With a mix of fond memories and deep appreciation, the EAAFP Secretariat is preparing to say goodbye to Vivian Fu, their esteemed Senior Communication Officer. Over the past five years, Vivian has wholeheartedly dedicated herself to the mission of protecting migratory waterbirds and their habitats in East Asian-Australasian Flyway. As she moves on from her position, it is important to reflect on the incredible achievements she has made during her time with the Secretariat.
In this special interview, we explore the meaningful experiences and valuable insights that have shaped Vivian's journey within the Secretariat. From her humble beginnings to her most cherished projects, this article offers a glimpse into the person behind the role and the significant impact she has had on the EAAFP.
Join us as we celebrate Vivian's determined spirit, her impressive accomplishments, and the enduring legacy she leaves behind at the Secretariat as she embarks on a new professional chapter.
Question: Hi Vivian, you have been with the EAAFP Secretariat for about 5 years, but now you are leaving, how do you feel?
Answer: It's a bit of a mixed bag for me because I've been here for nearly five years, gaining loads of valuable experience. I've built up some great connections and friendships in Korea and within and beyond the Flyway, so it's sad to say goodbye to our Partners, collaborators, local friends, and all. The Secretariat also granted me invaluable experiences in different perspectives, meeting and reaching out to many people. I was always impressed by the passion of people, and it was an amazing time working with them. Yet, I am sure that these friendships and experiences will be continued as I will work in the conservation field, and that we will meet again or work together at some point in the future!
But, at the same time, the more I worked, the more I realized there are still a lot of things I don’t know and lacked skill and knowledge. So, it's time for me to shake things up, try something different, and embrace new opportunities to learn and grow.
Question: Going back to the beginning, what made you have an interest in migratory birds and conservation works?
Answer: I think my love for animals started when I was little. As a kid, I used to go hiking with my family and watch documentaries about animals, which really sparked my interest. When I got to university, I chose to study ecology at the University of Hong Kong because it was the only subject that allowed me to focus on terrestrial ecology, which I was fascinated by. When I was young, I had this simple dream of saving the Giant Panda because they are cute. I also need to thank my teacher, Dr. Billy Hou, for organizing activities outside of class, where my classmates and I got to explore various things like bird watching, plants, amphibians, reptiles, butterflies—you name it. The wonders of the natural world truly amazed me. I came to understand that while the Giant Panda had plenty of people looking out for them, other animals like birds, amphibians, reptiles, butterflies, and plants received relatively less awareness and needed conservation attention too. That's why I shifted my focus to working on different animals. I actually started my career studying amphibians and then moved on to birds. It felt like a meaningful way for me to engage and contribute to the world of conservation.
Even in urban areas like Hong Kong, I can still find animals, birds, and amphibians surviving in small pockets of natural habitat. I'm always amazed when I step outside my home on rainy days and hear the calls of frogs, knowing they're surviving underneath the concrete-paved roads. It just goes to show that no matter where you are, there's always something you can do to help protect nature. With my background in ecology from university and my expertise as an ecologist, I truly grasp the importance of habitats and the environment for the well-being of the animals I love. These growing interests in conservation work have become an integral part of who I am. It's a common trajectory—getting to know these animals, falling in love with them, and feeling a deep desire to protect and conserve them.
Question: Then, what brought you to the EAAFP Secretariat and what was your motivation?
Answer: Well, I've actually been tagging along with the conservation of birds for a while now. I spent a good 8 years working on bird conservation before joining EAAFP. Back then, I was involved in a joint programme on bird conservation in China, working alongside the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society and BirdLife International. There were projects to conserve endangered bird species such as Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Chinese Crested Tern, Yellow-breasted Bunting, etc, and all the time working with local communities. Over the years I realized how crucial it is to engage people and convince them to support conservation efforts. That's why I believe in the significance of CEPA (Communication/Capacity Building, Education, Participation, and Awareness) work, that it should be merged at every levels, even though its impact may take some time to show. So, when I heard about the position of Communication Officer at EAAFP and the work will be focusing on CEPA, I felt this might be where I could explore and devote more energy to messaging the importance of the conservation of birds and bringing people to work together. I saw the need for more effort in CEPA in conservation, and I wanted to learn and dive headfirst into that realm of work. That's what keeps me motivated.
Question: I think CEPA activities would be possible in other countries, would working in EAAFP make any difference?
Answer: Actually, what I'm really excited about is EAAFP itself. It's on a whole other level compared to my previous focus on just one country or region. With EAAFP, we're talking about a Flyway scope, where things operate on a much grander scale as well as the impact is wider. Working here gives me international experience and allows me to see things with a wider vision, and I could work with the government, leading conservationists, scientists, and people with different backgrounds. It allows me to understand more about the systems and mindsets of government, IGOs, and international and local NGOs. I found that many times that people are interested and willing to support conservation actions when they understand the needs, it is then our role to find out ways for them to facilitate, and keep encouraging.
Question: I believe the Communication Officer and Communication Team are doing a lot for CEPA activities. What are the most interesting/memorable CEPA activities you have worked on so far?
Answer: That’s a difficult question, too many memorable activities, such as organizing MOP10 and MOP11! One thing I am thankful to the Secretariat is the freedom to explore things. I enjoy exploring different avenues and reaching out to new collaborators. One particular project that stands out of my mind at the moment is the Flyway Youth Forum. It all began in 2020, right around the time when COVID started. This experience really showcased how strong the partnership of EAAFP was and how far a collaborative action can bring us.
As the work plan adopted in MOP10, we need to organize a youth forum, so I started reaching out to people for ideas. Chris Rostron from WWT introduced me to Youth Engage in Wetlands (YEW) from the Ramsar Convention, and later on the concept of the first-ever Flyway Youth Forum was developed. There were lots of challenges, especially during the Pandemic period and we got to adapt to new technologies. But, oh boy, there were quite a few challenges along the way. The pandemic made everything even more difficult, especially as we had to adapt to the online environment and learn about online technology. But after 6 months to prepare for the two-weekend activities, the outcomes of the Flyway Youth Forum were great and exceeded our expectations. We had over 130 participants and more than 80 young leaders, with many of our Partners and collaborators supporting and participating. We drew inspiration from the energy of the young people and their passion for doing things at a high standard, and we heard their desire to engage more in conservation and need for capacity building. After the Flyway Youth Forum, we learned that East-Atlantic Flyway Youth Forum was established too. Now, we're even dreaming of a joint Flyway Youth Forum encompassing the entire world's flyways. It's still a dream, but it's great that we've initiated this conversation.
Following the Flyway Youth Forum, we launched the Youth Think Tank Competition, which led to more conservation actions by youth. And wonderful things were these endeavors continued to foster discussions with our Partners, culminating in the development of a decision paper “Youth Mainstreaming in Flyway”, including establishing a Youth Task Force. All of these experiences have been incredibly valuable for me. It has been an exciting journey for me to witness within EAAFP, that the immense energy and strong bonds we can forge with our Partners while empowering one another along the way.
Question: Reversely, throughout your work, what big challenges do you have in the role of Communication Officer and what lessons did these challenges teach you?
Answer: One of the challenges I often face is having so many things I want to accomplish with my colleagues and Partners, but also recognizing the limited capacity of myself and the secretariat as well. However, despite the challenges, we have managed to navigate through the past few years, and luckily we have wonderful Partners to support.
I've come to realize that even though our capacity may be limited at difficult times, it's crucial to learn to reach out for help. When we make that call, people are responsive and extend their helping hands. This spirit of collaboration and support is an essential aspect of EAAFP, that we are built on partnerships, understanding that no single country or organization can accomplish everything alone. Cooperation is key. And we work collectively towards achieving our common mission and vision: to conserve migratory waterbirds in our Flyway.
Question: Let’s move to your life in Korea. Ever since you came to Korea, what were your most impressive experiences in Korea?
Answer: I can't pinpoint a single experience that stands out. However, collectively, the friendships I have formed during my time in Korea, either at work or outside the office, are incredibly valuable to me. During my work at the Secretariat, we often have meetings with people. When we meet face to face, I feel a genuine connection, we shared common interests, particularly in bird conservation. It's during these interactions that we discuss challenges, dreams, and aspirations, that we offer support to one another, fostering a sense of camaraderie.
As a birdwatcher, of course, an enjoyment was birdwatching in Korea. I love exploring various bird-watching sites in Korea, and seeing birds that would pass through my hometown in Hong Kong gave me a stronger feeling that we are all connected in the flyway. Being at the site allows me to learn the reality at the site level as well. It's amazing how I came across people who share the same passion for birdwatching, and from there, we become friends and embark on bird-watching adventures together. The joy of sharing bird information and going on these excursions is truly priceless.
Question: Since you are leaving, what is your hope for the EAAFP and the Secretariat?
Answer: In a conceptual sense, what I truly value is fostering strong bonds and connectivity among people. It's a strength that I believe lies within EAAFP. Maintaining this unique connection among Partners and different sectors is incredibly important. During the MOPs, I witness the government officials engaging in friendly conversations and laughter with representatives from other organizations, scientists, and site managers. This kind of atmosphere is something worth preserving and enhancing.
Furthermore, I hope to see an active and expanding network of flourishing sites within EAAFP, and there will be more active Flyway Network Sites, and Sister Sites to be established. Additionally, I aspire to see more young people actively participating in EAAFP in the future. I believe all these are achievable goals.
Question: Lastly, do you have any messages to your colleagues?
Answer: There are two types of acknowledgment, Firstly, for my colleagues at the Secretariat, I am truly grateful for all my colleagues, not only the staff but also our interns who have made my time in Korea truly wonderful. They meant so much to me for we had gone through ups and downs together. Over the past four years, despite being a foreigner and sometimes the only foreigner in the office, I have never felt discriminated against. They have made me feel at home here, taken good care of me as well as invited and shared information about fun activities, sometimes even family gatherings and events. I couldn’t thank them more. The teamwork I experienced in the office is exceptional and our colleagues are professional. I have learned so much from them. Our lovely interns bring a joyful spirit, they are always helpful and I genuinely enjoy spending time with them. I would encourage my colleagues, despite that we all have our limitations, if you have a passion or a dream to try something, you can pursue it and help will come along with the will.
Moving on to colleagues of our Partners, Working Groups & Task Forces, and other collaborators, they are all amazing individuals. My gratitude for all their support and for answering our call for help all the time. Working with them has been an enjoyable experience. They are all remarkable people with big hearts and lofty dreams in conservation. Being alongside them, I feel a sense of empowerment, knowing that we can make a difference together. I believe that we will meet again in the future! I am sure they would extend their support to the new staff at the Secretariat.
The Secretariat created a message board for Vivian. If you have any message for her, please leave it here: https://www.kudoboard.com/boards/6aZiqawx