By Lea Phillips
While COVID-19 threw a wrench in Lea Phillips’ summer plans, it also opened the door for new opportunities. In early March, Ms. Phillips signed a contract with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to intern in their Micronesia and Philippines country offices. Having participated in IPED’s Monitoring and Evaluation course in the Philippines that winter break, Lea was enthusiastic to learn more about the region while supporting CRS’s Disaster Risk Reduction projects. By mid-March, however, Micronesia closed its borders to foreigners and so did many places in the Philippines. Travelling to either country remained impossible.
Luckily, CRS Philippines still had the capacity for a remote internship. To best adapt to the new circumstances, Lea’s scope of work shifted towards business development, an integral part of CRS’s model that doesn’t necessitate being “in the field”. During the three month internship, Ms. Phillips supported the creation of numerous USAID grant proposals by writing drafts, preparing budgets, and collaborating with multi-country teams to define goals and indicators of success. This support enabled CRS Philippines to procure multiple grants which went towards providing much-needed relief for vulnerable populations dealing with COVID-19 and the aftermath of typhoons.
By virtue of not being in the Philippines, Ms. Phillips also had the capacity to continue with her internship with the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Global Programme on Nature for Development. As a member of the Spatial Planning team, Ms. Phillips had an exciting opportunity to support the program’s first virtual Mapping Nature for People and Planet inception workshops. Lea and her teammates collaborated with UNDP Country Offices and government officials in five countries to prepare, hold, and report on these workshops to build national spatial planning capacities. Ms. Phillips was also responsible for multiple aspects of the spatial planning team’s communications, including drafting press releases, think pieces for UNDP platforms, grant proposals, and award submissions.
Through IPED-funding, Ms. Phillips used her free time to advance her language skills. Although Qasid Institute had previously never offered online courses, the Arabic language school changed its business model in the Summer of 2020 to adapt to new circumstances. This gave Lea the opportunity to achieve one of her long-term goals, studying Levantine Arabic from a top-notch school in Amman, Jordan. In these courses, Ms. Phillips built off her studies in both Moroccan Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic to achieve an advanced level in spoken Jordanian Arabic.
This unique combination of professional experiences and language studies will be an asset to Lea as she pursues post-graduation opportunities. She believes that the skills and relationships that she garnered at both UNDP and CRS have prepared her for entering an increasingly challenging job market.