"I started as a volunteer at Oxfam as a means of keeping myself involved in human rights and humanitarian issues after completing a degree in Human Rights from Carleton University. Without a clear idea of the exact path I wanted to take in development I knew that Oxfam has a breadth of activity all through which essential development and humanitarian work is accomplished. After a year as a Volunteer Receptionist and Administrative Assistant, in which capacity I assisted many of my Oxfam colleagues on various projects, I was promoted, so to speak, to an Intern position with the Humanitarian Unit. This was when I really got involved and inspired by Oxfam’s work in times of crises. The Humanitarian Unit opened my eyes to the interconnectivity of humanitarian work as my colleagues tackled everything from program management, public engagement, and policy making all in a very collaborative effort with their fellow Oxfam co-workers. I have been interning now for just over a year and am enthusiastic to say that I am still learning more!
I have learned from first hand experiences at Oxfam a wide range of practical skills such as fundraising logistics, humanitarian program management, as well as office management. Furthermore, I have had the chance to be a part of many events which strengthen and challenge the more theoretical side of humanitarian engagement and current shifts in 21st century humanitarian aid. From exploring shifts from in-kind to cash-for-work aid, to theories of aid in a world experiencing rapid urbanization, to the substantial linkages between women’s rights, environmental sustainability and poverty.
My lesson learned again and again at Oxfam is that of the interconnectedness of all things, that in a humanitarian crisis the devastation of a natural disaster is connected to poverty, that chronic poverty is linked to women’s rights, that empowering women has a directly positive effect on the environment. In engaging with these humanitarian and development issues Oxfam makes a collaborative and combined effort amongst themselves at Oxfam Canada, between Oxfam’s all over the world, between other INGOs and most importantly between small-scale local community organizations over-seas.
Thanks to the encouragement of my co-workers at Oxfam I have had the opportunity to not only work with the Humanitarian Unit but also become involved with Oxfam’s Policy and Outreach team as well. From writing on Humanitarian responses for our website, to giving presentations on a wide range of Oxfam campaigns to local high schools, to assisting university groups fundraise for Oxfam’s many development and humanitarian projects.
It is through understanding the connected-nature of humanitarian issues and thus the need for a collaborative offensive against such that I have learned to the importance of infusing all aspects of my life with my personal beliefs and theories about the world. I know that every effort and decision an individual makes, no matter how small, has a global consequence. This is why I infuse what I have learned at Oxfam into my personal, work, and intern-life. An example of this coming together of efforts to demonstrate my commitment and belief in a holistic approach to living in effort to eradicate poverty and injustice was when I organized an event at my workplace, Oz Kafe – a restaurant that serves and supports local food suppliers in Ottawa – on World Food Day. On the menu for the evening we highlighted all of our local sources for the delicious food we serve. I had planned on donating my tips from the evening to Oxfam’s GROW campaign, but by the time I knew it my co-workers were involved, my fellow servers, chefs, dishwasher and boss all donated and by the end of the night we raised almost $1000 dollars! I loved getting everyone talking about food, talking about local food and more importantly the bigger picture of that ‘think local, act global’ adage. Awareness is the first step, small actions make a difference and with this momentum positive global changes are a result. Oxfam taught me this and I truly believe it."