HelpAge International (London)
As I am now nearing the end of my placement working with HelpAge International’s Global Team in London, I thought it time to reflect on what I have learnt over the last few months.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the organisation’s new office is in Lower Marsh, my old University stomping ground – not only does HAI have a new home, but they have also had a restructure of the organisation – facilitating its shift from a traditional NGO delivery model to working alongside, through and for its network of global partners. As a part of this, a ‘global team’ has been established, consisting of portfolios such as Society for All Ages (SFAA), Healthy Ageing, Income Security and Inclusive Humanitarian Action, which support the work of country offices and network members.
Over the last few months, I have worked most closely with the SFAA and Healthy Ageing portfolios. Although only one other colleague from these teams is based in the UK, a silver lining of COVID-19 pandemic is the ease with which I have been able to easily collaborate with colleagues based across the globe via Zoom and Teams, regardless of time zone differences.
My role so far has been varied – dusting off my (rather rusty) Spanish skills, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with HAI staff from the Latin America/Caribbean Office by conducting interviews with network members from Colombia and Chile and writing case-studies for a guide outlining the ‘Good Practices’ of Intergenerational Approaches Guide. Other tasks I have been involved in include examining the vaccine ageism present within the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines; the organisation of a series of knowledge sharing webinars with network members and colleagues on the benefits of the Older Persons Association (OPA) model; and lastly, supporting HelpAge International’s Global Gender Policy Advisor in rolling out the Gender Focal Point model and internal Gender Mainstreaming Training across the organisation.
Like many of the interns before me, I have also completed the four-day Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) in preparation for my upcoming overseas placement. This training is designed to provide people travelling overseas to work in potentially hostile or otherwise challenging contexts with first aid and security training. It proved a great opportunity to meet colleagues based elsewhere in the UK alongside other people who work for different organisations within the sector. It was interesting to hear the differing paths people have taken to enter the sector, and the wide variety of roles that exist.
The training was balanced between classroom-based theory – wherein security and protection briefings were conducted alongside Basic Life Support with Trauma training – and a practical simulation day. The simulation saw the group split into four, each receiving briefings on the Rapid Needs Assessment we were going to conduct in a fictional Humanitarian context in a conflict torn country, Clarentina. Having spent time mapping out risk assessments and planning our approach to the task, we embarked on a 10-hour simulation day located on a de-commissioned military airbase in Kettering.
The simulation day had an early start, with my team and I fuelled with adrenaline and equipped with a radio, 4×4, driver and extensive first aid kit we were ready to put our first aid training and negotiation skills to the test. Within the first 10 minutes of crossing the ‘border’ we found ourselves carjacked by gunmen, leaving us on the roadside without any form of communication and with neither a car nor a driver (as they had been kidnapped). Following a brief exchange with ‘military representatives’, we negotiated the release of our driver and continued our way. The rest of the day saw our first aid skills well and truly put to the test, treating gunshot wounds, amputations, and road traffic accident casualties (there was no scrimping on fake blood and prosthetic injuries, nor did the actors hold back on their agonising screams). Other scenarios we faced included IED explosions, hostile checkpoints, civil disturbance and being caught in crossfire. The simulation day provided us with an opportunity to learn from our mistakes in a safe environment (top tip: always ask for your ID documents back from border-force).
I’m now looking forward to preparing for my overseas placement with HelpAge International’s office in Amman, Jordan.
Why did you apply for the opportunity?
I have wanted to pursue a career in International Development since sixth form and I have been following the JOA Programme Associate Internship and the journeys of previous Interns since the scheme was first rolled out. Seeing the opportunities Lauren, Becki, Faye & Doug have had encouraged me to apply for the role. This post provides a unique and rare opportunity to obtain hands-on experience within the sector. I feel very lucky to be the fifth JOA Programme Associate and can’t wait to see how the next 12 months unfold.
What is your relevant experience?
I have practical experience volunteering with International Sustainable Development Organisations – for example, in 2015 I spent the summer in Costa Rica volunteering with Raleigh International. This placement sparked my interest in the sector. Following completion of my undergraduate degree, I went on to take a year out to travel. I spent 3 months in Nepal, on an ICS placement. Here, I worked on a Livelihoods project in the Gorkha district which was focused on sustainable economic diversification of agriculture. This placement confirmed my desire to pursue a career in the sector as I had my first taste of how long-term development projects are planned, implemented and monitored.
Following Nepal, I solo-backpacked in South America with the desire to improve my Spanish speaking skills. However, COVID-19 travel restrictions cut this short. So, I made the decision to undertake an MA in Global Development at the University of Leeds – I also used this time to gain more practical experience within the sector by interning remotely alongside my studies with SEED, an NGO which works in Madagascar.
What are you most excited about / looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to learning as much as I possibly can from everyone at JOA and HelpAge International. I think this role is so great as it offers the chance to see the International Development sector and the “Aid Chain” through both the lens of a donor – with 2-months spent in the JOA Office – and also from the perspective of a grantee with HelpAge International. I’m particularly excited for the 6-month placement abroad, which I hope will not be delayed travel restrictions.
What are your aspirations for the next year and what do you hope to get out of this amazing experience?
I hope to use this opportunity to learn as much as I can and to gain as much practical experience as possible. A particular area of interest that I have and would like to learn more about from the JOA and Help Age International teams, is how projects are monitored and evaluated. I’d also like to learn more about the project drafting phase.
Tell us a little about yourself…
I was born and raised in Jersey. I went to Jersey College for Girls, before reading BA Classics (Latin and Ancient Greek) at King’s College London. After taking a gap year after my undergraduate degree I completed an MA in Global Development at the University of Leeds (albeit remotely due to the Pandemic). I’ve also recently qualified as a 200hr Yoga teacher!
What would advice would you give to any youngsters who may be interested in a career in international development?
I think having a second (or third) language is so helpful for this career (I’m trying my best to keep my Spanish ticking over). I also think it’s important to remember that the route to a career in International Development varies widely, so keep an open mind!
How have your first few weeks been?
My first few weeks in the JOA office have been extremely busy but extremely interesting too. I have had an introduction to everyone’s roles within the team and the work that JOA is involved with. I have also been involved in a variety of tasks such as researching, presentation drafting, helping with JOA Communications and attending a variety of meetings with partner organisations.