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News update July 2014
A life serving the poor, Where to begin
An Introduction to working in areas of poverty , Dr Michael Meegan, International Director, ICROSS
After 36 years in Africa working with NGOs mostly ICROSS, I am often asked the same question when people are starting out looking to get involved in serving the poor, just how to start.
1. Lets start with the lay of the land in 2014…
There are a few challenges that did not exist when I started out. The brain drain has largely reversed and there are more local skilled professionals who have the advantage of local language, culture and tradition. There has been a strong trend to localise and move away from high turn overs of ex pat staff as well as a shift in paradigm from top heavy Western staff to smaller local organisations. There is another important shift that has seen a massive move away from Western Government funding of NGOs to funding poor country Infrastructures and local Government capacities. This has changed the map dramatically since 1994.
With the Global recession there are fewer charities and international groups looking for overseas personnel but at the same time there are more courses in International Development related studies qualifying young passionate professionals wanting to serve. This has created a new area in the industry, the volunteer and internship sector. As a requirement for completing studies, including post graduate studies students need placements. Work placements , field experiences, attachments , volunteer placements are requiste in many universities. Following a flood of these students in the late 1990s what used to be something did for free then became big income for NGOs. To this day there is a perception that “If I want to go and help in Africa or Cambodia why should I have to pay for offering my time. ?” Only last week a student in the USA asked me
“I would like to know why internships here come with a fee. Most internships that I see for NGOs do not require a fee, but only have the intern pay their own flight and costs associated with arriving at the destination. Is there housing available for these internships as well, or is that out of the pocket of interns and volunteers?”
The reality is that this is not correct, most credible NGOs do charge. For over 25 years our own NGO ICROSS never charged any fees, but we do have modest charges in 2014. The reason is twofold. Every time there is a visitor it takes staff resources, often amenieties, security, a translator, a mentor, while the intern is meeting their University requirements , the NGO is often bearing responsibilities and costs that are absorbed by project costs which is why most NGOs actually do charge generally modest fees. Many volunteer placement programmes however are very expensive at over $1,000 a month.
In practice building a career in International development will be like everything else in life, full of decisions, the more informed those decisions are the better. This means “ DO YOUR HOMEWORK” Not every NGO will be the right one for you and many people need to invest time seeking what will be the best fit for them.
Unlike many career paths, International Development does have the advantage of being able to apply to hundreds of International bodies. Typically most long term professionals in the Industry start with personal field experiences in several unpaid positions in low income countries. Generally this is a steep learning and listening curve helping them to identify their next step. They then find an area that interests them and they might do post graduate studies in that area after 2 – 3 years of poorly remunerated or unpaid work. After that many would be in their late 20s, often with responsibilities and looking for some income. This would either be a desk job in a Nationally based NGO or INGO or if they were lucky a Donor body like AUSAID, SIDA, DFiD, DANIDA, Global Fund . Others would work at any one of the 2,700 large NGOs that have large western teams. After these 2-3 years there is a high fall out rate for a multiplicity of reasons.
At this stage ones focus may often be more about lobbying, policy, awareness and changing the politics. Many of us, myself included have never been interested in those areas but have preferred the field. After Post Grad work the options in this decade ( Since 2010 ) have been more specialised Programme management or implementation. A third area of course is operational research, monitoring and evaluation. In the two latter options by ones early 30s anyone working in International Development should be at least bilingual. Over half of middle management field positions are locally filled.
2. Given the context what do I do next ?
There are loads sites like http://www.devnetjobs.org/ some are better than others like http://www.gradsintocareers.co.uk/development and http://www.kcoach.net/careers.htm that give useful overviews, there are no shortage of opportunities around. Everything is about collaboration, networking, multi disciplinary skills, broad based skills, team work and listening.
There are loads of very experienced professionals that have good insights like http://devpolicy.org/careers-in-development-an-interview-with-jo-spratt-on-careers-in-the-nz-development-sector-public-health-nursing-and-consulting-20130111/ many of whom will say the obvious that you already know about passion and dedication and purpose http://www.unicef.org.au/Discover/unicef-australia-blog/December-2013/Top-tips-to-gaining-a-career-in-the-development-se.aspx
3. Take home Messages
1. Build your experience and practical experience as well as knowledge of the range of opportunities and career pathways within the Development sector, Its not only Crisis Vs poverty reduction. A good intro is to look at the job specifications and the kinds of minimum requirements that are listed for different job positions and catagories. Talk to professionals in the areas that interest you, get them to look at your Resume and advise you, and the more guidance you get from those doing the job you want, the better, don’t get discouraged.
2. Careers in all these areas are increasingly specialised ( which does not mean narrow )and you will need to start exploring part time online ongoing learning which will be important. This could be anything from introductory courses in humanitarian aid policies or millennium goals to project management or field implementation. In all you do there should be an element of continuous learning and keeping up with rapidly changing dynamics. Eg If you are working in an area of International Development or Global change what languages do you speak, what are your portals of learning ? ( not all are academic but some must be)
Normally the frustration is NGOs want certain levels of practical field experience as a minimum, in too many situations they need a certain level of specific training and skill sets to be given practical field experience. In a competitive field every candidate will be passionate and informed, they will be fresh and enthusiastic, you must stand out and that’s more about your heart than your mind, more about your compassion than your rationale, more about the unique gift you bring than the sector.
Conferring Michael Meegan
Our work in images
Washington DC photographer, Seth Rubin, has provided many photographic insights into our projects over the years. Our ongoing partnership has created awareness of our diverse aid work throughout Kenya to new audiences around the world.
Seth has created a range of stunning images that give an insight into the lives of the rural and urban communities we serve. As part of an expanding initiative, Seth shares a collection of these striking and thought-provoking images on his website at http://www.sethrubinphotography.com/ESSAYS/ICROSS-AID-NGO/1/
Seth's ability to capture the daily lives of those suffering from disease and/or in extreme poverty is vital to creating awareness of the living conditions and struggles of those who lack the most basic necessities.
Much of the compassion and spirituality in Michael Meegans books is focused on love in action, personal involvement and passion. Seths images capture much of that passion and energy. They are in a rich sense a call to action, a call to serve.
As ICROSS projects continue to work towards the Global millenium goals in partnership with local communities, we also work with professionals like Seth to put faces to the statistics and share the people behind the numbers . . . effectively communicating the reality of Africa now. If you would like to know more about the field projects or how you can help http://icrossinternational.org/ or our partner charity http://nwiuk.org/
You can order books written by Michael Meegan here or through http://www.eye-books.com/author/michael-meegan/
ICROSS internship program 2014
Today (Nov 13th 2013) we celebrate the 99th birthday of a close friend, Dr. Joe Barnes MD. Having worked in Africa for over 40 years across the continent. Dr Barnes (Emeritus Professor of Tropical Medicine in the Royal College of Surgeon Ireland) founded ICROSS (International community of starvation and suffering). Dr Barnes was working in Leprosy clinics during the Second World War in Nigeria where he returned during the Biafran war. Together with Dr Michael Meegan he established the ICROSS Research unit and pioneered diarrhoeal research publishing extensively. He was knighted by the Pope for his services to the poor. Joe remains an example of living compassion and selflessness.
For over 35 years he has worked together with Michael Meegan bringing health care to new generations of Africans. Dr Jow is an inspiring example of spiritual energy and love having given his life to the poorest of the poor.
Today the ICROSS teams in Kenya celebrate the co-founder 99th birthday by planting an acacia tree at the Joe Barnes clinic and maternity unit in longosua, masailand.
Speaking at the ceremony the ICROSS Country Director Danny Ngwiri said “I had the Horner to meet Dr. Burns in Ireland and share with him our work, he remains actively interested in all of our programes and he has continued to support all of our work here for the last 35 years.
The Joe Barnes clinic was opened by Pro. Ronan Conroy in 1997 has been serving
the remote rural communities for many years. We have trained over 240 community
health workers and 180 Traditional Birth Attendants in the area.
Each year ICROSS awards the Joe Barnes projects to a need community since 2005.
Dr Michael Meegan who co-founded ICROSS with Dr. Barnes said today “we will carry on the work and legacy of Dr. Joe Barnes, and we remain committed to long term comprehensive health care, I spoke with Dr Barnes last night to wish him Happy Birthday.
"Dr Meegan who is also the International Director also thanked the Maasai communities for the partnerships and the Ministry of health for its dedication and collaboration."
ALL SHALL BE WELL : MICHAEL MEEGAN
1986 FOUNT RELIGIOUS PAPERBACKS
Translation by Philip LaFortune
Available to view below in PDF
Tout ira bien
Michael Meegan with the Directors at the Institute of Medicine
Michael Meegan is lecturing this week at the first Global health course ever to be held in Nepal. As a specialist in International and Global health Dr Meegan gave a series of lectures at the invitation of the Global health committee of Nepal’s renowned Institute of medicine. The Global Health course is the first of its kind in the Kingdom of Nepal. Dr Meegan lectured on global health partnerships, changes in the patterns of disease and the role of culture and epidemiology in health planning.
Michael spoke about compassion and kindness in serving the poor. His lectures focused on the importance of loving those we serve and seeing the greater picture and the power of belief and faith.
The International Director of ICROSS is lecturing this week at the first Global health course ever to be held in Nepal. As a specialist in International and Global health Dr Meegan gave a series of lectures at the invitation of the Global health committee of Nepal’s renowned Institute of medicine.
Michael Meegan with Professor Archana Amatya and Dr Santosh Timaisina
The Global Health course is the first of its kind in the Kingdom of Nepal. Dr Meegan lectured on global health partnerships, changes in the patterns of disease and the role of culture and epidemiology in health planning.
ICROSS has a long relationship with Nepal. This International event directed by Professor Archana Amatya and Drs Prasad Agrwal and Dr Santosh Timaisina has brought students from four continents.
Dr Michael Meegan spoke on creating long term effective evidence based health services guided by results based management and rights based framework.
Eye books will soon re publish Michael's Autobiography, SURPRISED BY JOY. First published in 2005 it has drawn wide acclaim following the BBC interview http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/hardtalk/4675531.stm
The latest version has a further chapter that is inspirational and disturbing, uplifting and powerful. The Forward is by the broadcaster, Journalist Stephen Sacker of the BBC who has also added to his introduction.
We have forgotten the secrets of happiness and have lost the art of wonder. Our world is in pain, and the gap between nations grows. The problems seem overwhelming." Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy
" When we are caught in the microcosms we can miss the majesty and vastness of the universe." Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy
" There are many intelligences, many dynamic paths that illuminate our way." Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy "Unless the mindset that has dominated charity in Africa changes, the model that governs response will remain unchanged."Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy
" With everything in me I believe that the only path we to joy is the way of serving each other without looking for anything in return."Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy
" You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy
" There is far too much misery in the world, too much anxiety, and we need to open ourselves to becoming agents of joy."Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy
" It is easy to think of all the things we can’t do, but every one of us can do something, and we can do something about everything."Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy
" If I decide not to reach out to a child in a slum because the rich politician has a Mercedes, I punish that child because of the greed of his oppressor."Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy
" The world needs to become a community, to relieve the tremendous amount of unnecessary suffering that is tearing us apart."Michael Meegan Surprised by Joy
Drawing on his own experiences Michael Meegan recounts an extraordinary life and brings home to the reader in a forceful way the realities of life for the poorest communities of this world.
Michael Meegan has spent much of his life tending to the poor and the sick of Africa and this book is an impassioned plea for help to continue the work. He begins his account by recalling his idyllic childhood, his family's move to Ireland when he was still a child, and the richness of his lifestyle, enjoying travel, sport and generally having a good time. He also, however, from an early age was engaged in a spiritual search that saw him spend time in Cistercian monasteries and also enter the communities of the White Fathers of Africa and the Jesuits. Although he stayed with neither community, his search led him to a conclusion on which he has since based his life: "I can see no better way to spend a life than in pursuit of this, the most momentous and epic of all ambitions - to be kind".
While the book sets out to engage our minds in the need to help the poor of Africa it is not simply a plea for financial aid, for Meegan learnt early the futility of throwing money at a problem and voices criticism of the administration of aid offered by a number of countries. Instead he urges us all to come to realise the gross inequalities of life and to understand that we all have a duty to correct those inequalities. He nudges the conscience of the reader by giving startling statistics of the imbalance, for example the fact pointed out by the World Bank, that the six richest people in the world are richer than the six hundred million poorest. He also describes in riveting detail the realities of the Aids virus and its effects on both individuals and communities.
However "Surprised by Joy" is far from all statistics and harrowing stories of deprivation and disease, though there are plenty of these. The author's own spiritual journey, the examples he has met of the innate goodness and joy of mankind, and portraits of the many people who have positively influenced his life, make of this an inspiring account of what is being done and what can be done by everyone for those to whom life has dealt a poor hand. The underlying call is to each one of us to recognise our responsibility towards our fellow-humans, a responsibility that Meegan has met with compassion and with practical help through the establishment of ICROSS, the International Community for the Relief of Starvation and Suffering. It should be added that his book also has its lighter moments, as in his efforts to teach the importance of safe sex, and his wonderful description of the "barking mad" former wildlife photographer Michaela Denis, "like Bette Davis on speed".
As we begin to understand these different selves we begin to acknowledge and value all the different abilities that we have in our lives. At the same time, we recognise the special things that we find in those we love. Mike Meegan, The tribe of One.
We become more aware of the particular talents and gifts of individual friends. All of these things work in harmony allowing us to become more aware and complete. Mike Meegan, The tribe of One
The more we become conscious, the more we are able to find the right balance for all the different parts of our lives, we might need to create more space to be alone, we may not be sleeping much, or working too hard, not making enough time for the things that make us relaxed. Mike Meegan, The tribe of One
In time we will learn to adjust the different parts of our lives so that they balance. Only then will they help to generate each other finding a natural synergy. You may find that you spend too much time on the internet, or far too long answering emails, you might be too abrupt in conversations, or not spend enough time talking to your partner. Mike Meegan, The tribe of One
Listen to Michael Meegan here