Guy Halpern

2011 / Tajikistan
International Development Management (IDM)


What was your earliest volunteer experience?

Volunteering with the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto, Ontario.

Do you have any anecdotes or insights to share about the one-month training program leading up to your Fellowship travels?

Too many anecdotes to list, but I think the most important insights from it are two-fold: the first is that it is impossible to predict what information will prove useful, and why, so best to soak everything up. Some of the sessions which seemed of greatest practical use didn’t end up having a role in the work I did in Tajikistan, while other lessons came back to me in surprising ways. The second insight is how valuable the friendships are that you form in that one month – it doesn’t feel like a lot of time, but the intensity of it brings you together with your fellow Fellows, ensuring that you’ve got a network of fellow Fellows to compare notes with while on your Fellowship.

In the time leading up to your departure what was your biggest concern?

Ensuring that I had sufficient reading material!

What were your first impressions when you arrived at your destination?

Hot, dusty, dramatic, beautiful, and perhaps somewhat strange. Everything seems a little strange after getting off a plane at 5AM on the other side of the world.

Did you eat something that was new to you? What was it?

I tried many things that were new to me, but my favourite was Tajik naan. When it’s fresh from the oven, it is a revelation. I can (and did) eat endless amounts of it, enjoying it with almost every meal of the day.

What did you do during your Fellowship?

I worked with Mountain Societies Development Support Programme, based in Khorog, Tajikistan. I had a variety of roles, centred around project management and monitoring and evaluation. That encompassed a very wide range of activities, including drafting annual or semi-annual progress updates on particular projects, measuring results against established metrics, developing organizational monitoring and evaluation frameworks, and contributing to new grant proposals.

Do you have any advice for future Fellows?

Go with an open mind, and be prepared to learn a lot! Learn from those around you, and get involved with the things that interest you most. Learning opportunities are always there to be seized, and those eight months will go by surprisingly quickly.

What are you doing now?

I’m currently working as a policy analyst with Natural Resources Canada’s International Energy Division.