Nationality

United States

Education

Master's Degree in Law and Diplomacy, International Relations and Humanitarian Assistance, Tufts University, Massachusetts, United States

Bachelor’s Degree in Asian Studies, International Environmental and Art History, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, United States

Languages

English, German

A regular day’s work in emergency environments consists of making hard choices; sometimes with limited information, and almost always with limited time. I faced this reality while I was deployed to Liberia in 2003. In the last stages of the civil war, thousands of displaced people were finding shelter in parking lots, abandoned schools and churches, and stadiums. We had to confront the immediate challenge of trying to figure out how to assist them. Providing food, water, and medical care in those temporary settlements meant both drawing more people into an area where safety could not be guaranteed and possibly prolonging the time they would spend living in terrible conditions. Not assisting them, however, meant not meeting critical needs or forcing them to go back to other insecure areas to find assistance.

You learn that the solution often lies in bringing together the right people and asking them the right questions, rather then trying to find the answers by yourself. In many cases, the answers come from the people you are trying to help. In Liberia we decided to do a joint mapping of safe areas where we could provide assistance and offer people a chance to move to those locations. This took coordination with everyone: from the people who were displaced to Government officials, religious groups, and many members of the humanitarian community. You realize what is possible when people come together to work on a challenge.

Providing humanitarian assistance after an emergency does not only involve operations at the field level, it involves the dedication of hundreds of people working hundreds of miles away in various headquarters locations. I have been fortunate; in my eight years with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), I have worked in many different roles assisting with emergency responses from Headquarters. From New York I have prepared briefings for the Security Council on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and worked with a dedicated team as far away as Timor-Leste to help put together operational emergency response strategies. From Geneva I have helped coordinate funding appeals for emergencies in southern Africa, and worked to establish six offices as well as hire staff to work in remote locations of Pakistan. The tasks are varied and often unpredictable, but the opportunities are limitless. During the Pakistan earthquake in 2004, there was one week I was helping to draft the briefing by the Under-Secretary-General to member-states in Geneva. The next week I was deployed to Islamabad and Muzaffarabad in Kashmir to try and establish a system to ensure non-governmental organizations were better coordinated in relation to United Nations relief efforts.

When you work on an emergency response for the United Nations you are part of a team that works across time-zones, broken phone-lines, and different locations to find collective solutions. In these instances, you realize you are never alone, no matter how big the challenge. This became apparent to me during the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. While I was in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, trying to figure how I could get aid to the areas where it was most needed, someone else was in Jakarta, the capital city, organizing helicopters to deliver aid. And while the press release was being drafted in New York announcing that delivery had taken place, a donor briefing was being organized in Geneva to get additional funding for a future delivery. Working in this type of team, you begin to look at problems not as barriers, but as common issues that need to be solved. You learn the truth behind the Japanese proverb that states, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

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