I was in Afghanistan from March 1 to the end of August, 2007, under
contract from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and
seconded to the National Area-Based Development Programme (NABDP),
part of the Afghan Ministry
of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD). My title was
Communications and Reporting Advisor. I've continued to work remotely,
pro bono, with people in the country that are working for MRRD.
Here's what I did in-country in Afghanistan:
edited and rewrote all proposals, donor program reports, meeting
reports, field reports and presentations for all the divisions of
NABDP, which included community development (development of local
governance structures & guidance in local people identifying
local development priorities), rural economic development,
implementation of rural infrastructure projects (water supply and
sanitation projects, construction of schools, irrigation and flood
control, construction and maintenance of public facilities, energy
projects, construction of health clinics, and rehabilitation of
roads and construction of culverts and bridges), institutional
development and gender mainstreaming. In addition to writing, this
took regularly meeting with and observing office meetings by NABDP
staff. This activity, along with the second bullet, took up around
60% of my entire work time in Kabul.
edited and rewrote press releases, web pages and video scripts for
Afghan MRRD staff in the ministry's communications department.
a Guide for Facilitating the Preparation of Women-Focused
Development Plans in Afghanistan with the NABDP gender
specialist, to be used by all divisions of NABDP.
series of online photo-sharing albums, via Flickr, for NABDP,
sharing photos that had been taken over the previous two years by
staff of all of the different initiatives of NABDP, many of which
had never been shared outside the program before, and leading to the
photos being used in a variety of UNDP and MRRD online and in-print
publications, including the UNDP annual report for Afghanistan for
2007. Also taught Afghan staff in the NABDP communications office to
update the account with new photos, write descriptions and tag
photos with keywords.
How to take photos
in a culturally-sensitive manner, particularly with regard to
respect for local customs regarding women, and to meet various
needs, e.g. to show female participation. This resource
was developed in 2007, for Afghan staff working at NABDP, by my own
initiative, upon seeing the archive of photos that Afghan NABDP
engineers and program staff had taken in the field.
for Afghan women on public speaking. This resource was
developed in 2007, per the request of Afghan female staff working at
NABDP, who were being asked more and more to make presentations to
list of questions to answer in preparation for reporting to
donors, the media & general public. I developed this
with a colleague in Afghanistan, to help the local staff at the
government ministry where we worked know what information donors and
UN agencies regularly asked for, and what we anticipated they might
start asking for; what subjects the media regularly asked about or
reported on, and what we anticipated they might start asking about
or reporting on; and what information could be used for evaluation
Panshir and Kandahar to see NABDP projects in-person, observed a
District Development Assembly (DDP) in process, talked with Canadian
military representatives regarding provincial reconstruction teams
(PRTs), took photos and interviewed local staff for program updates
a 12-page summary for donors of the results of an Emergency
Winterization Assistance Project that took place in 2006, and
created a 17-page summary for donors regarding the emergency
Embankment of Oxus (Amu River) from the previous year, which covered
15 districts in 4 provinces (Balkh, Jawzjan, Kunduz and Takhar) and
which protected agricultural land, government buildings and houses
and directly benefited almost 400,000 people. Both of these tasks
required interviewing MRRD Afghan staff and reviewing program
documents written by others, many of whom were no longer with MRRD.
all NABDP pages on the MRRD web site, more than doubling the amount
of content on the site for the program, overseeing the translation
of this new material into Dari and Pashto, and training Afghan
counterpart to do this upon my departure.
and hired an Afghan counterpart for the communications department.
on interview panels in for two UNDP recruitment drives for other
departments for Afghan staff.
the UN Volunteers retreat; though I have never served as a UN
Volunteer myself, I worked for four years at UNV headquarters, and
was invited to participate because of my close association with the
a handover note for my international replacement, something I did
not have when I took over this position.
Here's what I have done after leaving Afghanistan in 2007, pro
bono, for Afghan staff in-country:
major reports written by the Afghan NABDP staff person I hired back
in 2007, to ensure clarity and correct grammar, and to offer
suggestions for additional information. Also advised her regarding
communications strategies for MRRD's Rural Water Supply, Sanitation
and Hygiene Promotion Program (Ru-WatSIP).
the Afghan NABDP staff person I hired during
her graduate studies in Kabul and Australia.
the communications strategy for the Comprehensive Agriculture and
Rural Development Facility (CARD-F) for an Afghan colleague, and
developed a Twitter strategy for CARD-F.
My time in Afghanistan, as well as Egypt and Jordan, lead me to
I wish I had created and delivered some workshops on volunteering
for NGOs in Kabul. It wasn't part of my UNDP contract, so I would have
had to do it on my own time. But I wish I had. There are so many NGOs in
Kabul - there were a lot back in 2007. They really could have used
guidance on the fundamentals of effective volunteer engagement, and some
advanced training on keeping women and children safe within program
One of the biggest things I learned while in Kabul was about the
realities of economic development activities. Namely, what's
NOT needed in most cases is another handicraft program. I also
learned that poverty
isn't beautiful nor romantic.
photos from my first two months (March - April 2007) in Afghanistan
photos from visiting Panshir in May, 2007
photos from my last four months (May - August 2007) in Afghanistan
- Index of all of my resources
for working in development -- human, community, institutional
and environmental (with information about aid, relief
and humanitarian efforts as well).
to Pursue a Career with the United Nations or Other
International Humanitarian or Development Organizations,
Including Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
Check: Volunteering Abroad / Internationally
for UN & UNDP in Ukraine to use Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and
Other Social Media to Promote Reconciliation, Social Inclusion,
& Peace-Building in Ukraine (PDF).
This is a draft document I submitted to UNDP Ukraine just before I
left Kyiv in October 2014, having completed my term there as a
"Surge" Communications Advisor. This draft document offers
considerations and recommendations for social media messaging that
promotes reconciliation, social inclusion, and peace-building in
Ukraine. It provides ideas for messaging related to promoting
tolerance, respect and reconciliation in the country, and messaging
to counter bigotry, prejudice, inequality, misperceptions and
misconceptions about a particular group of people or different
people among Ukrainians as a whole.
- My various producted developmed to
build public sector staff communications capacities
in countries where I've served..
- Lessons from
Some key learnings from directing the UN's Online Volunteering
service from February 2001 to February 2005, including support
materials for those using the service to host online volunteers.
- Basic Fund-Raising for Small
NGOs in the Developing World, a guide I developed a
decade ago and regularly update until October 2015. Requesting NGOs
have been based primarily in Africa, Asia and parts of Eastern
a Nonprofit or Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). The laws
and procedures for starting a nonprofit organization, an NGO, a
charity or a foundation vary from country to country. The laws and
procedures are never exactly the same. This page offers the general
advice that is applicable to any country, but you will still have to
go through country-specific requirements, which are NOT detailed on
this page but there is advice on where to find them).
Organizations in Other Countries: A resource that can
help you evaluate volunteer-placement organizations that charge you
for your placement as a volunteer, as well as for people interested
in partnering or supporting an organization abroad but wanting to
know it's a credible organization, that it's not some sort of scam,
or an 'organization' of just one person.
International Volunteers: More and more local
organizations in developing countries are turning to local
expertise, rather than international volunteers, to support their
efforts. However, the need for international volunteers remains, and
will for many, many years to come. This resource provides tips for
local organization in a developing countries interested in gaining
to international volunteers.
Last Virtual Volunteering
for purchase as a paperback & an ebook
Completely revised and updated, & includes lots
more advice about microvolunteering!
Published January 2014.
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