The first of a new occasional series of blog posts by Rebecca Horn, a freelance international humanitarian worker. Here she introduces her work - in future posts she will share her experience of working in areas of conflict and disaster around the world:
Hi – I’m Rebecca, Reb to my friends, and I’ve been a member of St Bride’s for almost three years. Although the number of Sundays I’ve actually been at St Bride’s must add up to the equivalent of less than a year, because I spend at least half my time working in humanitarian emergency situations.
I’m a psychologist by background, originally a forensic psychologist working in the prison service, but in 2003 I sold my house and left my job to go and work with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. I managed their psycho-social programmes in the camp for just over three years, including a safe house for women and children at risk of violence or abduction, and a ‘community counselling’ programme, where we trained refugees to offer supportive listening to their peers.
Over the following 15 years I’ve continued to work with people affected by conflict. I‘ve been back to work in Kenya many times, as well as other countries in Africa, including South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Uganda and Somaliland. Unfortunately, there has been no shortage of people affected by conflict since I started doing this type of work, and I’ve also worked in Ukraine, occupied Palestinian territories, Iraq, and with people affected by other types of emergencies, such as in Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia after the tsunami.
For the last eight years or so, I’ve been working as a freelance psycho-social specialist for a wide range of organisations, including UNICEF, ACT Alliance (which includes Christian Aid), the International Rescue Committee, World Vision and Red Cross / Red Crescent organisations. The jobs I do for these organisations are very varied, but include research, capacity-building, supporting organisations to strengthen the psycho-social well-being of the populations they work with. I don’t do counselling! And nor do most of the organisations I work with – we have found over time (and through making many mistakes) that there are much more effective ways to support people affected by conflict and disaster.
I love my work, and I love working as a freelancer – it means I get to learn from a whole variety of fantastic people and play my small part in supporting people who have experienced things I can hardly imagine.
But it does mean that I’m away from home a lot, and I can feel a bit disconnected from the St Bride’s community. So, as a way of trying to stay more connected and of sharing my experiences in different parts of the world, I’m going to be writing blog posts from the places I’m working.