Testimonial on the UN Youth Volunteer Programme

For young Swiss graduates, UN Youth Volunteer positions are an attractive opportunity to start a career in international cooperation.

They provide solid field experience and networking opportunities that may lead to further employment with the UN. But how did people experience their UNYVUN Youth Volunteers assignment in the field? Read the testimonials of former UNYVs, who laid the foundation for their career in international cooperation within the framework of the UN Youth Volunteers programme.

Helen Stevenson, former UN Youth Volunteer for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

What was your UNYVUN Youth Volunteers assignment?

I worked as a Programme Associate at the Regional Office for Central Asia (ROCA) for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. 

What have you done after your UNYV assignment? 
I moved to London to take up a new role in an international development consultancy firm (private sector) called IMC Worldwide that works mainly for the British government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and other donors in a range of countries. I focused on Project Management and Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning for large development and humanitarian programmes, mainly in South Sudan, Syria, Ethiopia and Kenya. 
 
Where are you working now? 
I recently joined a different consultancy firm in London, Integrity, which works in fragile and conflict-affected states, mainly focusing on Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. I am currently providing project management and technical support to three programmes, two in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for DFID and USAID and one in Kenya for DFID. 
 
Can you remember a particularly exciting time/situation you experienced during your assignment as UNYV? 
I had the chance to travel from Tashkent in Uzbekistan to the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, to support colleagues delivering a training to prosecutors and judges from across all five Central Asian countries. It was fascinating to have a chance to travel to Turkmenistan and better understand the law enforcement dynamics that emerged during the training sessions. 
 

«At the beginning of your career, it doesn’t matter as much as you might think where you end up working, especially for one year.»

 
Do you remember a challenging time/situation you had during your assignment as a UNYV? 
It was challenging to understand how the UN system works at the beginning of my assignment and also to be taken seriously by UN colleagues who had been working in their field and/or in Tashkent for a long time. They sometimes viewed UNVs as short term, inexperienced resources. This had some truth to it, as I was asked to take on roles that I was initially unqualified for but you learn a lot by doing and this improved as the year progressed. 
 
What was your biggest learning from this assignment?
I learned a lot about the UN system as a whole and also about Central Asia, a region I was very unfamiliar with prior to this mission. 
 
Would you recommend this programme to other young Swiss graduates today?
I would recommend the programme, as it is an exciting professional opportunity and can open doors for further involvement in the UN system or the wider development arena. 
 
Would you do something differently? (before, during or after the assignment)
I would make more of an effort to learn Russian before and during the mission. 
 
What advice would you give to someone who wants to apply?
I would suggest being flexible in terms of destination and UN agency. I originally applied for a role with UN WomenUnited Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women in Haiti but ended up with UNODC in Uzbekistan, which was a great experience. 
 
What advice would you give to someone who has been selected?
Approach the mission with an open mind and armed with patience to manage the UN bureaucracy and administration… 
 
Any anecdote you would like to share with us from your assignment? 
I never expected to have the opportunity to live and work in Uzbekistan and even had to google map it (!) but it was a great experience, both personally and professionally. The support we received from cinfo was excellent and I would recommend the programme to any recent graduate with an interest in pursuing a career in international development.

Now it's your turn to become a UN Youth Volunteer!

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