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Seeking Purpose Through International Development and Diplomacy: A Junior Professional Consultant’s

by Mehreen Shami

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

The irony of life is its only guarantee: death. The fleeting nature of this life remains, so what impact would you like to have before it is too late?

This very reminder and the associated trials and lessons of life have motivated me to seek a greater purpose through every interaction, aspiration, and opportunity my way. My name is Mehreen Shami (she/her), and I am very privileged and excited to be working as a Junior Professional Consultant with the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian Refugees in Amman, Jordan. I am currently pursuing an M.A. focused on International Relations at McMaster University and come from a unique academic background connecting psychological phenomena, including intersectionality, to international development.

Image 1: Mehreen Shami, Junior Professional Consultant at UNRWA Jordan

Working in International Development: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.

Working with a United Nations Agency explicitly dedicated to humanitarian development and relief has been an incredibly fulfilling experience. Obtaining this position was truly a full-circle moment after I dedicated a significant portion of my academic career to studying issues affecting stateless or displaced populations in Palestine, Kashmir, and Indigenous populations in North America. Growing up with dual nationality is indeed a privilege many yearn to actualize, and I am grateful for every opportunity that permits me to empower others. To belong is a fundamental human need for socialization, and through empathetic approaches, we can use our skills and abilities to engage with the margins.

Image 2: Nearly 6 million refugees are covered by UNRWA's protection mandate. It is unique in its commitment to one specific refugee group, with services available to all those living in its areas of operations (UNRWA website).

The reality is that anyone can and could be a refugee. Working with an agency whose mission is to employ and empower vulnerable identities has been very insightful and inspiring. The ability to uphold my academic experience to work on projects that foster change and align with the international humanitarian causes I am passionate about is truly an unparalleled feeling. My current work specifically pertains to strategic partnership

development, seeking meaningful connections for UNRWA’s projects and objectives. Partnership development is a process by which organizations seek collaborations and mutually beneficial partnerships with other businesses, organizations, teams, etc. By connecting organizations in my locality to overarching goals and humanitarian causes, I remember that there is more work to be done and more ways to give back to our society. There are endless blessings and opportunities that can add meaning and purpose to the work you do.

Seeking Purpose as a Life-Long Endeavour:

For a long time, I felt as if I had to put on a facade to succeed as a first-generation Canadian, balancing the values and cultures instilled in me by my parents with what I would experience at school, work, and society. I would struggle with identity as contradictory norms surrounded me. Until the realization hit that these interactions were intended to shape my own direction and moral compass without having to sacrifice my values. Because when you are accepting of everything, you stand for nothing. I have thus developed a great appreciation for those who work to establish their own philosophy of life and who are reclaiming their quintessential self. When you strive for a greater purpose, every interaction in your subsequent pursuit will flourish as a meaningful connection.

As you go through the process of seeking opportunities, identify what impact it is that you would like to have in this life. Reflect on every meaningful interaction that comes your way - as the moments you experience are uniquely yours. The philosophy you live by won’t develop overnight but throughout the journey that is your life. Ensure you do everything in your capacity to fulfill your purpose - and ultimately, strive to build a life worth living.


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