Photo credit: ELG21/Pixabay
By Haily Eggleston, MIPP
When the Russian Federation launched a broad military offensive against Ukraine, I honestly thought that was the end of my internship. Up until that point, I had been working on interview questions for other units as part of a mapping exercise of private sector and civil society partners of IOM. But given what was happening in Ukraine, I knew that the work would be put on hold. That Friday, I was advised by the coordinator at UNAC to reach out to colleagues to see if they had tasks for me to do, and I will admit I was hesitant to do so, as I did not want to bother anyone while they were responding to the crisis around them. But before I could email my colleagues on Monday, I received a message from my supervisor asking for my assistance, specifically whether I could be available on an ad-hoc basis during this time to help wherever the need was greatest. So as it turns out, the current conflict will not mark the premature end of my internship. In fact, quite the opposite.
Since 24 February, I have been assisting the Migrant Protection and Assistance department with keeping up-to-date information for the IOM toll-free hotline that is assisting Ukrainian and third country nationals who are trying to leave the country. I’m also compiling a centralized document that includes all important migration information and hotline numbers for all bordering countries that will be accepting those Ukrainians fleeing the war. These projects have involved organizing information from multiple sources that is constantly changing as events unfold, and keeping track of it all can be disorienting, to say the least. Given the nature of this new work, I’ve had to strengthen my organizational skills and remain adaptable. It has also required me to be flexible with my working hours. Often, I have had to work into the evening to update information about the hotlines for the following day, or create new information sheets for our partners and stakeholders. However, the demands of my work pales in comparison to that of my colleagues.
Working at IOM during this time I have seen such perseverance, flexibility, adaptability and resolve in my colleagues, both new and old. Life is changing before their eyes and still they are working tirelessly, working extremely long hours, to provide services and information to people who are trying to leave Ukraine. I will never forget the first day I met with the woman from the Migrant Protection and Assistance department with whom I now work closely. I did not think it was possible to feel like I was in a fast-paced environment while doing this internship remotely, but I definitely do now. Listening to her talk, explaining all of the things she has been doing up until that point and telling me what she needed of me, I felt as though I was in a bustling office. It was a reflection of her reality – my reality now to a certain degree – of working at an international organization like the IOM during a humanitarian crisis. I have so much respect and admiration for all of my colleagues, and I am grateful that I am able to help in any way I can, although I wish it did not have to be the case.