My name is Heather Donald and I am an MA student in Development Studies and Refugee/Forced Migration Studies at York University in Toronto. I am really looking forward to heading back to the Warm Heart soon, brushing up on my Chichewa and building my experience in working with refugee populations. I will also be doing research for my MA on how young people in Dzaleka Refugee Camp experience access to post-secondary education, both in-camp and through resettlement/scholarships more generally. Having been engaged with WUSC’s Student Refugee Program (SRP) in Ottawa and Toronto, and having worked in a number of countries in southern Africa, I hope to contribute positively in my role as Program Assistant – Student Refugee Program with WUSC-Malawi and Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Dzaleka Refugee Camp.
I studied public policy and development studies at Carleton University in undergrad. Having studied at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania for an exchange year, I returned to the region and worked at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda after graduation. In Dzaleka, I hope to get the opportunity to brush up on my Kiswahili and my limited Chichewa!
I have worked in communications and program development with a number of NGOs in Ottawa and overseas, including with Uniterra in Malawi nearly two years ago, where I worked as a Communications and Media Relations Advisor with the Malawi Network of AIDS Service Organizations (MANASO) in Blantyre. I’m really excited to bring these experiences to this position to ensure the students destined for Canada through the SRP are as prepared for and open to their migration as they can be.
Working in Dzaleka will be an incredible learning experience for me, as it will be my first time working in a refugee camp setting. Having recently met up with a previous volunteer and spoken with former sponsored students from Dzaleka, I am even more excited to begin this new challenge. I have been keeping myself updated on the political situation in the country, including ongoing fuel shortages, and I plan to continue doing so on a regular basis so not to worry about that.
One of the first things I plan to do upon arrival – other than greet the lovely people at WUSC Malawi – will be to find a Fanta orange and chapati to enjoy! But seriously, I plan to brush up on my Chichewa a bit before going and I am looking forward to building relationships with my colleagues, the students I will be working with, and the community.
I will do my best to let you know more about my learnings, stories and experiences as often as I can. I also have a personal work abroad blog where I may post more frequently – I will try to cross-post as much as possible.
Tiwaonana! (See you soon!)