Emmanuel Michaud, United Nations Volunteer – Innovation and Social Policy, Nicaragua CO, UNICEF

Tell us a bit about your background
I come from Strasbourg, the capital city of Alsace, France which is located close to the border of Germany. At 18, I went to Lyon to study Political Science. I chose this degree because I wanted to be a journalist. While I was studying political science, I rapidly felt that I didn’t want to report or analyze but rather take an engaged, and active role. Thus, I shifted my focus to international cooperation. My studies and my fascination with Latin American cultures led me to work in the rural areas of Bolivia, Argentina, and now, Nicaragua. Some of my colleagues even tell me that I am already one of the “Latinos” – I think it’s because I enjoy adapting myself to environments that are very different from my native, Alsace.

What do you do?
I work in UNICEF’s Social Policy section which principally handles four thematic areas: child poverty, social protection, public finance for childhood, and local governance. My role mainly focuses on local governance with Autonomous Regions of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast. I also work with my colleagues on various innovations and pilot projects.

What’s your working day like?
A typical working day comprises various office tasks and multiple conversations with my colleagues around joint projects. In addition, I travel frequently to the field and to very isolated communities providing support to our partners. These travels constitute a very interesting and attractive part of my job.

How would you describe your job to a 5-year-old?
I try to help improve your rights and provide you with more opportunities. As an example, you have the right to play when you want to – so I try to make sure you can, whenever you want to. I like this example because it is not one of the rights of children that adults think about first. Nevertheless, when you ask children about their needs – recreation is a predominant answer.

What did you want to be when you were a child?
Like many children in the world, I wanted to be a professional football player – nothing very unique. But growing up, I’ve always gravitated to this notion of “helping people”. To me, as a child, I didn’t think that it was a job. But finally, due to the lack of sufficient football skills, and a stronger inclination to this notion, I found a job that helps improve the lives of children and address the inequalities that vulnerable communities face.

How/when did you join UNICEF?
I joined UNICEF through the UN Volunteer Program. After fulfilling my UN Volunteer profile, I applied to the position and passed the different selection steps. UN Volunteer positions are a great opportunity to start working for a UN entity.

What are the most satisfying parts of your job?
When I see the impact of my job on children rights. It is not always obvious to see and identify it but it is a big motivating force. I also appreciate the impact an organization like UNICEF can have on the development and implementation of public policies.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
A challenging aspect is that to work in an organization that manages public funds and promotes children rights is a big responsibility – it obligates us to do the very best in order to achieve a positive impact to the lives of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

What’s your best UNICEF experience/memory?
I supported a 3-day Innovation Camp in a rural community located on the Nicaraguan Caribbean coast and was quite struck by the enthusiasm of one of the participants. This child, whom does not have legs, showed an incredible level of motivation during the three days the activity lasted. Despite his life story, he left me a hopeful message. Another very interesting experience was my participation to an international seminar “Towards improved investment in children within the Sustainable Development Agenda” in Mexico City. I learned many things and actualized my knowledge on this topic.

What’s one of the biggest risks you’ve ever taken in your life?
I don’t really like taking risk like practicing extreme sports, etc. So I can’t give you an original example about it. The biggest risk I have ever taken is probably when I decided to leave my country – seeking work in Argentina after I graduated. At that moment, I didn’t have concrete job opportunities – it was a leap of faith. I think though that I didn’t perceive it as a risk when I took that decision but in reflection, I now feel that it was a quite unsafe professional and life choice.

What are your passions?
Sports without any doubt – specifically, football, playing and attending games in the stadium. Attending football games is something I miss here in Nicaragua. I sometimes want to go to France just for a weekend to see my favorite soccer team, Racing Club Strasbourg, play in my hometown. I would hope that my family doesn’t read this because they might think I’ll visit to see my favourite football team and not them! 😉

What advice would you give others who are seeking a similar job as yours?
Field experiences are very important. Empathy and a horizontal approach to human relationships are fundamental too. Last but not least, developing necessary technical skills is crucial. Having the will to help and speaking another language is not enough. One must be able to add value: to the stakeholders, to the partners and to the team. In my case, contributing my in-depth knowledge on international cooperation and my experience in managing development projects.

Who do you look towards for inspiration?
I think that one can learn from anybody. Every meeting is a potential positive and inspiring experience.

My colleagues don’t know that…
That my favorite style of music is French rap, and that I have played a tennis game in Roland-Garros Stadium, obviously not for the Grand Slam Tournament but a national competition.

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