Life as a humanitarian worker: Jenny's story
Jenny Lamb Oxfam Public Health Engineer
20th Apr 2012
Lots of people are interested in careers in humanitarian work, but it can be hard to make the move without humanitarian experience. Jenny gives some advice and talks about her career path to becoming a Humanitarian Support Person with Oxfam.
My undergraduate degree was MA (Hons) in Physical Geography. During this course I gained a good understanding of climate change, water scarcity, water politics, environmental impact assessments and natural phenomena such as El Nino, glaciation, volcano and earthquake tectonics.
Then I undertook an MSc in Environmental Engineering. This course covered water supply and sanitation design in developed countries, and lower technology options in developing countries.
After this course I joined an engineering consultancy as a graduate civil engineer. I was involved in the design and construction of waste water treatment works in the Lake District. During this time I attended the a course on the 'Essentials of Humanitarian Practice', then a more specialist course in Sanitation in Emergencies, and Water treatment, supply and distribution in emergencies through Registered Engineers in Disaster Relief (Red R).
I spent nine months in Sri Lanka working as a volunteer for GOAL. The role in Sri Lanka was a huge learning experience for me. This role included drilling of new boreholes at schools, water quality monitoring of the shallow wells that had been inundated with salty water, construction of household and school latrines, as well as collaboration with the local National Water Board during the installation of a new water pumping station. After that I applied for an HSP position at
To gain relevant experience you can try other avenues such as Bond, Engineers without Borders, or simply going to a country and volunteering with local agencies. Equally try the Red R courses too. Keep with it - you will get there if you have 100% passion to work in the humanitarian sector!
Working at Oxfam