Leaving Footprints Overseas

As we commemorate International Women’s Day, we cast the spotlight on four women who have been working with the Singapore Red Cross (SRC). Keen to learn about humanitarian work in a non-profit organisation, Fauzia Amalia joined the Singapore Red Cross’ (SRC) International Services department, a subset of the Global Engagement (GE) department as an intern in 2019. Her positive internship experience spurred her to apply for a permanent position as an Executive at GE when a vacancy was available. Since then, Fauzia has played a role in providing emergency disaster relief, early recovery and rebuilding while ramping up the capacity of volunteers and employees locally and regionally. Over the years, she has proven her capability and risen through the ranks to become the Assistant Head of the department. She shares her aspirations for the department.

Upon graduating from university with a degree in microbiology, Fauzia was keen to learn about humanitarian work and garner experience working for a non-profit organisation. She took on a six-month internship with SRC’s International Services department, a subset of the Global Engagement Division (GE) in 2019. Originally from Indonesia, Fauzia’s family relocated to Singapore when Fauzia was in primary school and she completed her undergraduate degree in New Zealand. The experience of having lived across different cities has broadened her horizons. She recounted the fortuitous moment when there was a permanent job vacancy with GE during her internship. She applied for the role, having had a positive internship experience and Fauzia has not regretted her decision. Though she had given considerable thought to embarking on a career doing laboratory-based work, she decided not to pursue it as the long periods of isolation at the laboratory without human interaction were not suited to her disposition. 

Understanding the Scope of the International Services Department

Having been in the GE since 2019, she has gained a better understanding of the instrumental role that the division plays. 

Besides providing emergency relief and response through healthcare and psychological support, the GE also contributes to the early recovery, and long-term rebuilding phase to rebuild schools, hospitals and community spaces, and offers Restoring Family Links service to aid communities affected by disasters. In peacetime, it also conducts training for local volunteers, employees, and other National Societies in Southeast Asia to bolster their capabilities and preparedness to manage disasters. The department also runs Overseas Humanitarian Projects targeted at enhancing resilience in areas such as water, sanitation, and hygiene; mental health and psychosocial support, first aid, and pandemic readiness.

"I gleaned insights about the operations of the GE's role in the humanitarian sector. The scope is very broad, spanning from operational areas such as water, sanitation and hygiene, to project management, evaluation and reporting. I also learnt about cultural sensitivity while interacting with people from different cultures," she said.

Learning from Her First Overseas Deployment

During Fauzia’s first year with SRC, Indonesia experienced an earthquake and a tsunami. Within her first month of joining GE, she went on a last-mile assistance mission where she accompanied an injured foreign domestic worker home to her home in Lombok, Indonesia. 

"The entire village came to greet her. Seeing her reunite with her family touched me. It felt good to know that we played a part in giving her a new lease of life, with the people whom she loves," she said. 

Being new to the role, Fauzia felt unprepared and was overwhelmed by the experience. 

"I count my blessings that I have a supportive team, who gave me room and time to grow and develop in my role. The trip had been nerve-racking for me, as I was terrified of making a mistake. But it was also an eye-opening experience to see how the work was translated into actual aid and impact on the ground," Fauzia said. 

It took her several more trips over the years to gain confidence and navigate her way. She was deployed on missions to Lombok, Palu, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. 

Overcoming the Challenges Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic 

Besides ensuring the delivery of aid and developmental resources to countries in crisis, Fauzia was one of the two persons in the team overseeing the Centre of Excellence in Pandemic Preparedness. The Centre opened shortly before the advent of COVID-19 to address and tackle issues intricately linked to climate change. The Centre published a report on the vulnerabilities and lessons gleaned from the pandemic. 

Fauzia recalled the challenges of humanitarian aid faced amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As the team could not assess the delivery of the humanitarian assistance on the ground without site visits, the team had to rely heavily on their local partners. Greater responsibility and trust were placed on these local actors' support and efforts. The paradigm shift away from having hands-on interaction at the grassroots level to online meetings becoming an integral part of her life was something Fauzia had to grapple with. 

At the onset, it was challenging for her to decipher body language over digital video conferencing platforms, as communication did not always translate well. The team also encountered challenges related to procurement and supply chain logistics. At the height of the pandemic, there were shortages of personal protective equipment, oxygen cylinders and concentrators for SRC’s beneficiaries and volunteers.

Fauzia recounted some days during the pandemic were particularly challenging. 

"Yet, I am thankful to have the support of my dedicated team, which enabled me to navigate the challenges. Beneficiaries’ positive messages also kept me going," she said. 

In retrospect, during those emotionally charged and stressful periods, Fauzia learnt to take things in her stride and not taking them to heart had helped her. 

"Volunteering in any capacity is a wonderful way to discover humanity. When you feel down or jaded and you see people willing to put in the time and effort to volunteer or the small acts of kindness, you feel your faith in humanity restored. That is what has kept me going,” said Fauzia.  

Thankful for the Opportunity to Grow

Her dedication to serving and her competence gained validation, and she was promoted to Senior Executive of the International Services department in the Global Engagement division in 2022. She provided guidance and mentorship to newer team members and spearheaded programmes such as the Humanitarian Conference, Centre of Excellence for Pandemic Preparedness, and Disaster Response. She delivered online lectures to stakeholders to deepen their understanding of the pandemic and build business continuity plans. 

Fauzia orchestrated the provision of surgical masks and personal protective equipment to countries in the region. She navigated logistical challenges amid lockdowns and sourced flights to deliver essential supplies while keeping abreast of the customs requirements across different countries. Besides that, she also has to prove her capability given that some partners are generally older than her, and may not take her seriously. However, Fauzia remains undaunted, determined not to take these to heart and perseveres with fortitude. She lets her actions attest that she is deserving of that role. 

Having proven her capabilities in her Senior Executive role, Fauzia was promoted to the Assistant Head in the Global Engagement division in 2023. Through her leadership, the team embraces professionalism as it undertakes international disaster relief, early recovery and rebuilding of communities overseas. 

"SRC has given me many opportunities to grow and tackle different projects in a rather unconventional field. I have received much support and guidance from my colleagues in the Singapore Red Cross," Fauzia said. 

Aspiration to Become a Significant Player in the International Humanitarian Community

Passionate, she is enthusiastic and optimistic about the growth and direction of the department. 

"I hope that in the future the department will be acknowledged as a small but significant and dynamic player in the international humanitarian community. We strive to build a flourishing network of disaster responders not only within Singapore but also within Southeast Asia, among the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and make a difference in the lives of our overseas beneficiaries," Fauzia said. 

She encourages people with the heart to serve and make a positive impact, to embark on a career with the Singapore Red Cross.

"It’s a fun and dynamic place to be, with new challenges and opportunities to learn," she said. 

By Tracy Lam Yong Ling 
Copyedited by Sondra Foo, Marketing & Communications

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