A selection of experiences for the information of VSO
AHA Volunteer Stories:
Dutch national, MA Graduate, Project: African Centre for Humanitarian Action
I stayed with AHA from September 2006 till December 2006, during which time AHA continued to pursue the establishment of an African Centre for
Humanitarian Action (ACHA), but lacked the funding to move forwards with possibilities. Therefore, I was to combine the efforts already existent, be a spokesperson for ACHA and explore new partnerships, for example with the African Union. Although I was only there to commence the establishment of the Centre and assist AHA personnel it was a fairly extensive task description for a volunteer position of three months. However, this was exactly what I had imagined: a challenging and fascinating learning experience in which I would have the liberty to explore my capabilities in the field of humanitarian action.
Honestly it couldn’t have been more rewarding. When I arrived I met the other volunteer Melanie with whom I lived together in the house that AHA arranged for us. At work there was a very warm welcome waiting because they arranged a tea and coffee ceremony for us. Moreover, all during my stay at AHA I felt that I was part of a team, working together with the colleagues who became friends very dear to me.
But my time with AHA was not only the start of new friendships, it also offered learning opportunities in which I was able to explore my own possibilities and add a remarkable experience with an African NGO to my professional career. Furthermore, the people working at AHA offered us opportunities to network and meet other interesting persons. They stimulated me to visit conferences and to cooperate with other organizations in Africa and beyond. Last but not least, AHA organized a fieldtrip through which we were able to see more of the different regions of Ethiopia , talk to staff at field offices and meet the locals they are working with.
Since I’m back in the Netherlands I look back with very warm feelings to my time at AHA. In fact I hope to return some time to visit my friends and see where both ACHA and AHA are at. Of course, I would love to see which new volunteers are in Addis to join the team; perhaps I can meet you there!
British, MA Graduate, Project: External Relations Officer
I volunteered with Africa Humanitarian Action for 7 months, as an External Relations Officer. Based in the AHA Head Office in Addis Ababa , I worked alongside a great team, to support the development of the External Relations department, and further AHA’s advocacy role in the international arena.
My duties involved representing the organisation at conferences and meetings, most notably at the African Union and UNECA, often as the only African civil society indigenous organisation participating.
I also was fortunate to be able to work alongside the Country Representatives form the 11 Country Offices and Associations, to develop mapping systems, arrange training opportunities, and improve channels of support between Head office and Country Offices. This offered a great opportunity for learning more about the implementation of AHA projects in the various country contexts.
One of my most memorable experiences was visiting AHA Community Based Reproductive Health Agents in the town of Arba Minch , in southern Ethiopia . I conducted interviews with these workers, and got a greater insight into the challenges faced by staff, working within their local communities to bring about the behavioural changes so desperately needed in areas of reproductive health and family planning. It was a great learning opportunity.
Having never previously lived or worked in Africa before, I was unsure of what to expect from this position prior to my arrival, but Africa Humanitarian Action provided a great deal of support and help throughout my time in Ethiopia. The internship was a wonderful way of visiting the country and learning more about the different cultures of Ethiopia , and I am grateful to those who made my time so memorable and enjoyable.
British, MA Graduate, Project: Outreach and Communications Officer
I worked as a volunteer for Africa Humanitarian Action for around eight months, a period which was then extended to a short term remunerated position.
The experience was incomparable, with every day a learning curve in the complex field of humanitarian assistance, from the unique perspective of a pan-African NGO. It was indeed the organisations mission, ‘finding African solutions to African problems’ which attracted me to the position. Whilst wholeheartedly working to achieve the former, AHA also recognises the value of international collaboration and partnership. On this basis, I joined the AHA team.
The staff are warm and welcoming, happy to assist new volunteers to find there feet and eager to share in knowledge and skills sharing. In this environment, much can be achieved, as you soon find your confidence to take on the tasks at hand. The work is both engaging and plentiful, and your skills are very quickly put to the test. Due to limited capacity, I soon found myself taking on new challenges, expanding my knowledge and raising my abilities.
As Communications Officer I was charged with the production and management of all information materials, media liaison and implementing innovative means to raise the organisations visibility. We began by re-branding AHA, bringing to the forefront its humanitarian impact as a pan-African organisation and focusing on the voices of beneficiaries. With a new image to boast, we began the task of producing new outreach materials, a dynamic website, Annual Report, hosting events and publishing articles. In addition, we sought to examine internal-communications; the challenges faced (technical capacity, field comms etc) and ways and means of addressing them.
To compliment AHA’s outreach and advocacy efforts, we launched a campaign highlighting the voices of affected populations; Facets utilises multimedia resources to give voice to the affected populations with whom AHA works – demonstrating in word and image their strengths and dignity in overcoming the challenges faced.
Overall, my time with AHA has been one of the most rewarding, both personally and professionally, experiences to date. Whilst I hope to have made a modest contribution to the organisations invaluable work, I have certainly grown my own skills and experience immeasurably. I now feel that I stand in excellent stead to move forward with greater ability and understanding – with the intent to advocate strongly for the greater empowerment of African organisations to take on the challenges facing the continent, in order to ensure timely, effective and sustainable solutions for affected populations.
An experience strongly recommended!