Raising Awareness on Wetlands: For others and for me

01 October 2008 | News story

Many Westerners might never consider spending a year in Hanoi, but for me, IUCN Viet Nam was the perfect fit. I had just finished my master’s degree in International Affairs with a specialization in International Development. That training, coupled with my longtime interest in the environment and biology led me to seek a position as an IUCN intern funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and supported by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), based in Canada.

I started at IUCN Viet Nam in mid-September 2007 and completed the internship in March of the next year. I stayed on an extra four months to work on my biggest project here – organizing the Asian Wetland Symposium (AWS) in Hanoi in June 2008. Doing so required me to liaise with government departments and taught me a lot about the Vietnamese government’s role in conserving the environment. It also showed me the importance of teamwork, as I relied heavily on the team at IUCN and at the Vietnam Environmental Protection Agency (VEPA). The conference would not have been the success that it was without help from these dedicated people.

It was certainly difficult to be responsible for so many small details, including registration, booking the venue, and abstract and paper submission. However, the hard work was worth it!  Many wetland scientists for all over Asia convened in Hanoi, bringing together numerous informative speakers. It was rewarding to arrange an event that helped raise awareness about the importance of wetland conservation in Viet Nam and Asia. 

I also was proud of how far I had come – from a fresh-faced intern with little knowledge of IUCN’s specific workload to a seasoned member of the staff who could contribute productively. Working with an inspiring group of people that cared deeply about preserving Viet Nam’s natural resources helped me make that leap.

Through my interactions with the people and projects at IUCN, I became familiar with the wide range of conservation issues in Viet Nam, as well as how to address them. That learning experience and adapting to different forms of conservation practice has altered my worldview and given me environmental problem-solving skills that I can use both in Canada and abroad.

Thanks to my experience at IUCN VN, I hope to one day to return to Asia to continue to work on conservation issues in the region. I really loved living in Viet Nam – it is unique and rapidly changing country where the excitement is infectious!   

Annie Baxter