Humanitarian: the determination to act from the field

Charlotte Gout has been working at Première Urgence Internationale for six years. It was the desire to go out to the field that attracted her and motivated her to join our teams. She started as an intern in 2015 at the NGO’s headquarters and then left for Chad as a Field Coordination Assistant. One thing leading to another, her journey took her to Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and finally Afghanistan. She shares her story.

©Charlotte Gout | work at Première Urgence Internationale

© Charlotte Gout | Discovering new contexts is one of the richness of the field

How did your career develop at Première Urgence Internationale?

I followed a gradual evolution. Première Urgence Internationale gave me the chance to evolve either regarding the context (country) or in the position itself and its responsibilities. I started as a Field Coordination Assistant in Chad, in Abeche. Then, I stayed in the country but I moved to a Project Manager position. It was more of an agribusiness project: there were food fairs, income-generating activities, etc. I then went to Nigeria for the same position, then again to a Project Manager position, this time in the DRC mission where I worked in the North, in Zongo. We were running a project to assist the host populations but especially the Central African refugees. It was a multi-sector project where there was agriculture, economic recovery, income generating activities and a little bit of protection. Then, I stayed in the same country but I became Field Coordinator in the East of the DRC. I was based in Kalemie where we worked on the displacement of populations due to conflicts. I finally wanted to change continents and I went to Afghanistan all of last year still working as a Field Coordinator.

What do you like about working in the field?

The connection with the national teams, because as expatriates we remain quite protected and therefore far from the people we support, even when we are in the field. On the other hand, the link with the national staff is real. There is a real encounter that takes place through our exchanges. Then, there is the discovery of a context because it is undeniable that from a distance, from the headquarters, it is more difficult to measure the real reasons for our intervention, the tasks that we accomplish in the field and how we put all this in place. So there is a desire to be confronted with this reality. I am also looking for changing contexts, which is why I do not go on very long missions. The longest mission was the one I did in Afghanistan. I am always looking for a diversity of contexts, for changes that allow me to take up challenges and to push myself.

Can you tell us more about this last mission in Afghanistan?

It is impossible to isolate this mission from the arrival of COVID-19, which has turned us all upside down. We had to readjust on all points because even if the context of the country was different, it is also all the humanitarian aspect that was modified this last year. Moreover, we work in the field of health, so we were inevitably in the front line. We had to adapt both in our work and in our personal lives since we were stuck in the country. In Afghanistan, we are supposed to have rest periods every two months, which is more than in other countries. Here we could not leave the country for six months. Nevertheless, we had the chance to develop a great solidarity between expatriates as well as with the national staff. The team feeling allowed us to get through this period together.

To conclude, what struck you during these years spent at Première Urgence Internationale?

I particularly appreciated being part of a family-run NGO that remains on a human scale and generates a strong sense of belonging. I have always been grateful for the chance that Première Urgence Internationale gave me by allowing me to go into the field. Moreover, even if there is a lot of turnover within the teams, some people are and remain like pillars that we always find and that help to perpetuate the soul of the association, which is a strength. Regardless of what the future holds for me, my heart will always remain with Première Urgence Internationale because it is the mother house, it is like a family.


Discover the testimony of our Field Coordinator in Cameroon.

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