This profile was part of the Faculty of Public Affairs’ Generation FPA series, which highlighted up and coming alumni who graduated between 2008-2018. The series was published in 2018.
Leanne Joy is the Program Officer for Asia at the Canadian Red Cross. She is primarily responsible for Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.
When Leanne Joy was growing up on Bell Island, Newfoundland—a remote island of only 2,000 people—the only international exposure she had was through television.
But once she moved to St. John’s to pursue her bachelor’s degree in political science at Memorial University of Newfoundland, she was exposed to the complexity of international affairs in regions such as Latin America and the then former Soviet Union.
“I was interested in the root causes of the war in Chechnya, which had a huge humanitarian impact,” says Joy. “I wanted to understand the complexities of conflict, both during and after: How do we deescalate from war and sustain peace?”
Those questions led her to pursue a master’s degree at the Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (EURUS).
“EURUS was one of the only programs in Canada where I could explore post-conflict resolution in the former Soviet space. The expertise among the faculty was quite impressive,” says Joy. “I also wanted to be in Ottawa where there are so many opportunities for internships with NGOs and government.”
The highlight of Joy’s degree was a summer exchange program in St. Petersburg, Russia.
“It was really helpful not only for my studies, but also for my career path. It introduced me to things I’m constantly facing in my work: a new culture, language, even security risks. Whether a student or a field worker, you have to understand the environment.”
Today, Joy is a program officer for the Asia team at the Canadian Red Cross. In the past 12 months, she has travelled to Lebanon, Palestine, Nepal and Myanmar. She will spend the month of March in Pakistan, with the intention of eventually living in the Middle East.
“It’s such a complex and fluid environment. If something happens in one country—like the Syrian crisis—it can impact the whole region,” explains Joy. “I also feel that I have a moral duty to help. Once you go there and hear people’s personal stories, you can’t turn your back on them.”
As a program officer, Joy’s day-to-day duties include proposal and report writing, planning and monitoring, as well as budgeting and accountability for humanitarian projects. Many of the projects are funded by Global Affairs Canada and require an evaluation every six months.
“You have to be strong at budgeting and make sure every budget line makes sense,” she says. “I recently developed a $5,000,000 budget for a proposed project in Excel. I use this skill every day.”
Along with gaining experience in project management, Joy recommends students volunteer as much as they can.
“You should volunteer with organizations like the Red Cross, Amnesty International, War Child Canada and Oxfam as much as possible, whether in Canada or abroad,” says Joy, who volunteered throughout her undergraduate degree. “It’s the best way to understand, appreciate and learn about other countries.”
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