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Carve out your Unique Path

By Oriana Santana

Disclaimer: The views are those of the author's alone and do not represent the views of UNA-Canada.

If you had told me about a year ago that I would be one of the few young Canadians to be selected to join the 5th cohort of UNA-Canada’s International Youth Internship Programme (IYIP) and become one of the 24 chosen to become Junior Professional Consultants, I’m not sure if I would have believed you.

A year ago, I was still completing my degree and was hesitant about what was next. Some of my friends were applying to continue their studies, and others had already found employment. When thinking about graduation, instead of looking at it as a start of endless possibilities, I was afraid of what followed… the unknown.

Embracing the Unknown

When I became part of the Carleton Alumni, many were asking me "what's next?"

JPC Oriana at her recent Carleton University Graduation

However, as a graduate, I had entered a world that is unprecedentedly wide open and unstructured, so I found myself having to accept the waves of uncertainty and to simply have patience. I hoped that while others seemed to have it all figured out, my opportunity would come. All I had to do was embrace the unexpected, be fearless and work towards finding my own unique potential.

When I least expected it, I found a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to apply for The International Youth Internship Program (IYIP), which is designed to offer young Canadian professionals the opportunity to gain professional experience within the UN system. Although I was afraid of not being selected, I embraced my thoughts of uncertainty and completed the application to the best of my ability through reflecting on my experiences, interests, and passions in the realm of human rights.

What I least expected was that this opportunity would put me one step closer to my dream to become a part of something bigger than myself, all while developing a meaningful and impactful career.

My JPC Journey

Through IYIP, which is part of UNA-Canada’s International Development & Diplomacy Internship Programmes, I have been remotely posted as a Junior Professional Consultant (JPC) in Partnership Mapping and Outreach with the World Food Programme Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean in Panama City.

My Office Set Up

Oriana's remote office set-up in Ottawa

As a JPC, I support the Regional Bureau by identifying partnership opportunities and engaging with partnership opportunities to further WFP’s mandate of 'Saving & Changing Lives' in the region.

Being part of the Partnerships team, which includes IFIs, Public and Private Sector, I've had the opportunity to see first-hand how the WFP Regional Bureau for LAC, which coordinates operations in 13 different country offices, supports populations in mitigating the impact of threats, including conflict, climate shocks and other disasters, and in developing sustainable livelihoods that can build self-reliance and resilience in the long term.

Some of WFP’s focus in the region:

Resilience And Climate Change: It is incredible to see how the World Food Programme is building the capacities of communities and governments in Latin America and the Caribbean to adapt to the growing challenges of climate change.

Social Protection - Venezuelan Migration and Central American Migration: The focus on Social Protection hits home for me, specifically since I have personal ties to "one of the largest displacement crisis in the world" (UNHCR). Therefore, seeing the work being done in the region, particularly in the current context and the studies conducted for the effective access of migrants to social protection systems both prior to the pandemic and currently has been impactful.

Thrive through Uncertainty

Graduating and being afraid of the unknown is challenging but use this time to embrace the uncertainty that youth creates and use the time you have to fearlessly pursue limitless possibilities!

There are various programmes and opportunities in Canada, which emphasize the importance of preparing the youth for the future. All you have to do is spend time searching for those and while you explore, acquire skills and experiences which will help you reach new professional opportunities, such as IYIP.

Pre-Covid Photo: Oriana looks ahead to forge her own path and embrace uncertainty

Enhance Your Innovative Mindset

Photo of part of the WFP Panama team at our Weekly Meeting

“Innovation” is a word I hear daily when introducing myself as a JPC. Last week, I met for the first time the WFP's regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean. And the regional partnerships officer who leads our team encouraged Christine (Other JPC) and me to share our thoughts and ideas. I was afraid since I was not sure if I had the confidence to share, however, my team has been highly inclusive and encourages us young professionals to share new and innovative ideas, which are vital in creating solutions. So, I took the chance, and working through my nervousness, I used my voice!

Embracing the Ultimate Unknown: Carve out your unique path

Accepting and going into the unknown will make your goals and objectives more apparent. You only learn what you are capable of through new adventures, and by acknowledging you have your own unique chronological journey ahead in life.

After all, if I had not taken a break and allowed myself to breathe and found the time to understand myself better, I would not be writing this blog about my incredible JPC experience.


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