Interning at UNWFP Panama: Virginie Laplante

I want to start by expressing my gratitude for the Susan Casey Brown fund and the McGill International Experience Awards, as I wouldn’t have been able to participate in this internship without it. It was an enriching experience and will definitely help me achieve my future goals; hence I am grateful for the opportunity.
I have one semester left before graduating with a Bachelor of Arts at McGill, with a major in Environment and Development and a minor in Biology. Getting closer to the date that I will obtain my diploma is quite exciting, but also terrifying when I come to think about it. With my background in communications and my five years passed travelling the globe, my current studies in the field of environment and development, mixed with my passion for biology and living organisms, culture, nutrition, gender, peace and so much more, I find it quite difficult to settle on one career choice. The only thing that I know is that I want to help the world be a better place, I want to be able to apply my knowledge to different fields of work, and working for non-profits has always seemed like the right choice for me. That’s what led me to apply for the internship with the World Food Programme (WFP). Mainly, my objectives with this internship were to gain knowledge regarding the functioning of an intergovernmental organization and see how I can apply my different skills to work on emerging issues.
As the leading humanitarian organization operating in 83 countries, WFP delivers food assistance in emergency situations in addition to working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Throughout different programs and activities, the main objective of WFP is to reach the Sustainable Development Goal #2 of a world with Zero Hunger. As nutrition and the environment are intricately linked, a lot of the programs focus on mitigating climate change, building resilience and improving overall environmental stewardship. This internship gave me the opportunity to study the connections between food and the environment, but also to understand how they connect to other emerging issues.
As part of the Communications and Knowledge Management unit, my daily tasks included doing media monitoring and research, proofreading, translating press releases and other documents, in addition to managing and creating content for social media. At times, the workload was very small and I had to take on some initiatives and brainstorm new projects, which was very challenging for me personally as I had to work on my patience and adapt to lower pace work environments. I came up with different projects including a series of interviews for the website and some short biographies of staff for the LinkedIn page. Personally, this was a very enriching experience as I got to meet people from different country offices and different departments, learn about the different positions and programs within the organization, in addition to learning about colleague’s career paths before and with WFP. This allowed me to gain a good understanding of the functioning of WFP and other non-profits in addition to answering a lot of questions and that I had.
Since I am majoring in Environment and Development, I tried to focus my research on the different programs within WFP that focus on climate change and resilience. This internship led me to understand how I can apply my knowledge regarding environmental sustainability to different programs, as the environment is a broad theme that is interlinked with many other issues. Another initiative I came up with when the workload was low was to work on an environmental awareness campaign for the staff. With informative boards, games and talks, the other intern and I created a successful environmental awareness day, which was well received by all staff.
Finally, I want to express once again my gratitude for the financial aid received, as I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to participate in this internship and gain such enriching experiences without it. It is what allowed me to fully dedicate myself to this internship, as I wouldn’t otherwise have had the money to sustain myself during the three-month internship period!

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