Voices: Seeing results on the ground in Sri Lanka

“There is no such thing as a typical day for me! Every day is different – that’s what I find most satisfying (and challenging) about this job.” - Eranda Wijewickrama, Senior Coordination and Reporting Assistant, Sri Lanka

​When I was young, I wanted to be a doctor. In Sri Lanka, every kid grows up wanting to be a doctor or an engineer. But soon I realized I wanted to do something different and I’ve been lucky enough to get great opportunities to do so.

I have been at UNOPS for almost three years, after interning at the Food and Agricultural Organization and at the National Cleaner Production Centre – an initiative of the UN Industrial Development Organization. I started out at UNOPS as a research assistant with the Applied Research Unit, which focused on socio-economic research, and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) support. Initially it was supposed to be part-time work, but very quickly I ended up spending more time at UNOPS than at the university!

The most challenging part of my job is also the most satisfying – the diversity of tasks I get to do. As a Senior Coordination and Reporting Assistant with UNOPS Operational Hub in Sri Lanka, I assist the programme, support services and partnership development teams, deal with a variety of ad-hoc requests, and support the communication and M&E efforts of the hub.

The Sri Lanka office is quite involved in inter-agency activities, so part of my work is providing coordination support for these initiatives. For example, we work closely with the UN Resident Coordinator’s office to produce mappings of UN interventions in the country and other related material. This also includes supporting United Nations Development Assistance Framework activities, since UNOPS chairs one of its four pillars in Sri Lanka (the Environmental Sustainability, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction pillar).

Because a portion of my work involves reporting, I get the opportunity to know what’s happening across the different countries covered by the Sri Lanka hub, in all sectors. That’s interesting –I’m someone who likes to contextualize things. Having that context is essential to successfully implementing a project. I also enjoy getting the chance to interact with and learn from different people from different agencies, countries and streams of work.

As important as it is to have interesting work, I think it’s equally important to find a good team to work with, so you don’t feel that work is very stressful. Work is all about the people.

My best UNOPS experience was attending the inauguration of 12 schools UNOPS rebuilt in Kilinochchi district, in northern Sri Lanka. There I was able to see firsthand the progress that was made, how our work made it possible for kids to study in a proper building with modern facilities. Prior to that, some students only had the shade of trees and temporary sheds as classrooms. It reminds you why you are in the UN. Kilinochchi was one of the hardest hit areas during the war, and had very little infrastructure remaining after the conflict ended. Our team kept working there during almost the entire time. Knowing how UNOPS continues to help people who have suffered so much really makes you appreciate your work. There’s nothing like seeing the results of UNOPS work firsthand.

In Sri Lanka, in the communities where we have worked, people know UNOPS does good work – and it’s very rewarding to be part of something like that. Once you finish one thing, there is a sense of accomplishment and then a feeling of ‘OK, bring on the next thing’!