It has been a month since I joined Oxfam
Novib as an Intern with the tasks of looking at the intersection of Private
Sector role on land and water governance in conflict and fragile areas.
Studying in the International Institute of Social Studies and living in the its
student dormitory which is located across Oxfam Novib’s office in Mauritskade
are more than enough reasons for me to apply for an internship in an
organization last summer.
My first month in
Oxfam consisted of reading tons of internal and external papers on various
thematic issues on land and water governance, private sector work and conflict
and fragility; attending meetings with my colleagues and mentors, participating
in visioning exercises, Skype calls with colleagues from Pakistan, and working
with fellow interns and joining the various activities which Oxfam Novib Academy has organised for us.
Listening to Farah Karimi, Oxfam Novib’s Executive Director during our orientation week as Oxfam Novib Academy Interns was an inspiring experience. Farah talked about the beginnings of then Novib in the Netherlands and how it underwent changes throughout the years and became known as Oxfam Novib. She answered our questions ranging from aids, working in conflict areas, and measuring impacts on work in different places. One of the striking lines that she said was about how we must be conscious of our choices and decisions because these definitely have an impact on other people.
Volunteering in the Oxfam Novib’s 60th
Anniversary last October 3 was also a one-of-a-kind experience for me. Listening
to inspiring speeches and open forum done ala Ted Talks, talking to the who’s
who in the development sector here in The Netherlands while getting inspired by
the rich history of transformation that Oxfam Novib has done for the past 60
years reminded me also of my experience in Oxfam in the Philippines where I was
also lucky to have been part of it especially when it celebrated its 25th
anniversary in my country in 2013.
Having worked in Oxfam in the Philippines for
almost three years, I will always treasure my experience as a media and
communications officer working on various issues – humanitarian response, food
and climate justice campaigns, women empowerment, sustainable livelihoods,
peace and conflict issues, etc. It is in Oxfam in the Philippines where I have
immersed myself in the development field and also pushed me to apply for a
Masters in Development Studies in the ISS last year.
Thus, working in Oxfam Novib for three days
per week is like a “coming home” experience for me. For years, I have been on
working on the other side of the fence – country programme office in the Global
South coordinating with colleagues from Oxfam affiliates like GB, Australia,
Novib and in the UK. Now, I am the one looking for possible case studies in
country programmes in Asia and Africa with the tasks of engaging and bringing
in colleagues from Myanmar and Pakistan to the research work that I need to
deliver for my team.
So what are my takeaways for the first month of “coming home”?
Do or do not, try. This is the famous line of Yoda, the loveable character in Star Wars. As they say, in order to be great you need grit. The difficulties that you have been encountering in your
assignments or the tasks that your mentors have given you will always reshape
your outlook in life and the way you look at things both professionally and
personally. Whether or not you you fail or succeed, the more important thing is
you have tried and you have given your best in the tasks that was assigned to
you. This was my realisation when I got overwhelmed first with the tons of
readings that I need to scan and read while I was developing my research
Small or big, your contributions matter.
Whether it’s answering emails, setting
up calls with colleagues from country programme teams who are based in
different time zones, or participating in meeting – your thoughts and your
actions matter not only to your team, to your organization but also to the
people whom you are providing interventions with which leads me to my last
It is important to always
reflect on your position vis-a-vis the people whom you are providing your
interventions with. It is important that we are always conscious of our own
position versus power structures or institutions we are working with and for.
In our development projects, were we able to let the voices of the poor and the
marginalized, those who are at the bottom and at the fringes, be heard?
In two months, I will graduate in the ISS and
will finish my internship in Oxfam Novib. For now, I am glad to
have found a “home” in The Hague, one which reminds me of my life in
the Philippines before, and one which gives me practical learnings on how
to do and make development happen – bridging theory and praxis from the
things that I have learned in the ISS and to the life in the
Jed started at the Oxfam Novib Academy at the beginning of September. He
works on the crosscutting issues between private sector engagement and land and
water issues. A challenging field but he has taken to it with lots of enthusiasm.
Besides his work we can
always count on him to join in on different activities, having lunch and dinner
or organizing a get together with the other interns.