It’s been a hard day’s work

27 Feb

I started work at UNICEF on Tuesday this week. I had Monday off because a lot of my colleagues were away on a work trip. It will be nice to ease into things with a four-day week, as I’m already finding concentrating all day in Spanish a little tiring.

Most of Tuesday was taken up with the general sort of admin one encounters when starting a new job: being introduced to everyone, shown the building facilities, briefed by security, given my ID card and access by HR, and provided a login for my computer.

I spent my spare moments reading UNICEF documents and publications and surfing the website to familiarise myself with their work. I also visited the onsite cafeteria for lunch (massive meal for A$3.10!) and took a quick happy snap of the view out of one of the windows.


I’m working in the Communication team which consists of my supervisor, Hector, three other team members and me. From what I’ve gathered so far, one works on video production (Eduardo), one on photography and virtual networks (Dany) and one on developing communication products and monitoring the media (Gaby). Everyone has been lovely and welcoming.

This morning I spent a fair amount of time reading through some more documents, including one that I found fascinating and highly informative. It was the ‘youth version’ of a national report on human development and the social exclusion of youth. I really liked the way they broke down the report into easily digestible segments and included comics, Q&As, simple charts, and drawings to demonstrate key message from the report.

Page from the youth version of the 'Informe Nacional sobre Desarollo Humano 2008/2009'

Page from the youth version of the ‘Informe Nacional sobre Desarollo Humano 2008/2009’

It was while I was enthralled with reading this document that I was given my first real task to do. Hector sent me a draft press release via email with a brief note asking me to revise and improve it. I don’t know why (I’m in Honduras after all) but for some stupid reason when I opened the document I was expecting it to be in English.

When I saw it was in Spanish and was about a draft bill currently being debated in the Honduran Congress I have to admit that a had a small moment of panic. I sat there staring at the screen thinking, “Oh my god, I can’t do this. My Spanish isn’t good enough to edit a draft press release. This is insane!”

My heart started pounding and I had visions of being booted out of Honduras because I wasn’t able to effectively help out my Community Project Organisation. I know, slightly melodramatic and over the top, but I couldn’t help it. I felt totally out of my depth.

I realised working myself up into a panicky mess wasn’t going to improve things and I needed to calm the heck down. It was about lunch time, so I figured I’d go to the cafeteria, get some lunch and some fresh air on the way, and attack the release when I got back to my desk.

I felt a bit better after lunch and, with coffee in hand, returned to start work. I decided the best way forward was to pretend the release was in Engliish and edit it like I would edit a press release back home. If my Spanish skills failed me I had a dictionary and Google to help out, so I’d just slog through it as best as I could.

I reread the release, teased out what I considered to be the key messages and rearranged the wording so these were at the top. Where possible, I simplified the language and shortened the length of sentences. I then converted some of the statements into quotes that could be attributed to a UNICEF spokesperson. Lastly I worked on cutting the release down to one page.

Once I was happy with how it looked, I triple checked it for spelling and grammar errors and then sent it through to Hector. I have never been so nervous about submitting a piece of work for review. I actually felt a bit sick in the stomach waiting for a response.

This is the response I received:

Hola Emma, lo entiendo muy bien y tu aporte es magnifico, nos ayudaras mucho. Gracias. Héctor.

English translation:

Hi Emma, ​​I understand very well and your input is great, you will help us a lot. Thank you. Hector.

I was so relieved I nearly cried! I think I’m going to have to print the email out and frame it when I get home. 🙂

So I guess I’ve passed the first test, and the pressure’s now on to keep doing acceptable work. In Spanish! My big lesson from today though is that I need to trust in my own abilities, keep breathing, and tackle each task step by methodical step.

Tomorrow I’m heading off on my first overnight work trip. We’ll be going to Valle de Angeles (a place I think I’m going to know very well by the end of my stay) to see the Red de Comunicadores Infantiles y Juveniles de Honduras (Child and Youth Communicators Network) in action.

I’m really looking forward to it as from everything I’ve read in the past two days it’s a brilliant project that truly gives Honduran kids a voice. Stay tuned.


3 Responses to “It’s been a hard day’s work”

  1. MB February 27, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

    Fantastic work Em. You know you have the ability and it’s just tackling the written language that needs refreshing. You will do just fine young lady. Trust your own gut feeling, keep out of the cafeteria, and go forth and do good things. XXX

    • honduranhiatus February 28, 2013 at 7:57 am #

      Keep out of the cafeteria. Ha! The food there is actually quite good. And you can ask for as much or as little as you like. So you’ll be pleased to know that I only asked for a small amount of meat and lots of veges. xo


  1. One year later… | Honduran hiatus - June 11, 2013

    […] …explored ancient Mayan ruins …written press releases for UNICEF …toured a volcanic island in a mototaxi …nearly sparked an diplomatic incident while playing […]

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