Lauren Jencik

Country: Malawi
Organization: Project Concern International

LAUREN: "I accepted an offer as a Humanitarian Assistance Fellow with Project Concern International (PCI) in Zomba, Malawi this past summer. Prior to Fletcher, I had lived and worked in the Washington, DC area for years. I studied international affairs in college, held a nearly two-year internship with the State Department, and worked for both a development and then management consulting firm. In other words, my life revolved around the workings of the Beltway both in an academic and practical sense. Part of my why I came to Fletcher was to fully immerse myself in my studies, particularly given the breadth of human security courses. More importantly, I knew that as a full-time student, rather than a part-time student in Washington, DC, my summer would offer the perfect opportunity to finally work overseas. Having worked in the public and private sectors in DC, I was especially interested in working with a non-profit organization that dealt with a complex array of issues around development and disasters; PCI offered the perfect opportunity.

PCI is a mid-size non-profit organization, founded in 1961 by a doctor from San Diego (where the organization is still headquartered today). Per the organization's website, PCI's mission is "to empower people to enhance health, end hunger and overcome hardship." The organization has expanded over the years and covers an array of issues in the increasingly integrated fields of development and humanitarian assistance. One area in which PCI has expertise in humanitarian assistance is Disaster Risk Management (DRM). DRM is led by the notion that communities can be empowered to reduce vulnerability to future shocks and stresses created by disasters. Disasters may include earthquakes or floods or prolonged events including droughts—they can also be the result of conflict or political turmoil. In the case of Malawi, many communities are vulnerable to environmental shocks and stresses due to a combination of factors some of which include economic status, health and well-being, gender, and livelihood. This has been particularly the case more recently as the country has been experiencing a severe drought, brought on by El Nino, and was previously experiencing severe flooding."

"While three months is not enough time to have a major impact within any organization, but especially in a development and humanitarian assistance one, I left PCI at the end of August confident that my work was well-received among my supervisor, fellowship coordinator, and project leadership. During my last week at the office, I was asked by the Chief of Party to provide a debrief to him and the Country Director because both valued my feedback on my experience and wanted to understand the extent of my work for the purposes of ensuring continuity within Njira. Furthermore, as referenced above, I am awaiting a follow up email from my fellowship coordinator, who just wrapped up a visit to Zomba to begin start up of a newly awarded emergency response project. I am optimistic that the conversations that will take place will include discussion of further developing the food security assessment tool and best practices and lessons learned document, as well as ideas for how I can remain engaged on Njira throughout the coming year."