Shelter mission to Jamaica

Shelter is a partnership between Arcadis and UN-Habitat aimed at a common goal: to improve the quality of life of citizens in rapidly growing cities around the world. We are highlighting one of our Arcadian’s stories’ who went on an Shelter mission. In this blogpost we cover the Shelter story of Cosmo Laing who traveled from to Canterbury, Jamaica.

“When I first heard I had been chosen for the mission, my first reaction was that it had all happened so suddenly. I initially just inquired about the Shelter program and was told about Jamaica and Sao Tome. I didn’t expect to get the opportunity to go so early on in my Arcadis career. When UN Habitat and my line manager approved I was over the moon!”

My name is Cosmo Laing, and on September 8th, 2017, I went on a Shelter Mission for 8 days to Canterbury, Jamaica. Here is a quick synopsis of my experience. Hopefully it will inspire you to sign up too!

Mission objective

The mission objective of the team I worked with was to assist UN-Habitat to develop recommendations for improvements for a stormwater channel (North Gully) running through Canterbury that discharges to Montego Bay. The improvements were focused on ways to mitigate solid waste issues and flooding potential. The skill I brought to the group was knowledge on flood defense and cost management.

BEST Part of the mission

My first impression of Jamaica was not so much a first impression because of my Jamaican roots. Being Jamaican, I knew what Jamaica looked like from pictures my family have showed me. The people were extremely friendly and really witty.

The best part about being on this mission was having the opportunity to work closely with the Government of my native country. As a Jamaican national, it was a pleasure using my education to benefit people close to my heart. My family left the island to gain better opportunities for the future, I have proved the struggle was worth it!

Most challenging part of the mission

The most challenging part of the mission was understanding the actual issue they needed solving. We first arrived having planned to solve a flood defense issue, which later happened to be a flood/waste management problem. This completely changed our concept ideas but we were well supported to develop these ideas and make them versatile to the project’s needs. 

Learnings and experiences

What I learned most on my mission was the difference in working culture. When working abroad you must adapt to a foreign style of preparation and communication. This is something I will plan for in the future if given a chance to work abroad again.

If you also want to get involved in Shelter, I recommend you to keep up to date with Yammer and apply directly. Don’t give up because it is a life changing experience.

The international Shelter program, which allows Arcadians to share their pro bono knowledge and expertise to find solutions for global urbanization issues in the field of infrastructure, environment and water is sponsored by the Lovinklaan Foundation.






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