Why work in Afghanistan?

We’ve interviewed some people who currently work or have worked with Serve Afghanistan about their experiences. Click on the name to read the interview. Please note that some names have been changed for security reasons.

Margaret, Technical Coordinator of Language Development (expatriate)

Hello Margaret, how long have you been working with Serve?

It’s been about 7 months since I started working with Serve.

What do you do?

My official title is Technical Coordinator of Language Development. Practically, that means my focus is primarily on working with the Pashai people towards the development of their language. Recently most of my time has been spent working on a dictionary.

What would you say for you are the joys of the job?

I love learning languages and getting to use what I learn in practical ways. I also really enjoy the atmosphere of our office – the local staff and expats work closely together, and we’ve become like one big family. As one of the newest and youngest members of the team, I’m considered the “little sister” of the family. It’s been really exciting to see firsthand that communities have really been changed through the involvement of Serve’s projects over the years, and to feel that I am becoming a part of that change.

And the challenges?

There are definitely challenges presented by the security situation in Afghanistan. Different people are affected by this in different ways, but for me one of the difficult aspects of the situation is that it causes the wider expat community in the country (not just those with Serve) to experience a lot of fluctuation. People come and go a lot, most often for short trips out of the country for various reasons. But the turnover rate is also fairly high for expats that work in this country. So at times I find it difficult to live and work in an environment where the community is always changing.

What would you say to any other younger person who was thinking about coming to join us?

There are definite advantages to coming here as a young person. For one thing, the younger you are the easier it will be to learn the language (I realize most people aren’t planning on being directly involved in language work, but regardless of your job, you will be expected to do at least basic language studies of one of the national languages). I think many people also find the cultural adaptation easier when you are younger and not so set in your ways (though that is a bit of an over-generalisation and also very much affected by personality and other factors).

Be aware that the nature of life here is not a good fit for everyone. Life here may feel very restricted compared to most other countries. If you are here long enough, you will probably experience some sort of significant personal loss. But if you are confident that this is where you are supposed to be, then you have the opportunity to be a part of a work that is bringing real change to the lives of individuals and communities of Afghanistan.

What do you do to relax in Afghanistan?

I love listening to and playing music. That really helps me relax and de-stress more than just about anything else. I also love spending time sitting and chatting with friends over a cup of tea (or coffee).

 

Heather, Donor Relations Coordinator (expatriate)

Hi Heather, how did you become the Serve Donor Relations Co-ordinator?

​My husband ​and I were interested in working with Serve and there was a need for a DR coordinator. Initially, the role was presented to my husband but we both felt it fit my skill set better.

Was this a role you would have originally chosen to do? Why/why not?

​No, it’s not the kind of role I was looking for. I worked previously with smaller NGOs and wasn’t familiar with the responsibilities of a full-time DR coordinator. My background was in teaching and curriculum development, so donor relations wasn’t on my radar. However, I was intrigued by the job description and felt like I could contribute with my writing/ editing and research skills and learn the rest through on-the-job training!

What were the joys and challenges of the job?

My greatest joy was being able to learn in detail about each of the projects. It was very rewarding to support the solid community development work of Serve, and to promote the organisation’s cutting-edge work in Inclusive Education for people with disabilities and those who are multi-lingual. Nothing is more motivating than believing in what you are doing! Serve has a highly-skilled staff of nationals and expatriates, and I had the opportunity to work closely with them to make sure the projects were fully-funded. I also greatly enjoyed building relationships with our contacts in the donor agencies that have supported the work of Serve for many years. No day was ever the same, and I loved the variety.

Of course, every job has its challenges. Deadlines were certainly stressful, but all the reports and proposals are a team effort, so I never felt alone in the work. Perhaps most difficult was the institutional reporting, concept notes and proposals, but the successes and the knowledge and experience gained was worth the hard work.

If you could only say one thing to a prospective future Serve donor relations person, what would it be?

​I would say that every DR coordinator brings their own strengths into the role. The joy of working on a team is that others are there to assist and help you get up to speed as you learn. Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know!