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Highlights from a week with the UK Poverty team

Posted by Jossie Katayama Student

27th Aug 2013

Jossie Katayama recently spent a week in Oxfam House, getting work experience with our UK Poverty team. Once she had completed her week in the office, she decided to write about her time here and what she would take away from it. I thought I'd post it on the blog - it's a nice way of showing the different things people can end up doing with Oxfam, whether it's as staff, as an intern, a volunteer - or sometimes, as someone doing a week of work experience.

Adventure in London

On Tuesday 18 June, I travelled to London to shadow a day in the life of Katherine Trebeck.  Katherine is Oxfam's Policy and Advocacy Manager focusing on poverty in the UK.  After an early 7am departure from Oxford, I joined Katherine in a meeting with the organisation New Economic Foundation (nef).  Two minds are better than one, as they say, and Oxfam often has discussions with thinks tanks to develop policy and reports. The meeting was geared around how to influence the debate and policy-making around welfare.

Next, we dashed across the city for an informal lunch with a journalist. I now understand that nurturing good media connections is important for Oxfam in order to help inform the public about the work they do and to promote their current campaigns.

Our next meeting was with a politician. It was interesting to see her views aligned with Oxfam's in issues such as supporting local business, increasing public political empowerment and creating a sustainable society.  It was so exciting for me to witness, first hand, Oxfam networking with influential people - while keeping their values at the centre of the discussion.

The importance of open-mindedness

Talking to Chris Johnes, Director of Oxfam's UK Poverty Programme gave me an insight into Oxfam's work in the UK, which is playing an important role in mitigating the increasing and often hidden poverty right on our doorstep. Some may be surprised to hear Oxfam works in the UK, as it is more widely known for its global campaigns. But, I think tackling poverty in our own country is as vital as supporting others.

Chris told me of his vision for the programme to work more collaboratively with other partners and organisations to build a more effective network in to defeat poverty here and overseas. On a personal note, what really left an impression on me was his emphasis on the importance of open-mindedness and understanding other perspectives in order to bridge conflict and initiate change. This was experienced and sound advice that I will apply in all aspects of my life.

Effective Advocacy

Senior Policy Adviser Ed Cairns explained to me what Oxfam does in advocacy, an aspect of Oxfam's work I find particularly interesting. Influencing government policy is instrumental in creating lasting change, so Oxfam conducts extensive research, strongly linked to its programmes in the field, vital in targeting help effectively around the world. Meeting Ravi Sodha, UK Advocacy Assistant, who often deals with MPs, allowed me to understand the role of lobbying government. It inspired me knowing that within politics humanitarian values are often heard and honoured. A good example of this is how the UK government recently confirmed it would honour the commitment of giving 0.7% of national income to overseas aid. Talking of attending networking and policy events helped me understand of the importance of having connections with those who have the power for change.

Citizens Advice Bureau in Oxford

Having a chance to interview one of the advisers at the Oxford Citizens Advice Bureau was an invaluable experience. She had direct experience with people who were struggling to make ends meet, and this helped me understand of the extent of poverty in Britain, the seventh richest country in the world. Many people rely on the bureau for support in this time of upheaval after recent welfare reforms. They are more and more stretched but still manage to provide help for almost 7,000 clients last year. I thought the increase in clients showed there are significant gaps in welfare system, and this motivated me even more to campaign against the cuts. Their effects are so devastating!

Find out more

Read Jossie's post, Citizens Advice Bureau: Showing things aren't working as the should, on our UK Poverty blog.

Inspired by Jossie? We're not always able to offer work experience, but we have lots of volunteering opportunities

Blog post written by Jossie Katayama


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