I was about 10 when I was first introduced to volunteering and the idea of helping those in need. My Mum and I would visit local businesses to collect clothing, food or books for communities in Africa. The experience meant I got to meet a lot of interesting people and learn how not everybody in the world has it as easy as we do in the West. It sparked in me a desire to do something about it… And that has never left me.
By the time I turned 17, I was off to Namibia on my first foreign aid trip. It wasn't exactly a typical teenager’s first holiday – it was no clubbing in Tenerife or gap year in Australia. But I saw the troubles in West Africa and felt compelled to help any way I could.
Over the coming years, I’d work with non-profit organisations (NGOs) and the United Nations, planning disaster relief on the ground in Haiti and Burkina Faso, and even trained as a paramedic so that I could deliver emergency aid while I was there. To my parents’ inevitable concern, I worked in conflict zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan, carrying out community health and vulnerability surveys.
After a while I decided that I’d be able to further what I could do for these communities and give a real foundation to my work with academic study. I was in Haiti at the time and was fortuitously put in contact with a lecturer from Portsmouth. The more we discussed the University and what it could offer, its mix of academic underpinning and focus on practical application, the more I realised this was the opportunity I’d been looking for.
The University has been incredibly flexible and having an institution like this behind my field work is a total win-win.
Naomi Morris, Alumna, BSc (Hons) Environmental Hazards
I joined first as a student, completing my BSc Environmental Hazards with Portsmouth, and then stayed on as a lecturer in Humanitarian Emergency Response and Recovery. The University has been invaluable to building longer term sustainable capacity in what we do; I can put my academic thinking into what I see in the field, then bring my experience back to the classroom. That operational knowledge means I can prepare my students for when they’re taking their first trips to somewhere like Haiti or Sudan.
Now I’m surrounded by a strong team with more specialist knowledge than I could ever possess. What’s more, I can put all the ideas that we generate into practice.
At this very moment, I’m on a 4-month assignment to Nepal and Niger with the UN, where I’ll juggle planning relief with Skyping my students back home. It’s a far cry from going door-to-door as a 10-year-old and I can’t wait to see what the next decade will bring.