Dan Teuma Jigsaw Stories

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 Tell us about your work! 

Myself and my colleagues have just set up an organisation called Aniko, which is a result of the experience and the work we’ve done over the past two years in the refugee crisis. As an organisation, we are organic and adaptable. Resilience and fluidity are really important in this humanitarian crisis environment because you never know when things are going to be pulled from underneath you. For Aniko, we decided to work on four different things: consulting and advising other projects on their work; running Aniko FC which provides psychosocial relief through football; developing a big network and making valuable  connections and finally, direct action and emergency response. 

Why do you do it? 

I’ve had many jobs in my life and I’ve finally found something I’m really passionate about that gives me the opportunity to help other people. I can’t think of anything better than to be doing something that you enjoy, that you can give all your energy to, but at the same time being in a position where you can help others who are in a worse situation than yourself. To me it doesn’t feel like work, it feels just like something I really want to do. 

What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?

Like any job, it has its pros and cons. I get to work in different places and meet different people. It’s made me grow in a way I never imagined, and learn things about humanity that I never thought I would learn. In these tense, harsh environments, you tend to see what certain emotions, when they’re heightened, really mean. For example, noticing what love really is or what anger really is, or passion, courage, ambition; all of these emotions are super heightened when you’re in this suffering, high-energy environment. I’m learning this whole new way of looking at myself and of looking at life. Actually, this environment has a stigma of ‘us’ giving to ‘them’. I want to reverse that notion because for me I feel like the people have given me a lot more than I’ve given to them. 

And the cons?

You never switch off. It’s really important to be aware when you’re over-working or when you’re not sleeping, to be aware of how you feel so you can take the steps to change it. The issue for a lot of aid workers is that they can’t identify what that thing is and then it’s just a downward spiral. 

What challenges keep you awake? 

Ensuring we have enough funds to continue operating. That being said, I also don’t put too much pressure on ourselves to bring in further funds; as long as we do what we do and we do it well, whether it’s for five months or five years, to me it doesn’t matter, it’s about the quality of what we do. Other challenges are how I work with the volunteers that we have. I tend to worry and be a person that is extremely loyal to the people within my team and I also expect that the other way around. I really care about the next person, how they feel in the role that they’re doing and how they are in every capacity.

What has your work has taught you?

The way people react is not always because of something that you do. A lot of the time it’s a reflection upon themselves. You mustn’t take anything personally within this environment, although it is very difficult at times, especially when you have the best intentions. I’ve also learnt to take the time to appreciate what we’ve done. Things can get very difficult and I have to stop and say “ok, this is what we have done in two years as a group of people who have never had a background in the humanitarian sector and it’s incredible”.

Who do you look to as being key influences in your life and work? 

For me it’s the people that have been selfless and treated others on an even keel. In this environment, it’s very easy to put yourself in a situation of superiority. People who are able to communicate with those in need in a normal, human way – this is really important and underrated. Globally, we have stopped communicating in a human way and have become very bureaucratic and automated, so bringing the human element back is really important. 

How would you advise someone who wants to help but lacks the resources or the time?

When people think of resources they think of money and when they think of time they think of having to travel; neither of them is true. Something Aniko are really interested in doing is inspiring change in humanitarian response. Collaboration, connecting different groups, reading different posts, liking and sharing things; you don’t have to have money or be able to travel to help in this environment. It’s about spreading awareness, talking to your friends and family, giving yourself the information that you need to be able to have an effect. I know so many people who have been so influential in these past two years and they’ve been sitting at home at a desk, coordinating and connecting people. This is something we really need to communicate: we all have the potential to have an impact. At the end of the day, humanitarian crises are a global responsibility but we’re dealing with them in a corporate way. Once we start dealing with these issues as a global community, we will start to see a better world. 

What three things would you say are most important for people to be aware of? 

Firstly, be aware of yourself. Keep looking within yourself and ask, how am I behaving? How am I feeling? What are my thoughts on this situation? That answer can sound very high and mighty, I’m not saying we should be perfect, I’m saying we should try and do as much as possible when we can. Secondly, not to get obsessed with this environment and make it the be-all and end-all. It’s really important to lead a bit of a normal life, to go out and hang out with your mates or have a day off if you’re not feeling up to it. There are a lot of volunteers in this environment who will do this for a very long time and only hang around with other volunteers. That is also very damaging on your outlook and the ability you have to work with others. Finally, get involved as much as you can. Experiencing different aspects of this environment makes you a really valuable member of any community. It gives you a rounded outlook and allows you to adapt to different environments so you can help others.