Its Sunday in the Philippines, and I am halfway to my final destination in Entebbe.
The seven weeks holiday is finally coming to an end and will soon be going back to humanitarian work.
Many, if not all, of my friends except of course those I knew from expatriations do not understand what I do. I mentioned that to Yaya Sabel and said: “she thinks she knows what I do but don’t understand.”
She is not alone.
Even my dad was clueless and only realized what I’ve been doing overseas when I shared with him the information I need to share with family in case something happens to me. That was five years ago.
Many people, when they see you travel for work, the first impression would be to work as domestic help or DH. Many Filipino and other countries like Nepal, Indonesia, Thailand, and India have people leave home to work as domestic regardless of background to support their families back home.
But I learned a long time ago also that there are skilled workers like my dad was when he worked in Saudi Arabia for 23 years.
Then with all my travels, I met a lot of Filipino working in hospitality, including those in the duty-free shops in small and big airports. Health workers, and of course, there’s a bunch of us working in the field of humanitarian and development in countries with varying security levels.
Working for the vulnerable
Such a big word, vulnerable. I learned that word over time. It was not in my vocabulary when I joined the diaspora in 2000.
All I have was technical medical and rehabilitation words and management jargon.
I am not the kind that goes on the ground when an emergency happens.
I am more the second wave humanitarian worker. I do mostly recovery, rehabilitation, and transition together with many colleagues with different expertise.
The kind of work I do allows me to see a different perspective in life after an emergency. It’s completely different from the kind of life most overseas workers have when I meet them in countries that has labor relations with the Philippines.
There’s no monotony in the kind of work I do, but I meet the same types of people you meet when working and traveling overseas – the good, the bad, the ugly, and a mix.
So what exactly do I do?
In the world of technical support and coordination (my big words job title), what I do is to make sure the project and people are aligned to objectives that have been agreed on when the project was designed. This happens when the emergency settles, and security is restored, or sometimes it can arrive at the same time.
I join the team to ensure we are within acceptable standards locally and internationally to the limits of my specialty and practicality. Which often is overlooked when responding to emergencies.
It may mean I train people, and I check their work as we implement projects, at the same time, prepare for the materials and links that can help them remotely. Since we take care of people’s wellbeing, I have to be very clear, and no misunderstanding or my ass is on the line.
It may also mean I handle transitional work or I read and review documents which require more time and brain cells to do than actual fieldwork if you get my drift 😉
From time to time, I share snippets of my work and some photo of the people and places I’ve been. But I try to be careful too and not overshare. As we sometimes deal with sensitive issues or simply exercising better judgment. There’s a better platform for it if one is keen to find out.
So as I wait for my connecting flight to Entebbe, I sit here in Doha people watching, composing this article, and drinking my first cup of coffee for the day.
Talk soon in East Africa!