A CAPI Intern in the Philippines

- Haydn Shook

Life gives us unexpected opportunities. Last year, while browsing through the UVic Co-op directory, I spotted an internship placement at Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) in Quezon City, the Philippines, offered by UVic’s Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives (CAPI). I had just finished my first year of UVic Law, and a summer of articling at a Vancouver Island firm. I was looking for a new challenge—one that would complement my legal education by giving me some extra-jurisdictional experience. CAPI’s placement fit the bill.

Now, I am no stranger to broadening my own personal horizons. In the past, UVic’s Pacific and Asian Studies Department provided me opportunities to travel overseas for my studies, which I found to be beneficial learning experiences. Despite being a well-seasoned student abroad, my CAPI placement at Migrant Forum in Asia gave me more than I initially bargained for.

Migrant Forum in Asia is the secretariat of a network of civil society organizations in Asia dedicated to advocating for the rights of migrant workers. Annually, millions of workers travel from countries like the Philippines, Nepal, Bangladesh and Cambodia to other nations in the region. This creates the need for an external advocacy group—a calling that Migrant Forum in Asia seeks to fulfill.

While working for the office in Quezon City, I assisted MFA in their roles as advocates through researching issues and laws, writing policy briefs, and liaising with MFA’s partners. The role required that I build new partnerships with lawyers and other human rights advocates to help build the capacity to properly advocate.  

What made the largest impression on me as an intern was the dogged determination MFA took to fulfill their role as advocates. No matter how small the victory, they fought tooth and nail for every inch.

Outside of work, my Filipino friends and acquaintances challenged my global perspective on issues not limited to labour rights. The Philippines has one of the largest overseas populations in the world. During my time there, I was continually called upon to re-evaluate my own preconceptions of global perspectives and cross-cultural interaction. In short, the CAPI internship presented me challenges that went beyond my expectations of simply applying my legal studies abroad. Beyond learning to cope with the tropical weather (difficult, I know); or braving Filipino dishes like dinuguan (a.k.a. pork blood stew, which is amazing), the trials I faced on my CAPI internship I would gladly face again.

So, other brave students, you should consider applying for positions such as mine. In a cross-cultural co-op work experience there is the potential for a wealth of personal discoveries. Living in an environment different from what one is used to challenges one’s own perspective. More specifically, one will likely experience professional development through exposure to different work methods and environments. Applying for an internship through UVic’s CAPI program is a decision I would easily make again.



The Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives has offered an internship program since 2003, and applications are now being accepted from UVic students for five internship positions. These will run from January to June 2013 and are with CAPI partner organizations in the Philippines, Bangladesh and India. Closing date for applications is Oct. 12. For more information about the program, eligibility criteria and how to apply, visit www.capi.uvic.ca or email interns@uvic.ca.


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Keywords: Centre for Asia Pacific Initiatives, Asia, student life, international

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