On Tuesday 21st March, the Welsh Centre for International Affairs and Hub Cymru Africa hosted an evening with Gareth Owens, Humanitarian Director at Save the Children. We have created a short summary of Gareth’s advice for pursuing a career in humanitarian aid that we hope you will find useful.
With Gareth’s educational background in civil engineering, he made clear that you don’t need to physically train in humanitarian work, rather you can get involved from any career angle.
Working in humanitarian aid is not glamorous and it involves dealing with a lot of raw emotions and different people. It is not for everyone but is best viewed as a selfish job. You will be away from home for months at a time, often in very dangerous places so must understand the worries your family back home will have.
Passion and persistence are key! The more passionate about something you are the greater chance you have of seeing it through and making change happen.
Continually possessing a good character where you don’t let things get personal is important.
If you’re a difficult person this is not the job for you, you must be humble and energetic as well as being able to embrace different cultures and share compassion for the people whom you are helping.
Gender does play different roles when working in humanitarian aid, sometimes you will work in countries that are uncomfortable for women and at other times being a woman can be an advantage.
Speaking additional languages is always a bonus, especially French and Arabic as these are most widely spoken in developing countries.
Try to volunteer in your home country if you are starting out; there are many refugees now here in Britain and charities are always looking for help.
Also, volunteer projects abroad are good. The more you can get on your CV from little projects like these, the better chance you have at making contacts and stumbling onto your big break.
You may find it takes several years working on little projects here and there before you manage to go abroad and help on the big disasters.
If you are interesting in volunteering with the WCIA, see our website for further details about how you can get involved http://www.wcia.org.uk/volunteer.html