Two years ago, “KC” arrived at the WFP Philippines office, based in Manila, as a Logistics Assistant. During her time with WFP, she has been involved in her fair share of typhoon and flood response operations, each of which has helped prepare her for her latest task. As part of a four-person logistics team coordinating the WFP relief effort for the recent floods, KC and her colleagues have had their work cut out for them. In this interview, she explains why.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, and how you came to build your life as a logistician with WFP?
My complete name is Kathreen Claire Co, but everybody calls me KC (not to be confused with another “KC”, Ms. KC Concepcion, the WFP Philippines National Ambassador Against Hunger
). In WFP terms, I am a “Ketsana baby” because I was hired by WFP when the response to Typhoon Ketsana
was launched in October 2009, so I'm 2 yrs old now. Ever since college, I wanted to work with the United Nations. The moment that the WFP Philippines
office announced a job vacancy for a Logistics Assistant, I applied and luckily enough, I was accepted. I have always had a passion for volunteering. Helping others is what I do.
Can you explain your role in the WFP flood response operation?
In total there are four logisticians in our Manila team (we have another logistics team in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao
where WFP assists people affected by conflict), and each person is responsible for a different logistics aspect. My main role in Logistics is transport
, so everything about delivering commodities is my job: from sourcing of private transporters for shortlist to making the transport plan to coordinating with the receiving party of the deliveries. My other logistics team members are in charge of warehousing, receipt and dispatch of commodities and food assistance, and keeping track of the logistics/transport costs WFP occurs while food is in transit within the country.
What kinds of challenges have you experienced with this operation?
Everything in this operation is urgent. In addition to what we already do, we have had to assess the roads leading to the Final Drop-Off points and to assure that these roads are passable by trucks – which is something normally done not by us, but by third party contractors we hire on our behalf. Because we have to plan around weather conditions, I have to make sure that all of our transporters are on stand-by for possible deliveries on the same day. The challenging part of this is that these transporters also have commitments to other clients and so I really need to be persistent to get our trucks! To get our job done, we not only coordinate with our transporters and warehouse contacts, but even more importantly with the Philippines government as well, who is leading the relief response to the floods and our support is augmenting and complementing theirs.
Is there anything in particular about this operation that makes it different from others you’ve been involved with in the past?
Yes. Due to the unpredictable weather conditions and the urgency of the deliveries, everything needs to be decided within 24 hours. We have also had to initiate making the food distribution plan, in close coordination with Programme team. The distribution plan has to be done before we can create a transport plan to deliver the food and it requires a team effort. Everyone in our WFP team worked really hard to make sure we overcame our challenges, and I really want to thank them.
Have you had the chance to meet any of the flood victims WFP is delivering food and relief items to?
Since our Country Director asked us to assess the roads first and also serve as an advanced party, we got the chance to be a part of the final food deliveries and meet flood victims. Accordingly, I got the opportunity to speak with some beneficiaries. There was this one family I spoke to – Maricel Tiempsi, who I met along with her kids, including her 8-day old baby. I met them in the evacuation center in Quezon, Nueva Ecija (Region 3). Even though she had just given birth, they had to leave their house immediately due to flooding and look for a safer place for her family.
For those of us who can’t imagine what it must be like to be a humanitarian aid worker in the field, can you tell us what it's like working as a logistician for WFP?
Anyone can do something to change the world. Even the simplest act of kindness can touch a person’s life. In my opinion, there is nothing braver than the heart of a humanitarian aid worker. Working as a logistician for WFP can be as difficult as any soldier risking his life to save someone. You never know when someone will ask you to help save lives.
I know that I’m only one aid worker, and that I can't change everything, but at least I can do something. I am honored and grateful to be part of this team at WFP and I want to thank my fellow logisticians who helped me to deliver.
Note: Photos above credited to WFP/KC Co