What do a school in Cambodia, a bus in Vietnam and refugee rights in Israel have in common? For Glocal Community-Development Studies student Anne-Sophie Cardinal, currently doing her internship in Benin, West Africa, they led her to actively pursue a professional career in international development.
Like many others in the field, Anne-Sophie Cardinal’s entry into international development was unplanned. Born in a French-speaking town outside of Quebec City in Canada, her original passion was the arts and, with an ear for languages, she began her working life as a translator, which led her to travel all over the world.
Intrigued when she overheard someone at a party discussing a start-up project in Cambodia run by an NGO called OrphFund, Cardinal remembers thinking: “Living that sort of experience would be a life-changing cultural and travel experience”. Within a few months she was on her way to join the organization.
She was the youngest member of the team, which had been assigned a project that sounded straightforward — building a school for 200 children over a period of 10 weeks, during which time the team would live in the surrounding community. However, living in a rural community with no common language was challenging. Alongside her work helping to build the school, Cardinal was able to pick up bits of Khmer. The project was a success and as she recalls the experience five years later, Cardinal can now see that it triggered a fundamental change within her. The experience was “too good to not be repeated,” she says, pointing to the “change [the project] brought to the children,” and to the “good connections” forged with the local community as a result of the group’s activities.
Following a chance encounter on a bus in Vietnam with an Israeli who would later become her husband, Cardinal found herself living in Israel in the fall of 2007, and it was here that she encountered another cause that would become part of her life’s path.
In 2008, on returning from a second development project in Sierra Leone and learning about the influx of 5,000 asylum seekers from Africa into Israel, Cardinal offered her services as a volunteer. She soon became a key component of the effort to assist the growing number of refugees in South Tel Aviv — working as a translator for French-speaking African asylum seekers, and fulfilling roles such as donations coordinator and project assistant for several Israeli NGOs, including the African Refugee Development Center, Microfy, Tel Aviv University’s Refugee Rights Clinic and the Hotline for Migrant Workers.
Cardinal acknowledges that a conflation of circumstances brought her to the Glocal Community-Development Studies program. When she attended the program’s 2010 open day, she heard staff and students speak about the classes and internship. While it is the fieldwork aspect of the program that attracts most students to the program, she says, “for me, it wasn’t the internship but rather the desire to become more professional at what I do”. During the first year of the Glocal program, alongside her studies and preparations for her current internship with CARE Benin-Togo, Anne-Sophie Cardinal also worked on her latest social venture — the establishment of Become, a volunteer-based NGO focusing on integrative community development and enhancing the well-being of vulnerable children in poor communities around the globe.
This summer, before setting out on their internships, a group of Glocal students accompanied Cardinal to a Become project in Kenya for an intense week of work, which allowed them to put into practice the knowledge and skills gained on Glocal.
Now in Benin until January 2013 for her internship with CARE Benin-Togo, Cardinal is busy helping the organization’s mission to assist the most vulnerable groups in Benin. Among her tasks are participating in CARE's emergency response to the floods resulting from the Niger River overflow — and which left thousands of households vulnerable.
“I am learning so much,” says Cardinal: “about the dynamics within large-scale organizations and with other international NGOs and government authorities, about effective advocacy and about many other issues in international development.”
Source: Glocal newsletter, Fall 2012