From Suit to Jeans

I belong to this great part of the society that believes, on the one
hand, that there are many problems in our world nowadays: climate change, wars,
poverty, inequality, hunger, just to cite some of them, but who on the other
hand, do not feel like protesting for it, going to the streets or involve
myself in any activities to make things happen. So when the opportunity to intern
at Oxfam came up, I said to myself: “Yeah, why not, let’s give it a try”

One of my previous jobs was in a major French bank so the work ethic in
these organizations is quite different. I was used to working in an office,
most of the time wearing a suit, in a pressured environment whereas now, I am
writing this blog in my office, wearing jeans and a t-shirt without any trouble.

I would say that it is one of the major advantages of working for a NGO:
the atmosphere is welcoming, you can easily go from one office to the other and
chat with a colleague.  The pressure is less
and I believe this directly impacts your performance. Everybody is much more
relaxed which makes it even more pleasant. Nonetheless, it is not a bed of

I went to a conference on tax justice in Amsterdam where several major
NGO’s like ActionAid, ChristianAid, Oxfam, gathered to exchange knowledge on
different topics. During this event, I met a lot of people that have
contributed to NGOs for a while and we had the opportunity to share our points
of view.  The thing that I will remember the
most about this meeting is the mindset of the people present.  Their strong believe in the cause they are
fighting for and the certainty that they are fighting for a just cause, which
made me feel motivated to be part of the team, but also a vision that can
sometimes seems slightly detached from the reality.

Copyright: Photographer Tom Janssen

To give an example, during a group session, a woman said: “If we can
solve tax justice, all the problem of the world would be solved”. Well…  How can I say it? I didn’t agree with that
statement… So, I scanned the other people of the group to look for some fellow
dissidents like me. But everybody just seemed to agree on that. Since I am a newcomer
in this field, maybe I am just too naïve or inexperienced but the way they were
describing the world: NGOs are working for a better world against the
multinational corporations that crave for profits; this illustration was too
black-and-white for me, to the point I did not feel at my proper place.

It may also be the case that this vision was exaggerated because it was
a campaigner conference, people whose job is to promote a cause, move people’s
heart by pointing out the ugly truth. However, this is an important part of the
job when working for an NGO.

I am still reflecting on working for an NGO in the future and so far,
this internship introduced me to the working environment of NGO: a world full of
convictions, devotion filled of people with passion in their eyes, who can inspire
and motivate you greatly.

“Written by Chanh-Nghi, a student of economics all the way from Paris to
come see the other side of the picture here in The Hague. He likes to play
volleyball in his free time if he can find some people to join him. He loves
coming out for dinner with the others and trying all the different Dutch beers
that are around but secretly he still likes his wine!”


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