A Canadian Humanitarian In Ethiopia (Staff Interview)

With an education in International Humanitarian Action and background experience working for NGOs, Canadian Brett Hanley was well positioned to take on the challenge of working for WFP's offices in Ethiopia. It’s a long way from her roots in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. We asked Brett about her life and work with WFP.

1) What is the hardest thing about your job?
WFP works in some of the most remote locations to reach the most vulnerable people, therefore most of my postings with WFP have been field-based in very isolated places. This can be challenging in terms of limited resources, communications and very basic living arrangements. This is by far the toughest part of the job, while being the most rewarding -  as you get to see firsthand the impact of WFP’s work.  
And of course you have to quickly get over your fear of snakes and be well-adapted to cold bucket showers!

World Humanitarian Day

WFP staff talking to a group of men and women near to a bombarded building in Syria

Every day, humanitarian workers around the world make sacrifices and face danger in order to reach people who need their help. On August 19, we recognize their commitment and dedication.

2) What did you do before joining WFP?
 I was already working in the humanitarian field.  I started as a CIDA intern under the International Youth Internship programme and was sent to Tajikistan to work with UNICEF. I ended up staying there for 2 years, working also with a NGO. Then after a short period in Afghanistan with another NGO, I completed my Masters in International Humanitarian Action, after which I joined WFP.

3) How did you find your way into WFP?
 After various positions with UN agencies and NGOs, I applied to the UNV programme which initially linked me with WFP. I began work with WFP in Chad and from there joined WFP DRC. I'm currently working in Ethiopia as the Head of the Sub Office in Gambella, carrying out food assistance programmes which assist around 44,000 vulnerable people in the Gambella region and 38,000 refugees from neighbouring South Sudan. Besides these activities, the sub office has also been managing a logistics operation supporting South Sudan through the delivery of emergency food via trucks, river barges and airdrops.

4) What’s your most moving experience with WFP?
As I am working in WFP field offices, I am ‘on the spot’ where we immediately see the impact of WFP’s work and hear from the people we help. I think that is what I enjoy most, not only delivering our programmes, but discussing with people how we can better effect change in their communities.

5) What is a humanitarian?
For me a humanitarian is someone who works to improve the lives of those facing difficulties, whether it’s lack of access to safe drinking water or facing food shortages. Humanitarians are individuals who work to help provide assistance to those who need it most.   

6) Are you one?
Of course! Working with WFP I definitely feel that I am a humanitarian, our work helps improve the lives of individuals who face a range of challenges in meeting their food and nutritional needs. 

Brett Hanley talks with some young men and women in Ethiopia

7) How do you feel about being a Canadian working for WFP?
In 2012, Canada was the second largest donor to Ethiopia. Canada contributed over 46 million USD to programmes in the country and provided food assistance to more than 6 million vulnerable people, including refugees and school children. Of particular note, Canada has generously supported the construction of the Humanitarian Logistics Base in Djibouti, as the Djibouti Port is the main gateway for food entering Ethiopia.
I feel that Canada has always been a leader in international humanitarian and development assistance and a dedicated supporter of WFP. As a Canadian, I feel proud to work with an organization that Canada supports and work on programmes that other Canadians appreciate and value.