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Stories from the field

My first steps as a humanitarian worker

Ramy Benyahia in Palestine
Concern Worldwide

In 2019, I decided to take a gap year from my master’s degree at Dauphine University (Paris) in order to get some experience in the humanitarian sector. However, I had to face several barriers. First, how can someone with no significant experience in international cooperation find a job in this sector? And more importantly, how can I make sure I don’t make any mistake once deployed in the field? I was indeed quite worried about this specific point. I was familiar with the polemic around voluntourism and the several scandals about humanitarians’ negative impacts on the affected population due to low acceptance and knowledge of the context.


The EUAV program helped me in overcoming both barriers. The EC training, that I did in Belgium, offered me several clues and keys to understanding what it’s like to be working in the field: How to avoid mistakes? How to deal with media and authorities? How to foster accountability? How to ensure my own safety? This training also gave me the opportunity to meet dozens of other young humanitarians, with diverse backgrounds and ambitions, which really fueled my motivation to engage in this sector.


I finally joined ACTED Headquarters, in August 2019, for two months. I was very excited about this prelude to my field mission. My days were busy: learning about ACTED procedures in the field, having a first glance at their projects in many different countries, conducting support work for the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) mission, and preparing my departure. During this period, I also met my mentor, who supported me during my whole mission. Having him on my side was really reassuring, as he was helping with both technical aspects and personal struggles.


In October 2019, I flew to Jerusalem, where ACTED’s main office is located. Having Lebanese and Algerian roots, I was comfortable with the culture, the language, and the way of living. I adapted quite quickly to this new context.


Joining the Projects Development department was instructive on many different levels. As it was quite a small department, I had the chance to work on all aspects of the project cycle. I met with several donors and participated in cluster meetings. As the projects were non-tangible while being in Paris, I really appreciated being directly included in all projects and group works, in country.


If I had to pick one single day to share in this story, it would definitely be one visit in the field. One of my colleagues, who worked as Project Manager, once suggested I accompany him during his field visit. I was always thrilled when I had the opportunity to go to the field. During this field visit, I met an old man who was benefiting from the project. ACTED was providing humanitarian assistance to his household. I believe that he was very curious about meeting an Arab who could not speak Arabic so well. Even though it was completely impossible to communicate, I can tell that he was telling jokes, laughing at me and at everything around us. He offered me tea and talked for hours about his life, even though I was only able to grasp a small part of it.