Steve graduated with a degree in civil engineering with water and environmental management. He then completed an MSc in Infrastructure in Emergencies. He worked as a relief worker in Sudan and is currently working as a relief response professional (water and sanitation) in Haiti.
My MSc course gave me an excellent appreciation of the range of infrastructure needed by communities during and after emergencies. The aim of the course is to enable you to assess, plan, manage and implement infrastructure provision in emergencies and during reconstruction and to equip you to work with traumatised populations.
I gained as much voluntary experience as possible whilst I was a student and was heavily involved with People and Planet , a student organisation which campaigns to protect the environment and end poverty. In the year between my degree and Masters course, I managed to get some work experience and voluntary experience abroad.
After my MSc, I applied to work with the NGO, Medair, which strives to secure access to clean water and adequate sanitation facilities for people in developing countries. Before being able to take on a field assignment as a relief worker with Medair, I was required to complete a mandatory Relief and Rehabilitation Orientation Course (ROC) course in Switzerland, which was self-funded and cost around €500 plus travel. The aim of the course was to experience the challenges of relief work through practical simulations, which ran throughout the eight-day course. We were assessed on our motivation, adaptability, technical skills, teamworking skills, and leadership and management abilities. The organisation's aim is to bring life-saving relief and rehabilitation in disasters, conflict areas and other crises by working alongside the most vulnerable.
In the beginning, I worked alongside experienced field staff and underwent on-the-job training. We worked in teams with local staff and aimed to use our professional expertise to help those whose lives are at risk. I worked as part of a team in West Darfur, often in remote places where the infrastructure had broken down and outside relief was essential. Our main goals were to increase access to primary healthcare, safe water and sanitation. We responded to emergency crises when necessary.
For the past year, I have been working as an emergency contractor on a team responding to humanitarian crises. Our aim is to respond quickly and effectively - providing short-term assistance and paving the way for longer-term development work. I am currently working in Haiti, following the major earthquake in January 2010. We provide technical advice to the water and sanitation intervention team on issues of procurement, supply, design and installation. Longer-term, we will carry out water quality analysis and train local staff and community members in water quality monitoring. We'll also work to build local community capacity in the maintenance of water and sanitation sites like wells and toilets.
To work in international development, you need to be able to live and work with multicultural and frequently changing teams in often challenging conditions. You also need to be able to prioritise, use sound judgement and make decisions independently. The work always involves liaising and cooperating with a broad spectrum of people, so good people skills are important.
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