Faye Coggins is an Associate Programme Officer with UNHCR (the UN refugee agency), deployed to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Why did you apply for the JPO role?
The JPO scheme presents an incredible opportunity for people wanting to pursue a career in the humanitarian sector, and the exposure to field work that it provides is extremely valuable. I have been working with NGOs for the past few years, my role with HelpAge International, which works to protect the rights of older and disabled refugees and IDPs across the world (including in Cox’s Bazar), led me to become increasingly interested in working with refugees and IDPs. I learnt about the plight of the Rohingya Refugees, and the decades of systematic discrimination, statelessness and targeted violence they have suffered; forcing them to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh. This experience further motivated me to work for an organisation that seeks solutions to these crises and fights to protect the rights of people forced into such vulnerable situations.
The JPO role presents a brilliant opportunity to translate the programme management skills and experience you have gained domestically with INGOs and a donor into an international career at the frontline of displacement. In addition, the opportunity to gain field experience and build my skills and knowledge of the refugee context from the perspective of an organisation like UNHCR, which is at the forefront of the humanitarian sector, is unparalleled. The prospect of being able to contribute to UNHCR’s work on behalf of refugees and stateless persons was an incredibly exciting one, so putting in an application for the JPO role was a no brainer!
What relevant experience do you have?
I have worked in the international development sector for nearly three years. I got my start as an admin/team assistant for the Fred Hollows Foundation, a charity whose goal is to eliminate avoidable blindness and improve eye health services in disadvantaged communities.
I then landed the Jersey Overseas Aid International Development Internship. During this time I spent 2 months with JOA, learning how an institutional donor operates, including how it prioritises it’s funding and how it reviews funding proposals to ensure that the aid budget is effectively spent. I then spent just over a year with HelpAge International, a UK based NGO, which included a 2 month secondment to their Dar Es Salaam Office. During my time at HelpAge, I gained a lot of valuable experience – both practical – in terms of programme implementation – and also thematic knowledge. I worked with the Protection Team to develop Rapid Needs Assessment reports on older people in refugee camps in South America and Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh (including in partnership with UNHCR) and analyse the results of these surveys in order to inform and improve programme design/advocacy. I worked on the development of technical documents which laid out how to design gender and disability inclusive services and ensure that protection needs in refugee camps are met.
For the past year I have been working for an international development organisation which works to improve health care services and outcomes for women in lower income countries. In this role I worked with multiple different country teams across Africa and Asia, including Bangladesh, and learned valuable skills such as programme cycle management, programme reporting, and partnership management.
What are you most excited about / looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to so many things, such as the opportunity to work in the field, and gain exposure to UNHCR’s humanitarian work and putting the skills and experience I’ve gained so far towards implementing programmes and services that will directly benefit the refugees in Cox’s Bazar. I’m eager to build my programme management and monitoring and evaluation skills and develop a more detailed understanding of the camp context and in Bangladesh in general. I count myself very lucky to be a part of a program that strives to protect the most vulnerable.
I’m also looking forward to the incredible learning experience of working in a multilateral organisation such as UNHCR. In a world of increasingly complex humanitarian crises, no one organisation or country can meet the challenges, and Cox’s Bazar is a setting in which many organisations are working collaboratively to address the refugee crisis. To experience how UNHCR coordinates with local and international NGOs and private sector partners, and how they navigate the challenges that come with this, will also be a valuable learning opportunity.
What are your aspirations for the next year and what do you hope to get out of this amazing experience?
I would like to feel confident that I have become a useful and valued team member, and that I have positively contributed to the work to support and protect refugees. I also hope to grow professionally and become more skilled and knowledgeable in the field of humanitarian work, specifically in relation to refugee protection. Additionally, I’m looking forward to gaining work experience in the international sphere and hope that this role will provide me with opportunities for an international career.
Tell us a little about yourself…
I’ve been motivated to pursue a career with an organisation working to protect the rights of disadvantaged groups and address the determinants of social inequality since university, where I studied world history, with a focus on minority rights, civil rights movements and social injustice. This is what led me to pursue a career in the sector. It has been a privilege to work in a sector and role that I’m passionate about, with colleagues that challenge, inspire and motivate me to build my skills and knowledge. Even when you’re sitting in the London office of an NGO, far from the programme implementation site, it’s a wonderful thing to feel you are having a positive impact on a global scale. The work of humanitarians and development professionals can be challenging — organisations are constantly responding to complex crises. However for that very reason, the work can be exhilarating and varied, and you are constantly presented with opportunities to learn and grow
What advice would you give to any youngsters who may be interested in a career in the sector?
Get an internship or volunteer experience if you can. There are many different areas in which you can work in the sector, so take the time to work out what you are most passionate about and which area will best complement your skill set! Don’t lose heart if you don’t get your dream role straight away. The sector is competitive, so can be tricky to break in to. Every bit of experience you have will help you to become a more rounded development or humanitarian worker, will broaden your skill set, and will deepen your understanding of the global development context.
(Image 1: “Monsoon rains and flash floods hit Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar’ – July 2021”. Credit: UNHCR/Pablo Amos)
(Image 2: “‘Health workers raise COVID-19 awareness in Rohingya refugee camps, Bangladesh) – Aug 2021”. Credit: UNHCR/Pablo Amos)