In the words of Nlicia Lara,
"Coming in as an intern to the EAAFP, I thought what I would learn would be more of administrative practices or be in a rigid, stiff environment. What I found instead was a group of warm, smiling people, invested in the preservation of migratory waterbirds and their habitats. Truly passionate about the work they do, it was an inspiring experience for me to have people working with such unity toward one worthy cause. As a person, I have always yearned for mentorship from people who did what I consider to be meaningful work. I have a great passion for causing positive change and for making a positive impact in the world. The environment of the EAAFP Secretariat is one of inspiring and spurring change and for making steps towards continued and sustainable change regarding the protection of these precious birds, their habitat, and the livelihood of those who depend on them.
Participating in the BFS Banding Activity at BFS Islands in Namdong Reservoir ©EAAFP Secretariat
As a Programme Assistant, I was able to see the importance of dialogue and engagement. When I was able to attend various events and activities with a variety of stakeholders, it showed me how important it is to have multilevel engagement. If we are as a society to sustainably develop, to continue to progress it cannot come at the cost of the environment and that includes biodiversity. As an intern, I was given opportunities to attend meetings and to listen to high-level dialogue which gave me insight and shaped my perspective on the role biodiversity plays in areas such as climate change mitigation. One of the most memorable events I attended was IUCN Leaders Forum 2022 held in Jeju. Preparing for that trip was quite a challenge as I had never led a trip logistically before but with the support of our Programme Officer, we were able to have a successful trip, hosting and attending side events and being able to hear about the initiatives of so many who have dedicated their lives to conservation and to the Green Revolution. I must make a special mention at this point of our Programme Officer Hyeseon Do. She was pivotal in the personal development that I experienced here as an intern. She has taught me what standards are expected from the staff at an international organization and how to maintain excellence in the way I complete tasks. She has shaped my thinking and helped me to develop a systematic and thorough work style. More than anything she allowed me to explore and to try many tasks I had never had a chance to do before and as such I left the EAAFP with the confidence to be able to tackle anything I may face in my future.
Hyeseon and I (picture 1), The EAAFP Team, and Marco Lambertini WWF International Director, ©EAAFP Secretariat
One of the most important things I learned while doing my internship is the importance of local community engagement. During my time I was able to coordinate and participate in events geared towards raising awareness of the importance of migratory birds and how critical it is to protect their habitats. It was so encouraging to see how members of local communities are incorporating events centered around conservation as part of a kind of ESG policy or practice. I was especially encouraged when I attended the Gochang Big Bird Race and realized that the entire community had organized this event and it had support from stakeholders at multiple levels that participated and showed their support. In fact, I have found it so inspiring that I intend to pursue (possibly) a Master's in ESG Management and Sustainable Development in the future. As an intern at the EAAFP, it has helped me to conclude that if biodiversity conservation and even climate change mitigation initiatives are to be successful then many tiered approaches and grassroots community-based support are extremely crucial. This coupled with the engagement of corporate entities will be essential in the future.
The EAAFP team at our booth at the Gochang Getbol Big Bird Race ©EAAFP Secretariat
Another thing that really stood out to me during my internship was the increasing focus on youth. Communication, Education, and Public Awareness (CEPA) activities, one of the EAAFP Secretariat’s main objectives, serves to encourage young people to see the importance of the nature around them and for them to see themselves as part of nature, not a spectator to it. I remember attending the Black-faced Spoonbill Birthday Party, where the EAAFP had a booth, and being amazed at how many children and young people attended. They were so enthusiastic and interested in all the activities. It is very encouraging, especially when you know the administrative side of the work done at the Secretariat, to be able to see what all the dialogue and agreements serve. To be amongst the local people and to see one of our key species thriving on BFS islands was one of the greatest forms of motivation I have ever experienced in my life.
The EAAFP team with the BFS mascot after the BFS Birthday party at Namdong Reservoir ©EAAFP Secretariat
At the Gochang seaside ©EAAFP Secretariat
As I look to my future, I am filled with so much gratitude. I want to extend my thanks to my colleagues, both the Programme Team and the Secretariat staff that not only aided my professional development but showed me such kindness and care as my team members. The atmosphere at the office made it easy to get up every day and work for such a worthy cause. I believe with the skill set I have gained and polished during my time at the EAAFP I will be a capable asset to any other organization. At this moment I am not quite sure where my path will take me, but I do know that my experiences here at the EAAFP Secretariat will shape and color the rest of my life."