Sylwia Pucek in Vietnam

Sylwia Pucek

Hello friends and readers, I’m Sylwia, and if there is one thing you should know about me is that I like to ask questions.

Seriously though, have you ever wondered why something is the way it is? Well, then, you probably ask a lot of questions pertaining to the question ‘why’ or ‘how come’? See, with the world changing ever-so-much you’ve probably noticed, just as I have, that the answer isn’t always that simple. Headlines often read: ‘this and this person did this’, ‘discoveries here’, ‘extreme conditions there’, and most recently a lot of talk has been surrounding our climate and oceans. See, people have been asking these questions for thousands of years!

In Vietnam, legend tells of a legendary battle between Son Tinh and Thuy Tinh, whose powers were the stuff of pure legend. For the hand of Princess Mỵ Nương, the Spirits were challenged with presenting a wedding gift. When Son Tinh, the Mountain Spirit won the hand of the Princess, Thuy Tinh, the Water Spirit became enraged. Furious, Thuy Tinh summoned a torrential storm which flooded the land destroying crops and houses. Son Tinh, using his powers, raised the mountains creating an impermeable barrier which forced Thuy Tinh to retreat. He never accepted his defeat, so every year he tries to re-enact this epic battle which explains the practice of tidal irrigation, devastating floods and the monsoon in Vietnam.

Although recent Vietnamese scientific findings have explained the phenomena, I believe stories like this one is a valuable and integral part of understanding the role of climatic change and its effects on communities. I hope to further understand such histories in my upcoming research as I tackle questions related to: ‘how climatic change affects coastal communities’, ‘what the role of youth in community-based management is’, ‘as a form of employment, is fishing providing sustainability to future generations’ and ‘what the role of development is in helping communities to adapt to climate-related events’. Note: these are just ideas. I am fully aware that these ideas will probably change once I get to my placement. Despite development’s mainstream criticism, I am hopeful that whatever topic I do research on, it will work with and in solidarity with the areas which local communities find most urgent and pressing to them. After all, we are part of the Critical Development Studies Program; we need to be critical of the work we do.

Food for Thought: I’ve been asking myself lately, why this topic? Well someone once told me, why would you go halfway around the world to study something that you have no idea about in your own local context?

Starting September 4th, 2018, I will embark on an 11-month long placement to Hanoi, Vietnam, through WUSC (World University Service of Canada), where I will work as a Program Support Officer with the Centre for Marine Life Conservation and Community Development (MCD - ). The Centre for Marine Life Conservation and Community Development (MCD) was established in 2003 and is a leading Vietnamese NGO in the field of coastal and marine ecosystem conservation, striving for a coastal zone of Vietnam with healthy ecosystems and a good quality of life for coastal communities, especially the most vulnerable. MCD is engaging more with the private sector to support coastal vulnerable communities to undertake climate change adaptation initiatives. For example, a recent project called “Enabling Boat” featured MCD partnering with Microsoft Vietnam to provide access to computers and training of online tools to coastal youth.

As an intern, some of the responsibilities that I will have include:

  • Participation in literature reviews and documentation of CC vulnerability perceived by selected community-based businesses (CBB) in coastal areas of Vietnam
  • Conduct a Participatory Community Vulnerability Assessment (PCVA) for CBBs in select coastal areas
  • Take part in developing recommendations for CBB to enhance their own CC adaptation and that of associated communities.
  • Assist in developing suitable activities where MCD and CBB can work together to improve their environmental and CC resilience
  • Coordinate resources mobilisation for the implementation of selected actions and activities
  • Document and promote success stories on how CC adaptation was undertaken with private sector engagement
  • In addition to several other fun, interesting and new tasks and challenges which will arise.

I am very excited, nervous and anxious, in a calm and somewhat collective way – maybe because it hasn’t hit me yet that I’m going. Who knows in what direction the wind will blow me, or should I say, current will take me – hahaha!

On a final note I would like to recognize that this opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without Katie Boomgaardt, CCDS and all the hard-working people there, WUSC, #QEScholars program, and MCD. Thank you to my family (Mum, Dad and Puszek), friends, cohort, and colleagues at the Athletics and Recreation Department at UTSC for their ENORMOUS support! I recognize that I am very privileged to have been given this opportunity. I am lucky to have immigrated to Canada with my family which put me on this path. I am fortunate to have travelled to Vietnam before, which I must say, probably convinced me to look for a position in Vietnam.

You can follow my journey on Instagram (@sylwiastories) and/or my website (

Here's to learning new things about others and myself, exploring, and having an experience of a lifetime!

See you all real soon!

Sylwia :)