June 13, 2024

Reflections from an Outgoing Intern - Isabel Salter

Leaving behind everything you know and journeying halfway across the globe to start an internship in a foreign country is undeniably daunting. Yet, much of my apprehension dissipated when I landed in New York and was instantly embraced by the familiar hospitality of the Mercy World. From meeting my new roommates, a supportive community of Mercy Volunteer Corps volunteers, to being welcomed by the Mercy Global Action team, I felt as though I’d found a home away from home. These two support systems have been invaluable as I’ve adjusted to life in New York City and learned to navigate the complex world of the United Nations (including its hundreds of acronyms).

The support from MGA has been profound, but so has the trust they’ve placed in me. Much like Catherine McAuley, who did not wait until young women were ‘fully formed’ before entrusting them with great responsibilities, the MGA team has encouraged me from the outset to challenge myself and seize every opportunity. Within a matter of weeks, I found myself actively participating in four issue-based NGO working groups at the UN (focusing on extractivism, homelessness, migration, and social development), assisting with research and drafting processes for numerous MGA position statements, and representing MGA at UN conferences. This set a bold trajectory of personal and professional growth that has only accelerated throughout my internship.

Another key source of community for me has been RUN (‘Religious at the UN’), a coalition of individuals representing religious congregations and faith-based NGOs at the UN. This group has taught me so much about the vital role of civil society within the UN system, and all governance structures for that matter. Faith-based organisations, in particular, tend to bring a lens of human dignity and compassion that is easily lost in the bureaucracy of political processes, and they make space for the voices of people with lived experience, which is key to developing effective policy solutions. I have endless admiration for the religious Sisters who have worked tirelessly in this space for decades, despite the incremental nature of UN advocacy wins.

When I think about the highlights of my internship, I recall the bustling two-month period during which the UN Commission for Social Development and Commission on the Status of Women took place. I assisted with the execution of panel events, organised and attended a ‘mission visit’ to a UN Member State mission, hosted the incredible women from Cohort 3 of the MGA Emerging Leaders Fellowship during their New York immersion, and had the opportunity to hear advocates like Malala Yousafzai speak. I also recall my trip to the US-Mexico border, where I was able to bear witness to the realities of migrants, and my trip to Rome, where I attended the Talitha Kum General Assembly and heard the strong calls-to-action of passionate human trafficking survivors.

Overall, the past ten months have been such a fun, dynamic, and enriching experience. I will always be grateful for this incredible start to my career and for the drive for justice it has instilled in me. My heartfelt thanks extend to Angela, for her mentorship, to Cecilie, for being the best manager I could ask for, and to Colleen, Jemima and Mayet for their unwavering warmth and encouragement. Lastly, I could never have made it here without the support of my parents, and Gaby, Meredith and Catherine from Young Mercy Links South Australia.

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