Homeless Kiwi quits UN internship after living in tent

United Nations in Geneva
United Nations in Geneva

A YOUNG New Zealander has quit his unpaid internship with the UN after it was revealed he had been living it rough in a tent.

The plight of David Hyde, 22, hit local headlines when Swiss newspaper Tribune de Geneve photographed him in his suit in front of the tent he was camping in on the shores of Lake Geneva.

The story explained how Mr Hyde was forced to live in a tent because he couldn't afford accommodation in Geneva, one of the world's most expensive cities.

His story "released an enormous amount of solidarity", the newspaper reported, sparking numerous offers of help, and even prompting people to go down to the park to look for him.

However, on Wednesday, Mr Hyde told a handful of journalists outside the gates to the UN's European headquarters that he had decided to resign, AFP reported.

"It's my own decision and I chose to resign because I felt that it would be too difficult to continue to focus on my work as an intern at this stage."

Mr Hyde began his internship two weeks ago.

He acknowledged lying during his internship interview when asked whether he would be able to support himself during his stay in Geneva, AFP reported.

He said he had previously answered that question truthfully and had found all doors closed to him.

"I just want to make it clear that no person forced me to sleep in a tent, but rather my circumstances and the conditions for this internship made it the only real possibility that I could see.

"The UN was clear about their intern policy from the start: No wage or stipend, no transport help, no food allowance, no health assistance. I understood this, and in that regard, I have to take responsibility for taking the internship in the first place," he said.

Mr Hyde said that knowing the policies did not make them right, AFP reported.

"I do not feel that this is a fair system," he said.

Mr Hyde urged interns worldwide to "push for the recognition of our value and the equal rights that we deserve," AFP reported.

Yesterday, Mr Hyde's mother, Vicki Hyde, said David was a "typical Kiwi kid" who wasn't afraid to rough it - and had spent his first year at university living in a tent following the Christchurch earthquakes.

Mrs Hyde, and husband Peter, did not know he was living in a tent, until he sent them a link to the Tribune de Geneve story this morning.

"We ran it through a Google translate thing, and thought, 'ah ok'," she said, speaking from her Christchurch home.

"We were shocked in one way in that when he mentioned he was going to get a job with the UN we thought it would be a paid one and we thought it would be a really good thing for him to do and really good experience. We were a bit dismayed to find it was unpaid, and of course that he's actually living in a tent to make ends meet."

She would have expected the UN "to be up on issues of equity and non-exploitation", she said.

It was "pretty shocking".

"The UN, you see them as kind of being the exemplars of good governance. Maybe Helen Clark will change things if she manages to become Secretary-General, I don't know."

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