It is a truth universally acknowledged (as Jane Austen might say!) that many Loreto students across Australia dream of the opportunity to work at the United Nations (UN). They study the history and aims of the UN in history classes, debate its successes and failures in politics classes and give speeches on some of its key themes and challenges in debates and public speaking competitions. As a result, Loreto students have a global citizenship mindset and want to make a difference at the highest levels possible in our world.
Several past pupils have seen this dream come true in recent years, becoming interns at the IBVM/CJ office at the UN in New York City. This office was established in 2003 to represent the IBVM (Loreto) and CJ congregations and their global circle of friends. It has Associate Status with the Department of Global Communications (DGC) and in 2015 was granted special consultative status with Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The office acts as a voice for society, asking critical questions facing our planet and advocating for women and girls. Drawing on the work and experience of the Mary Ward Sisters and their partners in education and social justice, the IBVM/CJ Office makes a significant impact on a wide range of topics.
Since early 2020 the current IBVM and CJ UN representatives have been forced to work from home and countries other than the US. Sr Janet Palafox IBVM now works out of Sydney, Australia, and Sr Cynthia Mathew CJ has from Bihar, India. Through ingenuity, adaptability and an ability to manage numerous times zones, they ensured the opportunity for interns to continue – virtually!
Over the last six months, one British and three Australian past students have worked online to support Janet and Cynthia and experience some of the UN’s extraordinary work, which has shifted many of its meetings, conferences, commissions, and hearings to various virtual platforms.
Aislinn Healy, a past student of Loreto Coorparoo and former MWIA volunteer, is a registered nurse and currently completing her master’s degree. Aislinn began in December 2020 and helped write and deliver our Oral Statement at the Commission for the Economic and Social Forum in February 2021.
Charlotte Jones, a past student of Loreto Mandeville Hall Toorak, is finishing her Bachelor of Commerce/Global Studies and Diploma of Languages (Indonesian). Charlotte started in March attending the 65th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65) as one of our delegates.
Evangeline Polymeneas, a past student of Loreto Marryatville, is currently studying three Bachelor’s degrees in Law, Media and Arts (Politics and International Studies). Evangeline began in December 2020 and ended her role in April 2021, assisting the office with Social Media campaigns and updating the NGO website.
We invited Evangeline to share a brief comment on her virtual intern experience…
I am an old scholar from Loreto College Marryatville. I began my education at Loreto in reception and graduated in 2015. After graduation, I was accepted into a triple bachelor’s degree program at the University of Adelaide, where I study Law, Arts (Politics and International Relations) and Media (Journalism). I am currently in my final year. My Loreto education instilled within me an unshakeable desire to help others and make the world a better place. It was through my interest in international law and advocacy that I found the IBVM/CJ United Nations internship. There, I used my skills in Media to aid Sr Janet Palafox ibvm with promotional content for the campaigns the IBVM/CJ office was supporting and write content for the new website. I attended the Commission for Social Development and the Commission on the Status of Women.
Further, I aided other like-minded NGOs with their promotional content. In the lead up to the Commission on the Status of Women, I hosted a Conversation Circle at my old school, Loreto College Marryatville where I had the opportunity to interact with the girls and ask them what changes they would like to see in the world when it came to the issue of Gender Equity. I am now finishing my final year of university while working as a freelance writer. I hope to use the skills I gained in my internship in my career as a journalist.
My whole experience and time with IBVM/CJ at the United Nations was invaluable not only to my career experience but also to my personal development and I am very grateful.
While the capacity for more virtual interns is somewhat limited at present and plans to return to NYC are still in train, the dreams of other budding interns will alas need to remain on hold; however, we encourage you to stay across the work of the UN Office via their website or social media channels – Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.
Feature Image: Sr Janet Palafox ibvm with UN interns Charlotte Jones, Evangeline Polymeneas and Aislinn Healy.