I travel the world, helping to plan for and restore water and energy infrastructure after major emergencies and disasters, so that people can rebuild their lives.
In 2011, after five years of working as a power engineer for utility companies in BC and California, I decided to join Doctors Without Borders. This was the single best decision of my life.
I was 28 years old and working at a desk job with only two weeks of vacation per year. I was bored and felt tied down. I wanted adventure. I wanted to travel and discover the world. I wanted to use my skills to make people’s lives better.
Also, my parents are refugees from Afghanistan. I was 13 when I arrived in Canada, so I remember what it was like before. I wanted to complete the circle.
Working in humanitarian aid has allowed me to travel to some pretty amazing places – Chad, Congo, Philippines, Gaza, Jerusalem, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Although most people might not consider them very cool, I like being off the beaten track.
Since 2011 I have been working in emergency response contexts non-stop. In Chad, it was responding to disease outbreaks such as cholera, measles and meningitis. In Congo, it was refugees fleeing violence in neighbouring countries. In the Philippines, it was responding to typhoon Haiyan in 2013. In Gaza, it was the 2014 summer war with Israel. In Afghanistan, it was chronic conflict and the resurgence of the Taliban.
Today, I work as an energy specialist doing development work for The World Bank in Jerusalem. I work closely with governments to build policies and institutions that will create the foundation for a resilient energy sector in the region.
Humanitarian aid and international development desperately need engineers, but it is not well known. You can make an incredible impact on the rest of the world. People think that it is all volunteer work, but as an engineer, you can make money while you make a difference.
Studying to be an engineer prepares you to solve problems and work in intense situations, which is important because you are always solving issues on the fly. In addition, you need good communication and interpersonal skills to make sure the final product you provide is accepted and adopted by the communities and governments on the ground.