Interning at the UNHCR Ecuador: Maria Laura Chobadindegui

I want to express my most sincere thanks to Mr. Garvin Brown and the founders of the MIEA for the generous support I have received, which has made it possible for me to intern remotely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Ecuador this summer. To support the UNHCR’s mandate of aiding and protecting refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people was an honor and an incredibly enriching experience.


Article about the market fair.
Article in El Comercio about the market fair in Ibarra, which Maria Laura helped organize.
As the Community-Based Protection Intern for the Ibarra Field Office, I was primarily involved in strengthening communication with communities of interest to the UNHCR. In this context, we worked with refugees and asylum-seekers who had escaped conflict and persecution in Colombia and Venezuela. I also contributed to many projects seeking to build peaceful coexistence between refugee and local populations, and to facilitate the integration of refugee communities. For example, I helped plan a market fair for refugees entrepreneurs in the city of Ibarra, called “Solidaridad sin fronteras”, and created promotional posters for the event. Organizing this fair, in coordination with partner organizations and the local government was one of the highlights of my internship. Another highlight was getting to draft questions for an interview conducted by an Indigenous-led radio station, Ampara Su, with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi. As I have a keen interest in journalism and media relations, this was a wonderful opportunity. I also greatly enjoyed creating promotional material for an LGBT+ pride event in the city of Tulcán, which hosted its first-ever Pride Parade this year!


Poster designed by Maria Laura
Poster designed by Maria Laura Chobadindegui during her internship with UNHCR Ecuador.
At the beginning of the summer, I set one goal which I deemed to be realistic: by the end of my three months as an intern, I would have learned how to use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, and I would have designed 5 infographics. As it turns out, I greatly exceeded my expectations! At the end of my internship, I had contributed to the creation of four logos, ten infographics, three videos and two banners. I had also updated two databases, helped create a new online platform for refugee entrepreneurs, and assisted in the organization of two events. Furthermore, I had acquired skills not only in Photoshop and Illustrator, but also in Premiere Pro and After Effects.


I also wanted to learn more about the international refugee protection system. Because of my political science background, I had often touched upon refugee questions, but mostly in relation to the Middle East. As such, I was eager to further my knowledge by exploring the specific regional context of South America. Thankfully, I was able to attend many workshops on this topic; these fueled my interest in human rights protection and legal matters, guiding my career choices.


Without the generous funding from the Susan Casey Brown Fund for McGill, McGill International Experience Awards, I would not have been able to fully dedicate myself to my internship, and to gain the many skills and the vast knowledge that came with such dedication. Once again, thank you to the McGill International Experience Awards founders and to Mr. Garvin Brown for making this experience possible!

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