private and public organizations interested in helping children in the Middle East.
It's Ramadan here, and although many people in the office aren't fasting, the hours of the working day are adjusted to be considerate to those who are. For me, that just means that I don't have to be in to work until about 9:30, which is nice! On a typical day, I will come in, go through emails, and get started on any tasks that I may have not finished from the day before. Right now I'm helping to coordinate a regional workshop about working with donors, so there's been a lot of coordination for that effort: sending emails, keeping track of responses, etc. I also usually try to find some time to read up on current events in the region and around the world, because it's important to me to be able to keep learning as much as possible! Mid-morning, I generally touch base with my supervisor to see if she needs any support, and spend the rest of the day in meetings, writing, or editing. I think drafting reports and documents has been my favorite work so far, because I enjoy being able to synthesize information in a way that's easy to read. I'm really looking forward to what other sorts of tasks I'll get to explore over the course of the summer.
Journal Entry #2
It's hard to believe I'm already halfway done with my time here. I've learned so much about the UN structure and how the individual agencies operate, as well as the NGO community within Amman! Some of my most valuable experiences thus far have been working with a variety of different offices on a wide array of different tasks. I've gotten to write a lot, which I love, for a bunch of different sources. Today, for example, I drafted a writeup on the No Lost Generation initiative for the OCHA mid-year report on the Syria response, as well as a few talking points on child protection, education, and youth inclusion (my office's subject areas) for UNICEF's Executive Director's upcoming meeting with the US National Security Council. Working in such an international context, too, has given me lots of chances to practice my language skills! Although I'm definitely still working on my Arabic, I love getting to speak French or bits of Spanish with my colleagues.
This past week, my office held a regional resource mobilization (fundraising) workshop that brought in participants from across the MENA region, as well as from Brussels, New York, and Washington DC. When I was first asked to work on the project, I wasn't particularly excited about the idea of working on fundraising: when I considered my interests, I didn't necessarily think that donor relations or dealing with money would be up my alley. From the very beginning of the planning process, however, I learned so much. Organizing a four-day event for upwards of 60 people was certainly a logistical challenge, and taught me a lot about the importance of organization! The actual content of the workshop as well was incredibly informative. Fundraising, it turns out, goes far beyond just dealing with money- it's an intricate system of relationships with private donors, governments, and large companies that at the end of the day is integral to any humanitarian or aid work. After spending last summer working with the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration on evaluating and funding proposals from organizations like UNICEF, it was fascinating to see the other side.
In the remaining three weeks that I have in the office, I'm looking forward to learning even more about what UNICEF does by working with other offices and projects!
Journal Entry #3
Ten weeks in the books, and I've just gotten home from my long trip back to the states from Amman. My internship this summer was a really rewarding and enriching experience that taught me a lot about the UN, political advocacy for children, and working in an international and multi-cultural environment. I'd never worked outside the United States before this summer, and the opportunity to work in Jordan was almost as informative as the work itself. I do hope to continue working abroad in my career, and I believe this opportunity really helped to prepare me for that! I'm immensely thankful for the Parents' Fund grant for allowing me this opportunity to learn about Jordan, about UNICEF, and about myself.
In the last few weeks of my internship, I worked mainly on wrapping up projects from earlier in the summer, as well as filling staffing gaps around the office. I finalized a guide to supporting refugee children to be shared with private individuals looking to take action, made a few briefing powerpoints for our Deputy Regional Director and Regional Director, and helped lay the groundwork for a massive (1000-row spreadsheet!!) humanitarian database with information on everything from vaccinations to literacy rates for the 14 countries across the MENA region. I also drafted the NLG newsletter for the fall, which goes out to over 700 members of UN agencies and NGOs interested in refugee children's rights. Ultimately, I'm super thankful to the members of my office and the other offices in the building for being so welcoming and helping me find meaningful and impactful projects to work on! I was able to have a hand in lots of different efforts that will continue even now that I'm gone, which is a really cool feeling.
Looking back on the past three years as I go into my last year of undergrad, it's humbling to think about the two amazing internship experiences I've had and all of the people who were instrumental in helping me along the way. I've learned so much in the classroom during my time at UVA, but I'm thankful to have received so much support to learn and explore outside it, too.