Dan Richards

BSc International Disaster Management and Humanitarian Response. Graduated 2019.

What inspired you to study this course?

My journey to HCRI began with a passion for travel and a desire to see the world through a different lens. Having worked in various management and training jobs, mostly in the retail and tourism sector, I became less interested in travelling as a tourist and more interested in being able to work overseas to see places and interact with people I would not have met in my previous job. I wanted to use my skills to do more than just make money for someone else.

Before HCRI I had limited exposure to the disaster relief sector. When I was 25, I attended a selection weekend for an international NGO where I was competing with candidates with considerable experience in the sector, and all from varied backgrounds. I realised I needed to gain more experience and sector-specific qualifications to stand out from the crowd so when I discovered the BSC this fit in perfectly.

What did you enjoy most about the BSc?

The BSc covers all levels of international humanitarian assistance, from calculating the amount of sewerage produced in a refugee camp, to the global governance and political agendas behind international aid and development. As someone who was interested in progressing into the sector but was unsure of where to start, this degree provided a good starting point to study various topics, professions, and viewpoints from across different disciplines. I have always had a keen interest in politics and the degree helped me to explore some of the factors which influence the availability, delivery and access to aid and development. My undergraduate dissertation focussed on humanitarian negotiation and drew my attention to some of the legal challenges that those working in the sector face when trying to secure access to at-risk populations.

What opportunities are there to get involved in at HCRI?

Students at HCRI are given the opportunity to access a variety of events, speakers, and activities. For myself, this included:

  • a three-day tabletop disaster management exercise with the head of Lincolnshire’s emergency preparedness and planning team;
  • a visit to Manchester Police’s Emergency Response Headquarters;
  • a digital-mapping exercise to help create and develop open-source maps of rural Uganda;
  • a University-funded trip to the yearly MEDCIN conference in Glasgow and the International Disaster Management Expo’ in London.

There are also regular talks led by industry professionals and academics from all over the world, and a yearly ‘Careers in Humanitarianism’ open day. In 2017, I successfully applied to work in a support role with Northern Uganda Village Health Outreach Project (NUV-HOP)-  an international medical team in Northern Uganda. I spent two years helping to facilitate a student-led healthcare project. This was one of the most exciting and rewarding projects that I have been involved with during my time at the University of Manchester.

HCRI has helped to support and advise me in this role and a special thanks should be given to Dr Darren Walter, Clinical Senior Lecturer at the department, who has helped me to critically analyse and develop the project.

What have you done since graduating?

Through a friend, I discovered a postgraduate option for non-law students like myself to study an MA in Security and International Law. The course explores legal and governance structures, international humanitarian law, and international to human rights law. It has allowed me to focus on a different field of study and has helped develop my knowledge of some of the driving factors which both cause, and attempt to remedy, some of the most severe cases of humanitarian need.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Over the last year, I’ve been delivering talks about disaster management and the BSc to sixth form students around the country, for HCRI. One thing that I always ask them to consider is whether a degree is the right choice for them and what they are most interested in doing after university.

Starting the BSc as a mature student, I feel that I got a lot more out of the academic and networking side of my degree. It was a subject that I was extremely interested in and I had done my research beforehand, including looking at and applying to other related degree courses, as well as gaining professional experience which I brought with me to Manchester. I know that for many students, an undergraduate degree today is more of a rite-of-passage than a carefully considered investment in a specific future career. For some of these people, taking a few years out to gain some professional, voluntary and life experience before considering higher education may be a far more enriching experience than jumping straight into a degree.

Through HCRI, I have met people involved in engineering, logistics and law, who have used their skills to enter the sector. There is also the option of entering the medical side of humanitarian work, which I also considered. However, the BSc is perfect for people like me who are looking for an engaging and well-delivered overview of the humanitarian sector. It is also a good option for those interested in academia, or considering a career in policy development or management, and are curious about getting into aid and relief work but are unsure where to start.