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How to Become a Humanitarian Aid Worker

Mother Teresa, a world known humanitarian, said: ‘’If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one’’. War, extreme poverty, natural disasters and many other similar crises call for emergency humanitarian aid and assistance to people who are affected. Every year, humanitarian organizations help millions of people to rebuild their lives while maintaining their dignity. Humanitarian aid provides relief and comfort to people who are not able to deal with the crisis on their own and it often comes in the form of food, shelter and medical aid. In later stages of crisis, humanitarian organizations help rebuild communities, resettle refugees and assist people to come back on track with their lives.

However, becoming a humanitarian aid worker is not an easy task. Humanitarian workers work tirelessly to deliver both material and technical support within their respective programs often working for months, if not years, in disaster affected areas. This might include delivering humanitarian aid on behalf of humanitarian NGOs, the UN agencies or private humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross.  Humanitarian work entails helping those who went through bad experiences and have suffered imaginably. At this point, humanitarian work becomes not only a job, but a life mission. It becomes highly rewarding as you can help as a human being to another human being. Nevertheless, to become a humanitarian aid worker you need to complete a few steps. This article provides few tips on how to become a humanitarian aid worker.

Acquire Education and Learn Languages

Completing necessary education steps became a must in today’s humanitarian and development world. If you have decided to pursue a career in the humanitarian sector and are on the break of choosing your major, you might consider studying law, international relations, political sciences or a similar field. However, humanitarian organizations are often in a search for qualified personnel in medicine, engineering and communications to work directly on the field in disaster hit areas. Therefore, if you have chosen to study in some of these areas you still have good chances to become a humanitarian aid worker.

Besides acquiring a major degree in the relevant field, one of the requirements that humanitarian organizations also look for in candidates is having a relevant masters’ degree. There are no exact formulas or guidelines on what to study and which master classes to take; however, you should be able to narrow down and concentrate on the sector or area in which you wish to work in. For example, that could be humanitarian crisis, child protection, human rights, international development, peace studies and similar. Your masters does not have to be completely concentrated on humanitarian crisis but it should be applicable through your research and dissertation like for example concentrating on issues that relate to refugees or climate change.

Last, but not least, if you wish to become a humanitarian aid worker, you should opt to learn new languages.  The importance of speaking foreign languages lies in that fact that as a humanitarian worker, you will find yourself working in developing and underserved communities and humanitarian organizations very often require from candidates to speak a certain language to be able to work in the field without facing limitations. For example, learning Arabic and Spanish is highly recommended in within the humanitarian sectors and, luckily, there are many free available options to learn these languages today.

Volunteer or Intern

Having relevant experience is immensely important when working in the humanitarian sector. In fact, while having a postgraduate or masters’ degree is important, having experience may outweigh this since humanitarian organizations mostly require from candidates to have some experience and this might boost your possibilities to get a job you want.

Basically, there are two ways of gaining experience in the humanitarian sector-through internships or volunteering. However, getting an internship in international humanitarian NGOs and organizations sometimes is not an easy task. It is really important to start building a network of contacts in early stages of your studies to stay in line and hear about new opportunities. However, humanitarian organizations often offer unpaid overseas internships, so you might be required to fund your own expenses or look for a sponsor or a stipend.

If you are unable to afford an internship overseas or find one within an international humanitarian organization, you can always act locally and look for volunteering opportunities within your closer area. Look for websites that can match you with organizations to volunteer with, depending on your interests. Volunteering will give you experience and might bring new opportunities in the future since you will be able to broaden your network of contacts. Gaining experience by doing internship or volunteering will help you acquire skills that will enrich your CV and help you in the future job search.

Search for a Job

Once you are ready to look and apply for jobs in the humanitarian sector you can browse through the Internet or scour through newspapers for positions that are open with humanitarian organizations and NGOs. Networking connections that you have acquired during your internship or volunteering experience might come into play here because you can find out about open positions from the first hand and get some valuable recommendations. Nevertheless, it is important to broaden and build up your network of connections during this stage as well, building relationships with people and recruiters who can help you in the long-run.

During this stage, you should also focus on building up your CV. According to advices from recruiting experts, you should take your time to tailor every application and make it personal. Dedicating time to your CV is very important since it is first thing employers will see once you apply for a position and you want to leave a good impression. Use your CV to describe your skills and what is it that you have to offer to an organization you are applying to.

Last, but not least, when you are looking for a job, do not only focus on the big organizations. Even though you might be attracted to well-known and big humanitarian aid organizations you can also look for a job in smaller locally based organizations, which can help you gain valuable experience and set you up for a bright future international career.