After completing my MPA at CIPA, my goal was to work in thefield of international development. In April of 2011, I accepted an offer from a Japanese NGO called Association for Aid and Relief (AAR JAPAN). This organization offers international relief programs in more than ten countries; I was assigned to Port-au-Prince, Haiti as the acting program country director.
AAR JAPAN launched an emergency response program in Haiti immediately following the earthquake in January of 2010. Since then, the organization has implemented a number of projects. Their main focus has been constructing temporary buildings for orphanages and special schools for children with disabilities. When I came to Haiti for the first time in June 2011, I was struck with some harsh realities. Although a year and a half had passed since the earthquake, little work had been done on rebuilding the orphanages and schools that had collapsed in the quake.
Implementing projects in Haiti is particularly challenging due to several circumstances. The country remains politically unstable, as evidenced by the absence of the Prime Minister following President Michel Martelly’s appointment in April of 2011. Security is also a concern; the United Nations Peace Keeping Forces have been deployed to Haiti since 2004.
The Haiti office of AAR JAPAN is quite small compared to other international NGOs there. Working with just two other Japanese staff members to cover all of the demands of the office, my responsibilities end up being quite diverse; from one day to another I am involved in office administration, human resources, security management, and project supervision.
In the midst of this challenging work environment, I find that I truly appreciate what I learned during my two years at CIPA. In particular, I’m grateful for the practical, handson work experience I gained. As a member of the Cornell’s SMART program (CIIFAD’s Student Multidisciplinary Applied Research Teams), I developed my research and analytical skills while completing a project for an NGO in Kenya. During my summer internship with Catholic Relief Services, I learned project management working with developing East African countries. These experiences were invaluable in developing a skill set for effectively working in international development. While at CIPA, I also developed critical writing and analytical abilities that I apply daily to my work—writing reports and proposals to donors as well as to my supervisors at headquarters. The mixed curriculum of theory and practice at CIPA was excellent preparation for my current job responsibilities.
In addition to the learning experiences I gained at Cornell, I benefitted so much from close interactions with everyone in the MPA program—professors, staff, and Fellows alike. I was reminded of this when I made a visit to CIPA in August 2011—a year after my graduation—and was warmly welcomed by my thesis advisor, Professor Uphoff, and by the rest of the CIPA staff. Without their support throughout my program, it would not have been possible for me to realize my dream of becoming involved in humanitarian assistance. Now as a development professional in Haiti, I truly realized the power of the MPA program at CIPA and the invaluable network that I gained as a result.