Each week we will be running Q&As with Australian women doing vital humanitarian and aid work. Women you may not have heard of.
This week meet Kirsty Thompson, Inclusive Development Director at CBM Australia, an organisation that is devoted to improving the lives of people with disabilities living in the most impoverished places in the world.
1. What does your role entail on a day-to-day basis?
In essence, I’m a member of three key teams at CBM Australia (CBMA) and here, I’ve focused on explaining my role as a member of the senior management team. We are responsible for the implementation of CBMA’s Strategic Plan, Risk Management Framework and Budget as approved by the CBMA Board.
This also sees us being responsible for the day-to-day operations of CBMA. My role in this team is to be part of the decisions and daily operations of the organisation. I am most heavily involved in program-related decisions, especially those that relate to advocacy and policy work, supporting disability inclusion across the organisation, and how we integrate our program work.
2. How did you become involved in humanitarian/aid work?
I always had an interest in this type of work simply from things I had read and heard as a child. I also knew that I wanted to be involved in a career that involved supporting others and working with them to improve their lives and communities. I was given an opportunity in my last fieldwork placement at the University of Sydney to become involved for a number of months in Community Based Rehabilitation Programs in India. This was just the taste I needed to know this was something I wanted to do. I had other similar opportunities and short-term stints in this work that made it clear to me that this was something I wanted to do full-time as a career.
Let CBM show you the important work they do worldwide:
3. What are the most rewarding/challenging parts of your job?
It’s always a challenge for people that trained and are drawn to the direct support to continue finding the feedback and satisfaction as you get further removed from seeing the direct impact of your work on people with a disability in developing countries. There is always more need than there are resources in order to meet it. It can be really difficult to make the tough decisions sometimes about which programs to resource, which person to prioritise and where to spend your time to best impact.
While I now understand the need for it better, I always find it difficult when people who have so little (food, shelter, etc), are keen or even insistent on sharing what they have with you. I’ve been in places working with children with disabilities, where the family or village will insist on giving you a drink (like a coke) or a meal or something, where in many instances, you know it’s some luxury they would never afford themselves. But they need to say thank-you, to restore some sort of balance in the relationship.