Aid Worker Summer School: "My report-writing skills have gone from 40% to 90%!"

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Every year, RedR runs a two-week Summer School aimed principally at those looking to take their first steps in the humanitarian sector.

The pick’n’mix format means trainees can attend those sessions which are most relevant to them, whether that be project management, monitoring and evaluation, the emergency simulation day, or the CV workshop. Some are newly graduated; others are planning a career change. And from time to time, we get Summer School students who already have field experience and are looking to refine a specific skill before taking the next step in their career. This was the case for Ikram Ullah, Provincial Programme Manager with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Pakistan. 

I’ve been working in the humanitarian sector since 2002 when, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, thousands of Afghan refugees crossed the border into Pakistan. I was working with Save the Children UK at the time, and we worked alongside other organisations to set up camps to support them.  

I’ve been with the ICRC since November 2014, having previously worked for IRC and NRC. Currently, I’m based in Islamabad but support mine risk education projects in three provinces: AJK (Azad Jammu and Kashmir), FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), and KPK (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). We provide technical and financial support to the Pakistan Red Crescent Society to implement these projects. I manage a Project Officer, who himself manages six District Officers, acting as risk educators.   

Today, having acquired over ten years of experience with different organisations, I’m looking to take the next step - which, for me, is an international posting with the ICRC. I’ve been lucky to attend quite a few training courses in the past few years - including one with RedR in Pakistan, back in 2008 - but I still felt I had some gaps in my knowledge, particularly with regard to proposal-writing, report-writing and log frames. Before applying for an international posting, I wanted to address these gaps. Coming to the Summer School was one way of doing this. 

"I have come away from the course with a much clearer vision."

In the field, I’m responsible for M&E, proposal-writing and report-writing. Each organisation has its own way of doing these things, and of course each donor requires a specific reporting format. I have experienced so many different formats over the years that I was finding it difficult to differentiate. My primary objective in attending the Summer School was to overcome this confusion. As a manager, it’s particularly important to have things clear in your mind, so you can explain them to your team. But often, when you’re working, you can’t afford to take the time to reflect.  

I have come away from the course with a much clearer vision of the principles that underpin proposal- and report-writing. Previously, I would have rated my proposal- and report-writing skills at 40%. Now, I would say I’m closer to 90%. And I feel more confident applying for an international posting as a result.  

I also really enjoyed the ‘Meet the Experts’ day, particularly the sessions on coordination. I’ve been involved in Cluster meetings before - but at provincial level, rather than national level. I now feel I have a more in-depth understanding of coordination and the Cluster system.