Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014!!

I normally would have written this blog post a few days ago, at the end of 2013 and looked back at the year and what it brought me, but I was a little bit busy getting stuck into my R&R, which has been extremely relaxing, and extremely needed! I rung in the new year with my friend Steph at a quiet little resort in Mactan, the island next to Cebu. We spent the evening by the pool, playing cards and watching the fireworks that lit up the sky every now and then. The best new year's eves are always the quiet ones!

It's hard to remember what happened in 2013. I spent the first half of the year in Lebanon, working on the Syria Crisis, which was a frustrating response as the funding we had was really limited. Conflicts are always more difficult to fundraise for, and this was no exception. But it was wonderful to be based in Lebanon again, particularly living in Beirut just down the street from my favourite cafe in the world, and catching up with the friends I made when I lived there in 2009/10. And the evenings spent with Jane and her ukulele on our balcony, re-writing songs to be about our colleagues and then performing them were some of the best of the year.

We had such great teams working in Lebanon and Jordan, and it was a lot of fun to work with them, even though the response was difficult. Seeing the Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan on a number of occasions was a new experience, I've never seen a camp like it, and doubt I will again. The size of it, the location of it, and the challenges around providing some of the 120,000+ people living there with the water and sanitation they needed were mind boggling. But our team managed that with aplomb, because they're legends.

The four and a half months I spent at home were spent hanging out with my parents, and Jules and Vardy on the weekends. It was nice to be vegging out at home, it felt like it took about 2 months to get back to normal after the stress of the Syria crisis! The road trip my Dad and I did to Canberra was so much fun, there's nothing quite like the Australian country side, particularly in a little red convertible! :-) Then of course there was the unfruitful apartment buying attempts, and while I loved spending time getting to know Melbourne better, and catching up with all my friends there, it was disappointing that I wasn't able to afford the type of apartment I want. Maybe in 2014....

And then to round out the year with a fast paced, high pressure response like the typhoon Haiyan response has been fantastic. The extent of the destruction is truly devastating, and the size of our response is impressive. We have a huge team in Tacloban, made up of internationals, relocated staff from elsewhere in the Philippines, local staff we've hired, and a fantastic team of volunteers (some of who have become staff) that have helped deliver assistance to over 200,000 people in Leyte, and over 350,000 in total across the affected areas. Not too shabby for less than 2 months of work. We're now planning the recovery phase, which will focus more assistance on a lower number of people, to help them re-establish livelihoods, and also make sure they have access to clean water and sanitation facilities. There's a long road ahead, but it's been an absolute pleasure working in such a motivated and enthusiastic team. And endlessly challenging for me in my new temporary role as deputy programme manager; I've learned a lot in the past month, about all aspects of managing a field office and it's been the type of professional development opportunity I've been looking for for some time. I'm thrilled to have been given the chance, and I'm doing a good job, the hard part will be leaving this role at the end of January and going back to my normal job!!

As for 2014, I think it's going to be a good year. I have certain goals in mind, both personal and professional, but I don't believe in new year's resolutions. Let's just hope that it's a safe and happy year for us all.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think it's time for another swim!

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