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An ecuadorian making strides in International Development

Jessica Gallegos moved to the United States to attend college and never would she have imagined that decision would lead her down such a unique life journey.

Originally from Quito, Jessica transferred from Davidson College in North Carolina—her first home in the US—to American University in Washington, DC where she graduated.

Her itch for international experiences was already present during her time in college. In fact, she participated in a study abroad program in London that concentrated on political sciences and studying the European Union. She also took advantage of her time in DC, by interning at the Embassy of Ecuador where she was able to work closely with Ambassador Luis Gallegos.

“I have the same last name as the Ambassador but we are not related,” explained Jessica. During her time as an intern for the Embassy in Washington, DC, Ecuador was part of the International Court of Criminal Justice and she worked closely with the Ambassador and the political team reviewing cases and writing briefs. “I also worked closely with the cultural team performing outreach to the Ecuadorian diaspora in the U.S. by organizing events,” she added. This was an experience that, undoubtedly, influenced her already eager spirit towards international issues.

Today, Jessica is a Junior Professional Associate with the Social Development Unit for Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Bank. “I work on two topics, the first is crime and violence prevention,” explained Jessica. “My work is mostly focused on Central America—Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are my main countries. The other fifty percent of my time, I work on issues of youth empowerment and employment through the digital and creative industries—anywhere from digital animation to app development.”

After only a little over two years with The World Bank, Jessica has already made a unique impact on communities because of her passion. One of the most significant experiences she’s had during her time at the World Bank was when she the won the Youth Innovation Fund, The World Bank’s global competition for youth. “Basically, you write a proposal for a development project that you can implement. I wrote a proposal for a reinsertion program for twenty girls in Honduras that have been victims of violence or were involved with gangs, in an area with scarce police presence,” said Jessica.

Her proposal included skills training for the young group in the areas of leadership self-esteem, parenting and child nutrition—since 18 are moms—and reproductive health, which is a taboo subject in the neighborhood. The program also taught the group technical skills they could use for employment such as jewelry making.
As the team leader and supervisor of the project, Jessica played a major role in this innovative program. She explained, “it was an amazing and empowering project for the girls. Most projects that focus on reinsertion for youth that has been victim of violence or was involved with gangs, focus on males. Women play an important role in society and that was what was truly innovative about the project.”

The project has ended but she is still very involved with the group in trying to organize a fundraiser to help them establish their own microbusiness so they can start generating some income from the skills they learned.

“I love the work I am doing in international development,” said Jessica. “Especially because this field takes you to so many places. I am ready to go wherever opportunities arise and where I can make an impact.”

However, traveling around the world is not all she loves. Jessica also excitedly listed all the things she loves about visiting her family in Ecuador. “I have a lot of Ecuadorian friends in DC and we still try to keep our traditions alive but it’s not the same as being in Ecuador. I love going home to my family, the music, the food and the people.”