Making a difference working at Humanitarian Affairs

Humanitarian affairs globe

Inès Huynh is a recent graduate of MSc Development Studies at SOAS University of London and has, most recently, been working in Bangkok in partnership with Humanitarian Affairs Asia on a 6-month internship, organising the 10th University Scholars Leadership Symposium.

Inès describes what her role has involved.

Ines Huynh, Humanitarian Affairs

Can you describe the work of Humanitarian Affairs?

“Humanitarian Affairs is an organisation aspiring to tackle global challenges and serve society by getting young people involved in humanitarian initiatives. It engages young people to commit to building a peaceful, inclusive and sustainable world through various large-scale international conferences.

“Its signature event, the annual University Scholars Leadership Symposium (USLS), allows next generation leaders to understand key development challenges around the world, and motivates them to serve as effective agents of positive social change.”

“The Peace Summit inspires young leaders to promote world peace, while the International Diplomacy Forum aspires future diplomats and world leaders to develops soft-skills in diplomacy and international relations. Ultimately, Humanitarian Affairs envisions to build an international network of empowered, compassionate and proactive young leaders who will be influential change-makers for their generation and the generations to come.”

What is your role in the organisation?

“Officially, my role is a Global Partnership Associate, working in a team of eight other university students and recent graduates from around the world. The most significant part of my role is maintaining professional partnerships with universities who sponsor a delegation of students to attend the USLS on an annual basis, as well as building new partnerships with universities who have not had students attend before.

“As the specialist for 18 countries, I manage and review student applications from these countries. My role is dynamic in nature, and my tasks have changed over the course of the 6 months. In the later stages of the internship, I have had a greater involvement in the organisation of the conference. This includes preparation of informational material for delegates, collection and management of delegate’s information, writing and preparing email communications to delegates and accompanying professors.

“During the conferences, I will be the responsible person for greeting and arranging transport for the UN officials and guest speakers at the airport, the registration of delegates upon arrival at the hotels and conference, as well as leading groups of 70-100 students at their respective service learning programmes.”

What has been a highlight of the work?

“Working with an international and multidisciplinary team has been a huge highlight for me. Our likeminded team consists of nine interns from six countries, between the ages of 18 and 27 all from a different study background. Working for six months in an international professional environment has given me a greater appreciation for the huge importance and value of a culturally and disciplinarily diverse team.”

And what has been the most challenging aspect of the work?

“We are a relatively small team, and we are communicating with the top universities across over 100 countries. As I am solely responsible for over 18 countries, I have a huge number of contacts to email, call, follow-up, set application and payment deadlines, send event updates, and review applications. Communicating with a large pool of contacts presents a lot of difficulties keeping up to date with enquiries, managing my mailing schedule, and ensuring my email and call has reached the right contact. It is a very supportive, but high-pressure workplace which is very demanding in mental energy and time out of office hours.

“Working closely in organising an international conference has taught me a lot about the marketing, management and logistical difficulties with an event of this scale, which I feel will be hugely valuable in any of my future work.”

How did your degree at SOAS prepare you for working for Humanitarian Affairs?

“My degree in Development Studies at SOAS provided me with in-depth knowledge and opened my eyes about multiple issues that our society is currently facing. It gave me the tools and the critical thinking needed to understand these issues in a comprehensive way and to think about effective and sustainable ways to tackle them. All these tools acquired at SOAS were particularly useful, as the conference we are organising is specifically tackling these issues and providing a platform for young leaders to connect and discuss ways to overcome challenges that our generation is currently facing. All the knowledge acquired at SOAS has also been my daily driving force to reach out to as many new universities as possible in order to provide this platform to a larger and more diverse group of students around the world and to get more young people from around the world involved in humanitarian initiatives.”

“The multicultural and diverse community at SOAS also gave me an appreciation of different cultural norms and communication norms, which I was able to apply on a daily basis when developing and maintaining professional partnerships with universities from different parts of the world.”

What do you hope to do in the future?

“One of my life goals is to be able to improve children’s lives around the world through education, skill-based learning, and personal empowerment. In the short run, I wish to acquire the most experience and skills possible in order to learn how to run effective and sustainable development projects. In a few years’ time, I wish to run my own organisation focused on empowering child victims of child trafficking, by working on prevention and on sustainable recovery for trafficking survivors. Child trafficking is a highly complex and an ongoing issue in Southeast Asia and in other parts of the world.

“Through my experience of Southeast Asia, inspired by the vibrant and humble culture, and aware of the structural vulnerabilities that co-exist, I have a passionate focus for this region. Channelling these experiences, my fondness for this region and my dedication to protect the rights of children, I envision myself running an organisation where creative and sustainable ideas will be used to bring a brighter future to those who need it most.”

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