Case study

Food security project manager — Sarah

Biology graduate Sarah did not plan for a career in international development, but she is now providing vital aid to more than 1,000 people in South Sudan

I attended the University of Manchester and after I graduated, I worked for social and community development projects for local authorities in the UK. Today, after some hard work - and professional training with RedR - I am a food security project manager for the Norwegian Refugee Council.

I am based in Aweil, South Sudan, and my work has ensured that 1,200 people in the North West of the country have received food, seed, tools and assistance in disaster recovery and protection.

In some ways, it's a strange progression. When I was studying, I didn't expect to be where I am today. But I'm really glad I've done what I have.

After working on local projects, I left the UK to work on a number of VSO projects. It's quite a good introduction to life working on international development and humanitarian aid projects. It shows you some of the work and gets you used to the cultural side of things. But it's a lot less intense than most jobs in the sector.

Following on from my experience with the VSO, I joined international NGO ACTED, working as project manager for food security and livelihoods in Juba, South Sudan.

After this I undertook the training I believe has had the greatest effect on my international development career so far, with RedR.

I studied for and achieved the Certificate in the Essentials of Humanitarian Practice with RedR, the international humanitarian NGO which provides expertise to aid workers, ensuring they develop their skills.

I now manage a team of 13 people, which expects to bring direct aid and deliver long-term skills to more than 1,500 people in the next year.

RedR helped me massively. I was studying for a Masters at the time and I enjoyed that very much, but practically speaking, my course with RedR was more useful and the things I learned there I use in everything that I do.

I joined the Norwegian Refugee Council in January 2013. It's a great job to be in and a great sector. The hours can be challenging, and it's important to be able to adapt to new cultures.

In some ways, there are some similarities to working in my previous job: the paperwork - proposal and report-writing - is very similar. And managing a team can be a lot like it would be anywhere else.

But what's different is the feeling you get when you see how your work is helping people, making sure not only that they have the means to feed themselves, but they will also be able to deal more effectively with future challenges. I'd recommend the job to anyone, and RedR's training to anyone who wants to work in development or humanitarian aid.