I first heard about PBI when I went for coffee with a colleague who had offered to give me career advice. Navigating a career in human rights can be difficult and knowing where to look for opportunities can be one of the most challenging aspects. My colleague had herself previously volunteered with PBI and she felt it would be a good match for me. I hadn’t heard much about working directly with human rights defenders (HRDs) at the time, so after that conversation I went home and did as much research as I could on HRDs and PBI.
Reading through the PBI website, I was able to learn more about its different projects. The focus on increasing civic space for HRDs in particular appealed to me as an effective way to support the promotion of human rights by activists in the respective country. A few weeks later, I was offered the role of Research and Training Fellow for Africa with Irish human rights NGO Front Line Defenders, which meant I would be working with HRDs from across sub-Saharan Africa. Given that regional focus and my previous experience working in Tanzania, PBI’s Kenya Project felt like the best fit for me.
To find out more about volunteering with PBI, I attended an Orientation Weekend organised by PBI UK in May 2017. I met a group of really amazing people and the facilitators were knowledgeable and engaging. PBI is not like any other organisation I have worked with because its projects use a non-hierarchical model of organising, so the Orientation Weekend was a good introduction to some of its unique features, such as consensus decision-making. The weekend included both self and group assessments, which encourage you to think critically about how you can develop your skills and how to constructively discuss issues that arise when working with others.
As soon as the applications opened, I applied to the Kenya Project. The Orientation Weekend really prepared me for the application process in that I had already spent time considering many of the questions on the application form during the weekend’s activities. After my successful application, I had a Skype interview and was then invited to a five-day training session in November 2017, after which the final decision would be made. One of the benefits of the way PBI selects volunteers is that I have met lots of new people along the way from all over the world who share similar values and who I am still in touch with now. It also gives you the opportunity to consider whether or not both living and working with a small team of people is something that feels right for you.
Having now met people from PBI UK and PBI Ireland, I am amazed by how many people are deeply committed to PBI and continue to be involved long after they volunteered with them. This has given me confidence that PBI really supports its volunteers personally and professionally, which to me is a really important attribute for an organisation to have.
The next step is to fly to Nairobi where I can finally begin to put all this preparation into practice.
To donate to PBI UK https://peacebrigades.org.uk/donate with your support we will be able to continue sending volunteers such as Hannah to the field to protect at risk HRDs.