MA Humanitarianism and Conflict Response. Graduated in 2019.
What inspired you to study this course?
With the advent of the partnership between HCRI and Project Trust, I saw the MA as the perfect opportunity to reflect on my long-term volunteering placement in eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) and gain a greater appreciation and understanding of the humanitarian sector, its historical and contemporary state. I was fortunate to receive the Global Citizenship bursary award to undertake the course and to have been in a cohort with other Project Trust return volunteers as well as humanitarians with experience in the field. The learnings, debates and experiences we undertook together have enabled me to have an in-depth understanding of the greatest challenges our societies face and the mechanisms by which they are addressed.
What did you enjoy most about the course?
I enjoyed most that HCRI adopts an interdisciplinary approach. Coming from an undergraduate degree in English and History, I appreciated the reflective focus that the Institute adopts, in its study of the history of humanitarianism but also across the disciplines of global health, mental health and psychosocial support, humanitarian protection and anthropology – just to name a few of its diverse offerings.
I felt well supported throughout the programme and able to undertake various additional activities that gave me valuable experiences outside of the class, such as the SIMEX Emergency Response Simulation, Young People in Humanitarianism Conference and research visit to Uganda.
How have the skills and knowledge gained on the course helped you in your current role/career progression?
The emphasis on understanding the complexities, history and contemporary debates in humanitarianism has expanded my awareness of the intersecting crises that will ultimately affect the future trajectory of our societies over the next decade. Therefore, the ability to anticipate the long-term challenges we face, such as climate change, displacement, migration, food insecurity, etc., is crucial knowledge that all sectors and industries will have to address and adapt to the realities of.
Studying at HCRI gave me opportunities to put into practice translating complex theories and concepts into accessible materials and presentations for a range of diverse audiences. This has enabled me to get into work on campaigning – as I now have the knowledge and skills to raise awareness, engage different audiences and encourage participation in activist movements and lobbying government.
The course also increased my awareness of my own positionality and how important it is to be consciously aware of this and to be reflective. Western NGOs are often guilty of being extractivist of stories, images and experiences of populations in need and beneficiaries, in order to meet their own agenda and goals. From the course, I learned of methods of how research and working with communities can be mutually beneficial, as well as how to do meaningful advocacy.
Can you tell us about your experience in the humanitarian sector / what you have been up to since you graduated?
Following the Master's, I began working as a Research Assistant for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales in the Department for Social Justice. I’d been profoundly inspired by Pope Francis’ writings in Laudato Si’ and how this had inspired political cooperation leading up to pivotal international agreements, such as the Paris Agreement. My role involved research and policy work across various social justice issues and communicating the views of the Church to parliament and society - where the practice from writing policy briefs in the Humanitarian Protection module certainly came in handy!
I have since been interim trust manager for a charitable trust and have recently taken up post at the Catholic development agency, (CAFOD) as the Campaigns Officer. My work this year will be focused on the UK’s hosting of the G7 and COP26 and implementing CAFOD’s ‘Reclaim our common home’ campaign that focuses on tackling the climate crisis; ending unjust debts by pushing for full debt cancellation for low and middle-income countries; and holding business accountable for practices throughout their supply chains to ensure that communities are protected from human rights abuses and environmental destruction carried out by multinational businesses.
Outside of work I am a Trustee for a youth social action charity, Million Minutes, and I am regularly engaged in public speaking events such as in parliament for CAFOD’s MPC Reception, on my experience of being a delegate to COP24 (UN Climate Change Conference); The Climate Coalition’s 2019 AGM; a webinar for The Climate Forum.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Working for peace is essential, overseas as well as in our own communities. Peacebuilding, community resilience, climate action and disaster preparedness are going to be vital areas of work across the UK and beyond in the coming months and years. The dissertation is a great opportunity to explore humanitarian issues in your own local area. My study was: What are the barriers and enablers to engaging in, and implementing, climate action in a UK coastal borough?
Also, be the voice of challenge when you feel it is required. I remember attending a presentation at HCRI on the State of the Humanitarian System, as the ALNAP launched its 2018 edition. The presentation was fantastic, though I sensed something was missing. I asked, ‘The climate crisis is here, is the humanitarian system prepared for it?’ The answer was no.
Finally, what do you remember most about studying in the HCRI here (funny stories welcome, as long as they won’t get anyone into trouble!)?
I fondly remember the time spent with my peers and lecturers on the research visit to Uganda, as part of the module ‘Humanitarianism and displacement: Researching the legacies of war’. I feel fortunate to have also shared part of the experience with students from Gulu University in Uganda, who were engaged in Development Studies. Peer-to-peer learning, lived experiences and realities, and even the opportunity for a social and boogie together at the end of our trip – an experience I will forever be grateful for!