August 4, 2010
Emily Sloane (MAIEP '09) is training to be a Food Security and Livelihoods Program Manager. Her main task in this role is conducting an evaluation of a pilot project that supports vulnerable residents of Warrap state in developing small-scale income generating activities.
During my third semester at MIIS, I became very interested in Food Security. Trouble was, I had no idea how to land a relevant job, let alone one in Africa, my geographic region of focus.
While volunteering as note taker at a Monterey conference on climate change in the Arctic, the speaker told us to take a minute to introduce ourselves to the other people seated at our tables. I met Drew, a documentary filmmaker planning to sail through the Northwest Passage. He asked me what I wanted to do with my life. Well, I said, I'd like to do food security work in Africa.
As fate had it, Drew's good friend was currently working as a food security program manager for Action Against Hunger (ACF) in Uganda. He and I chatted via Skype, and he told me about ACF's unadvertised mentorship program, which offers promising newcomers management positions after a three-month field-based internship.
Then Middlebury offered me a scholarship to study Russian for the summer, and I put the mentorship option aside for a moment. I worked for peanuts at an outdoor school in Oregon in the fall, then returned to Monterey, determined to land a career-type job at last. Opportunities in Papua New Guinea and Kyrgyzstan fell through and I began to look closer to home, at jobs and internships in D.C. and Montana. Meanwhile, my funds were scarce; I slept on a couch to economize and collected odd gigs - catering, editing, Census-taking - to pay the bills.
Then I remembered the mentorship program and reapplied. Things moved slowly at first, and then very fast. Three weeks after I was offered a position, I flew to Nairobi for training, and I've now been in Southern Sudan for seven weeks, learning to manage food security and livelihoods projects. It looks like the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be next.
Follow Emily's career adventures on her blog digestingafrica.blogspot.com