“It’s the will to combat poverty that urged me to commit myself”
Antoine Nguyen has been working for Première Urgence Internationale since 2009. He began as an intern and is currently a logistics Officer at the association’s headquarter and follows many missions in Africa and in the Middle-East.
What made you decide to move into humanitarian work?
I achieved a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering but I had no interest in working in the industry. After studying, I began to volunteer at the Red Cross which led actions for homeless people in my neighborhood. It’s the will to combat poverty that urged me to commit myself into humanitarian work. Afterwards, I decided to continue the process of professionalization and to devote myself full time to it. I went back to the university and signed for a Master’s degree in International Solidarity in Paris. I remember an oral presentation on the Geneva Agreements that I had to prepare for a tuition on forced migration. It was then that I realized that I was born as a refugee. My parents had left Vietnam by the end of the war and arrived in France as political refugees. I kept that status until my naturalization. It was only much later that I made the link between my personal history and my occupation.
I joined Première Urgence Internationale for my internship and I got hired sometime after. I undertook many missions in Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic, Haiti, and Pakistan… When I came back to France, I created my own development support association that I’m still leading. And looking back, I think it was my vocation. I felt I had a place to belong on the field. Humanitarian work gave some meaning to my career.
Why did you move towards logistics? What does it mean?
We often have in mind the stereotype of the humanitarian worker who is a doctor but the reality is much different! They are humanitarian workers in project management, in human resources, in accounting management, etc. Logistics requires a rational and creative approach on the field’s realities. And it matched well with my profile.
We provide a working framework from the headquarter, but also human and material support required for the accomplishment of projects. We manage purchases, stockpiling, transportation … But also everything that enables the teams to work in the field: offices, housings, communications means, access to energy, safety equipment… Logistics covers a wide panel of sectors.
I’m currently monitoring logistics on our missions in Yemen, Palestine, Chad, South Sudan, Congo and Mali. I’m regularly in touch with the logistics Officer of every mission.
Isn’t it frustrating to be far from the field?
Not at all! I kind of have a stay-at-home personality. This position at the headquarter offers me a good balance between professional and personal life. But we keep strong links with the field. I frequently visit the missions and it allows me to meet our teams and to find concrete solutions to the problems they meet.
It is also the opportunity to renew with the humanist aim of our actions which everyday life makes us lose sight.
With every mission comes a different context and different problems. Being a logistics Officer is a perpetual turnover. And I still have a lot to learn.