HELLO LONDON, HELLO HELPAGE…
It’s been seven weeks since I’ve moved to London and as clichéd as it sounds I’ve loved every minute of it – well maybe not the minutes spent on the Tube in rush hour, but you get the gist. Overall my move from Jersey was surprisingly smooth and, apart from the odd navigational blip, I’ve settled into London life a lot quicker than anticipated. This in part is due to the warm welcome I’ve received from HelpAge International’s London office.
Since starting at HelpAge, I’ve been providing support to members of the Network, Advocacy, Communications and Campaigns team (NACC) and the Global Technical Unit (GTU). GTU provide global leadership and technical support to HelpAge and its network members on programme design and delivery. Currently I have been conducting research into how legislation, health care systems and government-led services, or lack thereof, are shaping the experiences and rights of older people with disabilities. This project is an initial step in raising awareness of the intersectionality between age, disability and gender and how disability can be effectively addressed within future development and humanitarian programmes delivered by HelpAge. However, more on this in my next blog.
In the short time I have been at HelpAge, I have come to understand the extent to which the rights and needs of older people have been overlooked at a national, regional and international level. This is an issue that will only intensify as population ageing is set to surge at an unprecedented rate over the forthcoming decades. In 2015, UNDESA estimated that 12.3% of the world’s population was aged 60 and older, a figure that is projected to nearly double by 2050.
This demographic shift poses a complex set of problems as many countries are failing to provide fundamental provisions to support the livelihoods of older people within their societies. Insufficient or absent social pension schemes and healthcare services have meant that frequently older people in low and middle-income countries are unable to sustain a sufficient quality of life.
The structural and systematic discrimination of older people has been enabled by the absence of national legislation and international human rights laws on ageism. Currently, there is no UN convention on age-related discrimination. It is not recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. HelpAge has been advocating for a comprehensive and systematic UN convention that will protect and promote all human rights in old age. You can find out more about international human rights legislation in this blog by HelpAge’s Senior Rights Adviser Bridget Sleap.
With the support of governments, NGOs and civil society groups, the current situation can be changed. During my first week of at HelpAge I was able to attend the launch event of the Humanitarian inclusion standards for older people and people with disabilities. These are new guidelines developed by the Age and Disability Capacity Programme (ADCAP) in line with humanitarian principles to ensure that those most at risk are not overlooked during emergency responses. This initiative has come at a time where the UN have led a global commitment to ‘leave no one behind’ through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs provide an opportunity to ensure the voices of older people are no longer marginalised but heard and acted upon, a goal that I am excited to be contributing towards whilst working at HelpAge.
If any of this has sparked your interest please have a look at HelpAge International’s website, here you can get up to date information on the latest initiatives that are changing the lives of older people internationally. Otherwise keep checking this space for more content on HelpAge and the Jersey Overseas Aid Internship.
Today marks two weeks since the beginning of my internship at Jersey Overseas Aid (JOA) and the publication of my first ever blog post. I’m excited to be updating you all on the incredible experiences and some of the challenges that await me on my yearlong internship.
Trying to get your first job in International Development can be a struggle. Since finishing my MA in Conflict, Security and Development I had tried to battle my way into this competitive field. After scrolling through every job database out there and googling “how to get a job in development” and later “why can’t I get a job in development?!” more times than I care to admit, I came to realise that in order for my CV to get a second glance I needed more experience within the field. However, this brought about that age-old dilemma of how do you get experience when you don’t have enough experience? While willing to live in a cupboard sized room for the foreseeable future, as a cash-strapped graduate fresh out of university, voluntary positions were not financially feasible for me. This paid internship has therefore offered me an opportunity to get my foot in the door of what I hope to be the start of an extremely rewarding career within the sector.
So what is the internship? Each year JOA will partner up with a selected charity, providing a unique opportunity for a Jersey citizen to gain the skills and experience needed to break into the international development sector.
This year I’m fortunate enough to be working with HelpAge International, an international NGO that seeks to tackle poverty and discrimination by advocating for the rights, wellbeing and inclusion of older people in low and middle-income countries. From the beginning of March I will be working at their headquarters in London for 4 months, before spending 6 months implementing their development and relief programmes in one of their offices in Asia or Africa. Throughout the year I will be keeping you updated on the variety of projects that HelpAge engage in and my own experiences with the organisation. In the meantime, you can learn more about HelpAge by visiting their website below.
So what have I been up to so far? My journey began at the JOA office in Jersey where I have been getting to grips with the role of a donor organisation and gaining an insight into the process of building an international development project from the ground up. Recently I enjoyed a fleeting trip to Brighton where I learnt how one of JOA’s grantees, Renewable World, was tackling poverty in Nepal though the use of solar-powered water pumps. These pumps provide water access to remote rural communities, implementing a sustainable means of accessing water in the face of climate change. This is just one example of the types of innovative projects that JOA fund. Over the last two weeks I have heard from local and UK charities who have developed programmes in the areas of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Health, Dairy and Environment and Livelihoods. This has included a presentation by the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society and Send a Cow. Through their understanding of the productive benefits of breeding Jersey Cows, they have partnered together to tackle poverty and malnutrition in rural Rwanda by improving the practices of dairy livestock keepers and artificial inseminators and by increasing access to Jersey breed semen. Alongside these meetings I have been helping the JOA team with their community work projects, grant applications and social media channels.
It’s safe to say I have hit the ground running, and with some exciting projects and events on the horizon it looks like I will be sprinting through the next couple of weeks with JOA. In 10 days I will be visiting London with the rest of the JOA team to take part in the Bond Conference. This is an annual event that brings together professionals within the fields of international development and humanitarian response, providing an opportunity to network and listen to presentations by leaders within this sector. Follow JOA’s Facebook page for coverage of the event and keep up to date with the exciting projects happening throughout the year.
I’ll be posting again soon, if you would like to follow my journey and learn more about the JOA internship, keep checking this space!