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Dispatches from the IOM in Ukraine: Haily Eggleston’s third blog from the virtual field

Photo credit: Engin_Akyurt/Pixabay

By: Haily Eggleston, MIPP

Interning at IOM Ukraine during the war has provided me with insight into how much work goes into humanitarian relief, particularly in times of crisis. During times like these, we all hear about the extraordinary acts of bravery that happen, but there are so many more things that go on behind the scenes that are just as impactful that we do not hear about. This is the category that the work I have been doing falls under, the type of work you probably will not hear about when people detail the events of this war fifty years from now. But work that is important nonetheless.

In Ukraine, there is a hotline that people can call for assistance. Some people call to get information about how to leave Ukraine, such as if there are trains running or what the situation is like at the borders. Others call in to see what the visa requirements are for various countries or what types of assistance they can expect to receive once they get arrive at their final destination. While others still are looking for advice on what type of assistance is available in Ukraine as they cannot or do not want to leave the country. For the last month and a half it has been my job to update the hotline with the latest information so the workers answering the calls can better assist those who call in. As I said, it is probably not a task many people think about, but with almost 4000 calls being made to the hotline and over 16,500 consultations, clearly the work is filling a need.

Working remotely, I am sort of detached from what is going on. When I “go” to work, rather when I get out my laptop and sit at my makeshift office, I know what my tasks are for the day and I set out to do them. But often I do not get to see the effects of my work. Aside from the odd help request email I respond to, I typically do not get to talk to the people we are helping. Indeed, my correspondence is generally limited to the people on my team and even then, it is not the same as it would be if I were there in person. But getting weekly infographics that depict the impact and reach the of the hotline does put the importance of my work into perspective and helps to combat the inherent detachment that comes with working remotely.

I have learned so much throughout the first half of this internship. I have already gained many transferrable skills and invaluable experience, which I had expected when I started my placement. One thing that I have gained that was unexpected, however, was an appreciation for, and understanding of, the innerworkings of humanitarian organizations like the IOM, particularly in times of crisis. This new knowledge has given me cause to reflect on crises of the past and wonder about the behind the scenes roles of humanitarian staff during these times that I had not given much thought to, that is, until I was working in one myself.

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