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My first time in the field: An aid worker reflects about their time in the Philippines

By Katie Hope

I have always wanted to build a life that centres around service and giving back to people in the most meaningful way.  When I saw a posting with the Canadian Red Cross for a communications aid worker, it seemed like a natural fit. As the largest humanitarian network in the world, the Red Cross works toward providing relief to the most vulnerable people, often going into unpredictable situations. I knew that, if selected, being a part of this global movement that focuses on caring for others would be both a special and significant experience for me. 
Aid worker Katie HopeI was lucky enough to join the Canadian Red Cross’ international communications roster in January of 2019.
Though many people do not always see where communications and humanitarian relief fit together, it is actually a very vital role when working in communities that are responding to, or preventing, disasters and emergencies.
The purpose of a communications aid worker is to collect stories, photos, and videos to share with Canadians and raise the profile of the work of the Red Cross. They also help to communicate with partner organizations, impacted communities, and the media, providing critical information about what is happening on the ground in an emergency situation.
In June, I went on my very first mission to the Philippines. The Canadian Red Cross has been a long-time partner of the Philippine Red Cross and continues to do important work with them across the country. As one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world, including typhoons, earthquakes, flooding, and landslides, their work now largely focuses on disaster risk reduction and building community resiliency.
The days and weeks leading up to the mission were hectic. From medical clearances and security checks, to travel logistics and scheduling with partner organizations, there’s a lot that goes into preparing for a mission.
Once on the ground, our days were jam-packed with meetings, interviews, briefings, community engagement activities, and group-discussions with local volunteers. We got to experience a breadth of different initiatives that the Canadian Red Cross is supporting, including:
  • programming to raise awareness on sexual and gender-based violence;
  • water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) projects;
  • health promotion activities focused on dengue fever;
  • building community resiliency through disaster risk reduction projects; and
  • disaster management initiatives.
Despite sleeping in a different bed every night, being up in wee-hours of the morning to travel to our next destination, managing the jetlag, and being tossed around in the back of a van to get to some of the more remote communities, I loved every minute of it.
aid workers in PhilippinesFor me, the greatest part of it all was having the opportunity to connect with people from so many different places in the Philippines. We met local Red Cross staff, passionate volunteers and community members, and incredible people working for the Canadian Red Cross based in Manila.
We spent an afternoon with some Philippine Red Cross volunteers keen to learn more about communications.  We got to share knowledge on taking photos and videos, using social media and different apps to share their stories, and let them practice with some of the gear we brought from Canada. They were so excited to get to try out new communication tools and eager to share information about their work in the Philippines.
Through it all, everyone had an interesting story to share about their experiences with the Red Cross and all of them rallied around the idea of making their communities, and their country, stronger and more resilient. It was an incredible thing to witness and further deepened the initial feeling I had when I first wanted to get involved with this organization – there’s something special here.

Related stories: 
Q&A with communications aid worker Nicole Robicheau
Learning to be a communications aid worker
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