I’m 26 and from Northumberland. I studied BA International Relations in Nottingham until 2006, then in 2007 I started a part-time MA Conflict, Development and Security at Leeds.
Currently, I am based in Bristol and work as an International Development Consultant at theIDLgroup. The job is really varied and you can be working on several completely different projects at the same time. My main projects are based on Natural Resource Governance, particularly Deforestation in Liberia and Ghana where I work on behalf of DfID supporting the development of a legal framework to reduce illegal logging.
I also voluntarily run SPOWE-Uganda in Kampala, which is a charity I set up during my time at Leeds. I am mainly interested in African politics and the causes of conflict and development in general, and the use of natural resources in particular.
My time at Leeds
The reason I opted for an MA was because I wanted to build on what I had learned in my BA and I wasn’t finding the opportunities that I wanted in the workplace. The MA course at Leeds looked particularly interesting.
I loved my time at the University and greatly miss it. My favourite elements were being able to learn from world-class academics like Alice Hills and Ray Bush, being in seminar groups with people from all over the world and helping to put on lectures for International Affairs Forum, where we were able to bring leading academics, journalists and NGO workers to come and talk to students.
Whenever I needed help from my lecturers, Alice Hills and Ray Bush, they were available. My tutors David Hall-Matthews, Gabrielle Lynch and Naomi Head were great. The support staff also helped me a lot. I’d like to say thanks to them all. You always felt that they would make time to discuss issues with you.
The course really was a great experience and has allowed me to see politics and international relations in a new light.
The student lifestyle in Leeds is fun. Hyde Park and Headingley are nice areas to hang out. I made a lot of friends. I have many good memories.
After I graduated, I travelled to Uganda for the second time with a small team to set up an office in Kampala for our NGO, SPOWE (Support Program for Orphans, Widows and the Elderly). We spent 3 months with the field team working on registration, documentation, procedures, organisation and strategy. I have been back since to develop relationships and aim to return once a year.
We also began to carry out projects that provided HIV/AIDS awareness seminars to schoolchildren as well as extra-curricular education that is not available such as IT, the environment, business and human rights. (The field team taught the classes whilst we helped to set up the projects.) Our mission is to provide access to education, skills, training and therefore income to orphans, widows and elderly people in Kampala who have lost the household breadwinner through HIV/AIDS.
I feel that SPOWE is a different approach to most NGOs as it is providing a sustainable and empowering response towards self-reliance. People can see exactly where their money is going. It is run by local volunteers, with my role being to guide them towards running the organisation themselves. It’s interactive, dynamic and fun.
There is no commercial element to SPOWE-Uganda. If anyone is interested in finding out more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, particularly if you’re going or have been to Uganda or feel that you have some skills to offer as a volunteer.
I spent most of 2010 working for Human Relief Foundation and have done some work in Jordan building relationships with UN agencies such as OCHA and UNRWA so that the organisation can develop institutional partnerships and carry out larger development projects, primarily in Iraq.
Studying for my MA at Leeds turned out to be the right decision for me, for many reasons. If you decide to go, get the most out of it by attending some of the extra lectures and seminars that are going on, get involved in a society like the Forum, there are opportunities everywhere at University.