For all of August and September, I will be the SURGE Communications Officer in Kiev, Ukraine, and assist UNDP Ukraine and other UN country teams with the development and day-to-day implementation of communications and publication strategies. I’ll also monitor progress of the UN country teams response to the crises in Ukraine “with a view to influence the development agenda,” by helping with public and media outreach, to help people to understand the work and accomplishments of UNDP in Ukraine. I’ll be helping to build the capacities of the staff to continue these communications activities long after I’ve gone.
Supposedly, I’ll get to work with various communications managers, staff of other UN Agencies, government officials, international and local media, multi-lateral and bi-lateral donors and civil society. According to the job description, I’ll be:
- Planning and designing internal and external strategies for communications and outreach
- Supervising the design and maintenance of the UNDP web site and intranets (and I hope other online activities as well)
- Facilitating knowledge building and knowledge sharing
That’s a tall order in two months, but I’m ready! I love getting to work in my first love: communications in development programs. I love designing and carrying out communications plans, but I also love building the capacity of people to communicate, to deliver effective messages, to anticipate issues, to be responsive, etc. My favorite work in Afghanistan, the last time I worked for the UN, was building public sector staff communications capacities in Afghanistan, something I squeezed in amid my primary responsibilities of writing and editing reports for various institutions, and I continue to do that capacity-building work with Afghan colleagues to this day, as an online volunteer. I’m so looking forward to getting to do this kind of work again!
I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m thrilled, I’m scared – not of the political situation in Ukraine but of meeting the expectations of this job!
Of course, this has come at a cost: I was to present in Austin, Texas in September, to do a volunteer management training for AmeriCorps members in Portland, Oregon, to do a training back in my hometown of Henderson, Kentucky, and lots of personal plans. There were people I haven’t seen in many, many years, and people I was to meet onsite, face-to-face, that I’ve known only online, all lined up for August and September. That’s the cost of doing this type of short-term work overseas – it never happens at a convenient time. And, of course, I’m missing the very best time to be in Oregon – and will be missing my husband terribly.
The worst part, though, is Delta Airlines: I already have a roundtrip ticket booked with them for Germany, for a vacation with my husband. My Ukraine contract ends just three days before I was to arrive in Germany from the USA. You would think Delta would simply let me keep that ticket – already paid for – and then just not use the USA to Germany part, allowing me to simply buy a flight from Kiev to Frankfurt, and then using just the return ticket – again, it’s all already paid for. And you would be WRONG. Unless I fly out from the USA to Germany, I would pay almost $5000 for the flight back from Germany to the USA! If I don’t show up for the outbound flight, they will cancel my return ticket! So I have to fly all the way back to the USA from Ukraine, stay TWO days, and get right back on a plane for Europe. Can you believe it?!? There is no logic for this. None. None whatsoever.
Anyway, I’ll post updates about my work here and via my various online social network channels.
If you are or have been in Kiev, Ukraine, do drop me a line with any advice you have!