Myanmar: Helping new humanitarian workers build and share their skills

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Dr Wai Mon Maung is a Project Manager with Plan International in Myanmar, where the humanitarian sector is rapidly expanding as the country transitions.

She reflects on the need for training to help professionals from other sectors apply their skills in a humanitarian context.

I am currently working as a Humanitarian Project Manager with Plan International in Myanmar, on a Maternal, Neonate and Child Health and Nutrition Project. I’ve been part of Plan’s emergency response team for the past five months. Previously, I spent four years working with INGOs as a health care provider, treating patients directly.

I heard about RedR’s training from my supervisor. I was eager to develop my knowledge of humanitarian work, because it’s still fairly new to me, and I know I have a lot to learn!

With this in mind, I attended two of RedR’s courses. During the first course, 'Essentials of Humanitarian Practice', I learnt about the different roles of humanitarian agencies, the cluster system, and the different elements that need to be in place if a humanitarian response is to be comprehensive.

During the second course, 'Managing Teams', I learnt about the role of a manager, the skills and attitudes required to manage a team under pressure, and practical techniques for leading a team.

The group exercises on leadership helped me to realise what my own leadership style is. I learnt that you need to adapt your leadership style to each situation, and that a leader needs to have a good overview of all the issues her team is dealing with to avoid neglecting any of them.

"One of my objectives was to share the things I learnt with my colleagues."

The training brought together people from different organisations with different professional and geographical backgrounds. This meant that we were able to draw on a wide range of points of view during the group work on problem-solving.

This group work also highlighted the importance of individual motivation, responsibility, cooperation and coordination, both within the team and with others. I am sure I will apply this in my work - though it is a little bit early to say!

One of my objectives in attending the training was to share the things I learnt with my colleagues and friends working in other organisations. It is important to know why we are undertaking this humanitarian action, and how can we provide assistance to the people who need it most.

From my point of view, one of the main challenges for humanitarian organisations working in Myanmar is the difficulty of obtaining information about, and access to, some of the areas where emergency situations occur. There’s also a need for capacity-building for staff in humanitarian topics: although they are strong in their relevant profession, they’re applying their skills in a totally new context. But our country is now in a transition period, and we hope that it will soon be easier to obtain both information and access, and that the humanitarian sector will continue to grow stronger.