While Samoa and its culture are not new to me, working within the Apia UN office and within a government ministry is entirely new. I’m seeing a whole new dimension to social and political interaction. First of all, UNDP is a global IGO (intergovernmental organization) and it has a complex hierarchy with its own administrative and operational procedures —some of which I’m learning about. The Ministry of Women, Community, and Social Development (MWCSD) is a large government ministry with about 115 employees. There is a hierarchy here too and I find that Samoans are quite formal in the work place, placing an emphasis on respecting this hierarchy and observing protocols. As I’ve mentioned before, I am an intern at the UNDP but have been asked to work within the MWCSD, in order to assist them with various projects related to youth, especially youth employment. In my office there are about 11 people and everyone is extremely friendly with me. Most people work at a relaxed pace and take moments out for coffee or snacks, but as I have been assigned so many duties by the UN, I rarely feel able to chill. I try to be ultra productive while still taking the time for a bit of friendly conversation now and then. I have regular reports to write up, and various projects to work on, including research on employment opportunities.
Two days a week I’ve been assigned to assist a new government program called the High Tech Youth Network (HTYN). I really enjoy being out of the office for this work, going into communities to research and speak to youth about technology and their possible involvement in I.T. training programs. It is also interesting to learn about how Samoan youth understand the word ‘technology’ and their views on media.
My World of Work experience in Samoa is proving to be a fantastic learning opportunity- different from university training, particularly because it carries both responsibility and accountability. The UN and Samoan government are relying on a few of us to conduct research and assist with these initiatives designed to improve the prospects of Samoa’s youth, helping to create a framework for the new High Tech Youth Network, a multimillion-dollar initiative. I feel that I’m learning and building important skills that will endure well beyond this experience. These include: gathering information (often from primary sources), meeting deadlines, liaising with different offices and agencies, speaking to people who are in top leadership positions, speaking with young school leavers and trying to be a role model for them. I am confident that my work this summer will help provide a foundation for a future career in Samoa in my areas of interest: development, social justice and environmental management. I am meeting many key players in the government and the UNDP office and I’m truly enjoying making these connections and being in situations where I am continually learning through experience.