Farewell to Programme Assistant, Mr. Yong June Kim

In the words of Yong June Kim,

“Even though I have spent more than 5 years in Songdo, Incheon (where the EAAFP Secretariat is located) for my undergraduate studies, nobody had introduced me to the Black-faced Spoonbill (BFS), the flagship migratory waterbird species that breed in the islands at the Namdong Reservoir. Joining the EAAFP Secretariat as a Programme Assistant, utterly brought me into this amazing environmental conservation field and has stimulated me to support actions against climate change and understand the global importance of endangered migratory waterbird species. My 6-month experience and memories have made me become committed to promoting sustainable development practices in my everyday life.

Participating in Cleansing Activity at BFS Islands in Namdong Reservoir (March)/ BFS Visiting the Islands in June, ©EAAFP Secretariat

Joining the Programme Team encouraged me to appreciate the importance of conserving the habitats of migratory waterbirds with my bare eyes, through visiting the sites and participating in ongoing local dialogues in terms of habitat conservation for migratory waterbirds. For instance, I had a chance to join volunteer activities of cleansing the BFS islands in Namdong Reservoir in March, but at that time I was rather skeptical that BFS would visit those islands for their breeding. When I revisited the site in May, however, it was shocking to see countless BFS sitting and relaxing peacefully through the scope and binoculars. While I had forgotten childhood memories, as I followed a fixed education system as a teenager, this experience allowed me to recall those good old times, naturally rediscovering my innocent feelings. Visiting and assisting other potential local habitats for migratory waterbirds such as Yeoncheon, Gochang, Hwaseong, and Seocheon Yubu Island- to support their global importance for biodiversity conservation including migratory waterbirds, it was also impressive to comprehend how local stakeholders such as government officials, local residents and NGOs are putting a lot of effort into conservation actions.

Visiting Daejukdo Tidal Flat, Gochang County, Jeollabuk-do, ©Gochang County

Majoring in Conflict Analysis & Resolution studies, which focuses on analyzing the cause of conflicts such as intertwined interests of the stakeholders from different levels, one of the greatest working experiences was assisting with the Hwaseong Wetlands visioning project in consultation with one of our EAAF Partners, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) from the UK. Throughout the 6-day business trip with the great WWT colleagues, I was deeply encouraged to learn the importance of active engagement and dialogue between residents, NGOs, and local government officials for the sustainable management of wetlands not only for migratory waterbirds but also for the community people who are using the wetlands. Though holding local stakeholder workshops for the project demonstrated that there are ongoing conflicts due to different interests among the people who are engaged, I believed it was a valuable opportunity to analyze individuals’ stances and prioritized interests for wetland management. Most importantly, it was clear that they agreed to protect the wetlands for the sustainable development of the community itself and the wildlife. It was when I was able to truly acknowledge the statement that “migratory waterbirds connect the people”. I was able to hone my academic background knowledge about wetlands’ potential as a significant blue carbon source, a maritime resource that could be utilized as a carbon sink regarding dealing with carbon neutralization for climate change mitigation.

Assisting the Local Wetland Conservation Project in Hwaseong City with EAAF Partner, WWT ©EAAFP Secretariat, KBS

Another lesson was the importance of youth engagement through Communication, Education, and Public Awareness (CEPA) activities, which is one of the EAAFP Secretariat’s main objectives. To fulfill sustainable development goals in terms of environmental conservation, youth engagement is especially essential to empower and bring momentum to the Secretariat’s ongoing practices. Coordinating a tour visit for the colleagues and staff of George Mason University Korea was one of the youth engagement programs I wanted to initiate. Through this opportunity, I was able to introduce the EAAFP Secretariat’s role in the conservation of migratory waterbirds and bring them to BFS islands, sharing the same feeling I firstly had with the participants. I wanted to encourage the students to understand the importance of conserving nature not only for wildlife but also for ourselves. Based on this experience, I deeply hope that the Secretariat could facilitate more youth engagement by expanding the youth network starting from local approaches.

Successful Implementation of the Youth Engagement Activity for George Mason University Students/ ©EAAFP Secretariat

Above all, the most significant takeaway from this internship was the importance of teamwork, respecting each other through active communication, and encouraging attitudes. It would not have been possible without great support from my team and the energetic atmosphere that filled the entire Secretariat office. Working at the Secretariat taught me how to become a mature, professional individual who can contribute to our society. Unfortunately, my first 6-month journey stops here on 9 August 2022, but I will support ongoing projects as a part-time intern though I am going to the U.S. to complete my undergraduate studies. Huge thanks to the EAAFP Secretariat for providing this great opportunity. I will never forget the feeling I had here, and I am greatly looking forward to virtually supporting the Secretariat for another 6 months, until January 2022!”

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