Ukraine's biggest national flag on the country's highest flagpole and the giant 'Motherland' monument are seen at a compound of the World War II museum in Kyiv, Ukraine, December 16, 2021. Picture taken with a drone.

Dispatch from IOM in Ukraine: Ashley Mungai’s first blog from the virtual field

Photo credit: Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko

By Ashley Mungai, MAGG

I always knew that an internship in the UN system would change my life. However, I had no idea just how much of an understatement this would be.

My name is Ashley Mungai, and I am currently finishing up my MAGG program. I am an international student from Kenya, and my virtual office has been both in Waterloo (Canada) and Nairobi (Kenya). However, I am working for the Diaspora and Migrant Engagement Unit within the Labour Migration and Humanitarian team at IOM Ukraine, Kyiv office.

Before the crisis, I worked under the most phenomenal and caring boss I have ever had and within a team that welcomed me with open arms. I not only learned about Ukrainian culture but had the opportunity to support various Diaspora and Migrant Engagement projects through editing and drafting policy recommendations, papers, project concepts notes, and even learning how to create TOCs (Theories of Change). Every day was different. One day, I’d work on migration policies. The next, it would be capacity building, social-economic development, or even seeing how we can engage the diaspora in impact investments. Even though the time difference was sometimes chaotic, every day was exciting.

The day the war broke out, I attended what ‘usually was’ our bi-weekly catch-up meetings with my boss. But instead, it was the day several lives in Ukraine changed.  My boss informed me that they were not evacuating and, instead, we were all moving to emergency response teams.

While my team is on the front lines, I have been working within a multi-agency Ukrainian Diaspora Crisis Response Team. This team comprises of members from six different IOM Missions from across the globe. Our role is to coordinate relations and humanitarian responses among diaspora groups, both Ukrainian and further afield. The secondary aim of this crisis response team is to match the needs that we receive from the missions on the ground with either funds or stakeholders willing to step in, which involves promoting cooperation between humanitarian actors on the ground.

The opportunity to serve on this team, draft critical documents, and even create electronic resources is so humbling. Even though I’m so far away and constantly worried about their safety, I’m proud and honoured to say that our efforts are not only helping my team in Kyiv but also the men, women and children directly affected by the conflict, regardless of their race or nationality.

I may not physically be in Ukraine, but right now my heart is there, and I’m glad that in some small way, I get to help.

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