Working in Emergencies: “A Once in a Lifetime Experience”
Can Remzi Ergen, a Communication Officer from Turkey, shares his experience from his emergency deployment in Haiti
In 2021, Haiti faced one of the most dire humanitarian situations globally, with a crippling earthquake, civil unrest, and a population exodus. Can Remzi Ergen, a Communication officer, supported the emergency response. Can shares his experience of working in such a context and how this deployment has impacted him and his career.
Could you tell us who you are and your role at UNICEF?
My name is Can Remzi Ergen and since 2014 I have been working as a Communication Officer with UNICEF Turkey focusing on content development, strategy, branding and external relations. My first role with UNICEF was a 2 days contract as Performance Artist at Syria - Turkey border in a refugee camp. I am holding a Master’s degree from Sorbonne University in Paris on Visual and Performing Arts and a BA on Communication Studies.
What was the nature of your deployment and what was the mission about?
As you know Haiti is reeling from multiple crises including natural disasters, gang violence, political and economic instability among many other challenges. I was there to support the Haiti Country Office’s Communication Team on a field level with the planning and production of multimedia content, handling media relations.
How would you describe life in the field, and work in humanitarian emergencies?
I can easily call my 2 months in Haiti a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. It was one of the most challenging but at the same time most rewarding missions I have ever been on since I joined UNICEF. I love the field and emergency settings because there are so many different variants you have to take into consideration. You must be strategic; you must listen to every single minute and situation while adapting your methodology and way of working each and every time. You cannot solve different problems with the same toolbox you already have. You must even find new versions of your own skills.
What were the rewarding moments of your job?
During my mission, when Haiti was also facing a migrant crisis, we were in the field receiving thousands of Haitians being expelled from Texas, and finding ways to document the situation and inform the world about what was happening there. I did a profiling of the migrants who have been expelled and we pitched those profiles to top tier media organizations such as CNN and BBC. After the exposure of the situation and through news stories highlighting those profiles, the Brazilian Government decided to receive the people who were living in Brasil before their expulsion from Texas. This was a great demonstration of UNICEF’s strategic communication and its capacity to influence processes and policies.
"I gained new ways to deliver results in an incredibly challenging environment. There were moments when you had all the reasons and excuses for not being able to make it happen, but you still found a way. These kinds of deployments create new synergies and I believe it gives you the exposure for your next career move too"
Can Remzi Ergen, Communication Officer
From your opinion, how would this deployment affect your career?
These 2 months gave me uncountable experiences. I got to work with different talents and professionals from around the world. I gained new ways to deliver results in an incredibly challenging environment. There were moments when you had all the reasons and excuses for not being able to make it happen, but you still found a way. These kinds of deployments create new synergies and I believe it gives you the exposure for your next career move too. Different people see your work and how you operate.
Would you recommend work in emergencies to your colleagues?
This experience gave me a chance which I would hardly be able to find elsewhere. But also, we should note that this is not business as usual and colleagues who are willing to embark on such missions and roles should get detailed information on the context, situation in the country they are being deployed and the nature of their upcoming tasks. But also, a little bit of surprise and unpredictability always makes things more exciting and real. This is life, no? What happens to you when you are busy making plans, as Lennon said.
Can was deployed in Haiti through "Frontlines", a career development programme available to UNICEF employees interested in supporting as well as gaining experience in emergencies. His testimony is a continuous reminder of the value and rewards of working in humanitarian contexts and how it can impact one's career.
Working in Emergencies
UNICEF is present during emergencies and in humanitarian contexts, where children are especially vulnerable to disease, malnutrition and violence. Our programmes focus on these children and their families to provide them with the essential interventions required for protection, to save lives and to ensure their rights.