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Danny Harvey started her role as Executive Director of Concern Worldwide UK in December 2019. One year and a global pandemic later, here's what she's learned.
Just over a year ago, I was living in Zambia heading up a country office and worrying about nurse training and the provision of health services to people in remote rural areas of Zambia. It was a time of very long journeys, hot, sunny, dusty days, meeting amazing people who were achieving an enormous amount with very little, and seeing first-hand the improvements our work makes on people’s lives.
At the end of 2019, I moved back to the UK with my whole family after more than 20 years away. I was excited about the chance to head up the Concern office in the UK and expecting challenges. One year, one global pandemic and a lot of changes later, I’ve realised:
You can do anything if you have a great team.
Time and time again, I have seen staff from Concern and our partners in-country mobilise and pull together to move mountains. Whether we are distributing shelter kits to families after an earthquake has destroyed their homes, or registering thousands of families for cash payments after a drought has destroyed their harvest, we are nothing without our team. In exactly the same way, when faced with Covid-19, our UK team moved to remote working almost seamlessly. They have continued to adapt, change and come together (albeit virtually) to make the most of a challenging situation; raising funds, securing grants and campaigning for effective aid that makes a difference to the poorest people in the world.
2020 has seen an acceleration in progress on a number of key issues.
The tragic death of George Floyd and the surge in the Black Lives Matter movement has made us realise how little has really been achieved in the fight for equality, and forced us to grapple more purposefully with issues such as diversity and inclusion. We need to take responsibility to move these issues forward in a meaningful way, that brings about real and long-lasting change within our own organisations and the work that we do. Within Concern, we have agreed we want to become more diverse and inclusive as an organisation - and 2021 will be the year of hard work to turn that commitment into action.
Seeing poverty first-hand though my work across Asia and Africa made me determined to make a difference to some of the world’s poorest communities - particularly women and girls.
They have so much potential but face so many barriers to education, health care and securing their livelihoods. What has been striking to me is that, despite a hugely difficult year, this determination also persists in the UK. Public support for our work has remained strong.
We were blown away to see over 4,000 people taking the Ration Challenge this year to raise funds, by eating the same rations as a Syrian refugee for a week. I participated in the Challenge for the first time and it took me by surprise. Though it was just a glimpse of what refugees go through, the experience created a deeper understanding of what life can be like as a refugee; with so little control and choice over what happens to you, how you can make ends meet and feed your family. This engagement and support has been really motivating and gives me hope that in 2021, although hunger and poverty driven by the Covid-19 crisis are on the rise, we can continue to tackle it and make a difference.
You need a really good raincoat, wellies and a hat to live happily in the UK.
And not the fun kind of hat that keeps sun off! Did it always rain this much?