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Suzanne's Experience as a UN Youth Volunteer

Suzanne Byrne during her time as an Irish Aid sponsored UN Youth Volunteer

'Life in Lilongwe, while tough at times, was also an open door to opportunities I had only dreamt of"

In January 2012, I was lucky enough to get a placement with the UN Youth Volunteer Programme. My placement was Coordination Analyst with the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office based in the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Looking back to my expectations pre-departure, I thought the experience would be one of hardship and endurance, however, quickly I learned that life in Lilongwe, while tough at times, was also an open door to opportunities I had only dreamt of and scenery that would take your breath away.

I had the opportunity to engage with key agencies delivering human rights and governance programmes in Lilongwe and throughout the country.

The UN Resident Coordinator has the overall responsibility for the delivery and implementation of the One UN Programme. This means coordinating UN agencies in the country to align their work in areas such as human rights, gender, HIV/AIDS, cost effectiveness and monitoring & evaluation. My day to day role was to coordinate and liaise with the key personnel from all the agencies in the UN system in Malawi to progress the One UN agenda.

The highlight of my year was coordinating a visit of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to Lilongwe. I had the opportunity to engage with key agencies delivering human rights and governance programmes in Lilongwe and throughout the country. Through organising key visits and meetings I was able to promote the work on the ground. I got a meaningful workload and really got a good insight into the daily demands of working in a UN country office.

Life in Malawi was challenging at times, it was commonplace to have fuel shortages and other commodity shortages such as electricity and water. However, my friends and I quickly learned to adapt and the hours waiting in line for fuel all added to the “experience” of the year. Life in Malawi also meant regular trips to the stunning Lake Malawi, forming friendships with Malawi colleagues and ex-pats that will last a lifetime and some amazing adventures including stumbling across elephants and other wildlife on the roads.

The experience of my year as a UN Youth Volunteer has really stood to me and to anyone thinking of applying I’d say – go for it! You won’t regret it.

Opportunities as UN Youth Volunteer

Find out more about the Irish Aid sponsored UN Youth Volunteer Positions